One subject that is always rife in the media is breastfeeding, in fact it gets a lot of negative press when I really feel it shouldn’t. It’s 100% natural. That being said as somebody preparing to embark on the journey of motherhood it sounds like bloomin hard work! Not only that but it sounds painful. So the big question is, do I intend to breastfeed? Yes!
I’ll give my best shot and hope to be persistent until we get it right. Some people can do it, others cannot but we can all try and I intend on doing just that.
Not only am I going to try but I’m going to share the progress with you.
I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with leading breast feeding brand Medela on this particular part of our journey into parenthood. Its both exciting and rather scary, hopefully myself and our little one can do this, its not the end of the world if we can’t but I’ve kept the bottles & steriliser sealed at the back of a cupboard for now in hope we won’t be needing them. My biggest fear is that neither of us can get the hang of it and we fail, i’d really like breast feeding to work for us as a family and expect it to be rather challenging.
Medela make high-end quality pumps along with everything else required to make expressing and feeding easier for mums. You’ll find most hospitals in the UK provide mums with Medela pumps to use during their stay.
As I intend to return to work eventually and also sometimes leave my baby with his daddy expressing is something we’ll also need to be familiar with and now we have everything we need ready to take on the challenge!
Throughout our journey we’ll be trying the Medela Swing single electric pump and the harmony manual pump along with accessories such as the Calma for when Dad can bottle feed the expressed milk.
Thanks to Medela I’ve been able to put three of my biggest questions to their own breastfeeding professional Sioned.
I hope both my questions and Sioned’s in-depth answers can be of as much help to you as they have been for myself.
1. As a first time mum who is new to breastfeeding how will I know if my baby is feeding enough, or that I am producing enough milk for him?
After your baby is born your baby usually has an energy store to support the few days after birth. The colostrum is small in volume in the first day but full of antibodies and energy that is easily absorbed by his gut.
One of the ways you can reassure yourself that you are producing milk is by seeing what’s going on in his nappies. The amount of urine in his nappy will be on day 1 is small but concentrated but the more you practice feeding his first poo (meconium) will start to pass. Colostrum acts as a natural laxative so the more you feed the quicker you will see change in the stools.
Over 2-3 days the volume of colostrum increases and again his stools will start to change from a thick black tar like stool ( meconium ) to a changing stool – more brown and as milk comes to volume and is more plentiful the stools change from a brown –yellow to a yellow mustard coloured stool.
The more often you nurse your baby the quicker the changes in stool pattern. In the first 6 weeks you often find that your baby has an over -supply of milk available and you will find that you should have lots of dirty nappies with soft mustard coloured poo after this time you and your baby fine tune the supply and demand and it is normal for a breastfed baby not to have a soiled dirty nappy for 7-10 days if he is well.
Looking at baby – if you are feeding ok, baby will have a good latch, comfortable to feed and you can see and hear the milk being swallowed in burst of active sucking. In the early days it is normal to spend a bit of time at feeding times to get the latch and position right for both of you with lots of tweaking. Within a few weeks you will be more relaxed and feeds will take less time as you both
If it doesn’t feel comfortable, you are sore, or baby not staying latched on then seek advice from your midwife or pop down to a local breastfeeding group for a friendly chat.
After birth a breast fed baby should be feeding at least every 2-3 hrs as colostrum and mature milk are easily digested and absorbed by the baby’s gut. It is normal to have lots of night feeds and alarm bells would be ringing if a breastfed baby slept through in the first few days – weeks after birth if they were exclusively breast fed.
If baby is happy and alert between feeds, weight and growth are good; you are comfortable and feel that feeding is going well then have the confidence that feeding is established.
2. I plan to return to work full time after 9 months but would most likely still want to breastfeed, is it possible to express enough milk to keep this up or would my supply start to change if the regularity of feeding/pumping has altered?
Yes anything is possible. Many mums choose to start an expressing routine after breast feeding is established so that their breasts become conditioned to a mechanical pump as well as their baby feeding for a good trigger of the milk let-down reflex.
Your baby feeding will change as you go through the first year with growth spurts, teething and weaning. By the time you are ready to go back to work your baby will be having 3 or 4 meals a day and may be feeding on the breast less during the times that you are apart.
If you are feeding a lot during the day at 9 months you will have to support the time you are apart by expressing at a similar frequency that you are breastfeeding.
Your breast do adapt over the breastfeeding journey to be in tune with your baby’s needs, if you feed less often then your milk supply will adapt and may drop overtime, so keeping a feed diary is useful so that you can look at your patterns – you may find lo feeds more in the evening when you come home too.
If you are looking at building a supply up, breastmilk can be stored in the freezer for 6 months and many mums start thinking about introducing the occasional bottle of expressed milk (with a Medela Calma teat) so that when you are ready to go back to work they will take a feed from the bottle and also you are reassured that the teat supports the sucking action associated with breastfeeding too.
3. Aside from alcohol are their any other foods or drinks that should be avoided whilst nursing?
Initially there are no foods that should be avoided for a nursing mum other than those you were advised to avoid during pregnancy. It is important than mum eats a healthy varied diet and eats small and often.
Caffeine should be cautiously taken in nursing mothers, as this may lead to babies being restless, agitated and colicky. 3-4 cups of coffee or tea a day may result in babies being ok but if baby is sensitive then cutting down on the tea coffee and caffeine soft drinks is advisable. De-caff is always an option!
There is ample evidence to support babies who are breastfed are more successful at weaning and trying different food because mums milk does change in taste and smell depending on what she has eaten.
There are some foods that can have an impact upon the baby’s digestive system if they are eaten by mum. Foods such as cauliflower, sprouts, cabbages, onions and garlic gives flavour and a source of iron, vitamins and micronutrients but can cause gassiness and symptoms of colic in the baby, some diet drinks can also do this as well as dairy. Spicy foods may also be a trigger.
If baby is showing signs of colic and fussiness it can be related to mums maternal diet and keeping a food diary can help to identify if something is a trigger. If baby is showing colic it sometimes can be improved by checking the latch and feeding position first and if you know the Sunday dinner results in the baby being fussy the next day then you can either prepare your day for lots of cuddles time or choose not to eat the ‘suspected food’.
Make sure that you are having a healthy diet and breastfeeding mums are advised to take vitamin D -10mcg micrograms daily supplement, if you are also a vegetarian it is also recommended that you take Vitamin B12 supplements
A common sense approach with all foods is advisable, making sure chicken and shellfish is cooked properly; avoid some soft cheese and unpasteurised dairy as you would do if you were pregnant.
Sioned also hosts the Medela breastfeeding Cafe on their Facebook page every Tuesday and I’ve found reading these to be really helpful. Make sure you check them out if you have any questions and submit your own – look out for the below image on their page when the clinic opens on Tuesdays! https://m.facebook.com/medela.uk