Tag Archives: breastmilk

Catch up

Standard

I have to stop counting on months now, right? (25 months old!)

Quite update on some things we’ve been up to.

2 year Health Visitor check went pretty well. We had been entirely honest on our form- it asks about whether he can perform certain tasks. There were a few we didn’t know about- like whether he could flick a switch. We’ve always discouraged him from switches of any kind (ie sockets) so he’s never found out! The Health Visitor ended up changin g a few of our answers for a better score as she could see that he’s very capable. He can use a fork. He chooses to use his hands. He probably can tidy up his toys. Not to say he will! Anyway, she was pleased with him as we hoped so that was good.

The health visitor checks are interesting. My view has always been that if you have attended one and think it’s a waste of time, then you are probably one of the lucky ones. This means there are no problems being identified with your childs speech, fine motor skills, weight gain or any other factors. This means your child is developing normally and you had to take an hour out of your day to find that out. Sometimes its’ hard to think outside of our own home-life bubble, but there will be parents who have taken their child to a checkup where the health visitor has identified an issue with the child’s development or home life that needs attention. It may help pick up on problems early so they can be tackled or that families can be signposted to get extra help where needed.

The other side of things I often hear on the facebook breastfeeding groups I’m on is about how some health care professionals including health visitors treat those of us that practice Attachment Parenting. I HATE labels like this but if I look at the way we are choosing to bring up our child, most of it falls pretty neatly into AP’s philosophy (one reason I dislike it is the suggestion that those who do not identify with AP are somehow detached……). Many women have had negative experiences of hcps commenting on their decision to breastfeed past a certain arbitrary age, for co-sleeping, for not using CIO (Cry It Out) methods to get their children to sleep etc. However I would say that our review was an unmitigated success.

R ran about whilst we chatted through the paperwork. We were then asked how he eats (badly) so she asked us to talk through a typical day. Half way through this, he hopped up onto my lap and asked for “boobies” (not my favourite choice of word to signify that he wants milk but hey ho, it’s stuck). At the end of describing his daily food intake, I finished with “Oh, and milk of course“. The HV then asked me if he drank it from a cup, which seemed like an odd question at the time, but I replied “No, just from me”. At which point she looked up from her laptop and said, “Oh…. Yes. Well done.” Now I do not breastfeed my child for a pat on the back but it was very welcome after the horror stories I’d heard and was better than being told erroniously that there would be “no nutritional value” in my milk or that he was “only doing it for comfort” (favoured phrases it seems). She asked if we were happy with it still and both myself and the husband said “YES” in unison. After a short discussion about his frequent night wakings, she then told me that if I wanted to wean at any point and needed help, then I could call the HV team. And that was that.

Well not really, my little charmer then proved that he could put all the toys away and then as we put him into his buggy (with not a single protest from him) he waved and said “Goodbye nice lady” and blew her a kiss!

What else?

Nightweaning (to be sung to the tune of Nightswimming by REM). Not sure if I blogged about it then but back in January around my birthday we had a pop at night weaning from milk. It happened at this point because a friend (who had a child herself that didn’t sleep though for different reasons) pointed me towards a gentle AP-worthy method of night weaning by a chap called Dr Jay Gordon. I was understandably entirely sceptical. We have (half heartedly) attempted a number of different things over the last two years to improve sleep, and none of them have worked. In fairness the element of half heartedness no doubt had some kind of influence on this but realistically we knew they were never going to work and so it was all a bit of a pointless exercise. However, straight away on reading this method, I felt like I could get on with it. Dr Gordon doesn’t endorse any kind of sleep training for under one year olds. He talks about co-sleeping in the “family bed”.

He says:

Don’t get me wrong. I love the family bed, child-led weaning and cuddling all through the first, second, third year or more if it’s working well and if the family is doing well. Don’t let anyone convince you that this is a harmful choice or that there will be “no way” to get him out of your bed if you don’t do it now. Don’t believe anyone who says that babies who cuddle and nurse all night long “never” learn to self soothe or become independent. This is simply not true but it sells books and the myths stay in our culture.

I agree. This helps.

This method highlights the difference between a child who is safely in his mother or fathers arms crying because he is frustrated at not getting what he wants (milk) when he wants it (9pm,11:30pm, 1am, 2:30am, 4am, 5am and from 6-7am), and leaving a child alone in their own room to cry to teach them that no-one is coming. This hit hard with me as leaving a child to cry alone has never resonated well with me. However, I am able to leave R in his daddies arms having a bit of a sob to go and do things because I know he is safe and loved and protected.

I won’t go through the full method as you can read it on the link to Dr Gordon’s page, but a brief run down is that you choose a period of night during which you do not feed your child (we chose 11pm to 5am). Before and after that time you continue as normal. During that time for the first 3 nights you give them a brief feed (but don’t feed to sleep), then cuddled them to sleep. You repeat the process each time they wake. The next 3 nights, you just cuddle, with no feed. The next 3-4 nights after that you stay with them, talk to them, soothe them etc but don’t pick them up to cuddle them. The idea is that it’s gentle but persuades them that they don’t need a feed to get to sleep, and also that they won’t get one so they don’t need to wake. At R’s age, he does not need to feed at night but he likes to. But I also need to get some sleep.

When we tried back in January, it was going well before we all got hideous germs. I had tonsilitis then spent the next 6 weeks with a cold, a lost voice etc, small person was so full of green goo it wasn’t funny and the husband had a selection of his own germs too. It went on for so long (which was unusual as we usually have good health!) that we just totally gave up on it. Which is weird because it was actually working prior to the ill.

Our sleep got worse again a month or so ago and I was duly complaining to anyone who would listen, and it was suggested that we try again. So we said “Why not?”, and we did. There were two nights in the middle where small stuff cried for 2 hours or so. One night we actually ended up taking him downstairs as he was being so noisy and awful, the other night I told him stories gently in the hope of convincing him to sleep but just our luck we have the only child in the land who finds bedtime stories too stimulating and then starts joining in! At this point we weren’t very hopeful but the next night, he only woke twice. All night. TWICE! Not seven times. From then on in it’s been pretty consistent. We still have bad nights and we’ve shifted the timings a little because he was waking at 4:30 or so desperate for a feed and crying until five. As he wasn’t often waking before that, I decided a 4:30am feed isn’t such a bad thing.

So the next step may end up being his own bed. We have an old single bed frame in the attic which we are going to get out at the weekend and see if we can get a mattress to fit (weird Ikea bed size). Then we can see if he likes having his own room….. Wish us luck!

Sorry no pictures- will add some in from my phone when I get a chance

More reviews! Breast Pumps!

Standard

I was very lucky to have not one but two different pre-loved breast pumps passed onto me when I was expecting baby R. Some might find the idea of a second hand breastpump a bit odd or gross, but if anything is to be passed on, something that comes apart for every single little bit to be steralized is probably one of the cleaner and safer items!

At first baby D refused to Breast Feed. He was jaundice and sleepy. In fact he slept for about 20 hours a day when he first came home from hospital, which made feeding him a huge challenge. I had no particular problem with offering him formula if he genuinely needed it, but was keen not to be sucked in to using formula to supplement his feeds, and then not producing enough of my own milk due to the complex supply and demand nature of producing breast milk. So this is where the pump came in.

We would give baby R skin to skin for 20-30 minutes before every attempted feed. Then we would have a go at breast feeding. This involved stripping him down to keep him cool and awake, tickling his feet and chin, poking him, anything we could do to keep him awake. He was perfectly capable of a good latch (taught by the fantastic midwives at both the antenatal class and at the hospital) but would just fall asleep. After 30 minutes or so of failed feeding at the breast, we moved onto expressed milk which we would take out of the fridge (the 30ml or so) and heat gently. Then after that, we would usually need to do a small top up of formula, which of course has to be mixed with boiling water, then cooled. Once that process was finished and we were happy we’d got a decent feed into him, I then had the pleasure of expressing for the next feed.

The thinking behind this was twofold- and for anyone not aware of how breast feeding works this might be helpful. One midwife described the process as “like a toilet cistern. If you don’t empty it, it won’t fill back up” (I like to think of it more as finishing your glass of wine at a lovely restaurant so the waiter can fill it back up again!). So the process of removing milk from my breasts wasn’t just to be able to feed it to Baby R in a bottle for the next feed, but combined with the skin to skin time and the attempted feeding at the breast, would further stimulate the supply. So I got to know our pumps well over the next few months.

I’ll be honest- there were also pipe dreams….. maybe of my lovely husband being able to do a night or evening feed so I could have a little rest, or even (shock horror) the concept of me going out one evening baby free and daddy doing a whole evening shift. Sadly bottle refusal from 6 weeks old mixed with a healthy (?) dose of colic put pay to that idea. The colic didn’t last, the bottle refusal lasted over a year!

Ok so here we go with the reviews!
Medela Mini Electric Breast Pump
I had no idea what to expect from a breast pump, but when I showed the midwife what I had she was very impressed and said that they’re some of the best on the market, and what they call “hospital grade”- i.e the midwives and health visitors in the hospitals use these themselves. It was pretty easy to put together and use. It’s important to get the positioning right otherwise you can end up with a rubbed nipple- and with everything else they go through whilst you learn to breastfeed, it can be very uncomfortable. I also had the issue that the standard size flange (the bit that goes over your nipple) wasn’t big enough (though it certainly looked it). When I went to the specialist Breast Feeding clinic in Farnborough, the BF advisor kindly lent me a larger one (which I must return at some point!).

Positives:
The pump is easy to use, extracts milk well, with a dial to change the strength setting and I found the sound of the motor very reassuring and relaxing!

Negatives:
Although they will take batteries, it’s easiest to use plugged in which slightly limits where you can use it. I found travelling to work, with it, for example, quite challenging. The pump has only one “pattern” so it sucks for around 1.5 seconds and releases. This means it isn’t particularly efficient.

Avent Comfort Manual Pump
The manual pump was a bit of a revelation to me. I tried it first at 2 days Post Partum, beofre the thick colustrum had changed into thinner milk. At the time I assumed that the colostrum was too thick to pump, but there’s definitely a technique which I am now aware of which may have worked then too.

I started properly using the manual pump when I went back to work for my Keeping In Touch days. Having never left my baby for more than a few hours previously, a 10 hour plus day away from him seemed a bit of a challenge for my poor swollen breasts. As I don’t work in one office, but visit lots of partner organisations, it was hard for me to request rooms to express in for regular breaks during the day. I realised that (for me) a shower room would suffice, but of course they lack in three pin sockets. So I decided to crack out the manual pump.

The important thing with this one is to ensure that all the parts are tightly fitted together, especially the cushion around the flange. It takes a few pumping motions to create enough of a vacuum to get the milk flowing. However, once it gets going, you can create your own pattern of pumps to match the speed and volume of milk that comes out and your own natural rhythm. This was a total revelation to me, and made expressing much easier and more efficient. In addition, providing there’s not too much other background noise, you can hear the milk shooting into the recepticle so you don’t need to watch what you’re doing.

Positives:
More efficient and comfier to use due to the cushioning. Quieter!

Negatives:
Sometimes the flange fills with milk and you need to remove it and reposition to let the valve work properly

I will just add in the bottom something about hand expressing. It’s not something I’ve personally had much success with (bar the odd late evening at work recently where I’ve just relieved the pressure). However, those in the know say that it’s the most efficient way to express if you do things right and learn a good technique- and there are certainly plenty of useful videos and instructions available out there.

And finally- it’s really important to remember that your ability to express, and the amount that you can produce using a pump- electric or manual, or hand expressing- is NOT a representation of how much milk your baby will get during a feed. Babies are made by nature to get milk from their mummies, so trust in their ability to do this. They are much more efficient than a piece of machinery, and unless your health visitor or midwife has any serious concerns about your babies weightloss or ability to take in milk, don’t be alarmed if they lose a bit of weight after birth. The NCT have a great page here:
which tells you all about what to do if you worry that your baby is not getting “enough” milk.