In my previous post there is a photo of my crying whilst pumping/expressing. I think I already had this post’s picture in mind before taking that one, but they are quite different looking pictures so I don’t think it matters that they are next to each other chronologically. This one is almost like a mugshot and has little emotion, though I feel more exposed in it.
Well I guess I am showing more of my body so it makes sense. I’ve just seen an Instagram message from a guy asking if he can send me a picture of his semen, so posting pictures like this does worry me. Yes, I’m showing parts of my boobs and talking about them a lot, but it’s not in a sexual way. I know that people don’t need an excuse to send gross messages, but seriously the most recent posts in my feed are me crying, me feeling shit, me singing to my baby, my husband with my baby, me dancing with my baby and my post-partum belly. Which part of that screams ‘please ask me if I want to see photos of your semen’?
(He’s since deleted the messages, but I screenshotted them. For anyone who might be unsure – before you press send, would you send it to your Grandma? If not then don’t send it to me. Thanks.)
Anyways, everyday we seem to have a different feeding journey. At the time of this photo B was 2 weeks old, and now writing this she is 8 weeks. I really need to write shorter posts so I can catch up and actually post things in real time…
This is a post about our feeding journey so far – starting with the hospital and then how it’s been at home. I hope that it will be helpful for someone who plans to breastfeed or is interested in comparing experiences. I’m sure I’ve missed out loads of things too, but feel free to get in touch with me about anything.
Also feel like I should state that I’m not an expert and I just wanted to share my/our feeding story. A list of helplines and websites for breastfeeding support is available on the NHS website.
This post unintentionally coincided with National Breastfeeding Week – Happy NBW!
(It feels weird saying Happy NBW as you’ll soon see that my journey hasn’t been happy at times…)
I was only planning on breastfeeding, but B had problems latching after she was born and we were originally kept in the hospital longer because of that. Due to Covid apparently they are slower to discharge people who are having problems breastfeeding as there is less face to face support available. This makes sense as I had so many different women touching my boobs (one at a time, don’t get too excited). A video call isn’t the same as someone physically trying to help.
I was in hospital for four nights and after my milk came in on day three I started to express using the hospital pump. No one told me you could pump colostrum (first milk) with them, which I later flagged up as that could have saved me some stress. I didn’t think you could as I’d read that as you produce so little colostrum, a lot of it just gets stuck in the parts rather than making it into the bottle. I guess this is only with certain pumps and now I know that this isn’t the case with hospital grade pumps (or so I believe).
With colostrum you can get syringes (I think I called the hospital or Liverpool BAMBIS – babies and mums breastfeeding information and support – for them) to start trying to collect it from 37 weeks. Some people have more success than others. I tried, but didn’t feel very confident, and then I ended up having a baby when I was 37 weeks and 5 days… I did try again to collect some when I was sat in the first maternity ward waiting for my surges to get stronger as a friend said she did that, but my mind was elsewhere.
(After birth) In hospital I found the syringes fiddly, but someone would help me collect the colostrum. I say someone as I’m not sure what people’s job titles were, though I guess most were midwives and there were a lot of student midwives. I was also visited by women who work/volunteer for BAMBIS. Everyone was so helpful that I thought about training as a breastfeeding specialist to help other women.
I found that one boob was more productive than the other, though she favoured the one that was less so. The productive one would collect a syringe full (1ml) in no time at all, whereas the other one would get 0.3ml with some struggle. You then empty the syringe close to the inside (obviously) of the cheek if I remember correctly.
After a day (at least) I remembered that a friend mentioned expressing into cups (special cups, not kitchen cups) so I asked for one of those. This was so much easier and again I flagged this up, and they said it should have been mentioned at the first check-in. Only the midwife was allowed to give B the colostrum with the cup (I would have been too scared to do it anyways). At first I didn’t realise that she could be fed with the cup, so I was sucking up the colostrum with the syringes.
Then once my milk came in I used ‘The Beast’.
I was still trying to breastfeed, but it was difficult as B’s latch wasn’t great, so I found it easier just to express and bottle feed her. I think by this point my confidence had also gone, but I knew other new mums had been having issues with breast feeding and it wasn’t just me.
I guess I just expected for it to be easy as it’s such a natural thing.
I was a bit scared to bottle feed and wind her in the beginning, so I made them show me a few times before I did. They seemed so rough with the bottle teat as I thought it was solid, but actually it was quite soft and flexible. Soon I got confident though and I had a good routine going on.
I was told to feed her every 3 hours, so I’d get a bottle of my milk out of the fridge half an hour-ish before to let it warm up to room temperature, wake her up (if she hadn’t woke up by herself), feed her and then pump and put the new milk in the fridge. At first I thought I wasn’t allowed in the room with the fridge, but once I knew I was then it was nice that my world was extended beyond the ward I was in. I took great delight (loser) in going there to get all my supplies – new bottles, teats – and to wash the pump parts, and to fill up my water bottle.
(I wasn’t allowed visitors due to Covid restrictions so being able to walk into a room opposite the one I was in seemed quite exciting. Later on I learned I was allowed to go outside to see people, but I wouldn’t have been able to take B so it would have been stressful. Ward visitors would have been useful for holding B and letting me sleep a little…)
Like I said earlier I had only planned to breastfeed. A friend had given us an electric pump (thanks Rebecca) and we’d bought some bottles and a teat just in case, but I didn’t think I would use it all anytime soon. However as I’d pumped and bottle fed in the hospital I felt confident doing that (and the pump was super easy to figure out).
I did keep trying to breastfeed (and now I’m not trying, I’m succeeding), but I’d lost my confidence and when I did try I got sore nipples quickly because of her latch, so I was mainly expressing and we were bottle feeding.
The teats at the hospital were just ‘normal’, but the one we bought (and similar ones by other brands) is meant for babies that are being breastfed too.
Milk will easily come out of the ‘normal one’ milk, but with the breastfeeding mimicking ones the baby has to make a vacuum with their mouth in order to get some.
It took us a couple of days to get confident with the new teat, but once we figured it out we were fine.
In the hospital they’d mentioned the ‘paced feeding’ approach with the regular teats to mimic breast-feeding. I’m not an expert on all of this, but to me the paced feeding way can be likened to eating with chopsticks – eating slower so you give your stomach time to realise that you’re getting full. You’re basically letting them drink for a bit (with the bottle held flat rather than tilted up), then stopping the flow of milk by taking the bottle away completely or tilting the bottle down to with the teat still in their mouth.
(B hadn’t really been sick from feeding until one day last week, when I had been breastfeeding her a lot as I was a bit anxious about going out and her maybe getting hungry.)
Anyways, like in the picture I usually express by pumping on one side then using a manual suction pump on the other side. I read a breastfeeding support group comment the other day that said you shouldn’t use the suction element of the manual pump until 6 weeks, but I’ve been doing it from the beginning? And then I swap and pump on the other side. A double pump is probably easier/quicker (and I read that it can produce more milk), but the way I do it also works.
When you pump or feed with one boob the other one will leak (like in the picture below), so the manual suction pump will collect the excess. It’s also a good way to transition from breastfeeding on one feed to bottle feeding with the next, or a future feed if you don’t collect enough from one feed and collect some from multiple feeds.
I would say that I got kind of stuck with expressing rather than breastfeeding. Since she doesn’t do much at this age, feeding her is a good way to spend time with her and bond. Tiago’s been very supportive and I think perhaps his keenness to feed her also made me want to pump more (I’m not blaming him). When he feeds her it means I know I have a little time to do something, like on the 5th when we got home from dinner, and she needed feeding so T fed her whilst I did a photo shoot and then pumped after.
I was giving myself so much extra work by having to sterilise everything each time though, and in the night Tiago would be feeding her while I was pumping. In hindsight all being awake at 3am isn’t great, especially when Tiago has work in the morning. I’d also then have to sterilise stuff and often I’d wait for the machine to be done. I’d take the lid off, then wait until it had cooled down enough for me to take things out (I burn myself easily), so I wouldn’t get back to sleep for a long time.
I thought I should try to breastfeed everyday at least once, though sometimes it just didn’t happen and I would go 2 days without trying. It has gotten easier now that she is older and her mouth is a bit bigger. I don’t always have to guide her to the nipple and help her get a good latch; she can do it herself now.
So eventually I started to breastfeed during the night. Sometimes my nipples would be sore, especially as I wasn’t use to breastfeeding so much so I’ve started to use my nipple shields lately when it feels necessary.
I’ve now moved to mainly breastfeeding during the day/early night as well, but T will often offer to feed her after work/in the early evenings, especially if he feels like he hasn’t seen her much.
A friend also told us (and the NHS backs it up) that breast milk fed babies need to take a vitamin D supplement. There are many different brands out there and we have one that seems easier to put in a bottle of milk, though you can put it on your nipple. So this is another reason why we usually give her at least one bottle of expressed milk a day. Maybe when it runs out I’ll try a different one…
Everyday is a different feeding day though. Today (7th) it’s so hot that we’ve just bottle fed her. I breastfed her at midnight and 4am, then she woke up at 7 and since Tiago was awake I asked him to feed her with milk that was in the fridge. I didn’t sleep much as I was aware that I needed to pump, which I eventually did at 9am. Then because it was such a hot day it seemed better to just keep bottle feeding her. I stop and start so much with these posts that now it’s 9pm and I’m pumping and I feel really sweaty.
It’s now 10pm and it’s super hot, but I think I’ll try to breastfeed her in the night just to make my life easier by not having to sterilise a lot. She also hasn’t slept much today, so I’m hoping she’ll sleep for a long time tonight but we’ll see. (8am update- She went to sleep after midnight in the end, but slept until 6am when I breastfed her. I changed her nappy, fed her a little more and she’s asleep again.)
I used to pump every 3 hours during the day, but now I know that my milk production is good and there is quite a bit in the fridge I have been doing it every 4. After she slept for 7 hours in a row last week I also know that I can not pump or feed for that long and it’s also fine. Around 3 hours though I will start to feel a little pain for about 30 seconds if I’m awake which is quite odd.
After coming home from hospital I’d get calls from the breastfeeding support service and they told me that I should try to breastfeed first before expressing. I know on the calls that they were trying to help, but I felt like I had to justify myself to them a lot. Generally the advice you get can be quite different depending on who you talk to, and sometimes you learn things after you’ve already done them – someone said that babies shouldn’t have dummies before 6 weeks until breastfeeding is established but a midwife gave B a dummy in the hospital (with my permission) when she was having photo therapy as she just wouldn’t settle in the machine. By the time I heard about the 6 week thing I’d already been giving her a dummy for at least 2 weeks I think.
In the early days I was warned a lot about over producing – pumping can make this happen apparently. My boobs would get quite engorged and I’d feel lumps, but massaging them in the shower would really help. Just be careful when you get out as you might find that you’re leaking… (If you can’t shower then dunking them in water is meant to be good.)
I’ve said before that if we feel guilty about things (that are legal and reasonable), it’s only because people are judgemental about something that has nothing to do with them. Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, formula feed, breast milk feed or a mix of feed, people will have things to say about it. As long as your baby is getting fed in some form and is putting on weight then that’s great.
You just do what’s best for you and your family.
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