WHEN it comes to feeding babies I don't agree with health bodies including the World Health Organization who insists 'breast is best'.
The pressure this message puts on new mums can lead to incredible emotional strain.
Increasing numbers of new mums are suffering from postnatal depression and I've heard so many stories from women about being stuck in hospital, exhausted and in pain and not enjoying their newborns because they feel under obligation to breastfeed. It makes me so sad.
If a mum is not enjoying breastfeeding, she shouldn’t feel guilty for stopping. Her happiness and wellbeing are two of the most important things that will keep her baby happy, safe and well.
Breastfeeding is often described as the most natural thing in the world, however that’s not the case for all women and, sadly, this can make some new mums feel like a failure.
If a baby has tongue tie, reflux or is particularly sleepy in the beginning it can be very difficult to breastfeed efficiently.
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The result is an uncomfortable baby that doesn’t gain weight well and gets stuck in a snacking cycle, which leaves everybody exhausted.
The most important thing is that baby gets enough nutrition so we urgently need to reframe the baby feeding narrative – fed is best, whether that is with breast milk or formula. A fed baby is a happy baby, and a happy baby makes a happy mum.
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Trust me, whether a child had breast milk or formula in infancy does not make a dot of difference in the long run. You don’t walk into a classroom of five year olds and pick out the children who were and weren’t breastfed.
New mums should do is what feels right.
Whatever the feeding method, a baby will thrive as long as they have a happy and loving home – here's you can get the best out of breastfeeding.
Most health professionals encourage ‘feeding on demand’ and for new mums to avoid expressing in the early months.
That’s not good advice for mum or baby. Expressing in the first few weeks allows mums to rest while dads or other family members feed their little one, which is wonderful for bonding.
It also ensures baby will take a bottle early on and help avoid bottle refusal later.
I suggest expressing after the first feed of the day when milk levels are high to create a small stash to store in the fridge or freezer – perfect for top ups. Pumping at the end of a feed signals to the body to make more milk, thus increasing supply after a few days.
The Louenna app includes pumping schedules, product recommendations and routines for those wishing to express exclusively. I also recommend supplements such as fenugreek tablets and brewer’s yeast, which is widely known as a super food for lactating mums.
When something is wrong…
CRACKED NIPPLES occur when a baby isn’t latching on properly. Mum may notice some blood in her milk but this isn’t harmful to the baby and she can continue to breastfeed. To prevent cracked nipples make sure baby is latched on and in a good position for feeding. If feeding is painful, or mum feels baby slipping off, remove baby by breaking their mouth seal, and try latching them on again. The Louenna app has lots of tips and a video to show how you can get a good latch – practice makes perfect!
HOW TO TREAT IT: After each feed, rub breast milk onto sore nipples – it contains natural skin softeners and antibodies to fight infection and heal the soreness – then let them air dry before dressing to avoid irritation. Use a Nipple Cream, change breast pads frequently and use warm flannels to help ease the pain. Silverette Nursing Cups are brilliant for helping with cracked nipples and sit inside the bra in-
MASTITIS usually affects one breast and causes soreness, redness and swelling, heat or lumps in the breast; discharge containing blood or pus; headaches; and flu-like symptoms including chills and a temperature.
HOW TO TREAT IT: As well as a course of antibiotics, during feeding try massaging breasts from the top down towards the nipple to encourage milk flow. Express off any excess milk to stop breasts becoming engorged and full, and use hot or cold flannels to ease discomfort.
Take painkillers, drink lots of water, have a bath and rest as much as possible. If feeding becomes unbearable, don’t stop all together as this could cause an abscess. Instead, use a pump to express the milk and decrease the amount gradually.
NIPPLE THRUSH symptoms include pain in the nipples and breasts during and after feeding. Nipples may also be cracked and sore. Baby’s oral thrush causes white or yellowy spots in and around the mouth that are red raw underneath or bleed if you gently rub them. The spots make feeding difficult so baby will fuss and be irritable. You may also spot a red swollen tongue and see a spotty nappy rash which doesn’t disappear after using coconut oil and having nappy-free time. HOW TO TREAT IT: Thrush is common in women who are taking antibiotics, as the antibiotics kill the bacteria which controls the candida. I always recommend mum and baby take probiotics if either are prescribed antibiotics
GET INTO A ROUTINE
In the early weeks create a schedule so baby is woken for feeds. The benefits are twofold.
Firstly the family has some structure to days and nights and can rest. Baby is also healthy, happy and thriving and able to get proper feeds and sleeps because they’re not learning to cry for feeds.
By trust they will be woken before becoming too hungry they remain content and parents are rested… trust me! I advise parents to start by following a three hourly feeding cycle.
Each feed should last no more than an hour, followed by a two hour break until the next one.
This ensures mum doesn’t get too sore and baby isn’t snacking. Once baby has gained enough weight, usually around the 8lb mark, they can move onto a four hourly schedule.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months and scaremongering terms such as ‘nipple confusion’ are thrown around by many to suggest that a baby will become muddled between the breast and the bottle.
I’ve nannied for 20 years and cared for hundreds of babies and have found the opposite to be true.
Introducing a daily bottle feed before baby is one month old will help avoid bottle refusal, which can be very limiting for mum, particularly if she’s going back to work, admitted to hospital unexpectedly or simply wants a break.
Feeding at 6.30pm ensures baby is full at bedtime. Any earlier and mum’s supply is at its lowest and can lead to cluster feeding, an overtired baby and very sore mum!
If a mum has chosen to give breastfeeding a go, some health professionals advise not keeping formula in the house because it is too tempting to reach for and may prematurely end a breastfeeding journey.
This advice is backward-thinking and frustrating. I recommend keeping some formula in the house so in the first few weeks, if mum is exhausted or has had a traumatic birth, someone else can take responsibility for the feed and allow mum to sleep.
Rest will help a new mum’s mental wellbeing as well as her milk supply, which can only contribute to the long-term success of breastfeeding.
Night Feed Must-Haves
- Facial mist to keep mum refreshed.
- Water bottle, it’s important mum stays hydrated.
- Something to watch on TV or on the iPad. This will help the time pass by quicker and help keep mum from nodding off!
- Easy-to-eat snacks such as crackers, dried fruit, oat bars/protein balls.
Nursing mums are advised to eat an extra 600 calories a day and have a balanced diet, with lots of carbohydrates and good fats.
Snacks such as nuts, oat bars, smoothies and fruit are great for sustaining energy levels whilst feeding. Remember that any food or drink consumed will have an effect on the breastmilk.
It always amazes me how a tiny amount of something your baby dislikes can come through in your milk and upset their tummy.
Every baby is different so there’s no definitive list of what they will react to but from experience I advise mums to stay away from anything fizzy (including carbonated water), spicy (unless you have eaten spicy foods throughout pregnancy), and large amounts of onion and garlic.
Eating fish is fantastic whilst you are feeding because it is full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which experts believe are important for a baby's brain and eye development.
It’s recommended that breast feeding mums only have two portions of oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout) a week.
The Louenna app is available to download on the App Store & Google Play or visit www.louenna.com for more information
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