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Returning to work whilst breastfeeding – how can it be done?!

When you first have your bundle of joy (well, bundle of poo, sleeplessness and noise), you are so focussed on your brand new human that you don’t think about your life before baby: the job you did and the job you have to return to. When Squid was about 4 months old, I began to emerge from the baby cocoon and I began to realise that time was starting to run away with me and it wouldn’t be long until I had to go back to work.I was lucky that Squid was born in September because, as a teacher, this meant I only had to return to work for 7 weeks before the summer holidays were upon me! But the closer it got, the more I dreaded my return. As an exclusively breastfed baby, I was worried about leaving Squid and how he would cope. I was due to return to work when he was 8 months old, not long after beginning to introduce food and I was panicking.

Luckily, I know a wonderful Breastfeeding Counsellor who has supported me through so many things in Squid’s 19 months of life, and she allayed my fears with excellent advice about how I could return to work and continue breastfeeding.

If your return to work is imminent, and you’re wondering how on earth you and your little love will cope, then hopefully this guide will help you and put your worries to rest…

Food and water

My main worry about returning to work was how Squid would deal with being away from me for 12 hours a day, 3 days a week. Prior to my return, we had never spent more than a few hours apart. Suddenly, Squid and I were going to have to be separated, which meant no boobies for my wee lad. As a chronic bottle-refuser, and a baby-led weaning baby who wasn’t eating huge amounts, I was so concerned about what he would eat and drink in my absence.

It turns out that I needn’t have worried. When I was at work, Squid was happy to drink water from a cup, and to eat food. Granted, in the beginning, he wasn’t eating a huge amount of food, but he was eating. And he very quickly increased his solid food intake after I returned to work – I think that something must have ‘clicked’ – that food fills you up.

Most mums in the UK return to work around 8 months to a year after the birth of their baby – and at this age, babies are perfectly capable of going for longer periods of time without breastmilk. This is the most common approach for mamas whose babies won’t drink from a bottle.


Practicalities of breastfeeding a baby when back to work

If your baby won’t drink expressed breast milk, and in your absence they have water and food, then when you are reunited, they may go through what is called ‘reverse cycling’. This is where your little one may make up for their missed milk by having a big cluster feed in the evening, and they may wake more regularly in the night for milk. As a bed sharing family, with a small person who has always fed for a lot of the night, this didn’t make much difference to me, and quite frankly I was always so happy to be back with my babe that I didn’t care how much he fed!

It is worth noting here, however, that even if your baby DOES drink expressed milk whilst you’re at work, they may still reverse cycle – they’ve missed you, and after all, breastfeeding never was just about the milk! It’s such a wonderful way to reconnect after a long day apart, and breastmilk is love, cuddles and warmth combined.

Another practical thing to consider is that, when you return to work and are away from your baby, therefore not nursing on demand, your boobs may feel very full and leaky – so make sure you pack extra breast pads in your bag! I had an embarrassing experience of being caught short one afternoon when I was teaching – I looked down to find my top was soaked! Thank God for big, woolly cardigans is all I’ll say!


Expressing – your rights at work

Even if your baby won’t drink your expressed milk in your absence, the likelihood is that you will still need to express during the day in order to relieve your milky Pammy Andersons!

I was really nervous about broaching this subject with my employer – I would need somewhere private to express milk, and in a school, there are not many private places!

What does the law say then, about a breastfeeding mother’s rights at work?

Unfortunately, it actually isn’t exactly law for an employer to provide you with somewhere to express milk whilst at work, however, it IS law for an employer to provide pregnant or breastfeeding mothers with somewhere to ‘rest’ at work. The law is a bit confusing here, as what ‘resting’ entails isn’t actually outlined. However, it is considered ‘good practice’ to be accommodating of breaks for a breastfeeding mother, taking into account the possible negative effects of not allowing such breaks (e.g. the risk of painful engorgement, blocked ducts, mastitis, and potentially even abscesses, and therefore the need for time off work for the employee. It is also worth remembering that a breastfed baby will be healthier and therefore may not require the mother (or parent) to take time off work to care for them). Therefore, if a mother is allowed adequate breaks to express milk, there will be less need for staff absence, the mother will be able to maintain her breastfeeding relationship, and staff morale will remain high.

Where you are allowed to express milk whilst at work depends on your employer. Ideally, the space should be private and comfortable, as well as hygienic. I always think that a good rule of thumb is that if you would eat there, then it’s hygienic enough to express there. Which is why, when I spoke to my work about where I could express, I refused their initial suggestion of ‘in the disabled loo’…

Luckily, this suggestion was quickly followed up with an alternative room. For a while, I expressed here during my breaks. However, as Squid always refused to drink any of the milk I expressed, I actually didn’t end up doing this for very long. In fact, the tipping point for me was when my deputy head teacher nearly walked in on me – thank goodness for locked doors or he would have had an eyeful! – I gradually, over a period of weeks, reduced the amount of times I was expressing whilst at work, starting off at twice a day, dropping to once and then eventually no expressing sessions.

Tips for expressing at work:

Try and relax! You are more likely to trigger a let down if you are relaxed and calm – sometimes over thinking it can delay your let down from happening!

Take something which smells of your baby – this can really help when expressing – to look at and smell an item of clothing, for example, because it will remind you of your little one and may make your milk flow easier!

Look at photos of your small human – similar to smelling an item of their clothing, it can really help to focus on your baby whilst you express!

Don’t panic if you don’t get much milk out – it’s not a reflection of your supply. Some women really don’t respond to pumps, and can barely express a drop – and that’s okay!

Hand expressing might be better – learn how to hand express, because you may find it a quicker and more effective way of removing milk from your breasts.


What about my supply?

Before reducing my expressing sessions, I was concerned about the effect that not expressing at work would have on my supply. However, your milk supply adjusts according to supply and demand, and I soon realised that my body would adjust according to the amount of times Squid was asking for milk. It always helps to remember that breasts are rivers, not lakes; factories, not warehouses: meaning that they are constantly flowing with milk, according to demand, rather than storing the milk that will ‘disappear’ when it’s all gone. It is for this reason, that during school holidays, when I am not at work on my ‘regular’ work days, I can continue to breastfeed Squid on demand – because there is always milk.

Whilst my supply was adjusting, I did find that I had to hand express a few times a day, just enough to trigger a let down, so that my breasts did not feel so full and uncomfortable. Because I weaned from expressing so gradually, I didn’t get mastitis – if you do this too suddenly, your supply won’t have a chance to adjust and you may end up with lumps and painful blockages.


How much expressed milk to leave

If your boobie bandit does accept expressed milk from anything that isn’t the direct source, then it can be really overwhelming to think about how much expressed milk they might need in a day – you have no idea how much milk a breastfed baby takes, and therefore you don’t know what a ‘boobful’ of milk looks like!

It is easy to compare a breastfed baby with their formula fed counterparts, because you often hear of formula fed babies drinking 8oz in one sitting, but things are slightly different when a baby is exclusively breast fed. Breast milk is so easy to digest that they may feed more regularly, but drink smaller amounts, and also formula can stretch a baby’s stomach as it is heavier than breast milk – hence why they need to drink more milk, because they have a larger stomach space! A rough guide for expressed milk is approximately 1oz to 1.5oz per hour (so a baby that feeds every 3 hours might take between 3oz and 4.5oz per feed, for example). If you are at work for 12 hours, you might aim to leave between 12oz and 18oz of expressed milk for your baby. However, you may well find that your baby might not drink as much as this – if they are over 6 months old and therefore having water and food as well, they may not need as much milk – and that’s okay!


I think the best advice is to try not to stress about how much milk your baby is drinking in your absence. There’s some great advice here, about how much milk you might want to leave your exclusively breastfed baby: http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/pumping/milkcalc/

I must mention here too, that obviously the flow of milk is very different between a breast and a bottle: at the breast, babies must work for their milk, waiting for a let down, and then must actively suck and swallow throughout a feed in order to drink. That’s why a breastfed baby can’t be over fed – because they control the amount of milk they take and they stop feeding when they are full. Conversely, with a bottle, the milk flows continuously, so sometimes even when a baby might be full, the milk will continue to flow, and they swallow (because of the reflex telling them to do so). This is why when you bottle feed a baby, and particularly when you bottle feed a breastfed baby, it’s important to do something called ‘paced feeding’ which involves feeding in a more upright position, allowing the baby to ‘latch on’ to the bottle teat, and varying the angle of the bottle so that milk doesn’t always continuously flow without the baby working for it – this is so that it mimics what it’s like to be breastfed and therefore the baby doesn’t over eat! For more on paced feeding see http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/bottle-feeding/

Other great links regarding returning to work as a breastfeeding mum:

https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/6-breastfeeding-rights/continuing-to-breastfeed-when-you-return-to-work/
http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/j/k/Acas_guide_on_accommodating_breastfeeding_in_the_workplace_(JANUARY2014).pdf
Have you returned to work, and are still breastfeeding? What worries did you have, and how did you find it? Is your return to work imminent? How are you feeling about it? I’d love to know in the comments below!

Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @squidmamma and on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/squidmamma/ for daily baby, teacher and life updates!

Love,

Squidmamma x

15

9 reasons I breastfeed my toddler


When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to ‘give breastfeeding a go’. I researched, I went to classes, I learnt a lot. I was ready. And then Squid was born and it wasn’t exactly like the books said it would be. It hurt. It was hard. The hardest thing I had ever done. I just wanted to feed my baby and it was really bloody difficult.

Setting small, interim goals helped me. 6 weeks. 12 weeks. 6 months.

But in the beginning, in my mind, when Squid turned 1, we would stop. That way, he would only ever have had breast milk, no need for formula: my job would be done.

Because ‘One’ is big. ‘One’ is grown up. ‘One’ does not need to be fed from his mother’s breast.

Right?

Well, actually: no.

By the time Squid was only a few months old, and things were easier, I knew we were in this for the long haul. I absolutely knew that my lovely boy would be breastfed until he decides to stop, whenever that is. Because the fact is, your baby only gets older one day at a time. The day after Squid turned one, I didn’t suddenly feel that he was ‘too old’ to be breast fed.

At 18 months old, Squid needs breast milk more than ever. So, with that in mind, here is my list of 9 reasons to breastfeed a toddler.

 1. Connection.

At the end of the day, my favourite time is our sleepy, freshly bathed boob cuddles, where Squid will play with my hair, and I will stroke his face and he locks eyes with mine. It is a time filled with love and connection, and is so important to the both of us, especially when I have been working. Toddlers are busy: I spend most of days at home tearing round after our small hurricane of a child; work can be stressful, life can be difficult, but Squid becomes a gentle and peaceful little soul when he’s nestled in my arms and latched on. This quiet, loving time at the end of each day when Squid feeds to sleep relaxes the both of us, and usually the troubles of the day melt away into nothingness.

 

2. Sleep

Breastfeeding my toddler absolutely guarantees me more sleep. Squid wakes several times a night (WHICH IS NORMAL!!!) and without breastfeeding, I would be a walking zombie: when Squid stirs, he’s straight into our bed, latched on and fast asleep again within seconds. Most nights I don’t even fully wake when he latches on, making for a (generally!) peaceful night’s sleep for us all.

Additionally breast milk contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid used in the production of melatonin. Melatonin is, quite simply put, a sleep inducing hormone, which is another reason to love breastfeeding a toddler: magic sleepy dust at your fingertips (well, at your nipples). On top of this, breastfeeding also releases the hormone oxytocin in both the mother and child: this is the ‘love’ hormone, which can help to relax you, so mum can drift off easily too!

 

3. Protection

A child’s immune system is not fully formed until at least 2 years of age (different sources say different things, with 2 years being the minimum but 4-7 years being the ‘internet research average’! – interestingly, children naturally wean from the breast between 2 and 7, with world average being 4.3 years – on a timeline with immunity development, go figure!) and breastfeeding a toddler only serves to strengthen the immune system. Whilst breastfeeding does not reduce the risk of your toddler getting poorly (rather, not breastfeeding increases the risk), it can help to speed up recovery, as well as offer lots of comfort when it’s most needed. Cleverly, breast milk changes in its components when a child is poorly, and will start resembling nutrient packed colostrum again. Our bodies are just amazing!

We have a family history of chronic asthma and serious allergies, and so breastfeeding Squid past infancy is so important to me, because although genetics may dictate that he might be asthmatic, or have allergies, breastfeeding is going to help him through that, strengthen his immune system and help him with recoveries.

 

4. Big emotions

Being a toddler is hard work. The world is confusing, you can’t always express what you want or mean, and sometimes it all gets too much, emotions overspill and expressions of anger, frustration, sadness and confusion (read: melt downs) can occur. When these moments strike, my best approach with Squid is firstly to empathise and recognise the emotion, and then to offer a cuddle and some milk. I guess it comes back to reconnecting and grounding: a breastfeed can settle, calm and re-centre all those big feelings that are hard to deal with. A breastfeed is familiar, quiet and (mostly) still.

This also works well in unfamiliar situations – sometimes Squid will feel nervous or shy when we go somewhere new, and a reassuring cuddle with some milk usually sorts him out and equips him for exploration and mischief.

 

5. Peace

I am absolutely guilty of offering Squid a breastfeed when I myself just need a sit down. Squid is always on the move, climbing, walking, running, and I am always there chasing after him. The fact is, I just don’t have the same energy levels as my one year old and sometimes, mama needs a sit down! The only real way to guarantee this is to offer Squid a boob – he rarely says no, and often the 5 minutes of calm can reset both of our batteries for more fun and exploration!

 

6. Nutrition

Obviously Squid eats actual food, and has done since he was 6 months old. From around the time he was about a year old, he was consistently eating 3 meals a day, plus 2 or 3 snacks, and water. This food obviously provides him with a balanced diet, and we make sure to give him healthy, energy giving foods. However, daily breast milk can provide 29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 36% of calcium requirements and 60% of vitamin C requirements in the second year, and beyond, of breastfeeding.

For me, this is a really important one, especially when Squid is poorly. Sometimes, when he’s ill, he doesn’t want to eat, and so knowing that I can still provide some nutrition for him, as well as comfort, warmth and love, is a huge benefit.

 

7. Selfish mama

Breastfeeding can help to reduce the mother’s risk of: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease to name but a few conditions. And of course, the longer you breastfeed for, the more your risk decreases. No brainer really.

 

8. Increased risk of IDGAF-itis

Yes – you guessed it, breastfeeding really CAN increase your risk of something… a chronic condition known as ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck – itis’. Something I have learnt since breastfeeding Squid, especially now he is a ‘big grown up toddler’ is that I really, really do not care what anyone else thinks. People’s opinions have never mattered less to me. Squid and I are happy doing what we do, and we genuinely do not need other people to express how they feel about breastfeeding to natural term. Which is, by the way, what we’re doing. Squid will finish feeding when he’s ready. I don’t know when that might be, though I imagine it won’t be any time soon. Whether it’s in the next 6 months, the next year, two years or longer, I still will not care what people think. I am nourishing, nurturing and mothering my child in the way that nature intended, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

9. My toddler the feeder

And finally, if the above reasons weren’t enough to give you an insight as to why I do what I do, I give you this…

 ​

Just remember: not your baby, not your boobs, not your toddler, not your tits, not your child, not your… chest? (Tenuous 😂) Not your business!

Are you breastfeeding a toddler or older child? Let me know! 

Catch me on Instagram @squidmamma for sporadically irregular life updates!
 

LOVE, 

Squidmamma x

 

5

Work-life imbalance: Musings of a guilt-ridden working Mama

Mum guilt. It’s a curse. It kind of comes with the job, it’s in the job description, but that fact doesn’t make the experience any easier.

I feel guilty on a daily basis about all sorts of aspects of my parenting role. Guilty that I still haven’t taken Small to those swimming lessons I vowed he’d take, guilty that the only way I can make it round Aldi is by bribing my miniature human with Quavers, guilty that I don’t even buy Quavers – they’re own-brand ‘Cheez Curls’. Mum-guilt is part and parcel of being a parent, and one of the biggest causes of my guilt is that I have to go to work.

I’m a teacher. I have always wanted to teach. Before birthing Squid, I loved my job: I was totally devoted to the children in my care, and most waking hours were dedicated to being a good teacher. I worked evenings, weekends and any minutes in between to do my best by ‘my’ kids. I had worked bloody hard to become a teacher, and I poured my heart and soul into my job. When I was pregnant, I happily announced to anyone who asked that I would probably cut my maternity leave short to return to work: I loved my job.

And then… Squid was born.

I had already been off work for 10 weeks by the time Squid made his entrance to the world. Like any sensible teacher knows, a well-timed pregnancy results in a September due-date: meaning that I left work at the start of the summer holidays on full pay at only 32 weeks pregnant. At 41 weeks and 6 days pregnant, Squid arrived, and up until that point, I was bored stupid. I missed work, I missed the children, I missed the routine.

But suddenly I was the owner of a very dependent little milk guzzler, and work really was the very last thing on my mind.

By the time Squid was 4 months old, I was already desperately thinking of ways to avoid the dreaded return to work. Truthfully, I was absolutely smitten by this chubby bundle of energy, but short of a lottery win, my inevitable return to work loomed nearer and nearer.

I went back when Squid was just 8 months old, and I was lucky enough that my school have been accommodating – I reduced my hours to 3 days a week, and I job share with another mama: she ‘gets’ it.

I knew we would find it hard. No amount of people telling me I’d enjoy a hot cup of tea, enjoy eating a sandwich without a pair of chubby hands in it, that I would relish the quietness of my break times, that I’d enjoy using the bathroom in peace, made the experience easier for me. These things were but small mercies in my mental preparation for my return to work. But, if no one could have prepared me for the intense and unconditional love that I felt for Squid, then absolutely nothing and no one could have prepared me for the utter heart break I would feel at leaving him. I don’t care about hot tea: a 9lb 9oz baby means my bladder isn’t what it used to be, anyway. I would share my sandwich with my boy every day for the rest of time, if it meant I could be home with him.

And so, with my return to work, began the mum-guilt.

I feel guilty that I go to work to spend my day with other people’s children.

I feel guilty that my darling boy hates nursery. That he cries with heaving sobs every time I leave him.

I feel guilty that I am missing days of my baby boy’s week: whole days, where he might learn new things. Days where he needs me, where I need him. I miss out on his laughter, his achievements, his bumps and falls.

I also feel guilty that I do still love my job, that I want to be a good teacher.

I feel guilty that I can’t always be the teacher I aspired to be – I don’t have enough hours available to me to prepare all the resources I’d like to, to plan all the interventions my children could benefit from.

I feel guilty that I can’t spend the hours in the evening that I used to, to mark books and laminate bookmarks – equally I feel guilty spending any precious family-time doing school work when my little man needs me.

It’s really hard. I love my job. I love being a mama. I want to be good at both; sometimes I am only okay. I had underestimated how tricky it is to be a working mum. I am not afraid to admit that pre-baby, I thought part-time teachers with young families had it easy – a bit of a cop out. How wrong was I. I know some of my colleagues don’t consider us part-timers to be ‘real teachers’, but this just makes me sad. I can’t blame them, though: I definitely felt like that too before I had baby Squid.

I would sacrifice a limb to be able to spend my whole time with my baby Squid, to not have to go to work, to not have to send him to nursery. And let’s not talk about nursery fees – I go to work to just about pay the bills.

But the fact remains: I have to work. If I didn’t work, we couldn’t afford to live. And so, I make the best of every moment I do have with my baby boy: I cherish our time together, savour every second*. I try to make our days together count: I try to make sure they’re filled with love and laughter and quality time together.

I wish I could be a stay-at-home mum, but unfortunately for our family, that is not a possibility for us right now. I am envious of my mama-friends who get to spend their whole week with their small people, and I try not to let it bother me when they declare that they would love ‘just a minute’s peace!’ – because motherhood is hard. Whether you go to paid employment or not, being a mama is a full time job in itself.

And the mum-guilt sucks. I doubt it will go away, but I really am trying my best. I hope that’s enough.

Love,

Squidmamma x

Follow my Twitter and Instagram at @squidmamma for more baby/life updates.

*Except when I’m trying to have a wee and he’s hanging off my ankles. I don’t savour those moments much.

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Eating out with a BLW baby!

Squid getting impatient waiting for his lunch!

We love eating out as a family. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, we eat out several times a month. I really love taking Squid to new places and letting him try new foods. However, BLW inevitably = MESS! This might put some people off dining out with their small people in the really messy, early stages of BLW, but I’ve got a handy list of tips to make eating out mess free and stress free! With a few minutes of preparation, eating out with your BLW baby can be fun and easy. 

When out and about, I pack essentials into our lunchbox.  I always take snacks with me: they’re great for if we ever get stuck anywhere, or if we are out for dinner and Squid gets bored waiting. I try and take snacks that fit into one little pot: bread sticks, raisins, cubes of cheese. This saves space and I can just grab the pot easily! 
If we go out over lunch time, to a play group or the park for example, I take lunch for him too. This saves buying something expensive for him, (I spent £2 on a fruit pot for him in Starbucks a few weeks ago – who knew fruit could be so expensive?!), and also means that I know the salt and sugar content of what I’m giving him. 

I know that when you eat out, in a restaurant of café, you’re paying for a service which includes someone preparing and serving food and cleaning up after you, but I used to work in a café, and I absolutely hated cleaning up the massive, soggy messes left by some families. 

When we go out to eat, I make sure I have our essentials with us. Into our lunchbox usually goes:

  • Dettol wipes
  • Snack pot
  • Bag for life
  • Disposable floor mat (we get them from the Poundshop, they come in packs of 4!
  • Baby-sized spoons/forks
  • Cup
  • Bin bag
  • Wet flannel (30p each in Wilkinson!)
  • Cover-all bib

Firstly, I always give high chairs and tables a wipe over with a dettol wipe – because Squid prefers to throw plates than eat off them, I like his eating surface to be clean! Then we always put a disposable paper table cloth under the high chair – this catches any spillages or droppages and can be easily scooped up into a bag afterwards! Also, it means that if your baby accidentally drops their food onto the mat, you can pick it up and give it back to them as it hasn’t touched the floor!

To save his clothes when we are out, I always put Squid in a cover-all bib: I find the fabric ones restrict his movement less than the plastic ones! 

Fabric bibs are easy to wash and don’t restrict baby’s movement when eating

Then, at the end of the meal, I clean Squid with the wet flannel and then wipe down the table and highchair, and pop the flannel, any of our plastic cutlery and plates, plus his bib and cup into the fabric, washable bag for life (to wash when I get home). Next I scoop up the floor mat and any other rubbish and put it straight into the bin bag. Restaurants always appreciate the effort to keep things tidy, and it takes no time at all! 

So what can your BLW baby eat when dining out? I never order Squid his own meal – I know the day will come when I have to, but for now, he is happy having some food from mine and Daddy Squid’s plates! I order whatever I fancy and then cut Squid-sized pieces off for the small person (remember – chip shaped!) I am always mindful of how things are cooked, for example with extra salt – if in doubt, request for your dish to be cooked without salt. If, for example, I ordered myself steak, jacket potato and vegetables, I would put a bit of everything in front of Squid – he really loves steak! 

The only things I would be mindful of are, as I said, salt, but also sugar content, honey (babies under 1 year can’t have it), whole nuts, bones in fish, plus anything really spicy. Squid loves spice but I wouldn’t have given him spicy food for the first time when out and about. 

Daddy Squid’s breakfast <– and Baby Squid’s breakfast –>

Where is your favourite place to eat with your BLW baby? What do they like to tuck into when dining out? Let me know in the comments!

Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @squidmamma for more baby and life updates! 

Love, 

Squidmamma x 

1

Human Milk for Human Babies

In an ideal world, a mother will feed her baby without issue. However, The World Health Organisation states that if a mother’s own milk is not available then the next best thing is the milk from another woman. 

Within hospitals, there is often a milk donation/bank scheme, where mothers can donate expressed milk for sick babies in SCBU or the NICU, if their own mammas are unable to feed or express for them. I’m very lucky to know quite a few mummies who have been generous enough to donate excess milk this way, and what a beautiful gift! 

Mothers who donate milk in this way have to undergo thorough health checks, understandably, as the milk is being given to the most vulnerable of babies! 
However, there is also a more informal way of sharing and donating milk, through a site called ‘Human Milk For Human Babies’. Here, mammas can advertise spare milk, or ask for donations. Many thousands of women donate and receive milk through this site – how incredible! 

Milk sharing is very common in the breastfeeding community. It used to be very common practice for groups of lactating mothers to feed each other’s babies. This still happens across the globe, but can be somewhat taboo in the western world.

If a mother cannot feed her baby, even for a short period of time, it makes sense that someone else could… Right??!! After all, many of us drink cow’s milk without a second thought. This is called wet nursing – literally nursing another person’s baby. Many breastfed babies refuse to drink expressed milk (just like Squid!!!) and so wet nursing makes perfect sense. Plus it’s so much easier to feed ‘straight from the source’ than to express! 

Since having Squid, I have often thought about what would happen in the horrible event of my death (zombie apocalypse, eaten by an alligator etc) and myself and a very good friend have struck a deal that if anything were to happen to either one of us, we’d make sure each other’s baby received human milk: donated, expressed or wet nursed, until they turn at least 1 year old (when you CAN stop giving breast milk (or formula). This gives me immense peace of mind that Squid would still receive all the great benefits of human milk, even if I wasn’t around anymore. 

Sharing human milk is normal and natural. I know it might push some of you to the edges of your comfort zones, because of the way our society has been conditioned, but this is milk from our own species: it’s actually weirder to think about drinking another species’ milk isn’t it?! 

You can check out the HM4HB UK website at http://hm4hb.net/ and their Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/HM4HBUK/ to find out more. 

There are other milk sharing communities and more places to find out information. 

Check out 

http://www.eatsonfeets.org/

http://realbabymilk.org/local-support/uk-milk-banking/

Would you donate or receive human milk for your baby? Would you let your baby be wet nursed, or would you wet nurse another’s baby? Have you already given or received donor milk or had experiences of wet nursing? Let me know in the comments. 

Find me on Twitter and Instagram! @squidmamma for daily life/baby updates. 

Love, 

Squidmamma x

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Natural Term Weaning – how long should you breastfeed for?!


When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and had 6 months as the goal in my mind. Then Squid arrived (eventually…….) and boobing was sodding horrible: painful, endless, awful. So I set myself smaller goals. The next feed. The next day. A week. A month. 3 months, 4… All the while learning more and more about breastfeeding, and the benefits of it. Knowledge is power, and this knowledge made me more determined to be successful. I quickly decided that our breastfeeding goal would be a year, as milk (breast or artificial), is nutritionally essential until a baby turns 12 months. If we reached a year, Squid would only ever have drank my milk. A year swiftly changed to my minimum goal to reach, and now Squid is 9 months old, a year is only 3 months away, and I know we will be boobing for a long time yet. 

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then breastfeeding alongside solid food until a baby turns 2 years old, and longer if mutually agreeable between mother and baby. 2 years is our new minimum goal in line with the WHO recommendations. Beyond this is sometimes referred to as ‘extended breastfeeding’, but I don’t like that – it implies that it’s going on for longer than necessary. I prefer ‘natural term weaning’ or, better yet, just ‘breastfeeding’. 

“TWO YEARS?!” I hear you gasp. “A baby isn’t a baby when they’re TWO! They can ask for it then! They can walk! They have teeth! It’s just weird!”

Except… Squid has asked for breast milk for months now, he can sign ‘milk’ when he wants it, or he just launches himself at my chest. And he already has 6 teeth. Some babies are born with teeth. Should they not be breastfed? Two years old is still a baby, it’s still so little. 

And so is 3. And 4… They only grow older a day at a time. My mum still has a warm mug of milk before bed, and she’s 21+30! And anyway, drinking milk from our own species is surely more biologically normal than drinking milk from another species?! 

A child will usually ‘self wean’ from breastfeeding between 2 and 7 years of age, with the world average being 4.3 years old. If a baby stops breastfeeding before 2 years, it’s most likely to be a ‘nursing strike’ – where they literally refuse to feed for a few days, perhaps long. The key with a nursing strike is to keep offering – they will latch again eventually. Self-weaning is much more gradual, feeds will drop over weeks and months, and they may eventually go days between breastfeed a before stopping altogether. 

They won’t be doing it forever. It is not sexual. Women have breasts – do you know why? To feed children. Not primarily for sexual gratification (though breasts can be multi functional – and that’s okay!) Breastfeeding past infancy is not for a mother’s personal pleasure, (I am sure those breastfeeding toddlers can assure you that a foot up their nose, an elbow in their neck and a tractor down their bra whilst feeding is NOT their idea of a good time!) 

Natural term weaning will not ‘mess a child up’ – children do not have a clue that breasts are for anything other than milk – why would this be mentally detrimental to them? 

The health benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and child do not decrease the longer you do it. Far from it. Breastfeeding through toddlerhood will mean that a child continues to receive antibodies, plus it can help strengthen their growing immune system, which isn’t fully established until around age 7! All this as well as helping to provide daily requirements of fat, protein, calories etc.
 
Does the idea of an older baby breastfeeding unsettle you? Ask yourself why. The Western world is so conditioned to see breasts as sexual, that after a ‘certain age’ breastfeeding is seen as wrong. I have had people ask me every single week since Squid turned SIX MONTHS when we intend to stop feeding. A relative asks, every time we see them, if Squid is still ‘on the tit’. (Don’t even get me started…) I have challenged so many of my own preconceptions since feeding Squid – I challenge YOU to do the same. 
So… How long ‘should’ you breastfeed for? Well, that’s different for every mother and baby. And it is NOT for you to decide or comment on. If someone is ‘still’ breast feeding, it is ‘still’ none of your business. Don’t like it, don’t look. 

And however long you choose to breastfeed for, whether a week, a month, a year or 5 years, just remember that every drop counts. 

How long have you been breastfeeding for? Have your breastfeeding goals changed since feeding your baby? I’d love to know! Let me know in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram! @squidmamma for daily life/baby updates. 

 
Love, 

Squidmamma x

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Support with breastfeeding


Did you know that statistically, only 2% of women physically cannot breastfeed? 
Now, whilst this might be statistically true, this is in fact a statistic which irks me slightly. 

Let’s have some more statistics. At birth, around 80% of mothers breastfeed their babies. At 6 weeks, 55% of babies are receiving SOME breast milk (24% exclusively), and at 6 months, this figure drops to 34% who receive SOME breast milk (yet only 1% are EXCLUSIVELY breastfed at 6 months). 

Why is this then? If only 2% of women fail to produce milk, why are national breastfeeding rates in the U.K. the worst in Europe? I think it boils down to two things: knowledge and support. Or lack there of. 

Let’s start with knowledge. When I was pregnant, Husband and I went to a breastfeeding workshop, run by the NHS. The lady showed us, a group of pregnant women and their partners, various feeding positions, explained how to latch a baby onto your breast and talked about nappy output in an exclusively breastfed baby. That was it. Husband and I came away thinking ‘okay – got it! Nose to nipple, and you’re hoping for a poo which looks like chicken korma, sorted!’ and I naively spent the remainder of my pregnancy thinking ‘I’ve gone to this workshop, everything will turn out in the wash’. The truth is, I still had no idea. I hadn’t really learnt anything. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding. 

Knowledge is so crucial. I did not know that new born babies feed CONSTANTLY, that they cluster feed, and it feels like they’re not getting anything, that they will seem utterly insatiable, that they will pull on and off and hit you (to up your milk supply) and you will think ‘my boobs don’t work, they don’t make milk!’ Suddenly, I had this tiny (hahaha) baby in my arms and it was like wrestling a squid to try and get him to feed, and it was absolutely nothing like the lady at the breastfeeding workshop said it would be like. All Husband kept saying was ‘is he clamped on yet?’ And all I kept doing was crying. 

So if you don’t know what to expect, those initial days and weeks of breastfeeding are pretty shell shocking to say the very least. 

The second reason, in my opinion, for such low breastfeeding success rates is the more crucial reason. That is support, or lack of. In a culture where breastfeeding is no longer the norm, the lack of support and knowledge from healthcare ‘professionals’ is quite frankly shocking. 

If you don’t mind reading about my nipples, then I’ll tell you our battles to get to where we are today. Squid was born 9.9lb – a big boy. I was told that boys were lazy feeders, and to prepare to have a battle on my hands because he probably wouldn’t feed. He fed well in hospital and we luckily had no complications with the birth (unless you count several thousand stitches… Which they tend not to count apparently 😂), so we were let home the following day. Squid was sleepy – a lengthy induction followed by a super quick labour (1 hour 50 minutes!) meant that he was exhausted – and so was I. He would feed, and then sleep… For hours. The longest he went was 6 hours, and though we were grateful of the rest, we knew this wasn’t right. The midwife weighed Squid on day 5 of his life and he had lost 11% of his birth weight (up to 10% is okay, over that is a cause for concern). She put in place a feeding plan, for us to wake Squid every 2-3 hours, and feed him expressed milk from a little cup before latching him on to breastfeed. 

This worked, and by day 8, he was 2oz above his birth weight. 

Squid continued to gain weight beautifully, (…29lb 3oz at 8 months…) yet breastfeeding was becoming excruciatingly painful for me. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, every time I fed Squid I was crying in pain. It was a nightmare. I distinctly remember, around 4am one night, Husband saying ‘this is just ridiculous, breastfeeding!’ As I sobbed into our squishy baby Squid whilst he ferociously chewed my nipples off. He would feed every other hour, for a solid hour, every single day. By the time he was 6 weeks old, I had done enough research to know that although cluster feeding is normal, something was going on that needed investigating, so I went to a local ‘Milk!’ Drop in for some advice. I explained my pain, that he fed constantly, and all they told me was that my nipples were not the perfect match for Squid’s mouth. I was ready to give up. I couldn’t continue like that. 

The following day, I got Squid weighed, and I begged the health visitor to find the problem, to invent one if she had to, that would explain the agony I was experiencing. And she did. Squid opened his mouth, and straight away she spotted a tongue tie. We were referred to the tongue tie clinic, and a week later, (the longest week of my life – which is saying something considering Squid was 13 days late), his tongue tie (75%, posterior) was snipped. It then took a further 5 weeks, several more breastfeeding related issues and a whole lot of patience, until, when Squid was 12 weeks old, it finally stopped hurting. He had finally learnt how to latch properly, and he had gained control of his tongue. 

My nipples healed, Squid was feeding for less and less time (averaging – 30 minute feed every 2 hours) and was happy between feeds. And crucially, the saving grace to our breastfeeding relationship: I found a breastfeeding support group. I met other mums who understood. Breastfeeding can be so isolating, but these ladies ‘got it’. A wonderful lady, we will call her ‘C’, my ‘Boob Angel’, answered so many queries, taught me so much about breastfeeding and helped me to understand what was normal. 

Squid is now 9 months old, and we still go every single Monday to ‘Boob Group’ – this support has been a lifeline to us. 

So yes, there is not enough support out there, or rather, not enough awareness of support. The support group is at the top of my road and yet no one, not one of the health professionals we met, told us about it. If it was not for my lovely mum, who breastfed both my brother and I, I know I would not have continued in those early weeks. My mum kept me going, helping me understand what was normal. And believe me, when your mum has helped you to hand express, it really cements your relationship! 

Breastfeeding is, initially, and sometimes randomly along the way too, hard bloody work. We have battled tongue tie, cracked, bleeding nipples, an over supply, head turning preference, a hospital stay, vasospasm, thrush, milk blebs, mastitis (on Christmas Day!), blocked ducts, a nursing strike, nursing aversion, going back to work, teething, illness… And today, thanks purely to the endless support we have received, Squid and I have, as of 8.30pm on June 24th 2016, been boobing for 9 months. 

So today’s post is mainly about support, and where to find it. So many women, who wanted so badly to breastfeed, stop because they experience any number of breastfeeding issues, and bad advice tells them to stop feeding, rather than showing them where to seek support. 

Midwives, health visitors and doctors very rarely know very much about breastfeeding (my doctor asked what a tongue tie was, the health visitor told me to only feed for 10 minutes on each breast, the midwife kept telling me our latch ‘looked fine’ despite tears of agony rolling down my face). But other support is available, from people with specific breastfeeding training and knowledge. 

If you are struggling, I thoroughly recommend finding a local breastfeeding support group – the La Lecha League is a good place to start. Google them and your area and you should find something. 

There are also several breastfeeding support groups on Facebook – 

Breastfeeding Yummy Mummies: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BFYummyMummy/

UK Breastfeeding and Parenting Support (UKBAPS): https://www.facebook.com/groups/ukbaps/

Breastfeeding Younger Babies and Beyond: https://www.facebook.com/groups/270342406509325/

There, help is available 24/7, from mums and also trained breastfeeding peer supporters, breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants. 

So yes, only 2% of women physically do not make milk, but that does not mean that the other 98% of women find breastfeeding easy, which is why I don’t like that statistic. It’s easy to see why some people do not continue. Support is VITAL. If you know a breastfeeding mama who is struggling, rather than suggesting she give up, put her in contact with someone who can help. 

On June 24th, we claimed our ‘Silver Boobs with Golden Nipples’ 9 month breastfeeding award, and I dedicate this award to the Husband for always believing in my boobs, my mum, for telling me there was no other option, to C, for supporting me through every one of our boob related issues, and to my boobing friends, who just get it.

What problems, if any, have you encountered on your breastfeeding journey? How did you over come them? Who do you turn to for breastfeeding support? 

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram! @squidmamma for daily life/baby updates. 

Love,
Squidmamma x