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October 4, 2016

There are many ways in which mums nourish their newborns, including breastfeeding, formula feeding, expressing or all of the above. Madeleine Tobert talks to different mums about what worked for them.

My daughter came into this world quickly, with little fuss and only a sneeze to show that she was fine. She was quiet and calm, with one thing on her mind: milk. While I lay there shaking in shock, she wriggled her way down my body and started drinking.

That was 10 months ago and she’s hardly stopped for breath since. She’s fed a lot. A LOT. I wasn’t expecting that. It was harder than I’d imagined it would be. Am I the only one who was shocked by breastfeeding? I’d worried endlessly about giving birth and had asked so many people their birthing stories, so I knew that there were a variety of birthing experiences. Somehow it had never occurred to me that the same might be true of feeding. I wish I had collected feeding stories. They would have shown me that, like giving birth, anything can happen.

Breastfeeding

We’re all encouraged to breastfeed and in New Zealand it’s suggested to try to continue until our babies are one. Alicia, 39, is on track to do this with her daughter, Eilidh, and explains that she is motivated by the nutritional benefits as well as the advantages for the immune system offered by breastfeeding. Also, on a more practical note, she found it convenient, as you have your baby’s food with you wherever you go. This was especially important to Alicia as a single parent – “one less thing to worry about!”

Luckily for Alicia “the baby just knew what to do from the start” and everything went as planned. She had the experience that I thought everyone had – straightforward and pleasurable. She was able to exclusively breastfeed until Eilidh started solids.  

According to Alicia, “the best thing about breastfeeding, apart from the convenience, is the connection with my baby.” Alicia described great moments, like sitting in the park peacefully feeding, or snuggling up at home watching DVDs while her baby drank.  “The time goes by so quickly and I am so glad I have those memories to treasure.” For Alicia, breastfeeding also worked as a reminder to look after herself so she could nourish Eilidh. “It’s amazing watching them grow and develop, knowing that they depend on you for everything and it works – they grow, they make milestones, they smile and laugh. Little miracles!” 


 Tips for a good start with breastfeeding

  • Before baby arrives: watch friends feed, ask questions of mothers who are successfully feeding, go to a La Leche League meeting or a Preparing to Breastfeed session. 

  • Be well informed. Be careful where you source your information.

  • Learn what’s normal and when to act. 

  • Get help early, because the best chance of a full milk production is in the first days. 

  • If you are needing to express and take things like fenugreek and Domperidone (used for insufficient milk supply), stop and ask why? These strategies will help but it’s best to find out the cause(s) and resolve this if at all possible. 

  • If your milk production was low with your first baby then consider a consultation early in pregnancy with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). This will include an assessment of the mother’s history, putting a plan in place and then following up.

(Trish Warder - Lactaction consultant)


 Formula feeding

Claire, 38, had a very different feeding experience to Alicia. “I desperately wanted to exclusively breastfeed Jack, but I had terrible issues with milk supply. A lovely midwife at Birthcare cottoned on to my lack of supply after a three-hour feeding session where Jack was still crying from hunger. So, while it went against what I wanted to do for my baby, he needed to be fed, so formula was added into the mix.” At two months Jack refused to breastfeed and the mix became about 90 per cent formula and 10 per cent expressed breast milk. “It was an incredibly sad period for me, so I hung in for another three months pumping meagre amounts numerous times a day.” From five months onwards Jack was totally formula-fed. 

“I had a huge amount of guilt and frustration at not being able to do what
I wanted to for my baby. But months down the track I can look back and see that he was happy and thriving the whole time. If you are in this situation, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Do your best, but accept the situation early... as your baby will be fine whichever way he is fed.”

I asked Claire about the benefits of her feeding journey with Jack and, despite it not being her first choice, she found that there were positive elements. “Once I gave up pumping and he was exclusively formula-fed his father and others could happily help with feeds so I could sleep/have a long shower/go out with my husband or friends/drink wine! It has strengthened the bond between Jack and his dad. While I am still his primary caregiver, he is just as happy to be looked after by his dad. That’s great for Jack, as well as both of us. Win-win.”


 Using formula 

  • Boil fresh water and let it cool to lukewarm. For babies up to three months old, all water for formula should be boiled and cooled on the day it is used. For babies older than three months, you can use water from the cold tap (if on town water supply). Water from tanks or bore holes should be boiled until baby is 18 months old.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the tin for using the correct amount of formula powder. Use the scoop provided and ensure it is a level scoop of powder. 

  • Pour the correct amount of water into the bottle before adding the powder. 

  • To warm a formula feed, stand the bottle in a container of hot (not boiling) water so it can warm up to body temperature. Test the milk’s heat by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist –it should feel just warm, not hot. 

  • If you’re going to be away from home, pack cool boiled water and carry your formula powder separately so you can mix it as you need it. 

  • Discard any formula your baby does not drink. Never reheat feeds.

  • If your baby demands more formula than you have prepared, make a larger amount or add an extra feed to their routine. Never make the formula in a stronger dose. 


 

Bottle before bed

Claire is not alone in having problems with milk supply. In fact, many of the women I spoke to mentioned something similar. However, not everyone needs to stop breastfeeding – sometimes topping up breast milk with formula works well. This was the approach that Sophie, 29, took when feeding Oliver.

“For the first two weeks, I fed Ollie exclusive breast milk. This was always my intention, as that is what is drilled into a first-time mum! When Ols was around two weeks we had a sleep consultant come in and she basically told me that Ollie was not sleeping because he was hungry; he was a big baby and what I was giving him just wasn’t enough. I began giving Ollie one bottle of formula a day, his bedtime meal from three weeks old.

“I truly don’t believe Ollie was ever really satisfied with my milk; it could just never satisfy what he needed and once on formula and food he became the happiest wee man ever! It took a while for me to realise that actually some babies need more than you can give them – and you just have to give in to their needs.”

Sophie found  the bottle before bed to be a godsend. “One: it filled my baby’s belly! There was no doubt about this, the cluster feeding of night-time disappeared, the one big bottle filled him and he drifted off to sleep. Two: it meant that his dad could do this and it gave him quality time with a newborn that he couldn’t otherwise have had – no longer was bed solely a mum time and he loved this special time. Three: it gave me some time off and some time to refuel. Four: the relationship with my hubby started again because bubba would sleep on the full belly, for a couple of hours at least! It meant we got some quality time just relaxing together, watching TV etc. Five: Ollie learned to take a bottle from a super early stage, which is something I am so glad we got into!” 


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