Breast is Best-My Breastfeeding Journey

20161002_12511620161002_125136Before I had kids I had no friends or family who had new babies who successfully breastfed so I didnt know much about it to start off with. So I planned in my head to try to do it and not give myself a hard time if it didnt work out as I had heard generally that breastfeeding was difficult. Friends from uni in Dublin had told me to research breast pumps as pumping would be my only solution to EVER getting out of the house so I had read extensively about breast pumps before I gave birth .. It wasnt until I actually had my son in my arms and I was so in love with him that I wanted to do it so much but… I was finding it unbearably painful. The poor midvives in the hospital were so run off their feet that they had little time to devote to helping. They suspected the latch was incorrect etc. Anyway I kept trying but as the days wore on I got much sorer. I used the nipple shields and the breast compresses to minimise the soreness. By time I left hospital 5 days later I could not let him near me to feed but I was determined to maintain supply and find a solution so the minute I left the hospital I went and bought a breast pump which leads me onto my first tip

TIP 1: Get A BREAST PUMP. You can Hire The Medela Hospital Grade one from a pharmacy for €100 a month. I used this for a Month. There really is no pump that is as fast or as efficient as this at getting milk out. After I also bought The LANSINOH DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMP from MOTHERCARE– (Double means both boobs/twice as fast/double the gains) approx €170. Theres also a Medela Double Pump which is great too and a handy handbag one the HaaKaa one for expressing on the go-never used it but its cheap so worth buying too. In general you will not be able to leave your baby for any length of time, EVER, while breastfeeding, unless you express milk. (There are second hands ones available online but it is suspected open systems can transfer viruses so I didnt want to take any chances). As I was so sore I pumped 8 times a day for 12 days after I got home (imagine! When I think back I was so exhausted and I hated doing it but I was healing so I realised soon I could put my baby back on breast so I kept going. I was giving him the milk I expressed, from a bottle during the day and giving him formula at night (cause one of my friends found her baby slept longer at night by giving him one formula feed so I thought this sounded like the way to go without compromising my supply so I did this..but it did NOT help my baby sleep any better) Anyway he was making great Weight Gains Which The Health Nurse Was Happy With (so we assumed he was feeding from the boob but since realised the gains were mostly from the formula, as he was probably only getting 15oz of expressed milk a day from me (50% of his needs from my milk)Anyway It was about a week into this regime when he was 4 weeks old and I had him back on the boob a few days now using nipple shields that I noticed he wasnt satisfied at all after a feed, crying cribbing etc particularly in late afternoon that I gave in and I called a lactation consultant.

TIP 2: If you sense something is wrong or you are in severe pain while feeding make an appointment with a Lactation Consultant. Your baby might have a Tongue/Lip Tie. Contact Your Health Nurse or Pauline McLoughlin is available privately in Sligo. Our appointment with Pauline led to the Diagnosis of A Posterior Lip and Tongue Tie. I had heard about it once from a friends friend but other than that knew nothing about it..This is where the babys tongue is tied to the bottoms of their mouth by a tiny piece of skin, in a place that makes it difficult for them to wrap their tongue around the nipple to successfully draw milk from the breast, so the baby might seem happy at the breast, but they are just suckling, not drinking, as days go on, your supply may drop, as boobs are not emptied, you baby isnt feeding well, they also might be bobbing of the nipple, you assume you’ve just no milk and you start formula feeding and well thats your breastfeeding experience finished.. So this Consultation saved our breastfeeding experience. We got the tongue tie cut in hospital and I had no significant pain after this and we were finally breastfeeding round the clock from 7 weeks old. My supply boosted back up (from the feeding aswell as pumping a few times a day but I  didnt have enough milk to exclusively  feed so i never got away from giving him 1 formula feed a day. He was very hungry boy, fed 2-3 hourly at night but things improved thereafter). I got my mum/husband to give him the formula bottle this when I was working part time at weekends or to go out for a swim/to town to get jobs done. As time went on I had more milk so could stockpile and freeze some to give him. I breastfed my son until he was almost a year and the only reason I stopped was to conceive again (as I had no periods during this time.) I absolutely loved it and it is the easiest thing when you get past the initial first 2 sore months. So convenient, no bottles, no sterilising. Since then i gave birth to girl and My daughter had no tongue tie and we had no problems (also I suppose I knew so much more as it being round 2) and I was able to exclusively feed her, she has had no formula at all since we left the hospital, but I was exhausted during her 3,4,5 month growth spurts, as she was awake feeding more at night and I was sorer allover, my hips also ache badly during this time. She got expressed milk when I am away from her when working part time (i am a hair and makeup artist-for events-weddings/hen party/special occasion work in north west-so its really only 1 full day a week saturdays at most 6hrs that im away from her) I also do beauty therapy and lash/brow work from home so I can feed in between clients so thats how I can manage to feed continously and get other stuff done..

TIP 3: Pumping is The Key To Getting Out Of The House and Boosting Supply for Growth Spurts
It is a good idea to get baby used to the bottle probably one feed a day from early weeks or they might refuse it. I still
continue to pump daily. To have emergency stash for jobs and for milk for solids. My milk supply is good but not brilliant (I have enough for my girl but had to give one formula bottle to my boy daily) so I find pumping even twice a day helpful to boost it and because im working part time every week if I want her to only get breastmilk then I have to pump..With 1 baby I could pump 3-4 times a day when I was home.. but now having 2 babies makes is less possible. I generally do it twice-when I get up and before I go to bed. I also cut 2 holes in an old sports bra for the flanges so I can pump hands free and I sit and read for the 10 minutes. I can only pump after the baby feeds (otherwise i wont have enough milk for her) so i usually never get more than 1oz out at a time (cause my supply is only middling) and all i am getting is the last bit of milk left from the feed so it takes me a few days to pump enough for even one feed.Often when i pump no milk comes out but at least the 10mins pumping helps my body make more milk for the following day/days. Then I leave it in the fridge for up to a week if I need it then freeze it if unused so it doesnt go sour.

TIP 4: Do As the Americans do..Set Up A Pump Station in the Nursery20161008_214543
I found doing this made me more likely to pump, cause I hate doing it (really I do..and the sound of the pump is awful.) So I bought a small fridge from Argos, and moved a study desk from Ikea, some magazines and newspapers and the comfy armchair from my bedroom into the nursery to make an area. I dont sterilise the pump equipment after every go, breast milk is not sterile anyway, I do that every few weeks and neither of my babies has EVER got sick. The fridge will stop bacteria growing, its a place to keep the bottle of milk im expressing, the equipment in and this are allows me to pump “in private”. I add the warm milk to the cool milk and if I dont use it i freeze it no later than 7 days (incase it goes sour. )Again my babies have never had any issues with this practice.

TIP 5: You Dont Need to Avoid Alcohol/Have a Special Diet
A glass of wine or a couple of drinks with glasses of water in between wont effect the milk. A drink helps you relax. Being relaxed is critical to being able to produce milk. If it does enter the milk it is only 1% or so. The best time to have a drink is when feeding so its cleared from your system by the time you feed again. I always have had  he occasional drink it never did either of my babys any harm or they never suffered any side effects and other breastfeeding mums I know do same. If you want to go out for a night and binge then you just need to wait until you feel normal again to feed. You dont need to pump and dump, unless your breasts feel really full that is. Breast milk is made from fat and water. You dont need herbal teas or to eliminate tea/coffee, (I often drink 3 mugs a days) or avoid chocolate or eat like a vegan. Normal Irish Diet is fine..the most important thing is to relax about all these things.

TIP 6: Sleep with Your Baby
I know many breastfeeding mums. All of them sleep with their baby or use a co-sleeper beside the bed. (You hear so much negative stuff about parenting, you wont be able to get the baby out of your bed etc, most of which is rubbish and lets face it most of us would love to sleep with our children if our beds were big enough and they slept in a straight line. Right?) Getting up at night is exhausting. When they are in bed with you, you dont ever get up, I never do nappys at night, i just turn over and feed them on my side, prop my other side up with a pillow to help back ache. (I also do a lie down flat on my back position with baby on top of me vertically, if my back really hurts and I prop my sides up with pillows for my elbows). Most of the time the next day you wont even know how many times you were awake cause its not the number of times you wake up but the amount of time you are up that counts in getting a middling nights sleep. I saw how exhausting it was giving formula to my son in the first month we w20161008_210007ere coping with the tongue tie, at night time. I had to go back to bed during the day. Now I personally was awake for feeds 2-3 times a night with my daughter, previously with my son it was 4+ and having them in the bed was the key to it being successful in the first 6 months. I never need to go back to bed during the day. Night feeds are critical to your supply in the early days as between 12-6am is when you produce the best quality milk and the hormone prolactin which is the hormone that suppresses ovulation. I found a little LED light (right) super useful to have on pillow so I dont have to turn on the lamp at night-find in pound shop.

TIP 7: Talk To Mothers Who Actually Breastfeed NOT your friends/family who have Formula Fed Babys who are formula feed behave and sleep differently. Most of them are knocked out from overfeeding which is why many of them sleep through night from 3 months. Some breastfed babies sleep through the night from early but many dont until they are 6-9 months old and many more not till they are 2 or beyond. Mine did not sleep 12 hours straight until they were 11/12months old. I also felt stopping breastfeeding did help mine sleep through the night, all the lovely cuddles from mama would make any baby wake up for more! It is a completely different approach so get out there and attend the la leche league and local breastfeeding groups. They are full of lovely women happy to share their experiences in friendly environments. See and Ask you Health Nurse for details.

TIP 8: Buy Some Nursing Clothes you Feel Great in
You wont want to feed in public or leave the house if you dont look good. Spend some money on a few good quality nursing outfits you can mix and match. You can do one top up, one top down for summer t-shirts and tops but in winter its more difficult as you need warm clothes with feeding access. I found great things online through NEXT , and the Mamalicious brand and Seraphine (London Boutique) fabulous for warm winter nursing dresses. As mothercare is rubbish quality and pricey.

Other Reasons I Love To Feed-It Makes Feel Good & Look Better (eventually)
Babys breastfeed not just for food. For comfort, reassurance, some mammy time, when lonely, tired etc. I found it useful knowing that if when I put my crying baby to the breast that if they stop crying immediately and relax and feed that in fact they are not in pain and that I dont need to ring the Doctor. It reassures you. it calms you. Often the oxytocin released when babys feed makes you feel great-calm, relaxed. I noticed this particularly with my son. Also watching your baby grow strong and thrive on nothing but milk from your body makes you feel great despite all the other madness thats going on in your family life adjusting to a new baby. I often wonder if postnatal depression is caused by mums not breastfeeding..It does have a beneficial effect on your weight as long as you are not consuming extra calories. Remember you may have a stone or more extra to loose after the birth. In order to loose that you have to eat less and/or exercise and/or breastfeed. Initially for the first 6 weeks postnatal you may be ravenous, I was and I always gain a further half a stone then but loose it again from month 3-6 thats when the baby is taking maximum milk and you may be burning up to 400-600 calories a day from feeding alone (20 calories per oz of milk produced. By my pumping experiences i produce approx 25-27oz a day). It also contracts your uterus which helps you get your toned tummy back. I also find it is not until you finish feeding and wean that you “loose the last half stone” (as its natures way of keeping food stores for the baby) but thats me being extra fussy to get back to my goal weight.

I Breastfeed Longer for Fertility
All of the breastfeeding mums I know are all “older” 32-40 years of age. For the most part they all have been successful getting pregnant for the second and third times “very quickly”. Is some of this is down to the fact that if you breastfeed exclusively (or with only 1 bottle of formula a day) you may not get your periods back for 6 months or more. Most I know who breastfeed, its been a year or more which means you arent losing your “good quality eggs” and you get to space your children out the way nature intended you to, its your bodies way of telling you one baby is enough for now! You are born with a certain amount of “good fertile eggs” and by your mid 30s most of them are gone so every period counts when you are in your 30s…I think it is probably the same hormones are floating around that help you get pregnant, so soon, after you stop feeding..SO it seems to keep you more fertile. So it makes sense to breastfeed for as long as possible to save your eggs if your age is of concern. I did and I got pregnant second time round 7 weeks after I stopped feeding (i stopped feeding iarla at 11 months), at 35 years of age. I fed Eva until she was 10 months old if. And had no periods until she was 14 months old. it  hopefully has saved my good fertile eggs, if we want to grow our family further down the line.So back to the tips, Also a fantastic read to learn about how your body works for getting pregnant is Taking charge of your fertility by Toni Weschler and online Kelly Mom and YouTube has everything from feeding positions to watching the correct latch.

And Finally Some Other Factors Critical to Help You DO IT
I have Great Support at Home. If you have a family who keep telling you “give that child a bottle” thats not encouraging you or helping you get through the initial difficult first sore 6 weeks or the growth spurts. My husband and my mother want me to breastfeed and are prepared to help out at home so I can do it. My mother is now retired but she was a healthcare professional, a public health nurse (the nurse that visits you when you have a new baby) and my husband works in the pharma industry, biologics background, I myself worked in science (hospital and industry) and pharma before my hair & beauty career so we are all educated and informed of the benefits of it. Myself and my siblings were breastfed. So mum helped me mind them a couple of days a week and my husband does the cooking and cleaning and takes the toddler when he is off work. I get enough rest because of the help the odd morning I get a lie in and (if you dont get enough rest you wont have enough milk) I also dont have trouble “letting down”(milk flowing from breast to feed) if I am rushing off to work, or have ajobs lot to do..which makes it possible for me to feed when im busy, working or everyday really when I am juggling a million balls…

So thats my story..My thoughts/tips below do not override the advice of your healthcare professional-But Please Share if you think you have friends who you think would benefit from it or call me If You Want to Ask Me A Question in Confidence anytime.

Best of Luck,
Fiona Brady, Fiona Polished Sligo on Facebook Messenger or 0868439979 Text/Watsapp

P.S I dont usually wear high heels whilst feeding. But even when we do get out baby eva still needs feeding! Thankfully hotel rooms provide a wonderful sanctuary!