My Adventures in Boobing
Part 1 can be found here. I am very sorry for the long and rambling nature of this story and the chances are it will be a 3 part saga. I wrote this first part a really really long time ago when Dylan was really still a baby. I am in no way medical nor have I had any specific training in breastfeeding support. This is just one Mummy’s experiences.
So as I have already discussed we have had issues with breastfeeding. I left the story when Dylan was about 3 weeks old and we are combination feeding. To start with Dylan was breastfeeding and then having 30ml of formula after each feed and I was expressing for 10mins off each boob halfway between feeds. He was feeding every 3hrs so as you can imagine, I was exhausted. But as Dylan started to gain weight and became gradually more content it all seemed worth it. I was still also taking 12 fenugreek capsules every day, along with Mother’s milk tea (which is disgusting) and munching on papaya and oats all to help improve my milk supply.
Advice is difficult to come by as the “breast is best” brigade seem to have the floor so this period of Mummyhood was fraught with doubt and confusion. I had lots of support from my lovely midwife and later on from my equally lovely health visitor. Also in my area (Cheshire) we have an excellent breastfeeding support group called Cherubs. The only problem was that I was getting a lot of conflicting information. The midwife and health visitor would tell me that if he was draining his bottle that I needed to up the formula by 30mls for the next feed and the Breastfeeding Consultant would be telling me that if there is milk in the bottle then the baby will always drain it. The HV was saying to give the bottle after breast and the Breastfeeding Consultant would say give the bottle first (we ended up breastfeeding, then bottle and then back to the breast to settle him) To me it seemed silly to offer more formula if he was content and his weight was gaining. It takes a lot as a new mum to say no to advice and do things on your own but that is what I did. I decided to up the formula when I thought Dylan wanted more. His formula intake started at 30ml for 8 feeds a day and slowly creeped up to 160ml for 8 feeds a day by the time he was about 9 weeks old. His weight was steadily gaining and everyone seemed really please with him.
At one of the Cherubs groups that I go to I met a mother who had gone through exactly the same problems that I was having. Brilliant! She was really lovely to me and gave me lots of advice. The biggest thing was that she understood how I felt and how betrayed I felt by my own body and the guilt. She said that she saw formula as medicine and that is how she made herself feel better about having to give it to her baby.
She also lent me a Supplementary Nursing System to try out. It was a real godsend. Within 3 days of testing it I had bought my own one. She had lent me a Lact-Aid but I decided to by the Medela SNS as it was easier to clean, in my opinion. As I was breastfeeding from both breasts and then giving formula and then expressing all together each feed took about 1.5hrs, every 3 hours!! The Supplementary Nursing System or SNS is essentially a bottle with little tube that you feed into the baby’s mouth so that the baby has the formula at the same time as breastmilk. It is brilliant in 2 ways. 1. It makes feeds a lot shorter as he has both at the same time and 2. As he is on the breast longer it stimulates you to create more milk! Awesome!
The way I do it is I leave the formula valve turned off until he gets restless at the boob and then release it (for maximum stimulation of booby milk production) and now feeds only take about 30-45mins! The only downside is that you have to use Microporus Tape to stick the tubes to your boobs which has left me with 2 reddish strips on my boobs but as long as I keep rubbing them with Arnica cream it’s not so bad!
During week 9 of Mummyhood, I was struck down with horrendous stomach flu/gastroenteritis and was really ill for 3 days. At the lowest point I was so dehydrated and weak that I couldn’t hold Dylan during a feed and had to resort to him just having formula for 2 feeds. I felt awful because I was ill and I felt awful because I couldn’t feed my baby. But as I got better something magical (?) happened…
My boobs seemed a lot fuller!! Finally!! Dylan was leaving formula at the end of feeds. So after a few days I started to decrease Dylans formula by 30mls at a time. At 120ml, he was leaving more formula so we decreased again to 90ml. We had him weighed at this point (when he was about 11wks old) and he was still gaining. We keep having him weighed weekly to make sure he’s gaining weight but so far so good. At the moment he is feeding 6 times a day, he has no formula for his first feed, 65ml for 4 feeds and them 120ml for his bedtime feed and the cherry on the cake is that he is sleeping 10:30pm until 7-9am… incredible!!
If you have low milk supply for whatever reason here are my top tips…
- When you are giving your baby a bottle try to sit him/her up as much as you can and hold the bottle as horizontally as you can so they have to really suck to get the milk out, like they would on the breast. Make sure that the milk is covering the holes in the bottle at all times so that baby isn’t sucking in lots of air
- Try Fenugreek Capsules… take 3 capsules, 3/4 times a day. They should make your sweat smell like maple syrup and not fenugreek. Be careful as these can make make you have stomach upsets but that should pass and it might make your baby have bottom wind.
- Express milk between feeds if you can to help stimulate your boobs to produce more
- Try a SNS. They are quite expensive to buy but I would say well worth it! Beware that you might get a little covered in milk while you are trying to get use to it
- Don’t see Formula as the enemy. Formula is painted as an evil thing that causes harm to your baby but if you are having trouble feeding (or you decide not to breastfeed…) what other option do you have? Don’t feel bad about it. Try different brands to find the one that your baby likes. We started on Aptamil but now use Cow and Gate (it’s made at the same place, has the same ingredients so I presume it’s the same stuff except £1 cheaper)
- Don’t be hard on yourself. You are a brilliant Mum and you are trying your best and that is all anyone can ever ask of you!!
- Keep going. I know it can be hard going at times and combo feeding can be a total pain in the arse but it is worth it in the long run.
- Congratulate yourself often because no matter how you feed your child the important thing is that the baby is fed. It doesn’t matter if you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding or combo feeding the bit that matters is the closeness and the love you are giving to the baby. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it, it’s your baby and your body x
Thanks for reading!!