One of the things that I had the most sleepless nights over before Isla was born was if I was going to be able to successfully breastfeed. At every appointment you go to it seems the midwife asks, ‘Are you going to breastfeed?’ and if you even slightly hesitate with your answer you get a 10 minute lecture on how ‘Breast is best’… And yes, I know that. And yes, I very much hope to be the perfect milk machine that you want me to be. But it isn’t so easy, all that pressure we put on ourselves really can’t help.
So I decided to take the pressure off and just tell myself that as long as my baby was fed – even if I have to express my milk all day & night, then I would succeed. I think the attitude you have about things can make all the difference in the world – and the support that you have, of course! So I’ve partnered with the wonderful Medela! For more than 50 years, Medela has developed from a small family owned company in Switzerland to a global producer of technologically advanced breastpumps and Medical Vacuum Technology, supporting Mum’s on their breast feeding journey.
Getting advice can be wonderful – but the most important thing is to get it from an expert and ignore everyone else…Except me… don’t ignore me! 😉
Medela’s in-house lactation consultant, Sioned, has kindly offered some brilliant advice in response to my questions after my first few weeks breast feeding…
1. The biggest problem we have when breastfeeding is that Isla won’t stop squirming and fidgeting – how can I calm her down when at the breast? If I try to hold her to the breast she gets angry & upset. Could my milk supply be coming out too fast for her?
When you first put baby on the breast there is minimal milk flow whilst she is stimulating your milk let-down reflex with lots of fast shallow sucks. When you trigger this the milk spurts and this can be occasionally overwhelming and baby will come off and fuss. This is perfectly normal, pop them back on and carry on. If it is affecting feeding try a different feeding position such as the laid back biological nursing position so that the nipple is positioned at the correct place in baby’s mouth and gravity helps her to manage the milk flow , a slightly elevated up right position can also assist here.
If baby keeps on slipping off look at a few different positions too and check latch.
As they mature through those early weeks to months they become more aware of their surroundings and want to engage with everything so that they fidget and turn and the least noise, stimulation, voice etc. Try a quietened room, minimise distractions and to keep focus you could wear a play bead necklace such as breastfeeding beads so that she has a focus, also try singing or reciting a story.
It is unlikely to help using swaddling as a containment method as it is important that baby is in a correct position to feed and need their hands to stimulate the breast.
Around 3-4 months their teeth buds are also moving under the gums so the gums may be a little tender.
There are other reasons why babies fidget whilst feeding – to trigger an additional let-down reflex as the milk flow slows as well as if they are under the weather and have congested noses they come off and mouth breathe.
2. Isla keeps falling asleep at the breast, but if I move her wakes up and cries, what should I do so I don’t end up feeding for hours at a time?
Falling asleep at the breast is what all mammals do. It is only humans that have evolved to think that this is wrong or habit forming. She feels safe and secure with you, is warm and is reassured with your smell and body sounds. She doesn’t get angry but scared, she is dependent on you and this is a primeval instinct to keep her safe and near you.
Some things to try is to wear an item of clothing such as a muslin square next to your skin and chest and when you place her in her crib place this with her, placing a bra pad with you milk essence is also useful as she can smell you near her. She may find that the crib is scary because there are no boundaries – one of the techniques used with premature infants supporting safe sleeping is to roll a small hand towel / tea towel up like a sausage and make a U place baby in the U with legs over the bottom edge bottom tucked in an the upper parts supporting the torso – baby feels secure and safe and cannot roll or be smothered. Your baby will resist moving but if you know she has fed well try placing her in her pram or bassinet and keep on the move by rocking or walking it will soon adapt. It’s not habit forming just nurturing.
3. I’ve found it very difficult to find any information for Mum’s that wish to exclusively pump their breastmilk & bottle feed it to their baby – Is there any reason I shouldn’t exclusively pump? Does it affect my milk supply?
It is your decision entirely how you choose to feed your baby. Getting all the information provides you with the ability of making an informed choice.
Breastfeeding is the easiest and best option but you can also breastmilk feed and both you and your baby benefit from the health, developmental and immunological factors that are the same as breastfeeding.
For some mothers they have no choice but to exclusively pump and this can be because of prematurity of the baby, baby cannot breastfeed because of feeding challenges such as sucking difficulties, cleft palate, medical difficulties and sometimes it can be because mum has inverted nipples, previous trauma that can be psychological / or abuse or nipple pain.
It is a balancing act as you have to mimic how your baby would feed and would be pump dependant as well as still feeding your baby and caring. This means that you would need to express exclusively day and night 8-12 with no longer than 4-5 hours between night sessions.
There is no reason why you cannot exclusively express if this is your decision – getting a good double pump and correct shield size is key for long term expressing with good milk drainage and frequent pumping sessions. Supporting this routine with lots of skin to skin time with your baby can support you and maximise your milk supply.
The plus side of breastfeeding is that physical contact that enhances the oxytocin surge, mental well-being but you can still get this through skin to skin cuddles, and the time spent feed, cuddle, reassure , put your feet up and feed whilst with expressing you can delegate the feed to others but you still need to commit to pumping, sterilising, storing and warming the milk.
A massive thank you to Medela & Sioned for their wonderful support & advice. My breastfeeding journey is off to a great start!