Breastfeeding Twins – Our Story

When my husband and I found out I was pregnant I hadn’t given breastfeeding much thought, just that it was something I would probably do, as I was aware it’s meant to be better for the baby and basically to me it seemed less faff than formula feeding.

At 8 weeks we went for a private scan and that’s when we were told we were expecting twins! Completely unexpected. Answers to the most common questions I got asked to follow; They’re not identical, twins don’t run in the family, they were ‘naturally conceived’ (I’m not a fan of this term), not IVF.

With that bombshell dropped and all our expectations as we had laid out ahead of us needed some updating, the pushchair I liked wasn’t available as tandem/twin, we needed to fit 2 cots into the nursery, in fact we needed 2 of pretty much everything! Which as you’ll know if you’ve started buying baby things, it can get pricey!

What I didn’t give much thought to again was how I was going to feed these babies when they arrived, I still felt quite nonchalant that, all being well, if I managed to feed them myself then great. Except now I had the added incentive that it would work out much cheaper for me to breastfeed them rather than have to buy formula. But I was also, I thought, being realistic when I told people “I’ll try breastfeeding but I’m not going to beat myself up if I can’t, especially now there’s 2 of them”. When I said those things that was genuinely how I felt, however at that time I didn’t know how their arrival would make me feel about it all.

I saw a twin feeding pillow for sale locally on a selling site so went ahead and bought it. Best to be prepared for all eventualities after all. So having bought this pillow I did some research about feeding positions and tried to figure out how I could make this work. I started to feel quite determined that I would be able to tandem feed, that way it wouldn’t take me any more time than women feeding a singleton, which was appealing, especially for the night feeds.

As multiple pregnancies are consultant led (at my local hospital anyway), I spoke with them and was given some syringes with the ‘advice’ to hand express the week before I was due in for a c-section. I nodded along and took a handful of syringes, what I hadn’t asked was “what the hell is hand expressing?!”, I mean I was pretty sure I could guess but I’d never even heard the term before! So again I did some of my own research. I went to a seminar to prepare for parenthood and was told there that I shouldn’t hand express before 37 weeks as it could induce labour, but I was booked in at 37 weeks, what was I supposed to do??

I was fortunate that my pregnancy yoga instructor was also a lactation consultant so at my next class I checked with her and was told as I was due to have my babies at 37 weeks it was absolutely fine to hand express from 36 weeks, phew. But I still had no real clue howto hand express and how am I supposed to get colostrum from my boobs into the tiny syringes I’d been given.

Still, I decided to give it a go. Long story short, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong because I had been leaking colostrum involuntarily already so I had no idea why it wasn’t coming out when I wanted it to. My husband tried and he was better at hand expressing than me. But there wasn’t much at all, not enough for me to think it was worth taking to hospital. Naive perhaps but I really didn’t know how much to expect. I’d been given about a dozen syringes after all so I thought I should be able to fill them.

With hand expressing not going to plan I went in for my c section with no expressed colostrum to take with me. However I did take my feeding pillow. Seems bulky when we already had so much to carry but I was really keen to learn how to tandem feed as soon as possible and thought it would be best whilst I had midwives and healthcare professionals around to help. This decision was definitely worth it, and I would really recommend anyone hoping to tandem feed to do the same.

So my babies arrived, and as it was a c section at 37 weeks I had been warned my milk ‘might take a little longer to come in’. The midwifery assistant that looked after me in recovery straight from theatre was brilliant. She helped me latch the boys on, except one of them wouldn’t do it. She explained they could give him a little colostrum from a syringe and that would hopefully give him the little taste he needed to encourage him to latch on for more. She asked if I felt I could hand express or was I happy for her to do it for me? I told her she could do it, and I couldn’t believe it when she told me I had loads of colostrum coming out, in no time at all she had a syringe to feed to him. Which did exactly what she had described. He took it all then latched on beautifully straight after! Because of the order of events I had fed them both, but singly, which I was more than happy with. With a cannula in my hand and being numb from the waist down I just felt so lucky to have been able to feed them both so soon after delivery.

Back on the ward the midwives and healthcare staff continued to be amazing, they helped with a latch if I looked like I was struggling, but they didn’t make me feel like they were interfering, just popping their heads in occasionally to ask how it was going. My husband stayed with us, sleeping in a chair next to the bed, having him there meant that we could work our way through being new parents and learning the breastfeeding thing together. Once the spinal block had worn off and I was helped into a chair by staff for a little while I knew I wanted to try our first tandem feed. Still buzzing from the adrenaline of finally meeting my 2 beautiful little boys and feeling empowered by the positive comments from the ward staff about how well I was doing to feed them I was more determined than ever, and I knew that I would make breastfeeding work for us.

That night with my husbands help positioning the babies on the pillow I did my first tandem feed. And I was so chuffed. I tandem fed them as much as possible from that point on. It worked and meant we had saved time so I could try and sleep more in between feeds. I was only in hospital 2 nights then we were sent on our way, as a family. New parents who made up in enthusiasm what we were lacking in knowledge or experience!

I continued with feeding my boys as I had been, setting alarms throughout the night.

I was seen by a community midwife once home. They diagnosed one of the boys with jaundice and he had lost 12.5% of his birth weight which meant they placed us on a care plan. I felt completely deflated and quite frankly I felt this particular midwife in her manner and actions did little to nothing to alleviate my fears and feelings of inadequacy. They recommended I use top-ups after each feed to make sure he was getting enough milk, and told me to give top-ups to both boys just to make sure. I was advised to just get a single manual pump because I could move around the house whilst doing it, apparently making my life easier. So off my dutiful husband went to buy one. It was awful. The pump was uncomfortable and ineffective, actually hand expressing worked better. After a tough couple of nights of trying to get enough milk to give each of the boys some top ups after feeds we were seen again by a (different) midwife, and whilst they had put on some weight, it wasn’t enough which meant our care plan was stepped up. A call was made to the hospital and whoever the midwife spoke to recommended I use formula. This midwife asked if I wanted to do that and I really wanted to be able to produce enough milk for the boys myself so I said I’d rather not, which she was totally supportive of.

She gave me tips about breast compressions and switch nursing to help feed a sleepy jaundice baby.

The saga continued and we were seen by another different midwife another couple of days later, this time our little one had put on enough for the care plan not to be escalated again but hadn’t put on quite enough for it to be stepped down. This was the first midwife who actually gave us a measurement of how much I should be topping up, and it was more than I had been giving. It was also more than I thought I could achieve with the manual pump or hand expressing so I ordered a double electric which arrived the next day, thanks internet.

The pump revolutionised my life at that time. I was feeding the boys 3 hourly as I’d been told to, then expressing every hour in between to get the top ups for the next feed. This included through the night, so whilst the boys slept I was still setting hourly alarms to express for the top-ups. Eventually this all worked thankfully and they were putting on sufficient weight. I didn’t have many people in my support network who had breastfed in recent years or for any length of time, if I had then perhaps I would have known about on demand feeding. Although I suspect there would still be a risk of the advice not being particularly positive. A friend of mine told a midwife and health visitor she wanted to ‘on demand’ breastfeed her twins, and was told that isn’t possible with twins!

Well, 9 months in so far I have done just that. It has involved lots of reading about current breastfeeding research and recommendations as well as joining supportive groups on social media, and attending support meets with other breastfeeding Mums.

My boys were exclusively breastfed until 6 months when we introduced solid food, and they have continued to breastfeed roughly the same amount so far.

On demand and tandem feeding is more than possible. There really is nothing special about me, I know there are an awesome amount of women breastfeeding, and with knowledge and self-belief all women can successfully breastfeed for as long as they want. Breastfeeding has been the thing in my life that has given me the most self-doubt yet also made me feel more empowered than ever!

I have no plans to end breastfeeding anytime soon, and I hope our journey will end naturally with all of us being ready for it.

Our Breastfeeding Journey – Rebecca & Levi

We didn’t have the easiest start to our breastfeeding journey following an emergency caesarean and then Levi having low blood sugar levels requiring tests prior to each feed making it extremely difficult to feed responsively.

We spent 5 days on the post natal ward in order to get feeding established and Levi’s weight loss back to an acceptable level for discharge. 

Once home, Levi continued to gain weight but I was finding feeding painful. We attended one of the No Milk Like Mama’s breastfeeding support cafes and Sian examined Levi and suggested that we got referred to the tongue tie clinic by our health visitor which we did.

Levi was also exhibiting symptoms of colic and reflux and was put on medication by the GP which stopped the projectile vomiting but he was still getting reflux in the back of his throat and this was distressing him.

After another trip to the GP, it was suggested that Levi might have a cows milk protein allergy (CMPA) and to trial going dairy free for two weeks and then go back for review. 

After two weeks of being dairy free (and Levi having had his tongue tie divided in this time) feeding was going well and he was exhibiting fewer reflux symptoms until I ate something containing cheese which indicated there probably was CMPA and we were referred to the dieticians at the hospital when we returned to the GP for review. We’re now 4 1/2 months on from going dairy free and Levi is putting on weight and following his centile line, feeding is more relaxed and enjoyable and we plan to continue our journey for as long as possible.

Details of CMPA and allergy information can be found at
https://dilanandme.com/dairyfree/

If you have concerns around this, please contact your healthcare provider and seek specialist breastfeeding support.

Maternal Mental Health

As maternal mental health awareness week comes to an end, I wanted to share a little (a lot?!) & encourage those that are suffering to seek support. .

My husband said to me this morning ‘thanks for growing her’ as I fed Esmé in bed before he left for work. My response was ‘I grew them all. And it was awful’.

Whilst I feel incredibly fortunate to have my beautiful children, & very lucky (yes lucky, no one creates this for themselves, it’s plain bad luck to get an illness of any kind) to not have suffered with PND, I undoubtedly experienced AND with all three.

AND – Antenatal depression, is rarely spoken about. Perhaps similar to PND, feeling low during a time that many expect you to feel at your ‘happiest’ & ‘luckiest’ left me feeling wracked with guilt. The culmination of hormone imbalances creating this depression, a physically very difficult pregnancy and a previous miscarriage all massively affected my quality of life during my last pregnancy.

At 21 weeks pregnant I visited my midwife. I cried. I cried when I told her how sick I was. I cried when I told her how much pain I was in. I cried when I heard my baby’s heart beat. I cried when I was asked why I was crying. I cried at everything. That’s when things started to turn around. That’s when I started to get support.

From this appointment on, my midwife saw me weekly until I was in a better place. She referred me to our local perinatal mental health team (who are incredible) and I received regular support, which saw me through until Esmé was 1 year old. I was allocated a therapist who saw me at home and checked in how I was doing. She spent time discussing my birth options (following previous emergency caesarean & difficult vbac), my feelings around this & ensuring I felt supported during what was a pretty horrible time in my life. I even feel guilty now describing my pregnancy in this way, because I know how ‘lucky’ I am. However I wasn’t ‘lucky’ to be so incredibly unwell for 9 months of my life!

I was able to access ongoing support if I needed it. Knowing this support was there likely saved me from experiencing postnatal depression.

I talked a lot. Mostly to my friends. My close friends quite literally held me up during this time. My physical difficulties at times made it the equivalent to taking your Nan out, but they still did it. They offered me patience, kindness, understanding and love. This again likely saved me from continuing to suffer afterwards.

Why am I sharing this? To spread the word that you are not alone. There are many of us who have experienced this or are currently going through it.

In the same way I would encourage you to seek breastfeeding support, please seek support with these feelings also. You absolutely deserve this support and this is available. Speak to your midwife, health visitor, GP or whoever you feel you can. As an IBCLC sometimes it is us that you talk to and we can signpost you to further support.

Guest Blog: The First Few Days

Blog by NHS Midwife and No Milk Like Mama’s Peer Supporter Jenny Clark

Those first few days after giving birth..

What to expect? How to prepare? What is normal?

I’ve had experience witnessing and supporting many mothers in the first few days after giving birth and anyone who has been lucky enough to have a baby knows those first few days and weeks can be really tough.

Firstly a bit about my own experience…

I gave birth to my first baby in July 2018, as a midwife I was lucky enough to be surrounded by colleagues and friends to support me as much as they could. As I sit here thinking about those first few days it’s difficult to remember exactly how I felt. I remember the hot, sweaty postnatal ward…it was about 30 degrees outside and we had gone from the lovely air con in delivery suite to the stuffy ward. My daughter had been on neonatal unit for the first 36 hours of her life due to meconium aspiration at birth and needed oxygen to help her breathe. Unfortunately this meant we had no skin to skin at birth and she wasn’t able to feed for this time. I was also unwell myself so breastfeeding had to take a back seat for the time being. Thankfully my knowledge of being a midwife meant I harvested colostrum while on my maternity leave. Expressing small amounts every day every few days into a small syringe, labelling it with the date and time and freezing it. I have seen colostrum a lot but seeing this thick, liquid gold coming drop by drop out of me was amazing. To be honest my main reason for doing this was in case I was unable to get her latched correctly or she had a tongue tie, something I had seen a number of times. I never thought or prepared myself that either of us would be unwell. But who does? 

After 36 hours of my daughter being on neonatal unit we were both getting better and it was safe for her to have the numerous tubes removed and we could hold her. We had skin to skin and she latched to the boob straight away. What a relief! 

The next few days were tough, she was able to come to the ward with us that evening. As any mother I stared with wonder at her all night and hardly slept. She fed on and off. By day 3 she was unsettled and cluster feeding. This was when I decided to give her the colostrum I had collected and it took the pressure off me for a little while. I questioned whether she was getting enough in my tired state. She hadn’t opened her bowels for a while but was weeing plenty so knew she was fine. My milk came in and we were off to a great start. She didn’t lose too much weight considering she hadn’t fed for the first 36 hours and she has been a boob monster ever since!

A number of things may affect you initiating breastfeeding after the birth of your baby. This could be issues with yourself or your baby, this maybe babies ability to latch well to the breast or baby may be being monitored. In case any of these happen you can do a number of things to help in those first few days.

Skin to skin – is recommended in all births, not only to help initiate breastfeeding but to also keep baby warm, regulate the heart rate and keep them calm. This should be for at least an hour minimum and can be continued into the postnatal period as much as possible. In my case this wasn’t possible initially but we made up for this after!

Colostrum harvesting- get syringes from your midwife or online. See video regarding how to do this. Please do not worry if you are unable to express any colostrum. This does not mean you will be unable to breastfeed. If you are able to take these syringes with you to hospital and request for them to be stored in the fridge or freezer.

Cluster feeding- expect baby to want to be on and off your breast, they may fall asleep and then wake up when you move them and want to feed again. This is perfectly normal, naturally they need to stimulate your milk supply, think of it as putting them putting in their order and telling your body what it needs to do. This is tough in those first few days and weeks, when you are sleep deprived and sore from the birth you question what is happening. Reach out for your support to get reassurance, this may be your partner, mum, friends and health professionals. 

Dear This Morning

Dear Sir/Madam,

I watched your Breastfeeding Clinic feature today, and am saddened to say that this has caused me to raise a complaint via Ofcom.

You introduced Clare as ‘the UK’s leading expert’. Clare has never had any breastfeeding qualifications. She herself admits to not practicing in line with the current evidence base and discusses her ‘own technique’ with ‘shoving the baby on’, which we know can cause babies to refuse the breast. This evidence base that health professionals and lactation consultants work from is in accordance to worldwide research and Unicef Baby Friendly principles. To have someone suggest that these should not be adhered to and that her own techniques are superior is ridiculous. For a national and very influential programme such as This Morning to allow someone to condone this is disgusting.

Clare went on to give non evidence-based answers to the questions asked by women. Some of which could cause long term concerns with breastfeeding for these women and others watching.

With any other health concern, would you allow someone onto your programme to teach them their own techniques, rather than working from an evidence base? You likened your feature to that of when you taught women to check their breasts for lumps. I cannot imagine you would have used someone’s personal technique over and above the evidence base.

As a Breastfeeding Practitioner and trainee Lactation Consultant, I am devastated to see such terrible information being given to women. This is such a waste of what could have been an incredible feature. I beg you, please find someone else to manage this feature who has real qualifications and a passion for supporting women, not someone who is using this as a platform to sell more of their own products (books, videos etc. such as Clare).

I look forward to a response from you as to why you chose to use someone with no qualifications to share such detrimental ‘advice’.

Yours faithfully,

Sian Aldis

My body aches, My heart breaks…

Whilst not breastfeeding specific, this is certainly motherhood related, with an estimated 1 in 4 of us experience miscarriage.

However ‘common’ miscarriage might be, it doesn’t stop it being traumatic.

Many diseases are even more common, but treated with the importance and understanding that it deserves.

Miscarriage should be no different.

Every miscarriage matters and every mother (and family) matters.

I’ve experienced my fair share of grief, having lost my father suddenly at a young age, but the grief of miscarriage was something unexpected and unexplainable. Not in the least, because it felt and still feels like a dirty secret I shouldn’t be allowed to share.

Tomorrow it will be 2 years since my 3rd pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I wrote this a few days following my miscarriage and I hope it helps someone who is experiencing their own feelings of loss.

For those needing support, please reach out for this. www.tommys.org might be a good place to start.

My heart is breaking, but it’s a secret.

On Christmas Day I got up at 5am for the 3rd time since midnight to encourage the children back to bed. Once I finally persuaded them that it wasn’t time to get up for the day I went to the bathroom. I peed on a stick and put it in the cupboard.

I wrapped up the test in Christmas paper. I gave it to my husband, an extra Christmas present, it told him we were expecting our 3rd child. We sat in disbelief and smiles, another child, I felt like we were pushing our luck.

We were.

Nearly 7 weeks in and it started. I bled with my previous pregnancies, so I hoped perhaps this is just what I do, but I knew by the Monday that this wasn’t just me. I saw the Doctor, but I couldn’t get a scan until the following day. I’d already waited 2 days over the weekend wondering what was happening so initially was upset I had to wait longer. In hindsight this was a blessing. I miscarried that afternoon in the comfort of my own home, alone.

I was frightened. I knew what was happening, but held on to some hope that the pregnancy was still there.

The following morning I knew it was over. My symptoms had vanished overnight and my body felt different. I continued to bleed. The scan confirmed it was over.

6 days since it started, I continue to pass the remainder of my pregnancy. A pregnancy we wanted. A pregnancy we’d been waiting years for. It feels cruel that I have to be continually reminded of this. When will it stop? I left the hospital with no advice. I don’t know what to expect.

We had not told people about the pregnancy as did not want the children to know until the 20 week anomaly scan, once we knew everything was okay. They still don’t know. Once they are old enough to read this, they will be old enough to know.

I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know what to grieve. I don’t know what to tell people, or indeed whether to at all.

I’ve received differing advice and thoughts on it, ranging from taking time to grieve to forgetting it ever happened. I’m still unsure what my take on it is.

What I do know is that I’m exhausted and hurting, in every sense.

Whatever your feelings on miscarriage (did I lose a baby or merely hopes and plans?), the process of miscarrying is traumatic regardless. I still don’t know where to stand with this. I can’t forget it happened, but do I want a grieve a baby, the most painful thing a mother can do? No I don’t.

What I do hate is that it feels like a secret. Grief is private, in our culture at least. I learnt this when my father died. However I wasn’t expected to pretend to those around me that nothing had happened. I could at least tell people what had happened, without feeling like I was doing something wrong by telling them.

I was already concerned what reaction we would receive on having another baby. Would friends say we were crazy? Would family think we were irresponsible? Are we being greedy wanting another after 2 healthy children?

Now I worry what will be the reaction to my losing it. Do you think I’m indulgent writing this (If you do please stop reading!)? What will others think about me sharing it? Whilst this is a public post, I haven’t shared it wider, mostly for fear of what others would think if I did.

I never understood why it was always a secret when people miscarried. I’ve cried for friends when it has happened to them. I don’t know why it should be a secret, but somehow it feels like it should. Why is that?

Should I be ashamed? I question myself, did I do something wrong? Perhaps I shouldn’t have done that spinning class or eaten the cheese. I will never know the answer.

I can’t begin to think about trying again. I range from wanting to be pregnancy again immediately to never wanting to do it again. Possibly for fear of going through this.

Physically I’m exhausted. The simplest things are draining me. I don’t know what to expect or how long it will take to complete. I just want to feel normal again.

I’m empty and my heart is broken, but I don’t know what for. This is the oddest type of grief. Secret, shameful, forbidden, desolate grief.

What I know is we loved that baby, we wanted that baby and we miss that baby. Whether that be the idea of what was to come, or an actual life that had already started in utero. I haven’t processed how I feel about this yet, but my body aches and my heart breaks.

Originally written by me on 19th January 2017 on my Personal Blog, Me and My Lot.

Guest Blog: Our NICU Breastfeeding Journey

Guest Blog from Rose. Rose can be found on Instagram @mummafinneron Thank you for sharing your story.

I fed my daughter for a year, so when I fell pregnant for the second time I knew that I wanted to do the same for my next baby.

Unfortunately pregnancy wasn’t easy, there were many complications, which resulted in my baby boy being born prematurely at 27 weeks. He was a tiny 3lb which quickly dropped to 2 1/2lb. I was very unwell, having a caesarean under general anaesthesia, I couldn’t meet my son for 14 hours and when I did all I could do was place my hands on his tiny head and feet through the incubator.

The doctors asked me to start expressing and explained that babies born this early can only tolerate breast milk. It is so important as premature babies miss a lot of the antibodies which pass through from the placenta in the last month of pregnancy. They explained if I wasn’t able to express my milk then they would use donor milk. I started expressing straight away and the volume quickly increased using the hospital pump every two to four hours. This really kept me going, It really made me feel like I was doing something to help him. The nurses tube fed my boy expressed milk in tiny quantities starting at just 2ml.

It was over a week before I could hold my boy and have skin to skin. Despite being covered in tubes and wires and alarms going off, all finally felt calm. I was allowed to hold him once a day, if he was stable. Despite being exhausted and still in a lot of pain from my caesarean I made sure to keep expressing once I was discharged home, it wasn’t always easy with an energetic two year old.

When my boy was at 31 weeks gestation I noticed he looked like he was rooting whilst having skin to skin. A few days later I mentioned it to the nurse and she said I could let him go to the breast, but usually babies don’t develop a suck swallow reflex until at least 34 weeks. To the nurses amazement, about three of them gathered around us at this point, my boy knew exactly what to do. Despite some saying it was too early I trusted my instincts and my desire to nurse my boy and tried him at the breast every day.

Some days would he would only suck for a couple of seconds but I was still determined that it would click. Gradually he started to feed from me more and he needed less and less tube feeds. A few nurses asked if we could try bottle feeding whilst I was away from him but I knew the importance of perfecting breastfeeding before bottle feeding. I found it slightly unfair that I was told if I bottle fed him I could get him home quicker, when I knew that it was best for him to breastfeed and after all the hard work expressing I was glad to stop and just feed him myself.

I was invited to stay in the NICU with my son to get him feeding through the night, he took to every feed and he was allowed to stay with me in the NICU flats, it was heaven. I finally had my boy to myself. Finally after 69 days in NICU my boy was finally home exclusively breastfed at 7lb he was gaining weight beautifully and I couldn’t be prouder of him.

Why Bounty should be Banned.

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It’s fantastic to hear that reasonably locally to us, women are being given the choice as to whether they wish to be disturbed by strangers taking photos of their baby and to sell their personal details on.  I hope this means our more local hospitals will follow suit, or even better ban the Bounty Ladies altogether.

Ipswich hospital changes policy on sales representative on maternity wards

I personally was shocked at how intrusive the representatives were, in particular following the birth of my 3rd child this year. 3 of them entered my room, had a discussion about their work (their next target?) and asked me for my personal details without even telling me what they wanted this for. I had a private room due to major surgery and a traumatic pregnancy. Why on earth were 3 strangers, with no medical need for them to be there, allowed to enter my personal space whilst I sat bleeding, in pain, unable to stand and naked whilst trying to breastfeed my newborn baby, who was also receiving hospital care?

I asked them what they needed this information for, they would not give me a straight answer. I promptly asked them to leave.

It is very easy in those moments following one of the biggest events of your life, and whilst still receiving medical care, to assume that anyone coming into your space requesting your personal details, must be doing so in an official capacity and because it is absolutely necessary. Not because they want to sell your information onto other companies.

I find it absolutely disgusting that this practice is allowed to continue.

Let’s not forget, if you and your baby are fine, you leave the hospital. The mothers and babies on hospital wards are there because they need medical care.

The moment they enter your room, your bedside (your life?!), could be during a pivotal moment as you enter your new life as a new mum to this new being.

Perhaps your baby was about to latch for the first time since birth, or you were about to fall asleep for the first time since a long labour, or your partner and you were sharing a moment together to take on board what the hell just happened. Perhaps you were high fiving in celebration of your first poo post delivery (yep, I did that).

Whatever you were doing, it was certainly not the time to have a stranger coming in and asking you for personal details to make money for the company they work for and make commission on what they can sell you.

In my mind it goes against all Baby Friendly principles and the welfare of all the mothers and babies that they interrupt. Please, for the love of God, someone stop this practice being allowed.

Your Breasts, Your Toolbox

I think it’s safe to say that most mothers find having a newborn overwhelming at some point.

Amongst breastfeeding mothers I think there is sometimes a misconception that bottle feeding mothers find this stage easier.

When breastfeeding it is true that your baby is dependent on you being there at all times and in the early days this can absolutely feel overwhelming, but trying to think longer term may help.

Once your partner is back at work and all the initial offers of help die down, you are still left doing most (if not all) the feeds. When bottle feeding this then includes washing, sterilising, making up powdered milk, buying milk powder and all the other hard work that goes with bottle feeding.

I’m also pretty sure that if you were to generalise that all bottle feeding mothers must be getting more sleep that there would be rather an uproar! It is a very common misconception that a bottle fed baby sleeps more. Yet research shows us that breastfeeding mothers actually get MORE sleep!

When it comes to having a settled sleeper, I truly believe that is luck of the draw. Many breastfed babies sleep well in fact, especially if we adapt our expectations and find ways to keep them close and reassured. It is actually far more common for a bottle fed baby to experience stomach problems due to the nature of the milk and therefore experience ‘colic’ symptoms and long nights of being unsettled.

Lets not forget that bottle feeding, when doing this in a responsive manner (eg. paced feeding) takes up two hands (Please note to never bottle feed a baby by propping a bottle up, this is incredibly dangerous). Once you are a bit more practised, breastfeeding can often be carried out one handed and as such is much easier on the go, or whilst trying to entertain another child. In a nutshell, breastfeeding can be the easiest option.

When I am helping women I have found it useful to point these things out to new mums, especially when they are battling a hurdle and finding things difficult and in their minds the myth (the one that the formula companies want us to believe!) that bottle feeding would be easier is making them question what they are doing.

There is one thing in particular that seems to strike a cord with most women; Breastfeeding is a Tool.

We (mostly) all know that breastfeeding has many benefits, namely that of the health of mother and baby, but taking that as a given, what else can we do with this tool?

When babies feed from the breast they self regulate their intake of milk. This means you could breastfeed your baby all the live long day should they wish. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby.

Now think about the baby who is screaming all night for reasons that no one knows, it could be a tummy pain, earache, teething, who knows? If only they could tell us.

Let your baby breastfeed and they calm, lay still and often fall asleep with those wonderful sleep inducing hormones they receive. Okay, if it’s a rough night, they may want to stay there for a long while or feed often, but they are calm, still and NOT screaming. In a safe position you may be able to fall asleep with them at the breast. Peace at last. It’s about so much more than milk. Here is your built in baby comfort system.

When a baby is bottle fed you sadly lose this tool. You cannot simply feed bottle after bottle in an attempt to settle them, if they didn’t have tummy ache before they certainly would if you did this! You are left with a screaming baby and have lost the simplest and easiest ready to go tool to sooth them.

A tired baby will often fall asleep at the breast. Despite many unqualified baby ‘experts’ having an issue about ‘allowing’ this, it’s absolutely normal, natural and above all useful to encourage babies to sleep in this way, regardless of what the ‘baby expert’ books says (please always question the credentials of the authors of these books and their evidence base, which is usually non-existent!). In fact UNICEF and other evidence based organisations and practitioners encourage women to embrace their ability to calm their babies with this wonderful natural tool that we have been given. The hormones produce a drowsy effect and the closeness and suckling relaxes the baby. An overtired baby can often be put into a lovely milk induced sleep at the breast.

If your baby gets hurt, or perhaps is clingy after some time away from mum, often a breastfeed can calm and relax them and generally make the world good again.

Breastfeeding should absolutely be used as a tool.

Next time you are awake, perhaps for the umpteenth time that night, look at how peaceful your baby is whilst feeding.

Yes, you’re awake again, but it’s quiet. It would be so much harder if they were screaming and you had lost your toolbox.

If you are feeling close to losing your toolbox, please get in touch with someone who is trained to help you. Get some support to see you over this hurdle so you can experience the enjoyment of breastfeeding and this wonderful tool you have.

Need support? Please get in touch. Details of my services are available on my website or email me at sian@nomilklikemamas.co.uk

More than food, more than boobs.

I saw this today and it got me thinking about what Breastfeeding Support really is. I love my job, but far more than a job, I feel this role is really to relight the ancient and lost art of the most natural and beautiful thing of nursing our babies and to enable other mothers to experience this joy.

The questions come in about sleep, frequency of feeds, latching, milk supply etc. But more often than not, just about what’s normal. We have come so far removed from our instincts and trusting our bodies and our babies, that we trust books and the words of so called ‘experts’ over our own hearts and the cries of our infants. The medicalisation of birth, which has been necessary in many cases (including my own, I’m not preaching!), but perhaps overused in many more, has been drip fed over the years into infant feeding and nurturing our children.

Sometimes Breastfeeding Support doesn’t look like you think. It doesn’t involve nipples, latching or milk. It involves listening, empathising and empowering. It’s teaching and learning what is truly natural and normal. It’s enabling a woman to express her emotions. A space to talk about the complexities of motherhood and at times a safe place to cry. A time to remove your crown, expose your vulnerabilities, have it shined back up again and put back in its place.

Whatever type of support you need with breastfeeding, please seek it. Mother to mother peer support is crucial for this and can be found at my free Breastfeeding Support Café, 1st & 3rd Friday of each month at Rowan House.

Breastfeeding is about so much more than food, and Breastfeeding Support is about so much more than boobs.

💗🤱🏼