Very often mothers are being asked to supplement their babies either in the hospital after birth, or by their pediatrician in the early weeks. It is no surprise to me that doctors prefer a mother to supplement their baby with a bottle, in a fashion that will allow them to chart an exact amount of what a baby is eating. I wish there was a meter on the breast that told you exactly how much your baby was drinking, alas there is not so we work with what Mother Nature has given us. Thankfully, Mother Nature has actually given us a lot to work with, and there are quite a few ways to know that your baby is getting plenty of milk, but that is a whole other post!
There are many different reasons your doctor may suggest supplementing your baby. Did you know that supplementing with infant formula is not the only option? You can, and it is preferable to, supplement your baby with your own expressed breastmilk! Did you also know that you do not need a bottle to supplement? That is right! There are other methods other than a bottle to supplement your baby. I am not saying that you should not bottle feed your baby, and I am not concerned about nipple confusion. I am concerned however about baby preferring the ease of a bottle over the work required to nurse at the breast. When given a bottle, the bottle has control of the milk flow, whereas at the breast baby is in the lead. I always recommend waiting until baby is at least six weeks old to introduce a bottle, and when you do to use a paced method of feeding.
In the case that you and your doctor decide that supplementing is best course of action for your situation, I always advise that you get in contact with your professional breastfeeding support person. She can help you navigate the process of supplementation and maintaining your milk supply- especially if your reason for supplementation is that your baby isn’t able to nurse. When you find yourself needing to offer your baby expressed milk, there needs to be a balance between how much and often baby is given the milk and how often you are stimulating your breasts to ensure you will have an adequate milk supply for your baby when they are nursing exclusively at the breast again, if that is your goal.
There are different methods you can use to express your breastmilk for your baby. The first, obvious method is an electric breast pump. It is important if you are using a breast pump to ensure that it is fitting you properly. The flange, or breast shield, is not a one size fits all piece of equipment. You may need to change the size you are using, and sometimes even need different sizes for each breast depending on your anatomy. If you are not using the proper size breast shield pumping will not be as effective as it could be and you may damage your nipples. Ouch! The other method for milk removal is hand expression. Hand expression is highly effective, and preferred during the first 24-48 hours after giving birth. This is especially so if you had IV fluids during your birth as the fluids can cause excess swelling in your breast tissue that can interfere with using an electric breast pump. Hand expression is fast, easy, and more conducive to milk collection when you are producing colostrum.
During the first few days your body will produce colostrum, which is measured in drops. Trying to collect colostrum in a pump doesn’t work, as the colostrum drops will dry to the pump parts before it has a chance to collect into the attached bottle. This is extremely discouraging to a mom who may already be fearful that she will not produce enough milk for her baby. When using hand expression, you can collect your milk in the same vessel you plan to use to feed your baby. You can use a spoon, or a small cup with a rounded edge like the one in the picture. It is very easy to fill up a spoon with drops of milk. It would take no time at all! All you need to do then is bring the milk to your baby’s lips and allow baby to lap up the milk like a kitten- yes your baby will do this! You can also use a syringe to extract the milk from the spoon or cup and slowly drip the milk into baby’s mouth, sometimes even while they suckle on your pinky. This method is favored by doctors so they can measure the amount in milliliters (ml), though you could also test to see how many ml of liquid your spoon holds, and track that way too!
Your baby’s belly is extremely tiny in those early days. At birth your baby’s tummy is about the size of cherry and can hold about a teaspoon of milk per feeding, that’s only about 5 ml! Your baby’s stomach will slowly increase over the first weeks until eventually reaching maximum capacity which is average 3.5oz per feeding. The amount of milk your baby should be eating depends on their age and their weight until baby is over 10lbs. Once baby is 10lbs you can expect baby to drink 25-32oz in a 24 hour period, and it will not increase after that. Always check in with your breastfeeding expert and your pediatrician to know exactly how much milk your baby should be drinking.
It is important to make sure to always offer the breast to your baby first before offering a supplement. This will ensure adequate stimulation at the breast, and allow baby to have their suckling needs met. After a nursing session, offer the supplement to your baby and be sure to express breast milk every time a supplement is given. Your milk supply works on a process of supply and demand. So, if baby is drinking the supplement, it will take time away from the breast, so you need to make up that time by either hand expressing or pumping your milk. Your breastfeeding professional can assist you with this process. If your baby is not latching at the breast, or you are separated from your baby, it is imperative you seek professional breastfeeding support so that you can create a plan of action to establish your milk supply and make sure your baby’s feeding needs are being met.
My hope for all of my clients, and every mom, is that breastfeeding goes well from the start and no intervention is ever needed. When intervention is needed, I am confident however that with the right support virtually anyone can have the breastfeeding relationship they desire, however long they desire it to be. I wish you all healthy pregnancies and easy breastfeeding!
Your Successful Breastfeeding Expert Kelly
Blog Post Written by Kelly Doresi, Successful Breastfeeding Expert.
As a Lactation Expert in private practice, I have spent a lot of time supporting mothers in their homes, in the spaces that are most comfortable for them. This very often means nursing in their beds. I have sat on hundreds of different beds, and supported these mothers in them, teaching them to nurse in “side lying” positions, and also offering safe sleep information. I am an advocate for co-sleeping, an umbrella term for many forms of sleeping near a baby, and am an even bigger advocate for safe bedsharing instruction.
The truth is, bedsharing actually can be safe when you follow the rules, and one of the most important rules is: use a firm mattress. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for more info about safe bedsharing.) In my practice, it is rare to find a mother using a mattress that is suitable for safe bedsharing. Typically the mattresses are too soft, which creates dangerous indents for baby to roll into when laying next to baby. Until recently, the only mattress I have ever confidently been able to recommend for mothers to use has been futon mattresses, as they are the only mattress that is firm enough to stay flat when laying next to baby. Who really wants to sleep on a futon mattress? The problem is, futon mattresses are incredibly uncomfortable, and wreck havoc on the spine. The last thing a new mom needs is back pain! Ouch! Now, I have FINALLY discovered a mattress that is both firm enough for bedsharing AND comfortable! This is life changing you guys!
It all started when *I* needed a new mattress, as ours was beginning to sag. I didn’t want to spend a fortune, and since I was bedsharing I needed a mattress that was firm. Through a Facebook ad I came across a mattress called GhostBed. (FYI, I am writing this because I love this product- GohstBed by Nature’s Sleep did not ask me to write and they have not compensated me for writing this either.) I was immediately intrigued by the mattress, and decided to give it a try! They even had a 101 day money back guarantee. Not to mention it is incredibly affordable.
Fast forward to the day my GhostBed arrived. It was heaven. It was such an upgrade from our uncomfortably firm, spring mattress we were previously using. I immediately put it to the test and took a looooong nap with my son, and it was fabulous. The mattress did not sag when I layed on it, and my baby did not roll toward me. For bedsharing purposes I would compare the level of firmness (or lack of sag for that matter) to that of a futon, but the comfort of the GhostBed is ABOVE and beyond. I have now been using the GhostBed for about six months, and the mattress is still just as firm and comfortable as the day it arrived.
I am confident recommending this mattress as a safe, and comfortable platform for bedsharing. It is also very comfortable without a box spring too! It is recommended when sleeping with your baby to place your mattress on the floor, away from walls. Our other mattress was NOT comfortable at all when on the floor. The GhostBed almost seems to be enhanced by it. We have two GhostBeds, one on the floor in my son’s room and one in my bedroom on a box spring. They are both equally pleasant to sleep on, and both the perfect firmness. Now, when I teach my prenatal breastfeeding classes and support moms postpartum at home, I always tell them about the GhostBed, and safe bedsharing of course.
What’s even better than all of this????? This family run company is breastfeeding friendly! I had the pleasure of speaking with Ashley Werner, Director of Social Experience at GhostBed by Nature’s Sleep. This is what she had to say:
“As a very health-conscious individual, I always knew that breastfeeding would be the only source of nutrition for my son the first six months of his life. The way I see it, the abundance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. present in breastmilk is the best gift I can give him!
I began sleeping on the GhostBed around the 6th month of my pregnancy. My prior mattress was too soft and was causing me increased lower back discomfort, especially since it was my first pregnancy and my body had never held so much weight in my stomach area before. Once I switched to the GhostBed, within about a week my lower back pain disappeared completely, and I spent the remainder of my pregnancy getting unusually great sleep for a preggo!
Naturally, once my son was born, breastfeeding him in my GhostBed was easy, relaxing, and stress-free. I’m well aware of the risks of having an infant in the bed, but because the GhostBed is a firmer mattress, it took many of the risks away.
As a full time working mom, getting my sleep at night is critical. Of course, waking up when the baby cries in the middle of the night is part of the job as well. But being able to bring him into my GhostBed with me while we nurse made the entire experience much more manageable.
At 17 months, we are still going strong nursing! Luckily I no longer have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed him, but first thing in the morning and right before bed we nurse. I get some strange looks when people hear that I still breastfeed, but I love it and so does my son. It provides so many wonderful benefits to both mommy and child that I see no purpose in weaning until I am ready.”
As promised, here are the rest of the rules for bedsharing safely. You can find more information about safe bedsharing in the links provided below.
Co-sleep is an umbrella term for many forms of sleeping with your baby. Things that fall under co-sleep are, but are not limited to:
Despite what many people believe bedsharing, under the right conditions, can be SAFE. It is considered safe for non-smoking, breastfeeding mothers who are not obese to bedshare. How is bedsharing safe? Well, first let's go over a few myths involved in this subject.
Myth #1: Your baby will die of SIDS
First of all, SIDS and suffocation are two completely different demons. Secondly, your baby is actually significantly less at risk of SIDS if bedsharing, or any form of co-sleeping is practiced. Babies greatly benefit from hearing their mother’s rhythmic heartbeat and breathing throughout the night. Newborns are not unconscious breathers like we are. They need to think about it. Hearing you breath is a reminder, and also sets a pace for them.
Myth #2: You will roll over onto and crush your baby.
You will be surprised how well aware of your child you will be! It is completely natural for a breastfeeding mother to create a protective curl around their infant while they sleep, keeping them close to their body. Any time that baby stirs or makes a sound you will be in tune to them and wake. Many mothers find themselves actually waking just before their baby, only to then realize their baby was ready to nurse. Talk about hormonal chemistry! Obviously, there is an exception to this rule. If you are under the influence of over the counter or prescription drugs which may make you drowsy, DO NOT SLEEP WITH BABY. If you are under the influence of illicit drugs, alcohol, or are sleep deprived, DO NOT SLEEP WITH YOUR BABY. It should also be noted that ONLY the exclusively breastfeeding mother should sleep with her baby- not the father or anyone else.
Myth #3: You will never sleep again!
On the contrary. I sleep far better with my baby next to me in my bed than I ever have with him even at arm’s reach away from me, and so does he. I have peace of mind knowing that I can just open my eyes and not need to get up to check on him. Night nursing is a breeze too. I don’t even have to wake up to nurse him. I wear an easy access shirt and keep one breast exposed and he pops on and off as he pleases while I sleep! Research also supports this.
Myth #4: You will never get the baby out of your bed.
Fostering a secure independence begins with a healthy dependence. Part of this includes sleeping with or near your baby. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends co-sleeping for the first year of life. During the first few months, especially, having your baby in your bed will only help you all get more sleep. Newborns are also not designed to sleep alone, and when they are a bit older, and ready to sleep on their own, it will be much easier to do so when they are not nursing frequently through the night.
Myth #5: Bedsharing will destroy your sex life.
Have you seen the internet meme floating around that reads, “Co-sleepers do it in the kitchen!”? Well, it's true. Or in the bathroom, shower, on the couch, down the hall, etc. You get creative. I personally would resent being in a relationship where sex strictly had to take place in the bedroom or on a bed. How boring, right?
Now that we have gone over some myths, let's go over some do’s and don’ts of bedsharing.
The Do’s of Bedsharing:
The Don’ts of Bedsharing:
Mothers have been bedsharing for thousands of years, all over the world. It is an instinctive, primitive parenting technique. I hope someday the negative perception of bedsharing will change and it will be socially normal and accepted. The links provided are a few of my sources, though most all of this information I have committed to memory. Happy and safe Bedsharing everyone!
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a nest is defined as:
a) a bed or receptacle prepared by an animal and especially a bird for its eggs and young
b) a place or specially modified structure serving as an abode of animals and especially of their
immature stages <an ants' nest>
c) a receptacle resembling a bird's nest
As Human mama’s, we also NEST with our young, in very similar capacities as our fury, feathery friends. I can recall after having my first child, finding the need to venture out of the house to get ‘fresh air’ at the nearest shopping center or grocery store. Not only did my child remind me every few minutes that she was in the process of a growth spurt, but boy oh boy did I ever hear the flak from every person with a keen sense of maternal inclination. “OMG, tell me you did not take your child out of the house” or something to sort. That’s when a respected and beloved friend explained to me the term ‘nesting’. I had never heard of it before and immediately envisioned a bird gathering twigs or regurgitating its food from its beak to feed her infant chick. Nesting is two-fold and now years later I’ll break down 2 different ways you can look at the word NEST and apply it to the role of a new Human mother.
Can be looked at as removing all external worries or responsibilities that would typically take precedence prior to the birth of your child, while replacing it with baby-focused attention, rest and more rest. Whenever I teach a Prenatal Education class, I explain that just as baby will sleep, eat, pee and poop, REPEAT - so should mom during the early days of the postpartum period otherwise known as the 4th Trimester or the NESTING stage. It is completely healthy to have the desire to clean, organize, cook, do laundry, etc. It is also healthy to do NONE of those things. They’ll be ready and waiting when you are in the mental space to put energy and effort toward them. This is an excellent opportunity to ask grandma, auntie, neighbor or friend to assist in any way they are willing to fill in. Nesting can last for 4-6 weeks or more.
N – NURSE often, on demand, focusing on your baby and absolutely nothing else. Don’t watch the clock-
watch your baby and his/her hunger cues. Remember hunger cries are the latest cue of hunger and
baby was actually hungry 30 minutes ago.
E – EDUCATE yourself on breastfeeding, contact a Peer or Professional Breastfeeding Supporter
(Successful Breastfeeding Expert), ask questions and seek out resources in your community, debunk
breastfeeding myths (like breastfeeding is supposed to hurt a little), talk to your peers that have
been successful with breastfeeding, attend a breastfeeding support group prenatally or as a new
mom – this will help in terms of seeing breastfeeding IRL (In Real Life). Remember that years ago, we
were successful with breastfeeding because we saw it every day and knew what ‘normal’ looked
like, thanks to our village of support.
S – SKIN TO SKIN can be done at any time with any parent/baby dyad (mom, dad, sibling, grandma,
aunt) regardless of feeding choice during newborn stage and beyond. Skin to skin helps stabilize
baby’s biological function within the body (heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature), increases
bonding and reduces mom’s stress while increasing moms oxytocin levels, thus reducing the risk of
PPD (Postpartum Depression). Keep in mind that the solution to almost EVERY infant issue can be
resolved by bringing baby skin to skin, including latching difficulties.
T – TRUST your baby and trust your body. When given the opportunity, just moments after delivery –
most healthy-term infants, moments after delivery, will make their way to the breast when placed
on moms belly or chest. This is known as the ‘Breast Crawl’. Likewise, just as your body was capable
of sustaining your unborn infants life in utero for 9 months, so is your body yet capable of
continuing that same work in sustaining your growing infants life while on the ‘outside’ of you (this
applies to both singular and multiple births).
To watch our video on NEST for BF Success CLICK HERE or watch below.
Welcome to this new blogging journey I have embarked upon. I look forward to sharing stories, successes and maybe even a few failures (since we all learn from our failures and move on to better and higher right?). I envision an intro post in the near future along with a story or two of how I started this journey as a Lactation Professional and Successful Breastfeeding Expert. In the meantime to read my Bio click HERE.
As always for more information or to schedule a Successful Breastfeeding Prenatal Class , Successful Breastfeeding Support Service (In-Home Session) or a Return to Work Workshop visit our website at http://www.successfulbreastfeeding.org/
“Jennifer was fantastic. In my second week postpartum, I was upset because breastfeeding was not going well. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my little one but I was ready to give up. Jennifer was able to come over that day and in 2 hours give me peace of mind. She was extremely professional and had a lot of information. She was also able to answer all of my questions I had, plus more. I was successfully able to get my little one latched without pain and feeding the correct way. I would highly recommend Jennifer as a lactation consultant.” Jessica M.
It will be easy. Baby will latch just fine. You’re a natural. Don’t worry. Millions of mother’s breastfeed. It can’t be that hard, right?
Those were all common phrases spoken to myself, in third person, prior to the arrival of my first kiddo. Yup that’s right, I told MYSELF all of those absolutely ridiculous things. I believed them. My affirmations were my truths until SHE came, three weeks early I might add.