Leyton’s Mumma Says…
When you’re pregnant and considering breastfeeding, everyone from friends and family to colleagues and even complete strangers offer up advice. This actually applies to any baby topic when I come to think about it, but in terms of breastfeeding I’ve heard so much…. Including the following nuggets:
- It’s the most natural thing in the world, you won’t feel self-conscious
- Your baby will smell your milk and root around, they will know what to do
- You will know when your baby is hungry and your maternal instincts will kick in
- ‘Breast is best’
All of this can make you feel pressured to breast feed, or at least influence your decision. There may be truth in all of the above but in my own experience it can be damn hard and I wished I’d had some more balanced advice like….
- Yes your maternal instincts will kick in, but come on, this is your first baby, cut yourself some slack….. neither you or your baby know what to do to start with!
- It gets easier when your milk comes in (day 3 ish) as you may just start pouring milk out everywhere (I’ll come back to this in Recommended Products at the bottom of the page) but that doesn’t mean your baby will latch on any easier! Don’t expect miracles.
- Your baby may be pretty content from being placenta fed for the last 9 months, so keep trying to feed them but don’t kick yourself if they don’t take much straight away. Leyton barely took a few drops in the first 24 hours and it was actually ok (and remember they have tiny tummies too)
- If you desperately want to breast feed, don’t think of formula as defeat. I gave Leyton a little formula on night 2 as he was so hungry but not latching on, and between us we couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding.
- After 45 minutes of hand expressing only 5ml (one of the longest 45 minutes of my life!) and a stressed text to the hubby as to what the hell to do (Husbands weren’t allowed to stay over at the hospital. I got no reply at 2am bizarrely) I gave up and gave Leyton formula. I was ready to chuck it all in, and I was starting to feel selfish letting him starve, or so I thought, over my desires to breast feed….but the formula made him content so we could both rest and try again 2 hours later. 3 more failed attempts and then something clicked and it worked! We persevered but he needed that formula boost.
- Incidentally, for me the technique that worked was holding the baby’s head with one hand, his body resting along my arm and pushing him onto me as far as possible. Every midwife seemed to have different tips, so although at the time I felt very confused as to what I was meant to be doing, I do feel lucky that it eventually worked. Just a shame all their advice wasn’t in one handy ‘Midwives Own Hints and Tips’ booklet so on the first feed I would’ve had all the different techniques to hand rather than be a nervous wreck for 3 days!
- You will probably forget which side you last fed on, so it’s worth trying one of those tricks eg tying a hairband round your wrist/bra strap on the side you last feed on. You can’t be expected to remember, you have a lot going on! And you don’t want to rely on being lopsided believe me!
- Different positions (of holding the baby and holding your breast) might work better for you, so keep trying until happy you’ve given it your best shot and found something that does or doesn’t work for you.
When I had Leyton, those first few days were a mix of emotions with your life turning upside down, the sleep deprivation, the weird sensations as your body adjusts to not having a lodger any more, and of course that adorable new person that you’ve just brought into the world. You have so many thoughts about your new bundle of joy – do I breastfeed or not? Have they had enough wet and dirty nappies? Are they sleeping ok? Are they too hot or cold – shall I take layers off or put them on? Will they be ok for 30 seconds in their moses basket by the bathroom door while I go for a wee?
Everyone worries about different things when they have their first child but I don’t think people reassure you enough that its ok if you’re only pretending to know what your doing – most of us are.
It’s ok not to have all the answers – nobody does. Just remember, that’s why there are so many healthcare professionals around to ask questions of – they don’t care how stupid those questions may or may not be so ask away. Just remember this is their area of expertise and their day job, not yours, and there’s no shame in being the newcomer in the world of Motherhood, everyone knew nothing to start with!
I took it day by day, thinking of what small victories I’d had each day – and if I can’t think of any, I remind myself tomorrow may be different. And then the days turned into weeks and now 8 months on and I’m proud to be still breastfeeding. I’d always wanted to but I had realistic, if not slightly pessimistic, expectations because I knew hardly anyone who had done it, and it’s a very personal choice.
We always had formula in the cupboard ‘just in case’, to put my mind at ease, and supress those crazy thoughts of ‘what if my milk just stops?’ or ‘what if he forgets how to latch on?’ Turns out it’s liking riding a bike, that once you’ve got the hang of it you really don’t need to panic every time – but for me, having the formula was a reassurance.
I called the breastfeeding helpline and health visitors a fair few times too– turns out the endless times you get your boobs out in hospital as every man and his dog comes into your room is good preparation for the outside world, and means you end up not minding so much when someone wants to ‘check your latch’ etc. Although I still do the ‘tuck the muslin cloth into my bra strap and hide the baby’ trick when I feed him out in public. There’s nothing like people staring at you to hamper the Let Down Reflex of milk releasing (and at least covering up a bit helps me to block everyone else out!). I’ve found that relaxing is the key…. I know this because, for me, I get pins and needles when the milk Lets Down, something I wasn’t warned could happen! Like most things baby related, everyone’s different though, and it was only when I was expressing milk that I could see/feel it in action!
Expressing milk brings me to my final musing – that not all babies like bottles. I took it for granted that not everyone can or wants to breast feed (I still think its pot luck whether it works) but bottle feeding is a reliable form of feeding your baby that everyone is able to do. Isn’t it? Well I started expressing milk 3 weeks in so that my husband could help do some of the 45-60 minute feeds every 2-3 hours.
A bottle of expressed milk every few days was working well (and I was getting little catnaps, yey!) and Leyton soon fell into a bit more of a routine, including sleeping a little more at night so I decided to stop doing my daily stock piling of expressed milk for the freezer. Turns out I probably should have kept trying him with bottles so he wouldn’t forget, but who knew?!
- On the note of routines, we decided if possible to get Leyton onto a bit of a routine with feeds, because if it was up to him I think he would nurse constantly for comfort. When he started going longer between feeds we tried to stick to a 3 hour rule which naturally fell when he was hungry – If it was a little earlier we’d try pacify him with cuddles and playing to see if he was genuinely hungry, and if he wasn’t rooting for milk at the 3 hour mark I would just feed him anyway and he soon got used to this pattern and I do think he slept better at night for this regular day fill-the-baby-up routine.
To cut a long story short, a couple of months later the boy had decided ‘Why take an easy fast flowing bottle when I can just wait round for a breastfeed which is bound to come eventually’ – even though this defies logic when you’re thirsty surely? Two months without trying him with a bottle again meant when I did a Keeping In Touch at work day he took 10-20ml of milk at each of the 3 feeds I was away for, worrying me no end. In actual fact, there was no lasting damage or need to be panicking – he continued to put on weight well and take to breast feeding fine even though my hubby tried and failed to give it him from a bottle sporadically over the following weeks.
We did all the usual tricks when trying to get him to have a bottle of expressed milk-
- Dad have a breast milk covered/’scented’ muslin cloth/ mum’s t-shirt with him
- Me being completely out of the room/ house/ city whilst Dad feeding
- Tried different positions of feeding him
- Tried different locations/ rooms for feeding him
- Tried different makes of bottles
- Tried different teats – slow, medium, fast flow, closer to nature etc
Nothing worked. I now know that my baby just doesn’t like bottles. But you know what? It wasn’t the end of the world – because he would just take more milk at the next feed, and at 6 months babies generally start weaning so by the time I return to work he’ll be on meat and 2 veg even if he won’t take a bottle. And although a lot of tips say the Dad/bottle-giver should emulate breastfeeding to make the baby feel comforted, we actually found putting Leyton in his Bumbo seat (amazing, I recommend them!!) and giving him expressed or formula milk in an open cup seemed to do the trick (Doidy cup or sippy cup without a lid on).
After changing the makes of bottles we tried milk out of cups/beakers and turns out he actually likes them, maybe as it doesn’t remind him what he’s missing out! This has really come on now that we give him a cup of cooled boiled water every mealtime with his solid food because he gets loads of practice.
So even if your baby doesn’t conform to the ‘norm’ (whatever that is!), I guess you just need to keep trying and find something that works for you and your baby
Our next challenge is to drop some milk feeds (at 8 months we still do 4 feeds a day but I’ve been told he could get away with 2 or 3. Try telling him that!) so I think we’ll do this when its right for us, not anyone else – after all Mumma knows best!
* Afterword: at 8 months Leyton had 4 milkfeeds a day as well as 3 ‘meals’ of finger foods. We’d been told he could drop feeds and get away with 2 or 3, and more food but was still polishing off every bottle. We slowly dropped the 11.00am feed by bringing fingerfood lunch from 1.30pm to 12.00pm. Then dropped the 4.00pm feed and had a 3.00pm afternoon snack of fruits and crumpets/yoghurt/ cheese sticks.
By 12 months he was just having morning and night milkfeeds but his appetite for his meals was astonishing (See Baby-Led Weaning blog).
We then swapped the morning milk for formula, and at 13 months I stopped breastfeeding and gave him formula for his evening feed too. Because I had reduced the feeds so gradually down to just 1, when I stopped I didn’t experience any discomfort, but it can happen so its worth researching tips for how to ease this just in case.
At 14 months we slowly swapped his morning formula for full fat cows milk, then a week later swapped his evening milk too. We’ve made sure throughout all of this he has had his multivitamins as cows milk doesn’t contain all the nutrient sof breastmilk or formula…. Leyton has from 8 months old had WellKid multivitamin syprup which is £5.75 at www.boots.com which they can have from 3 months to 5 years old.
Products I’d recommend if you’re breastfeeding
- Large muslin cloths
- (to put over the baby when you’re feeding or over the shoulder when winding – yes BF babies can get a lot of wind!)
- Electric breast pump (I loved the Medela Swing Pump)
- Infacol (Leyton had bad wind/colic after each feed and infacol helped. Other colic drops can be for bottles only £2.99 at www.boots.com)
- Hot water bottle
- (putting this over your breast when hand expressing helps a lot, and sometimes I’d do this before using the electric pump)
- 150ml bottles with slow/natural flow teats
- (we initially liked Avent £13.10 for a newborn starter set at Kiddicare and Tommee Tippee Newborn set £14.99 from amazon)
- A breastfeeding cushion (to help prevent backache when feeding)
- Plastic backed bibs (to stop the babys outfit getting so wet)
- Breastmilk freezer bags for expressed milk (£7.49 for 30 bags at www.boots.com)
- Avent Breast Shells
- (you discreetly put this re-usable little plastic collection shell in your bra to collect excess milk whilst/after feeding or to relieve over full breast. I found these a lifesaver/tshirt saver in the early days before my milk settled down. £12.99 from www.mothercare.com)
- Lansinoh Nursing Pads
- (very absorbent breast pads and good value for money when I tried a few. £5.49 for 60 at www.mothercare.com)
- Lansinoh Nipple cream (£8.39 from www.boots.com, and it will last you ages.)
- Milton sterilising fluid
- A drinking bottle (for you! BF is thirsty work so keep a bottle of water with you at all times!)
- A kindle – ( I read endless books doing those late night feeds when there’s nothing on TV, kindles/ tablets you can read in the dark with one touch-page-turn which is handy when you only have 1 hand free. ) Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen
- Soft night-time bras (£20.00 for 2 pack at www.mothercare.com)
We’ve found the best places to buy these products if you fancy going on the online route is: