Tuesday 31 July 2012

How often will my baby feed?

As you may or may not know, I volunteer as a breastfeeding Peer Supporter at my local hospital and local breastfeeding support groups.  I find that when I visit the hospital on any particular week I often get asked the same question or end up helping each mum with the same task.  One week I might help 3 new mums with latch, the next week I might help 2 mums put a pump together and pump for their special care baby.  Last week I was asked by numerous mums about how often and how long babies should feed.  It's especialy true for first time parents and also parents that have never breastfed a baby before or stopped pretty quickly the last time around.  Actually, if the parents stopped breastfeeding pretty early on with a sibling then I usually ask them when they stopped breastfeeding and find a similar response (2 weeks or 6 weeks typically).

It does concern me that I am asking these questions after the baby is born because a lot of parents attend antenatal classes that talk about breastfeeding.  I know that when I taught breastfeeding classes we covered normal newborn behaviours which included frequency of feedings.  Is it possible that all these parents are missing the breastfeeding class?  Is it that many of these parents cannot afford to attend expensive antenatal classes and instead attend free classes that skirt around the feeding issues because they are too scared to upset anyone?  I did not attend a paid breastfeeding class before the birth of my second, I instead attended a free antenatal class locally so that I could learn how things are done in the UK.  I will say that the breastfeeding session was appalling.  It was advertised as a breastfeeding session so I don't really understand why no real breastfeeding advice was given.  If any of the soon to be parents had already made a decision not to breastfeed then surely they would have stayed at home.  The only piece of advice that was given to us during the session was "Go out and buy a carton of ready to use formula so that when you have problems and the shops are shut you'll be OK".  I guess the midwife hadn't read about the studies that show that when you have formula in the house you are more likely to stop breastfeeding and introduce formula earlier.

I heard yesterday that the NHS has been cutting spending on breastfeeding support and in the areas where spending has already been cut breastfeeding rates have suffered.  When are the people in charge going to realise that the more they spend on preventative measures, the more they will save down the line on hospital visits, obesity, cancer etc.  It's basic mathematics, even the US understands that the more they spend on improving the health of low income families, the more money that can be saved in healthcare costs in the future because babies are born healthier and stay healthier after a better beginning.

"Every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for low-income Medicaid women in 5 States resulted in savings in health care costs from $1.77 to $3.13 within the first 60 days after birth".

See references here

I digress!

What are some answers to the questions I am asked frequently?

How often should my baby feed?

Since my son started latching well at about 4-6 weeks after his birth in early 2008 I have never watched a clock.  I feed whenever I am asked.  Babies are amazing.  They are able to communicate with you as soon as they are born.  There are tonnes of little feeding cues that they use to tell you they are hungry.  If you catch these cues early on you'll find your home a little calmer.  When William wasn't latching well and I had sore nipples I would watch the clock and only feed every 3 hours because I wasn't enjoying the feeding.  Once I was able to feed without pain and I wasn't watching the clock because feeding was now an enjoyable, pain-free act William didn't have to cry so much to get attention (food).  Babies don't cry for fun, they cry because they need something, so being able to satisfy that need as soon as possible, or even before the crying starts will reduce the stress in the household.  If feeding doesn't stop the crying then you know it must be something else (sleepy, dirty, bored, overstimulated).  A typical baby will ask for a feed about 8-12 times in a 24 hour period of time.  They may not be regularly spaced out over the day, and they may be clustered together especially in the evening.  This is why it's so important to sleep when the baby sleeps (don't do laundry!).  This is just a guide, an average.  I'm sure there are many babies out there that feed more than 12 times a day and also some that feed 7 times a day.  Watch your baby.  If your baby is healthy, born at term, is pooing and peeing and gaining weight (regained birth weight by two weeks), then follow their lead.

How long should a feed last?

Gosh, a really hard one.  You're going to hear so many different answers to this question from friends and healthcare providers.  Every baby is different, and every meal is different.  Again, I am going to remind you to watch your baby.  If your baby is healthy, born at term, is pooing and peeing and gaining wieght (regained birth weight by 2 weeks), then follow their lead.  I always advise new mums to start out by offering both breast per feed so that after a few weeks it can then be the baby's decision to have both or one per feed and your body has been primed to produce a fabulous supply of milk either way.  Baby will let you know when they are done, they will come off of their own accord or fall asleep.  In the first few weeks, if there is a concern about weight gain then you can burp or nappy change and then offer the second breast.  My son never said no, my daughter would only feed when she wanted to.  As to timings.  Some babies just feed for ages, and others are done in a few minutes.  If baby hasn't fed for a few hours and falls asleep almost immediately at the breast then you may want to consider waking baby up, some breast compressions might also entice baby to feed for longer, but as I mentioned previously watch your baby and compare their feeds to your own.  You probably eat or drink something numerous times a day but each time you eat you don't eat the same amount.  You may have just a cup of tea and a biccie, you may have a large evening meal, or a chocolate passed around in the office.  The baby will feed in a similar fashion and may not always take the same amount each time.  It's the average over the entire day and then week that counts, and then the weight gain seen over the same period.  Look for an average weight gain in the early months of 3.5-7oz per week.  You will definitely learn new puzzle solving skills being a new parent, and to look at the whole picture instead of focusing on just one thing, so look at the baby as a whole.

Ellie at her first wedding at only 5 weeks old - she slept through the entire service in her sling and only woke up in time for the toast!

What answers would you give to these questions from your own personal experiences?

Monday 23 July 2012

How many nursing bras should I buy?

I am often asked the question "How many nursing bras do I need?" and so I thought I'd try to write down my thoughts about this question.  There is no right or wrong answer because every situation is different, but here are some things to consider before you make a decision.

The most common response to this question is 3.  One to wear, one in the wash and one in the drawer.  However, this does not take into consideration your financial status, the time of pregnancy or breastfeeding or whether you have a washing machine in the house.  I’ll try to keep this short as I could talk about it all day and your time is precious.

Here are some things to consider - 

·         How long do you want the bras to last?
·         Do you have large Breasts?
·         How often do you want to wash them?
·         At what stage of pregnancy or breastfeeding are you?
·         What do you want to wear with them?


For many women the first signs of pregnancy are all about the boobs.  They can become tender and start to grow very early on in pregnancy.  I remember that my cup size increased almost immediately and then they became really tender which meant that I needed new bras and I also needed bras that were comfortable to sleep in so that they didn't move around too much at night which was really uncomfortable.  It's because of the increases in breast tissue and thus cup size throughout pregnancy that wires are not recommended.  If you are willing to check the fit and purchase new bras frequently then you can wear them with confidence, this can be a very expensive route, but completely do-able if you can't live without your wire.  A more flexible wire would be a better option (available from many maternity lingerie manufacturers).  Of course you may not change in size very much or very early so take each day as it comes.
Milk volume increases are usually the largest 3-5 days after birth and your volume should settle at about 2-6 weeks.  Your breasts will still fluctuate a little or a lot between feeds and when you sleep for a while.  Some women don’t ever leak milk, and others leak a lot.  I stopped leaking at about a year.  Transitional bras will be the most comfortable bras during the first few weeks, but sized bras will give more support for a larger cup size and can be a lot more feminine and pretty.

Money Saving Tips - 
To save money during pregnancy avoid buying maternity bras that are sized and are not nursing bras.  A maternity bra is only useful during pregnancy.  A nursing bra can be worn during pregnancy and can then be used for easy access when breastfeeding, so you'll get a lot more use out of it.  If you have a larger cup and enjoy the support from a sized bra then think logically to get the most value for money from them.  The earlier you buy your bras in pregnancy the longer you will get to use them.  If buying in the first few months then make sure you choose a bra with lots of hooks and eyes on the band and buy the bra that fits well on the tightest setting.  This will allow you to loosen the band as the baby pushes up into the ribcage, and if you are able to buy a bra with room in the top of the cup without losing too much support or it being too baggy then you'll have room to grow in the cup department too.  (You may find that during the first few weeks after birth the bra will be a little tight in the cup, but you may still be able to get to wear the bra again once your milk volume settles and if not then, when you introduce solids).
A transitional bra is one that can accommodate small changes in cup size and can last throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.  I can in fact reveal that I am currently (at this exact moment) wearing one such bra that I have owned for over 4 years through two pregnancies and extended breastfeeding.  Buying a good transitional bra can be worth its weight in gold!


As you can read above, my nursing bras have gone through the ringers.  They have been washed, dried, been soaked in milk, covered in all kinds of other bodily fluids, probably a bit of mud and play dough thrown in for good measure.  I started wearing nursing bras when I was pregnant with my first.  I ignored the advice to only buy a nursing bra at the end of my pregnancy because I knew that I would be breastfeeding, and any soft cup bras I purchased during my pregnancy would be useless after birth if they couldn't be used for nursing.  They would also be useless after I finished nursing (didn't happen!) because the cup would probably have been a little big.  I love, love, love to save money and this seemed like a no-brainer to me.  I purchased a few transitional nursing bras and wore them throughout my pregnancy.  They lasted about 6 months, and I was horrified, they fell apart before my eyes.  I was told that they were designed to last only 6 months.  Thing was that I owned only a few bras and washed them more regularly than my usual bras.  In fact I was washing them 3 times as often which would mean that they would wear out three times faster.  

Money Saving Tips –
I think you really do get what you pay for when you are buying nursing bras.  If your goal is to nurse until natural weaning age and possibly go into another pregnancy and dabble in a bit of tandem nursing then you want something that is going to last a long time and withstand a lot of wear and tear.  Think of it as more of an investment, and don’t forget that you can add to your collection at any time.  Spend money on some good transitional bras that will accommodate those changes in size and then add a few good quality sized bras for special occasions and for wearing low cut tops and dresses.  If, on the other hand you have a small budget and you want to breastfeed but you’re unsure of how long you want to breastfeed for or you’re concerned that it won’t work because some of your friends weren’t able to continue breastfeeding, then you can spend a relatively small amount of money and not feel that it has been wasted.  Of course if you do have any difficulties breastfeeding go along to your local support group for help and support.  Sometimes the prices can seem a little high, especially if your goal for breastfeeding is a short one.  A value nursing bra can give you the comfort and easy access that you need without breaking the bank.  If you decide to continue breastfeeding for longer, you can buy more then.

Size Matters

You probably already know this, but support is really important, and is even more important for those larger busted ladies.  As with durability, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to breast support.  You can find transitional bras that can provide some support up to an H cup, and you might feel OK at home lounging or in bed, but you’ll probably want to go for a sized bra for leaving the house in once your milk volume settles down.

Clothing - 

Give this some thought.  You want to buy nursing bras that will wear well with your wardrobe, otherwise you’ll never wear them.  If it’s a special occasion take the dress with you when you buy your bras.  I always tell my in-home fitting clients to try on a T-shirt or their special outfit with the bras to make sure they are happy with the overall look.  If you wear white tops all the time don’t buy lots of black nursing bras and vice versa.  If you need skinny straps then find a nursing bra with skinny straps too.  There are many different styles in many different colours, so hold out for the bra you really need.

Money Saving Tips –
Consider buying some nursing vests.  They can provide some support without the need to wear a nursing bra as well and they can be worn on their own, in bed or under a cardigan or loose top to cover the tummy when feeding.  They can take the place of a nursing bra and act as another bra in your wardrobe.  Some vests provide more support than others, and they come in various shapes and colours for all occasions.  If you choose a longer length nursing vest during pregnancy it will cover your bump and then after delivery will look great with leggings and jeans.

So, maybe you are more confused than ever, but remember that you can add to your collection at any time.

1.       What is your budget?
2.       Look at your size and realistically think about the best type/style of bra for your size.
3.       What stage of pregnancy or breastfeeding are you in, what bra would best suit this time in your life and last the longest with your changing needs.
4.       How often do you want to wash your bras and how long will they last.  Remember that the more you have the less you will need to wash them and the longer they will last.
5.       Make sure that you get the style and colour that will work well with your wardrobe so that you don’t end up hiding them in the back of the drawer never to be worn again.
6.       You can always ask me for help with breastfeeding and with bra suggestions.  If I can’t help I can surely find someone who can.

If you would like to see some examples of transitional nursing bras, nursing vests or nursing bras for larger sizes check out these links from BoobieMilk.

So as you can see, three may be the right number for you, but it might be the wrong number for someone else.  Share with me below what your thought are or what you have been told and how that worked out for you.  Also, share with me how long your nursing bras have lasted and what they have been through I'd love to hear from you.

Snugglebundl were excited to send their blanket out to the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Grand Prize winner but also sad that there was only one winner.  They have asked me to share with you a special coupon code so that you can save when you purchase a brand new Snugglebundl blanket with handles for easily tranferring baby from cot to buggy to car seat while still sleeping.  Please use code snug15 here.