Archives for the month of: January, 2010

Making feeding more comfortable

You can spend forever holding a newborn baby, particularly if you are breastfeeding, so if you want to go with the flow, then expect to be out of action for long periods several times a day. Accept it. It won’t last forever! Here’s some tips to make it more bearable:

  • Find some way of marking which breast you last fed from. A hair bobble, scrunchy, rubber bracelet on the wrist are all good options. Transfer it from the left to right wrist to mark which you last fed from. It saves clutching at breasts trying to work out which one is fuller!
  • Keep a pile of cushions anywhere you might need to breastfeed or hold your baby, they can be put behind your back, under your elbow, it’s worth spending 10 seconds getting comfortable to avoid a bad back. Get help adjusting things, you’ll get better at doing it yourself eventually
  • An occasional table might come in handy, so that you can have things within reach
  • When you sit down to do a feed, gather together your kit: a muslin, glass of water, remote control and/or something to read, phone(s)
  • Treat yourself to a couple of games on your mobile that you can play silently with one hand (or even better, get an email/internet/facebook/twitter friendly phone that will keep your sanity during those long lonely feeding sessions)
  • Think ahead to when you need to eat and fix a sandwich or cup of tea before you pick baby up. Its ok to let baby cry for a few minutes if it helps you be a more effective mum in the long term
  • Identify meals you can eat while holding baby: foods eaten with a spoon are usually messy, so find foods you can eat with a fork or with one hand

Breastfeeding and pain

Here’s the secret: it can hurt.  Sure, it’s natural, it’s best for baby, and it’s best for mum, but so is labour and so are after pains. Remember your first time having sex? Maybe that hurt a bit too, the first few times! Life isn’t always painless. The first few weeks of life hard work for mother and baby, and breastfeeding is part of it.

Don’t be disheartened by the idea if baby is latching on then it shouldn’t hurt at all.  Expect some discomfort and even some pain but know that the pain will pass. Obviously there are cases where women find it difficult or impossible to breastfeed I can’t advise on that that’s consider that the human race has got this far without bottles for most of human history.  Start from the assumption that it’s natural but that, like lots of things in life, it’s not completely painless!

I feel strongly that the polarisation of breast vs bottle is very unhelpful for all mothers, whatever way they choose to feed their baby. The strange thing is that despite keeping us alive as a species, we have spent so little on understanding how and why it works. Perhaps because it works so well there’s no money to be made from improving breastfeeding knowledge? Who knows! But be aware this whole area is laden with bias and can be quite emotive.

In my experience the first suck of any feed might hurt the nipple and you could feel the pull in the breast uncomfortable. This is especially true in the first few weeks. When baby latches on and sucks I take a deep breath and count to 5, then decide whether to remove him using my little finger. When my milk first came in (day 2/3/4), most feeds hurt like this, but I knew it would get better.

That said, take care of sore breasts, particularly:

  • Shooting pains in breast (as opposed to tenderness and the feel of the pull of sucking). This could be mastitis, don’t let it build up, seek advice
  • Blisters. Use a balm you can leave on during feeding. I use lansinoh.
  • Very pink and itchy nipples, and baby starts gagging on feeds and/or vomiting them up. This could be breastfeeding thrush so seek advice.

Don’t soldier on, as things can get worse if you don’t take care of your breasts.
This is useful: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/baby/breastfeeding/problemsandsolutions/

As time went on with baby#1 I got to really enjoy breastfeeding, I’m sure I got a hormonal feelgood reward from it. Despite bad engorgement and fast flow, plenty of tears and doubt, I came to really enjoy it, and only stopped at 9 months when I had to because the feeding routine didn’t fit with my working hours. I am already enjoying feeding with baby#2 and I’m in the worst bit!

When i updated this when son#2 was 4 days old this was the situation: “My breasts are like cement and make me look like Katie Price, poor baby#2 has to be very brave about facing the gush of engorgement, and most feeds are a bit painful, but seeing him finally start the slow contented gulping makes it all worth it!”

“Establishing breastfeeding”

With baby#1 I didn’t really understand what “establishing breastfeeding” meant. That is, until 2 or 3 weeks in (I forget exactly how long), which I realised it had happened! It means your breasts and baby are in sync, and when it happens, you’ll know. It seems to take at least 2 weeks so don’t be tempted to think its happened early. Be patient and wait before using a breast pump or bottle, not out of any dogmatic/purist reason, but because mixed feeding or exclusive breastfeeding both seem to be better once the breastfeeding side of things is established. I have nothing against mixed feeding, and plan to do it myself again, but I think its better to suffer a bit in the first few weeks, as it will give you better chance of success in whichever route you take.

Breastfeeding through a growth spurt

Weeks 6, 12, 24 are times for growth spurts. With son#1 I used bottles to supplement, but with son#2 i’m following the approach of letting him suckle more, to increase my milk supply. It seems to be working, so i recommend going with the flow and letting them feed as much as they want. Since apparently even sucking on an empty breast prompts milk production, it might frustrate them a few times but don’t worry about that, it’s frustrating being a baby anyway so its par for the course that they’ll get upset at feeding times sometimes! In my experience so far, coming out the other side of a growth spurt can be really liberating as you see all their new skills emerge, and sometimes new behavioural patterns too, like the transformation my son#1 made at 12 weeks, from feeding every 2-3 hours day and night to something much more manageable. My advice is to feed through it, and know it will only last a week or so.

Read all about it

If, like me, you find it helpful to read more, and it adds to your confidence rather than your confusion, then try these:

General info: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/baby/breastfeeding/

Read what the experts have to say: http://www.llli.org/nb.html?m=0,0,0

Read what mums have to say:  http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/breast_and_bottle_feeding though beware very strong opinions!

I’ve more reflections to share on breastfeeding, but I don’t want to attract the wrong kind attention by using certain words too much, and I don’t want to scare you off if you have no interest in the topic. So please email me if you’re interested in more.

I started this document when my baby#1 was a month old. I’d read all the books but there were still some things I wish someone had told me. Maybe they had and I didn’t listen! Anyway a friend felt the same so here are some things we thought it would have been useful to know. I’ve since updated it to include reflections on baby#2, who is currently 3 months old. This is not expert advice, just thoughts from a mum! Please pass it on if you find it useful, I’d be delighted to get feedback!

When to change a nappy?

This sounds obvious but in those first few weeks you can find yourself obsessing over it. Newborn babies need lots of sleep, and unless the nappy is really disgusting, or they are developing a sore bottom, don’t worry about a strict changing schedule. My friends and I agreed on this as a rule of thumb:

Criteria for changing a nappy (in priority order)
there is more than a few dots of poo 2) there is wee 3) it’s more than 6 hours since nappy was last changed

How many layers?

I’d love to see examples of how to dress a new baby (up to 3 months?) in bed, at home, outside, at different temperatures/times of year, and what they should wear. Unfortunately I never saw such guidance. In general we went for one more layer than us. Its scary at first but it becomes second nature after a few months

Swaddling for sleep

With baby#1 swaddling seemed cruel, constraining his arms. But now I think it makes for a better sleep for baby. They’re not used to so much space around them and find it more calming to be enclosed in blankets, so save them the confusion, at least for the first week or so! Look up instructions on swaddling, then fold a blanket or sheet flat and use it to tuck them in firmly from shoulder height, tucking it under the mattress on both sides. Its a useful approach to try for the first month.

Tips for sterilising

  • Don’t expect to find definite consistent answers on sterilising: different people and different manufacturers say different things
  • Have a big tupperware box to store items in
  • If you get a steam steriliser, be careful that there is space above the vent because it gets hot: you can’t use it under a wall cupboard
  • Wash items in warm soapy water, then rinse, then put in the steriliser
  • Once sterilised, items count as sterilised for 1 hour, I think!

Tips for storing and using milk

  • Breast milk can be expressed and stored in breast milk bags, in the fridge for 24 hours, or the deep freeze for 3 months
  • Breast milk bags are cheap, and babies only take small amounts of milk at first, so use a bag per express, even if you only manage 30 ml at a time. It avoids wasting milk>
  • Until you have a routine for expressing, having small amounts of breast milk in bags makes it easy to combine them into different amounts in bottles, and avoids wastage
  • Even if you are using a breast pump with an integrated bottle, transfer milk to a bag for storage so that you can sterilised the pump kit ready for next time
  • Most people warm up milk to room temperature
  • Once milk is warmed up it should not be re-warmed
  • If going out for a few hours or more, put a sterilised bottle in the changing bag and a small carton of formula just in case, “they” will tell you not to, but its piece of mind in an emergency

Even though you’re planning to breastfeed …

  • Buy steriliser and bottles because you might want to express at some point (see below) even if you wait a few months, and you never know if you’ll need to express if baby really won’t take to the breast for a while, or if baby is in special care.
  • Buy some small cartons of formula mix, because you might want to top up baby if you are having problems with breastfeeding, or baby is still hungry after breastfeeding, or if you are exhausted
  • Buy breast pump in case your milk comes in a lot or fast. “they” will tell you not too, but for £20/30 you can keep it in the cupboard for a few months on when breastfeeding is established

If you’re having problems, or just not sure if you’re “doing it right”, get help. NCT breastfeeding councillors can help. Family members can help. Lose your boob embarrassment and just ask. Your helper might need to touch your boob, see your nipple, and look at the baby’s mouth as they suckle. Just go with it. Its how women help each other all over the world

I can’t believe I started (and gave up) on this blog 5 years ago. In that time I got married, changed jobs, and had two children. I also started using netvibes and twitter, so both aggregating other people’s blogs, and microblogging my own thoughts. I wonder if I’ll find this any easier on my second attempt!

I’ve started by reposting a couple of entries from another aborted blog which I intended to focus on work. No more personal/work split personality for me, I’m trying hard to be just one person with many hats these days. It’s embarrassing to look back at my previous posts but I’m going to be brave and leave them there.

I’ll start with some thoughts on being a mum …