** Just a quick disclaimer – I know Violet is now here, but this post was written in it’s entirety before she arrived and I was still pregnant! She arrived before I could get it scheduled and it’s been sitting my drafts since – I haven’t edited it at all and wanted to still post it to remember my thoughts before she was here so I can look back and see how it compares to what really happened (which will be coming up in a post very soon!) **
When I first got pregnant I just assumed when I had a baby I would just breastfeed him/her and things would be straightforward. After all, that is the natural way and something I (naively) thought would be an easy thing to do. It was only after a few of my friends had children I began to see the struggles many women face. Breastfeeding can can be a lot trickier than it looks and some women are unable to do it at all. This is not to mention the vast amount of different and contradicting guidance out there.
Since becoming pregnant, I’ve been starting to figure my way through the minefield that is feeding – I have been to NCT classes, read numerous parenting books and am a member on many different parenting forums and so far I have found no straightforward advice – everyone has an opinion (and a strong one at that) but there is no actual guideline that is consistent above the board. I could see people in my NCT class were physically uncomfortable asking certain questions about breastfeeding – it really does seem if you a) don’t know what you are doing or b) don’t plan to breastfeed, some people can get quite judgemental. Luckily our class tutor was lovely so it wasn’t like that, but I can see the fear of just asking was there, where no one wants to share their card on their plans to feed their baby for fear of being judged. So with all this conflicting advice and a fear of asking questions – this makes feeding a tricky situation for new mums. Everyone is jumping at the chance to give their opinion, but who do you trust? And will I physically be able to breastfeed?
So, I thought it would be a fun idea to write down my feeding hopes and wishes before the baby arrives, so that once she is here, we can compare the expectation to what happens in reality. This is just based on my hopes and wishes, I’m clearly not an expert and will be relying hugely on my intuition.
Ultimately, I hope to exclusively breastfeed our baby. I really want to give it a good shot and have spent lots of time reading about techniques and attending classes in the hope that some prep work might pay off. I love the idea of giving my baby all the nutrients and antibodies she needs, as well as using the time to bond with the baby too. Although I want to give her exclusively breastmilk, one of my main priorities is that I want to express so that Vee can help with feeding time and enjoy those moments too. I’ve joined the Medela Mum program and will be trailing a Medela Swing Maxi Double Pump, although at the moment I feel confused about when we should introduce the expressed milk. I asked my midwife about this, who told me 7 days, I asked at NCT and they said 6 weeks and last night I was reading the book ‘What to Expect When You’re Breastfeeding…And What If You Can’t?‘ and they suggested within 3 weeks. Mega confusing!
I also want to say at this point that, if it turns out I can’t breastfeed for whatever reason, that’ll be ok too – I’m truly in the ‘fed is best’ camp, so we will give formula if need be – but I’ll give breastfeeding my best shot first.
Some expert advice…
As you can see – I have been getting myself quite confused as to what would be best practice when it comes to involving Vee when baby arrives, so as part of the Medela Mum program, I was able to ask Sioned (Medela’s Lactation Consultant) a few questions to put my mind at rest……..
a) I’m planning to express so my partner can help with feeds and bond with the baby. When should I introduce a bottle? I’ve been given different advice by different people (midwife – 7 days, parenting books – 3 weeks, NCT – 6 weeks) What would you recommend?
The key things for you and your new baby is to spend time to get breastfeeding established. This does mean having lots of opportunity to practice and learn for you both. Your milk will come to volume and build over the first 4 weeks, and these early weeks is when you get the supply up and running. Your baby too will need to fine tune coordinating his suck breathe swallow in line with the changing milk flow during the feed as well as positioning and attachment.
Therefore we recommend unless that are feeding difficulties that you get breastfeeding well established and this can take 3-4 weeks to get it in hand. The same will apply to expressing – ideally wait for 3-4 weeks get the 3 week growth spurt under your belt and then give it a go.
If on the advice of your midwife you need to express and supplement earlier then you can introduce the calma feeding device as you both continue to get breastfeeding established and work through the difficulties.
Try not to worry about bonding with your partner – this will all click into place and Vee really is your back bone and support in the early days, she will get to do loads of nice stuff too, bath time, skin to skin cuddles knowing that her time with baby is as valuable as the nursing that you need to do to get it all up and running for when you are ready to express.
b) If my partner is feeding using expressed milk, should I pump at the same time? How to I manage this?
When Vee is doing an ebm feed, it is ideal if you pump at the same time so that you continue to mimic your baby’s feeding pattern , the more milk you take off the more milk you make. It also supports your comfort too as you should avoid extended gaps between feeds as this will result in you feeling full and engorged. If your partner gives a feed enjoy your bath etc. and then pump after. Once your supply is established and your baby is older you may feel that you can have a short break and have a night off or go the gym knowing that your milk is well established and you can support your comfort too.
c) Can my partner help with the night feeds? I was reading a book last night that said even if you express, you should never substitute a night feed. Is this true, do you have any advice on this?
Realistically yes your partner can help with night feeds but you would still need to express in the early few months to mimic your baby’s feeding needs. It is therefore much easier for you to co-room with your baby and nurse in response to your baby’s needs. The importance of the night feeds is that as you sleep your hormone prolactin is at its highest and this is responsible for the production of milk. You are on a win win when you nurse at night – increase milk capabilities, enhanced sleep pattern as you then fall into a deep sleep after nursing, you will wake anyway in tune with your baby early stirring so you would gain by nursing to help boost the sleep and milk hormone. Your baby will prefer you to a bottle anyway.
So that is my plans before baby arrives – let’s see what is to come. Big thanks to the Medela team for having me onboard, I can’t wait to get involved with that too!