Welcome to Part III of my blog in which I’m going to share my thoughts and experience on a less controversial subject than sleeping; that of breastfeeding. I will say up-front that I both breast and bottle fed my child as no matter what I did my production levels were not enough to exclusively breastfeed. Looking back I suspect an undiagnosed tongue-tie. But, I’m OK with that, which surprised me as I thought I’d be a breastmilk-only person and feel horribly guilty if my baby had anything but the boob. However, I now think in many ways (especially due to the choice of goats rather than cows formula) I had the best of both worlds; I could give him my antibodies and share the intimacy of the experience through breastfeeding, while his father and grandparents could also feed him and look after him when I need a break. In fact, since starting to eat solids, he weaned himself off milk of all kinds and at 8 months just had a feed from me first thing in the morning, for comfort if needed, and a bottle last thing at night, with a little extra for comfort as and when he needed.
There are a lot of books out there about breastfeeding, and sometimes I think I’ve read them all! Biological Nurturing by Suzanne Coulson is a small but marvellous book which I now think is the only one you really need in conjunction with some good personal advice from a lactation consultant. My son was born 4 weeks early and weighed under 4lbs at birth but was still, as this book suggested he could, able to crawl up my body and raise his head to latch on to my breast.
Looking after yourself while breastfeeding:
- Your shoulders, neck and upper back can hurt like hell when you start breastfeeding! The new positions you adopt; looking down and to the side all the time, holding your arms out in front of you, lifting an increasingly heavy weight – these all use muscles which haven’t been used like this before. Invest in a weekly or bi-weekly Osteopathic or Deep Tissue Massage treatment, preferably at home. This will help you avoid pain and headaches which add an unnecessary burden to your sleep deprived body. Sleep deprivation makes pain feel worse, and pain makes it harder to relax and sleep, so don’t fall into a negative cycle.
- As soon as, or if, possible, pay to have a session with a recommended lactation consultant. The latch, and the ability to feed your baby easily, is so important. Dealing with the above pain is bad enough without nipple pain and struggling to feed him as he needs. Improving your breastfeeding, immediately improves your connection with your baby and becomes a quiet time where you can bond with him, or just relax and watch TV or read a book before you have to gear yourself up to engage with him again. This is the lady I recommend: Wendy Lever IBCLC http://www.wendyleveribclc.com/.
- Buy a ½ Litre or Pint glass. Each time you sit down to breastfeed, fill it up with water and drink it over the course of the feed. Not enough water means not enough breast milk, and drinking enough will also help you feel better and lose weight.
- Wear as tight a bra as is comfortable, to prevent the fat in the breast sinking to the bottom and leaving your breast a pendulum shape. This is especially important when your baby drops his night feeds.
Looking after your baby while breastfeeding:
- Many mothers (and fathers) see a fractious or ‘difficult’ child who has problems sleeping or eating as a burden which they are expected to endure to show what a good parent they are. Every baby is different but they all learn their behaviour from their parents and carers. If your baby is doing something different to that which you’ve read about in books, or you instinctively feel isn’t right, you don’t just have to accept it as “just they way they are;” you can look for the reason. Sometimes one small change on your part can completely change something else which was vital and which you thought unrelated. For example, getting advice from a lactation consultant, or in my case, a sleep specialist. My baby didn’t sleep well during the day, even when he started sleeping 12 hours per night, so I got some advice from a Mandy Gurney a Sleep Specialist at Millpond Sleep Clinic who told me to reduce the amount of time I was sitting and feeding him. The change was immediate; he fed more efficiently and slept better and I was able to actually achieve something with my days as they were no longer broken up by hour long feeds during most of which he was asleep using my boob as a dummy!
- When my baby was born, I had a LOT of questions about his sleep patterns. Reassurance and patient advice came in the form of Jenny Stephenson at HappySleepers who is herself a child psychologist and who is able to figure out how much of the problem is the parent, and how much the child!
- You can never burp them enough. Even taking them off the breast every 5 minutes and burping them when they are small can be a good idea. Lack of burping, and the pain and spitting up which result, can be mistaken for both ‘Colic’ and ‘Reflux.’ If they get an air bubble it will hurt them when feeding, or stop them feeding as they feel full. And then, as the bubble makes its way out, it will push out all the milk on top of it so the baby spits it up and becomes hungry again. Rub the lower back strongly, pat up and down the back, and, a great one for little ones, lower them backwards to a 45 degree angle and then bring them back up again. Gravity will assist with moving the bubble upward.
- While I have no personal experience with colic, my professional experience tells me to go back to basics and look at your baby’s latch on the breast, and their gut (which includes looking at what you are eating if you are breastfeeding) as this makes a huge difference to your baby’s metabolic ability and comfort.
- It can take up to 2 days in my experience for your breast milk to catch up with increased need due to a growth spurt. Feed whenever they ask of course, but do check whether they are still hungry if they are crying in between when you think they should feed.
- One tip I received which is brilliant, and which I pass on here, is whether or not you intend to breastfeed exclusively, try and do the evening feed with a bottle within the first two weeks of your baby’s life. This means that Dad can take that feed, the baby gets used to a bottle and this in turn gives you flexibility in terms of going out and leaving him with a carer once he is older.
- Dr Brown’s are the BEST bottles. They have a special design to minimise wind, which is a huge issue in the early weeks, and they do BPA-free plastic or glass bottles. I have found that if you use a smaller teat than is suggested for your child’s age so they have to work to get the milk out, thus helping to ensure they don’t become lazy suckers and therefore struggle when placed back on the breast.
- I strongly recommend you use NannyCare Goats milk formula rather than any cow’s milk-based formula. This is for several reasons:
- Children fed on cows milk formula have more reflux, skin issues and digestive issues
- Cow is an A1 animal, while Goat is an A2 animal. Have a look at these links about the difference between A1 and A2 milk and its effect in term of the above and allergies:
- Advent Steam Steriliser is a great product. It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t rely on a microwave which I don’t have!
- If you can, buy a breast pump which is hands free such as this the Medela Easy Expression Bustier, Otherwise, any free time you have to pump you have to sit holding it, rather than getting on with other things you might want to do.
- Here is a simple and stylish breastfeeding in public top.
- Don’t be afraid to provide boundaries, even at a young age. Our baby got into the habit of screaming and diving for the breast (even when he had just eaten and wasn’t showing any signs of hunger) whenever I picked him up. I had two sessions, each of about 15mins with him where I picked him up and held him, calmly saying ‘no boob’ and kissing and talking to him while he screamed. Once he calmed down we were able to play quietly on the first occasion, and he went to sleep on the second, but since then I have been able to pick him up and hold him and he only cries for food when he is hungry.
Remember, this isn’t a guide to breastfeeding. This is just a collection of things I wish I’d known or suggestions to help you based on information I gathered or experiences I had. I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions too!