Breastfeeding: A tale of two mothers

It takes most new mothers about six weeks before they feel they've got the hang of breastfeeding.

It takes most new mothers about six weeks before they feel they've got the hang of breastfeeding.

Mother-of-three Kate Griffith always looked forward to breastfeeding her newborns. "It was five minutes of peace ...time for just the two of you," she says.

For Alicia Duffill, the mother of 10-month-old Lincoln, breastfeeding often meant pain. "He absolutely destroyed my nipples."

Duffill didn't read up about breastfeeding before she gave birth. She worked 50 hours a week until a fortnight before going into labour, and never found the time. Instead she learned on the job with her "wonderful, supportive" midwife team. 

Christchurch mum Kate Griffith has exclusively breastfeed her three children Tilly-Rose, Oscar and newborn Eddie.
Stacey Cox Photography

Christchurch mum Kate Griffith has exclusively breastfeed her three children Tilly-Rose, Oscar and newborn Eddie.

Duffill returned to part-time work when Lincoln was four months old and started to bottle feed him as well as breastfeed. It was then that she began to struggle.

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She had always hoped she would be able to breastfeed Lincoln, but the pain became too much.

About 50 per cent of babies find it difficult to mix feed, going from a bottle back to the breast.
123rf

About 50 per cent of babies find it difficult to mix feed, going from a bottle back to the breast.

"We think that the mix feeding ruined the nice latch he had.It was very painful."

Duffill says she felt relieved when she permanently switched to bottle feeding. 

There's too much stigma around bottle feeding, she says.

Keeping a baby skin to skin stimulates their instinctive breastfeeding behaviour and the mother's milk supply.

Keeping a baby skin to skin stimulates their instinctive breastfeeding behaviour and the mother's milk supply.

"A fed baby is what matters. You need to do what works best for you."

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Griffith, a self-proclaimed breastfeeding pro, didn't find it easy in the beginning.

She has exclusively breastfed all her children: Oscar, now seven years old, Tilly-Rose, now five years, and newborn Eddie. 

"It was painful at first, but it gets easier the more babies that you feed."

 Before her first birth she read Best Feeding, supported by the La Leche League. The practical advice gave her confidence and made a big difference to how she approached breastfeeding with Oscar. 

"I felt confident that I knew what I was doing and I believed that my body was made for it, so I knew that I could do it."

Now she says her one tip for new mothers is "educate yourself on how to breastfeed so you feel confident before baby arrives". 

"Also, you need comfy bras - they are a must," she laughs. 

COMMON PROBLEMS

New mothers face numerous struggles and uncertainties when learning to breastfeed. From painful nipples and difficulty latching, to making sure baby is feeding frequently enough.

Learning a new skill is hard and breastfeeding is no exception for first time mothers and their baby, says New Zealand College of Midwives midwifery advisor Carol Bartle. "Most women can take up to six weeks before they feel that breastfeeding is well established."

The most common struggle new mothers face is "knowing how to latch", Waikato District Health Board lactation consultant Margaret Fletcher says. 

Delivery complications can impact on a baby's instinctive behaviour to breastfeed. To remedy this Fletcher "encourages all mothers to keep their baby skin to skin. What that does is it stimulates the instinctive breastfeeding behaviours in the baby. 

"Long periods of skin to skin during the day, when the mother is awake, helps a baby to feed. It also stimulates a mother's milk supply. Babies with skin to skin care attempt to breastfeed more often."

SIGNS OF AN EFFECTIVE BREASTFEED

Bartle says the signs of an effective breastfeed are:

* Soft sounds of swallowing

* The mother will notice their breast is fuller before a feed and emptier after

* Change in the baby's sucking pattern from fast suckles at the beginning of a feed, to slower ones as the milk starts to flow

* Sometimes the mother will see milk at the end of a feed

* Nappy output. After day five, it's expected a baby will soak five or six nappies a day and fill three or more

MIX FEEDING - "DELAY THE BOTTLE"

Using a combination of breast and bottle with young babies is a risk, Fletcher says.

"What we know is about 50 per cent of babies find it difficult to go from a bottle back to the breast.

"Our advice would be to try and delay the bottle. Once breastfeeding is established and the baby has got the hang of the breast, it's much easier to switch back and forward.

"But it's a decision each mother needs to make herself. We are here to support mothers in whatever decision they make."

RED FLAGS

Misinformation can make it tricky to know what's normal and when to call for help. If a baby is demonstrating the following behaviours, Fletcher says parents should contact a lactation consultant or midwife. 

* Excessive, high-pitched crying, breast refusal, frantically hungry, a dry mouth and decreased skin elasticity are signs a baby is dehydrated.

* At the opposite end of the scale a sleepy, lethargic baby is also cause for concern. "A newborn baby should feed a minimum of eight times in 24 hours, that's really important...  A mother might think she's just got a content baby, but if a baby is sleeping for six or seven hours, chances are it's not getting enough milk and something is wrong," Fletcher says. 

* It is typical for a baby to cluster feed (feed several times in a short space of time) at some period during the day, normally late afternoon. But, if a baby is on and off the breast all day it is a good indication the mother needs to see a lactation consultant.

* "We've come across a number of woman who have been told it's normal for their baby not to fill their nappy as much in their first week, but that is actually a red flag," Fletcher says. While it's true older babies who are breastfed won't fill their nappy as often, newborns should [poo] at least three times a day.

*If a mother is experiencing ongoing breastfeeding difficulties, it is recommended that she see a lactation specialist for a skilled assessment. For more information visit Plunket's commonly asked questions on breastfeeding.

 - Stuff

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