Holidays interrupting breastfeeding?

As the holidays start and visitors arrive many people find their normal “routine” goes out the window and you seem to spend time rushing around after everyone else more than usual.  It’s easy with all the festivities and visitors to attend to, to find that you just don’t have as much time to sit down with your baby/child to cuddle and breastfeed as you would normally.  It’s often a time when children don’t behave in the way the would do at any other time of year and older babies especially, get very distracted by all the interesting activity around them.

Most babies will breastfeed beyond a year old; if a baby suddenly stops breastfeeding before a year old it is quite likely to be a “nursing strike”.  A nursing strike doesn’t mean your baby necessarily wants to stop breastfeeding but it does mean something has got in the way of, or made him want to stop breastfeeding right now.  Sometimes it’s not possible to ever find out exactly what caused it, but time and patience will often solve it.  It might be a sore ear, stuffy nose or something else physical that is making breastfeeding uncomfortable, or it might just be that there are so many distractions and delays in breastfeeding for a couple of days that your baby just stops asking.

So what can you do if it happens?  Well, as this most often happens to babies from 7 months upwards, there is no rush to replace the lack of breastfeeding with lots of other drinks and foods – your baby is probably quite a strong little thing by now and eating some solids.  You can express your milk and give it to him in a cup if he wants it – expressing will also help to maintain your milk supply and prevent engorgement, blocked ducts etc.  Avoid bottles and pacifiers though as these will just satisfy the urge to suck with something other than your breast.  Some mother’s find that trying to feed when their baby is sleepy or drowsy works, others find feeding in the bath, while standing or rocking, trying a totally different position than your baby is used to, and sometimes just leaving it for a day or two so there is less tension and anxiety around breastfeeding.  Usually after a few days, but sometimes as long as a couple of weeks, things return to normal for no apparent reason.

Young babies don’t enjoy being passed around from one person to another but it can be difficult to deter excited family and friends.  Using a wrap or sling is an easy way to keep your baby close and calm during these times, and means that your baby can remain peaceful and relaxed… feeding in a room where there are less people can be useful too.  You might feel more relaxed and your baby is less likely to be distracted.  Young babies are so beautiful that people just can’t resist touching them but it is very distracting for a baby to have his or her head touched – especially when they are feeding.

There is very little food that is banned now your baby has been born, but if you have concerns over your supply it might be best to avoid too much sage or peppermint as both are reported to reduce supply in some women.  Alcohol can suppress the milk letdown reflex and make baby’s sleepy so best avoided if possible.

Finding time out for peace and quiet with your little one can be hard though at this time of year, and can lead to frustration and worry.  Over the holidays most organisations are closed so don’t forget to check out where your local La Leche League leaders are.  You can also check whether there are Peer Counsellors in your area, national breastfeeding helplines and lactation consultants.  There’s nothing worse than feeling you are on your own with a problem and there is no one available to listen or help… and sometimes the “help” and “advice” from visiting relatives and friends is, well, unhelpful :-)

The Breast Room specialists are available all through Christmas and the new year holidays.  You can find their details on Facebook  You can contact them on or 027 476 1339.

Happy Holidays every one!  🙂


Breastfeeding… it takes time

The other day a mother said to me that she wished someone had told her that it would take time to get breastfeeding “right”.  She’d done lots of research prior to having her baby – read books, spent time on google, talked to people – but she didn’t recall anyone telling her that it would take time.

The thing is, for some people it doesn’t feel as though it takes very long for breastfeeding to feel natural, and “right”.  Others feel that it takes them ages to get to the point where it all feels ok.  Just because breastfeeding is what our bodies are designed to do, doesn’t mean it will just work straight away.  There are a lot of things we do, that are “normal” or “natural” for humans… walking and talking for example.  However, these things that we take for granted have to be learned before they are automatic or natural, and take a fair bit of time to master.  Breastfeeding is just the same.

People learn a lot by watching others, so surround yourself with people who do, or have, breastfed.  Find out where you can go to talk to women who breastfeed, women who are having the same experiences as you, or have already been through the stage you are at.  Stay in touch with the women you meet at antenatal classes – it’s amazing how much moral support you can get from these people, and sometimes they become life long friends 🙂

But just as important, give yourself and your baby time.  Be kind to yourself.  It can take a few weeks before you feel completely comfortable about breastfeeding – and that’s just fine.  Sometimes babies need a bit of time to get the hang of it all too!  If you don’t feel that things are improving, or working the way they should, then ask your midwife, a lacatation consultant, or other breastfeeding specialist or supporter for some information.  They can talk to you, find out what’s happening, and often share information and ideas that will help.  If you don’t want to talk to someone face to face, there is lots of support online;  Facebook has some great groups too – look out for Breastfeeding NZ, The Breast Room in the House, LLL NZ, and Kelly Mom to name a few!



World Breastfeeding Week

The 20th World Breastfeeding Week is almost upon us – the first week of August every year.  Each year there is a different theme and this year is Understanding the Past, Planning the Future.  20 years ago, WABA launched the first World Breastfeeding Week with the theme Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Has a lot happened in the last 20 years?  What should we do in the next 20 years?  Some believe that we should just be quiet and stop going on about it.

In 2005, Women’s Health Action in New Zealand organised the first Big Latch On as part of World Breastfeeding Week.  Each year the numbers of women breastfeeding at the event has grown, helping to increase awareness and support for women breastfeeding outside their home.  We too often hear new mothers worrying about whether or not they will get asked to leave somewhere simply for breastfeeding their baby.  Human milk is made for human babies.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies receive only breastmilk for around the first six months of their lives and that breastmilk should then be continued alongside other foods for 2 years or beyond.  Surely no one expects a mother to only feed her baby within her own home for 2 years or more?  But perhaps the people who disagree with breastfeeding in public also disagree with the WHO recommendations…

Of course, breastfeeding for 2 years or beyond isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine too.  It’s all about making informed choices – they key word being INFORMED.  Being informed about choices means knowing both sides of the story, having enough information about the whole picture before making a decision.

I wonder, is there more information available now, to help people decide whether or not to breastfeed, than there was 20 years ago?  Is the information easy to find, complete, unbiased, presented in a way that is easy for all audiences to understand?  Have things changed for the better or worse in the last 20 years, or is it just different?  What needs to happen next?  What do you think?

Either way, look out for the Big Latch On in your area.  Maybe you will learn something new 🙂





Breastfeeding and bras

One of the things I always think is great about breastfeeding is that it doesn’t require the purchase of lots of equipment.  I know there are cushions, covers, special breastfeeding t-shirts etc – but none of those are actually necessary, they are a choice.  However, there is one thing that needs to be correct if you are to purchase one, and that’s a nursing bra.

Not everyone wears a bra when they are nursing, it is absolutely personal choice.  If you are comfortable then that’s all good.  BUT, if you are going to buy a nursing bra you need to buy one that fits properly and is a suitable style.  Over the last few years I have seen many women who have run into problems caused by an ill fitting bra.  In the first few weeks after your baby is born, your breasts will fluctuate in size as your breasts fill with milk.  After the first few weeks your milk supply and your baby will be a bit more in tune and the change in breast size will be less noticeable.  Therefore, the first nursing bras you buy need to be a suitable style to deal with this.

There are two main styles really.  One has a cup that unclips and leaves the breast free, the other has a cup that unclips to reveal an inner cup that has a hole in it allowing the nipple and areola to be exposed.  Both are fine when you have been breastfeeding for a while, but experience has shown me that the second style (with the inner cup) can sometimes be less suitable in the first few months.  This is because the edges of the inner cup can put pressure on the breast causing restricted milk flow, blocked ducts and ultimately mastitis.  Not all do this as some are softer, less rigid inner cups, but some are very firm and not appropriate.  I have heard bra fitters say that the inner cup is required for support during breastfeeding.  I do not agree.  A well made bra will give support without needing two layers of cup, and when you are actually, physically in the process of feeding your baby, you are unlikely to be doing start jumps or any other physical activity that requires extra support – you will probably be sitting down quietly somewhere!

This type of style (click here) is the type that I would always suggest for a new mother.  You can see from the picture that from the top of the breast downwards is uncovered, leaving the breast free and without pressure.  The other style looks more like this but you can see in this picture that the piece that stays in place at the top of the breast is soft and stretchy, which may be ok for some women.  Some manufacturers use a more rigid piece of fabric here that would potentially cause problems.

A bra provides good support mainly from a wide band, so you will find that the band on a nursing bra is usually wider at the back than a fashion bra, and may well have 3 or even more rows of clips.  Wide, adjustable straps will also help to ensure good fitting and comfort.

It is best to get your nursing bra fitted close to the end of your pregnancy – definitely not before 36 weeks, and preferably from 37 weeks onwards.  When your bra is fitted you should find that the band around your ribs is a little tighter than you would normally wear.  This is because your at this stage of pregnancy your baby is pushing your rib cage up and out.  Once your baby is born your rib cage will go back to it’s usual position, making your bra fit less tightly.  The cups should feel a little large at the time of fitting, allowing you to easily fit your flat hand in the top of the cup with some room for movement.  This allows for the increase in breast size once your baby is born and your breasts are making milk after the first few days.

If you choose to use breastpads at night then you might also need a bra for nighttime.  A soft, unstructured bra is best for nighttime.  A supportive, day time bra has too many seams and structure for nighttime and you may find that the seams and edges of the bra dig in when you are sleeping causing discomfort or other problems.

It is important that you feel comfortable in your nursing bras.  If the person doing your fitting doesn’t seem to understand how breastfeeding works and how a poorly fitting bra can impact breastfeeding, then ask for someone more experienced to help you, or try a different store.  It is not ok to wear a bra that is too small – even when you are not breastfeeding.  If the store does not stock a decent range of sizes, then go to a different store.  Remember – in the old days breasts were bound tightly to stop women producing milk…

A new grandchild… a time for happiness or stress?

Becoming a parent is an amazing and exciting event, and for grandparents it just as exciting too!  Even if your baby isn’t the first grandchild in the family, it will still be a time that everyone wants to be involved in.  You probably noticed that being pregnant almost seemed to make you public property to some people, and even strangers were happy to tell you their birth stories and give you advice.  I remember being eagerly told that my life “would never be the same again” by several people – including strangers 🙂

When it comes to breastfeeding your baby, you will hear just as many stories from other people – including the inevitable horror stories.  Establishing the breastfeeding relationship with your baby takes time.  Breastfeeding is something we have to learn to do.  Yes, it is the natural way to feed a baby, but if it’s not something we’ve done before, then we need to learn – just as we learnt to walk, talk, eat, etc as we grew up.  In the past we would have learnt a lot about breastfeeding as we grew up, by seeing women in our close community breastfeeding.  Unfortunately our communities are more widespread these days and we don’t grow up around cousins, aunts, friends of the family, breastfeeding their babies.  One of the ways humans learn to do things is by seeing others doing them – just look at children desperate to copy what their older siblings and parents are doing!

Sadly, due to the way many of our parents, and even grandparents, were advised to care for their babies, we are often not lucky enough to be able to learn from their breastfeeding experiences.  This can lead to some real conflict in the family.  Grandparents want the best for their grandchildren and usually really want to help their own children (you) become parents too.  Most grandparents will have been strongly encouraged to feed to a schedule – often 4 hourly – which would have meant that breastfeeding would almost certainly have failed.  Mothers were told to let their baby cry rather than spoil them by picking them up or holding them for too long.  Some mothers defied the “rules” of those days and breastfed on demand anyway, but they seem to be in the minority.  Have you noticed how we seem to go along with what “medical” people tell us, without questioning them, no matter how hard it might be, or how it goes against what our instincts are telling us to do?  Whole generations of mothers followed these “rules”.

Imagine how grandparents feel seeing their son/daughter looking after their baby with no routine or plan for the day?  For some, it must look as though everything is totally out of control!  For others it might feel that the baby is not being looked after properly… after all, the “rules” are not being followed.  If you were taught that picking up a baby all the time would spoil them, then you would be worried if someone else seemed to be doing the thing that would ruin the child.  Imagine the dilemma!  What do you do?  Interfere?  Or let the baby suffer?

And for new parents it can be difficult to trust our instincts.  It’s uncomfortable to feel that you have to justify your (inexperienced) thoughts on parenting to someone who has already successfully raised their child(ren).  No matter how old we get, it can be hard to go against our own parents – you are always their child, no matter how old you are!  Backing up thoughts with research sometimes works, but most of us have heard the “well, you grew up all right” response.

What we know about a baby’s development and breastfeeding now is so much more than what was known when our parents were new parents.  Some of it will sound amazing, but much of it might actually make grandparents feel guilty.  Guilty for not doing the “right thing”, but maybe also for not following their instincts and parenting the way they really wanted to…

Either way, what do you do?  The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers has a downloadable leaflet called You’re going to be a Grandparent.  It is a document that talks about why breastfeeding is important for a baby, and why it’s also good for the mother.  It answers some questions too – like the ones about feeding so often, feeding for too long, and how grandparents can really help and be involved with their new grandchild without resorting to giving bottles.

It might be worth thinking about things that would be really helpful to you and asking grandparents to do some of those things for you.  Give them the chance to take your baby for a walk or bath the baby if you want to – but if you are not comfortable with that, don’t feel you have to!  Talk to them about what you are trying to do, and how you would like them to be involved – ask them to take lots of pictures for you, knit or sew for your baby, talk about stories or songs they used to read or sing when you/your partner were babies.  Learn some phrases that help you respond:  “that’s really interesting, thank you” or “I hear what you’re saying but the research I’ve read says…..  Can I show you?”  Here are some more ideas you might find useful.

You all love your baby, and all want what’s best for him or her.  Comments can be difficult to deal with, and somehow when they come from grandparents they seem to manage to knock our confidence and beliefs so much more.  Make sure you and your partner talk about what you want to do and find ways to support each other during these times.  Your partner may be able to talk to his or her parents more easily.

I feel very sad when I talk to new mothers trying to deal with breastfeeding issues that are primarily due to the changes they have made as a result of comments undermining their confidence.  If you are struggling with this and need some help to get breastfeeding back on track, or help with ways to handle unwanted input to your parenting style (or anything else to do with breastfeeding), leave a comment on this post, contact a local breastfeeding support group, local peer supporters, or La Leche League.

The Breast Room in the House

The Breast Room in the House was an idea I had about a year ago.

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) takes place the first week of August each year.  Early in June 2011, during a discussion about WBW,  I was asked what I would do if I could do anything locally to help women who want to breastfeed.  Having been involved in breastfeeding drop-in groups in England, I was keen to start something similar in Dunedin.  There are many groups around that support breastfeeding, and places women can go to get help (eg. Lactation Consultants, Plunket, LLL, etc), but I wanted to create something that was less “official” and had no links to any specific organisation.

That year, I’d also been training women to volunteer as Breastfeeding Peer Supporters and so I was also conscious that these women needed somewhere to volunteer and use their new skills.  Some of them were happy to make contact with mothers they met during their day to day lives, but others were keen to do something more structured.

So, when I was asked what I might do, the idea of The Breast Room in the House began to grow.  The Methodist Mission had recenly opened The Hub in South Dunedin, a community centre for groups offering support/information/education for local families – the perfect place for me to start 🙂

And so now, one year on, The Breast Room in the House is well on it’s way to being very successful!  There is an ever growing team of volunteers, with myself and Jill providing support, ongoing education, and an escalation point for the peer supporters.  The feedback from the mothers who have visited us has been great – and they keep coming back too!

The Breast Room in the House is a place to come for information and support about breastfeeding; it’s for pregnant women, mothers who are trying to make breastfeeding work, mothers who just want to have somewhere to go for a cup of tea or coffee on Thursday mornings, somewhere for a chat about why breastfeeding didn’t work… a comfortable, welcoming place where women can meet other mothers, and talk in confidence about their situation.  We can provide information sheets, books, breast pump hire and a listening ear 🙂

The theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2012 is Understanding the Past – Planning the Future.  The past year alone has been interesting, and the future is exciting!  I hope that The Breast Room in the House will continue to grow.  We are already able to offer more than we could when we started a year ago, I expect us to get busier in the next year, perhaps we’ll even open up on another day of the week too.  We move to bigger premises in the next month or so and I’ll be relocating the antenatal breastfeeding classes for parents to our new venue too; I’m even considering starting a nursing bra fitting service  – The Breast Room in the House will be a center for everything to do with breastfeeding!

Who knows where we will be in another year!