So Mommies – our most important job once baby is here is making sure they get enough of the right food to help them grow. First decision is whether to comply with the “breast is best” mantra or go with formula. If formula is your preference you can rest assured that huge amounts of research has gone in to making sure it provides your baby with the best possible nutrition and it allows you to share the mixed burden and blessing of feeding with Daddy and others.
The breastfeeding benefits are plentiful too. Firstly – it’s free! And once you start tallying up the costs of a baby this has a lot of appeal. It’s also convenient – you don’t need bottles, sterilisers, warmers etc. Breastfeeding also has important health benefits for both you and baby. For baby it minimizes digestive issues, chest and ear infections, childhood obesity, heart disease, eczema – the list goes on and on. Weirdly it can be used to treat baby’s eye infections, ear infections and skin conditions. How cool is that? For Mom it reduces the chance of breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. It also burns up 500 calories a day. Enough said.
But breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it looks. Unfortunately Finn and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Despite trying our best, and after lots of tears from both of us, I eventually had to admit defeat. In retrospect I wish I had taken more advantage of the lactation specialists and midwives who can help with these issues. I still wanted to give him the benefit of mother’s milk so we decided to express. While I went into mourning for a few days about missing the bonding that does come with breastfeeding your munchkin, I did eventually start appreciating the benefits of our system. Very importantly I was able to get into a rhythm of expressing that allowed me to have some bottles in the fridge so I could get sleep while Daddy got some time to feed and bond with Finn. I also got to monitor exactly how much Finn was eating. The fact that Finn got his first four teeth by 4 months did mean I was quite relieved not to have him latching on to me then!
I do have some tips if you do want to go the expressing route. I used both the electronic and manual Avent breast pumps and they worked well but there are a lot to choose from depending on your preferences and budget. A microwave steriliser also definitely makes things much quicker and easier. The more often you express the more milk you will produce. Make sure you express at least every four hours in the day to make sure you don’t get any blockages – because they hurt!!! I know this is gross but it’s important – if you do notice your breast going a bit hard and sore you probably have a blocked duct. You might notice a little white bump on your nipple. Get in a hot bath or shower or even put a hot cloth over the breast and massage it in the direction of the nipple and continue to massage it while expressing until it clears. If it doesn’t clear in a day or two go see your doctor before you develop mastitis.
Remember to alternate your boobs when expressing. Your milk comes out in stages from each breast. Kind of like a starter, main and desert course in terms of nutrients and calories for baby. Make sure you have emptied as much as possible from one before moving on to the other breast so baby doesn’t just get the “starter” milk from both. There are loads of tips on the web about storage and reheating etc so do your research to make life easier for yourself.
We did try supplementing his feeds with formula early on but it really didn’t agree with his tummy. He would get very sore cramps and constipation. We spoke to our GP about this, thinking he might be lactose-intolerant, and he advised us to wait a while and see if Finn responded to it better when his digestive system developed a bit more. Great advice! I decided to stop expressing gradually when he was 5 months old and I had to return to work and by that time he was absolutely fine with the formula. We did start him off on the easy-digest “comfort” formula first and built up to the normal stuff. We also used anti-colic bottles to make it as easy for him as possible.
My last tip is about winding baby after feeding. Just think about the logic of a lot of little gas bubbles trapped in his or her tummy. Lay their tummy over your shoulder with their arms up rather than at their sides. Alternate between patting firmly and rubbing in a clockwise direction between the shoulder blades to gather the bubbles into one big bubble. You could also bounce them gently on your knee while patting and gently putting pressure on their tummy with your hand or arm. Try gentle tipping the baby to their left side as the bubble often lodges under the ribs. You can also lie them down flat for a minute and try again or even let them have another drink before trying again as this helps move the bubble out.
Best of luck!!