Medela UK’s in-house Lactation Consultant, Sioned Hilton provides expert advice and top tips
Do you need to establish a regular feeding routine when breastfeeding?
Remember this is your baby and family; there are no set rules for parenting. You must try and do what suits you all. In the first few months after birth you and your baby need to be close, feed in response to your baby’s hunger and to your breast fullness for comfort. Once you have settled into breastfeeding you may find that you have a flexible routine for going out and about or around bed and nap times. However, these can go to pot if your little one hits a growth spurt and all she wants is to feed for days, or if she is unwell. Establishing a routine may help parents settle and a night routine of quiet time; bath and feed can lay the foundations for later on. However, remember routines have to be flexible as life is unpredictable.
No, you don’t need to feed from both breasts at all times. Sometimes your baby may just be thirsty and others he may want a three course meal. What is important is that you listen to your baby and your body’s needs. Feeding from the first breast you need to listen and see if you can hear your baby swallowing milk regularly, on average it takes your baby about seven minutes to feed from a breast but at other times your baby will pause and will stimulate the breast with his hands to trigger another milk ejection reflex. The longer he’s on the first breast the better he will drain the fat rich milk that comes as your feed progresses. If he is still rooting, then offer the other breast after you feel that the first breast is soft.
If you switch from side to side your baby will be receiving a lot of foremilk – which has protein, carbohydrates and water but not as much fat. As these fat globules are bigger and heavier they take a little longer to travel down the ductal network in the breast. This can affect your baby’s growth because it is important that they get the fat rich milk. When expressing you can pump from both breasts but just be aware it takes approx. 45mins to start replenishing your milk supply after you finish a feed or pumping session.
How do you know if your baby has emptied the breast during a feed?
In the early days (the first 4-6 weeks) your breasts are over-producing milk, this is what we call supply and demand. Many mums feel fuller as time passes between feeds and by touching the breast mums will be able feel a change from a full to a softer breast. After this early period, you and your baby will have learnt how your breast and feeds feel. It is very much based around touching and feeling the breast and also listening to how your baby is sucking and swallowing milk – lots of swallowing means lots of milk transfer.
What is cluster feeding and why do babies do it?
Cluster feeding in the early days often falls in the evening when mums sit down and put their feet up. It’s an enjoyable time and it is nature’s way of promoting a lot of skin to skin contact which in turn boosts breastfeeding hormones. Clusters can also coincide with a growth spurt around three weeks and three months. Even though your supply is now finely tuned to your baby’s demands, you may still find that she has episodes of cluster feeding if she is unwell or needs reassurance. Remember every mum and baby relationship is different.
Do you need to change or reduce how much milk you feed your baby when you start weaning?
When you introduce your baby to solids at around six months you will progress from little tasters to bigger quantities at each meal time. Initially you should breastfeed first, followed by a meal until he is eating more. This usually lasts until about nine months. Once you feel he is eating more you can then tweak to either have less between meal feeds or offer cool boiled water at meal times.
How can I encourage my little one to take a bottle of expressed breastmilk?
It can be difficult to encourage baby to take a bottle, they much prefer mum on tap. It is a case of keep trying little and often. Get others to introduce a bottle – try the Medela Calma. This is the only proven feeding device designed to support the transition from breast to bottle and back to breast using a similar tongue and sucking movement to breastfeeding, minimising nipple teat confusion and supporting continuation of breastfeeding, when parents choose the flexibility of complimenting breastfeeding with expressed breastmilk in a bottle.
Some babies just go straight to a cup so if you really need to have some time apart, nurse before you leave, give some ebm in a cup or on a spoon – the soft cup feeder is an alternative. Keep trying with the calma teat – if all else fails and you consider a conventional teat explore a low slow flow teat and be cautious that it may influence the way your baby sucks on the breast.
How long can you keep expressed milk for?
Once you have expressed your milk, you can store it in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 6 months. Once removed from the freezer use within 24 hrs. Make sure you use it all in chronological order.