This has been pondering and rolling around in my head for a while now, as many blogs do! My “Babies” are now 13, 10 & 5yrs and I look at how different the “parenting” world is now compared to when I had my first 13yrs ago. It is most definitely getting harder, not because being a mum is harder, but this modern world is making it harder, I am going to try and decipher here why! The plan was to run it as one blog, but I started on the first thing “scientific evidence” and it was so long I decided to run it as a series!!
This is a blog has been rolling around my head for the last few months, with the recent dispatches program, I thought it was a timely time to write it now.
I need to caveat this with:
- This is purely MY experience, as a mum to 3 breastfed babies, and a teacher who has worked with women postnatally. I am however no breastfeeding “expert”.
- I genuinely DON'T care if you breastfeed or not, I care if you have had the choice taken away, and I will continue to campaign for better support.
- This is not for the fourth trimester - See my top tips below
- I am hugely pro breastfeeding if a mum WANTS to do it. Breast is best for a baby, but NOT at the detriment to mums mental health.
Breastfeeding will not necessarily make your baby more intelligent, healthy, or give you a better bond. But breastmilk IS the ONLY food that is 100% designed for YOUR baby. YOUR body makes it especially for YOUR baby, and it is freaking awesome stuff. I am someone who opts for easy parenting! Breastmilk is less likely to cause you issues with colic & reflux, and when you get it established it is 100% easier than bottle feeding due to a lack of having to make and clean bottles, plus it is dirt cheap!
I truly believe if we supported women who want to establish routines, and who don’t want to be quite so “baby led”, we could impact our breastfeeding rates. I also think we need to help women understand baby’s cues and what baby is communicating to us, to help them to understand feeding cues over other cues.
There are so many reasons why your baby cries, understandably when you breastfeed you automatically presume its hunger, the boob sorts everything out! But it can lead to women not trusting in their bodies, baby seems to be constantly “hungry”, and mum feeling overwhelmed by a baby being permanently attached to them.
So, as I have said, this is purely MY experience, and MY journey.
There is this assumption, or presumption, that when you breastfeed a baby you have to let baby be in control, and you end up with a baby permanently attached to your boobs - “demand” feeding. I didn’t have this luxury, I had recently opened my business, had an 8yr and a 5yr, and really wasn’t able to sit down and breastfeed for hours on end. My 10 day Midwife sign off was carried out at work in a side room because I couldn’t be at home. Now whether I was right to be working so early, is a totally different debate, I was, I needed to be, and I WANTED to breastfeed.
Here are my top tips for breastfeeding and routine:
Use the 4th trimester to learn:
A baby under 3-4m doesn't have the ability to understand consequences of actions, they can’t be spoiled, they don’t understand when they cry a boob comes or they get picked up. They cry as a reflex to a physical need, it could be hunger, pain, over stimulation its your job to work out what your baby is communicating to you, and the 4th trimester is the time to learn.
Those first 3-5m are your time to learn, you need to learn who your little human is, and he needs to learn how to integrate his body in the outside world. Don’t try pushing anything strict or trying too hard in this time, it is fruitless and will make your miserable. You can’t develop bad habits (or if you do they are quickly broken).
Your milk supply is also establishing during this time. Your body will make the perfect amount of milk for your baby, so they will feed little and often. As the fourth trimester goes on you will begin to understand how baby's feeding cues differs from his tired or over stimulation cues. Your boobs are like factories not storehouses, we need to establish a happy balance where your body makes just the right amount of milk for your baby.
See a Lactation Consultant and get GOOD support:
See a properly qualified, and trained LACTATION consultant. Get baby's latch checked and if they have Tongue Tie get it cut.
You need to know you are starting off from a baseline where your baby is feeding efficiently. It DOES hurt when you first breastfeed, but knowing what is normal and what isn’t is important as pain is subjective, so get the latch checked!
The chance of developing PND increases by 50% for those mums who want to breastfeed and can’t, in most cases women who stop feeding do so through to lack of support.
Use a dummy:
I am gonna get shot down in flames by the breastfeeding militants for this! I totally get that introducing anything into baby’s mouth that isn’t a boob COULD lead to nipple confusion, however, MY opinion is, our babies are far cleverer that we give them credit for. Adding a dummy to the calming techniques below can be a huge benefit to an over tired/stimulated baby.
Introducing a bottle
Now I wouldn’t personally do this, or express, until you feel totally established with breastfeeding. You will hear differing stories about when the “right time” is to introduce a bottle. There really isn't one, it is totally dependent on YOUR baby, and they are all totally different. Sucking a bottle is a method of feeding, and for lazy feeders, a bottle is much easier than a boob, so you do risk confusion and impacting feeding by doing it too early.
Expressing too early can lead to an over or under supply, remember your boobs are factories not warehouses, they will make the milk you need, if you express you run the risk of your body making more (potentially getting blocked ducts/ mastitis) or taking away what your baby wants to drink. Wait until you feel established and in a happy routine of feeding (this may well change with growth spurts etc, but you feel generally in control of it).
Use calming techniques:
Your baby will cry for reasons other than just hunger. The best way to calm them in the 4th trimester is to recreate the womb. Wrap them up tight (swaddle, sling or hold in firm arms), move (rock) them & ssshhh them (white noise/hoover, or simply sssshhhhh close to them). You need to be PATIENT with this, you need to do this for a good 15/20mins (set a timer). This is a really useful technique to help read those early cues.
Trust your instinct:
You WILL have an instinct for all this, you just need to find it and trust it.
Do what feels right and BE HONEST:
If you DON’T WANT to breastfeed that is fine, it isn’t for everyone and that is OK. Again we have to move the focus to mum rather than baby.. If YOU DON’T WANT TO DO IT, DON’T AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. And don't make those that do feel guilty for their choice, lets stop ripping each other down, and start building each other up! Parenting is hard enough without all this added extra shit on top of it!
We are getting our knickers in such a twist over parenting. Lets put power back into mums hands, support her and let her do what she feels is right!
So I actually DID try Gina Ford with my first, 13yrs ago (shock horror, what a bitch)…I have to be honest parenting was a whole heap easier then than it is now! There really wasn’t the judgemental crap around then, and to be fair most of the crap today is spouted by so called “experts”.
There has been an explosion in the “baby business” in the time I have had children, now I fully accept I am part of that! When I first started teaching 10yrs ago there were very few classes, now the market is saturated!
THIS IS NOT A BLOG ON NATURAL BIRTH VS CS....
Birth is so important, sadly many of us don't realise how important until we have actually done it!
It is a subject I could talk about all day.!! It is bloody amazing! But it comes in so many different ways, it doesn't matter what way it comes, as long as it is YOUR way, and YOU feel like you had an element of control.
It isn't HOW you give birth, but how you FEEL about that birth...As a society we are managing birth more and more, and with that comes difficulties. In some cases, birth absolutely needs to be managed, and inductions and interventions save millions of mums and babies lives, however WE need to play a part in that process.
Nothing should happen in your birth or your labour without your consent, the terminology used sometimes can make us think that things are happening that we have no choice over. You need to understand the options and choices, YOU make an informed decision. We talk about the BRAIN acronym in class (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing). There are benefits and RISKS to EVERYTHING we do, we must understand them all to make an informed decision.
If we feel that things are happening that we didn't choose, or that we don't understand, we begin to feel out of control. I am not saying we can control labour, we can't, babies tend to do that, but we can control ourselves. We can understand a situation and feel like we are part of the decision making process, therefore feeling an element of control. We can understand adrenaline (next blog), we can understand its impact, how it is designed to make us feel, a primitive and instinctive response to many things, but most importantly how we can control it. It doesn't really matter what is going on around you, if you feel calm and in control within yourself you have a far better chance of having a positive outcome. Birth Trauma is real...
"Birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder"
Cheryl Beck (Nursing Research January/February 2004 Vol 53, No.1)
The Birth Trauma Association states:
"It is clear that some women experience events during childbirth (as well as in pregnancy or immediately after birth) that would traumatise any normal person.
For other women, it is not always the sensational or dramatic events that trigger childbirth trauma but other factors such as loss of control, loss of dignity, the hostile or difficult attitudes of the people around them, feelings of not being heard or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures."
Giving birth is a huge event in any woman's life, we gear up for the actual birth, sometimes not thinking past how it will be when the baby is here. Those first few hours, days, weeks and months pass in a blur. Breastfeeding is rarely as easy as we think...the chances of developing PND are 50% higher in those mums who wanted to breastfeed and couldn't, birth trauma can have a devastating impact on the early hours and days of breastfeeding.
Newborn babies are hard work, no one tells you how hard, a mix of sleep deprivation, sore nipples (sore everything!), and massive hormone surges makes those early hours and days difficult, without adding birth trauma (or worse PTSD) to the mix.
Some of us need to take in all the information we can get our hands on, some of us are better with the bare minimum. Choose a course that suits you, but choose it so that you can prepare for YOUR birth.
Birth via CS, next to a lake with a baby deer present, or in hospital taking as many drugs as you want, it doesn't matter, what matters is YOU and your birth partner, and that YOU are part of the choices and decisions made.
This is something I have been thinking about for a long time, and even though I don’t do New Years resolutions, one of them, if I did, would be to give more time and importance to ME.
Since having kids nearly 13yrs ago, both my husband and I set up our own businesses, so money has always been in short supply. I readily buy the kids clothes, but the thought of buying something for myself is a total luxury! Our grand plans of making sure we make time for “us” with regular “date nights” has fizzled into a meal once every 5/6 months if we are lucky!
What I wanted was a family, children, babies! I wanted the weekend walks in the park, pushing my gurgling, bouncing, bonny baby, holding the hand of my husband! I wanted pub lunches where the baby would sit quietly whilst hubby and I reminisced about how big said baby was getting, how life was passing us by so quickly, we must cherish it!
Preparing for Birth? Why do we need to do it? Women have been giving birth since time immemorial! However, life is changing, back in the old days, even only as far back as the 40s, 50s, 60s, we didn't have the knowledge or the social media presence to allow a good and bad story to travel around the world so quickly.
I have spent another 15mins (at least) “enjoying” a rant with my wonderful Midwife friend! We were ranting about antenatal provision for you mums, the reason we are ranting, is because we are seeing women STILL coming through to us who have had either crap, wrong or totally misguided information at their antenatal class.
Parenting in my opinion is hard, and it is getting harder…not because parenting itself is getting harder, but the society we live in is making it harder! We know too much, we are all trying to find reasons and diagnosis for everything, we blame ourselves for everything. Human beings are incredibly complex creatures, we can’t put one behaviour or attribute to a particular thing that we as parents did…for example, I blame myself for my daughter getting eczema, in my head, it was obviously something I did when she was a baby. Was it because I introduced formula too early? Or because I used too many Baby Products on her from birth? My boy has a stammer, I have been offered “parenting” workshops, which immediately, in my head means it was caused by something I had done! You need to have a pretty thick skin nowadays to be a parent!
This is one of hardest questions faced by a new mum, why is my baby crying? There are lots of reasons a newborn baby cry’s, in this one I want to explore reflux.
Reflux in babies is baby bringing up milk frequently, or silent reflux where a baby will suffer the effects of the milk regurgitation but don’t actually bring it out.
It is a relatively common and usually occurs because baby’s food pipe (oesophagus) is still developing. Babies usually grow out of reflux by the time they turn 1.
So much bloody stuff is needed for a baby? Really? Do you really need all this stuff?? Seriously, no you don’t!! There has been an explosion of baby paraphernalia in the last 15-20yrs.
The baby market is a multi BILLION dollar industry! The more “stuff” we think we need for our babies, the less we trust our instincts and rely on "us" to give our babies what they need.
So what do you actually need to buy? The below is based on my own opinions and experience, working with thousands of parents postnatally and my own three children.
I have been running antenatal and baby classes for over 10 years now.
I had the awful news just under a year ago that one of our mums had taken her own life after suffering from depression. She had been taking classes with us for almost a year and I had had regular chats with her. I had no idea how much she was suffering. I was shocked to the core to hear the news that she taken her life leaving behind a little girl not yet 18 months old.