Tag Archives : Breastfeeding

BabyBlog: Breastfed babies at 3-8 weeks 3

You’ve gotten through the first couple of weeks with your new baby and you think you’ve figured things out and then WHAM!  Something changes.   We often forget this, but our children are constantly growing, maturing, changing (and so are we), so this is only the first change we’ll face as new parents.  And they happen weekly, if not daily!  Unfortunately, if we aren’t used to babies and are getting used to parenting on our own, with only our partner…. (and many fewer people to turn to for guidance, especially as expatriates), well, the numerous changes that occur in the initial weeks are often tricky to comprehend.  And, we’re recovering from pregnancy and childbirth too.   So, to help the new parent, let’s talk about some of the changes that occur in the baby in the first two months.

There are several growth / developmental spurts that occur one after the other starting around 2-3 weeks and lasting until about 4 months (with another at about 6 months).  Lots of things are going on during these spurts, not just growth in length and weight, but also in abilities and understanding, i.e. the brain and muscles are developing too (see publications like The Baby Book or Your Amazing Newborn to learn more). In other words, newborn babies are growing, learning and developing at a fast pace.  When these spurts occur, babies need additional nourishment (water, food, immune support, suckling, affection), so want to be at the breast more often.  And as a result a mother’s milk supply fluctuates up and down.

So long as you let baby stay at the breast as he/she seems to want and there are no issues with latch or tongue or lip ties, nor any physiologic issues in your ability to make milk (e.g. hormonal imbalance, thyroid issue, hypoplasia) your supply will keep up!  This said, in addition to often feeling like you don’t have enough milk (because you are unused to newborn behaviour and/or you hear comments around you like “feeding AGAIN?” or “you are going to spoil her if you keep picking her up”), you might feel like you have too much!  The latter is because milk supply fluctuation can often result in fast let-down (with babies sometimes pulling off or spitting up more, which is not fun for the mother, but it means they are naturally managing this stage of breastfeeding).

Sometimes the fluctuations also result in a higher amount of lactose in the milk (as the mother’s body has adjusted to make more milk, but with more milk there is also more lactose). Lactose is simply milk sugar so it’s always there, but when there is a lot of it, babies sometimes get unsettled tummies, can seem fussy, and as lactose is digested differently their stools can turn green and frothy/mucousy (or like algae).

The green stools can worry many a new parent, but in general, if green or changed texture stools are the only thing going on and the baby seems otherwise content (even if fussy), has enough wet and poopy diapers, has periods of alertness, etc., then a parent can just think of this as a normal stage of infant development.  If, on the other hand the fussiness is making the days harder or making the baby not only fussy but apparently uncomfortable (or the mother is getting a lot less sleep as a result), then a mother can “manage” breastfeeding by doing things like:

  • Feeding against gravity (so leaning back more, using laid-back positions)
  • Letting the first flow (let-down) of milk go into a towel/diaper (or bottle to freeze for another purpose) and then re-latching baby to breast afterwards (or hand-expressing off a bit and then latching baby)
  • Feeding with shorter intervals between feeds
  • Increasing time at the breast (& using breast compression to stimulate additional let-downs) and using only one breast at a time
  • etc.

Often mothers will do these things automatically and won’t realise it until later.   But these are NOT things that must be tried or that all new mothers try.  They’re just things to think about “in case” of need.  And they are short term fixes, think days & weeks.   Anything longer than that and you can end up with the opposite problem: slow flow & lower supply!

Parents must also remember that stools can also be green (and also smelly) from allergies (to cow’s milk protein, gluten, etc.) and in these cases in addition to the stronger smell, there can be traces of blood.  Whenever there is blood in a baby’s stools, a quick call to the baby’s paediatrician or other health care provider can provide guidance, but in general blood simply means that there is a broken blood vessel in the bum or that mother has a few cracks on her nipples (check baby’s tongue and latch and think about silverettes for healing) and baby has swallowed some blood himself.  If the latter two are ruled out and it’s not a normal fluctuation of milk supply, then mothers look into eliminating common culprits from their diets (milk, gluten, eggs). Unfortunately it takes around 3 weeks for things like cow’s milk protein (casein) to totally leave the system, but a marked improvement should already be felt about a week after elimination.   Allergies often show up around the same time as the first growth spurt, i.e. ~4 weeks.  Other mothers ADD things to their diets, such as probiotics, to ensure their own physical well-being.

Now let’s go back to the changes in baby:  her eyesight is improving, she’s starting to recognise patterns and people, her muscles are developing, including stronger head control, stronger abdomen, etc.  (see The Baby Book for more ideas).   This means that from around 2-3 weeks of age, baby is transitioning out of the “newborn” phase.  Every day, every week, parents will notice things that baby wasn’t able to do before.   And all these changes mean that every day a baby’s active alert time, sleep time, and overnight time will also change.   There’s just too much going on developmentally in baby’s brain for patterns to last more than a few days/weeks. In fact, it’s VERY common for babies to wake 4-5 times overnight in these 6-7 weeks (not every day, but 2-4 nights in a row repeatedly is common and physiologically expected).  This is because not only do they need to be at the breast more, which satisfies:

  • Thirst
  • Hunger
  • Development & Immune-Defense
  • Need to suckle
  • Need for affection

But also she may wake more because she wants to communicate with her parents about her day, relay information, etc.    A baby’s evening might be between 11-14 hours long, but overnight wakings are expected to continue during this time and for the first few YEARS of a baby’s life.  With 1-3 wakings a common pattern (more during spurts), usually with a long overnight period of sleep of 5-6 hours (either at the beginning of the night or later, if at the beginning, you’ll want to go to bed early!).  A baby’s sleep is quite easy to understand, once you know why it is the way it is.  To learn more about baby’s sleep, read Nighttime Parenting or visit the Ask Dr. Sears web pages about sleep.

What changes did YOU notice in your newborn in the first three months?  Comment below!

Momblog: Learning to Breastfeed & Circles of Support – What is a Doula Part 2

(c) Best for Babes

So apparently learning to breastfeed and learning to become a parent wasn’t going to be as easy as achieving an empowered birth (read Part 1).  Despite the fact that I was breastfed myself, despite my readings, despite following several friends in their breastfeeding journeys in the year before my birth, and despite the fact that I knew that this was what I was meant to do, within HOURS of my son’s birth I was booby trapped!  I was hit with ALL the standard in-hospital Breastfeeding Booby Traps and breastfeeding became a challenge rather than a joy.  This was exacerbated by the fact that each maternity nurse had something different to say: you’re feeding too often, no you’re feeding too much; hold him this way, who told you to hold him that way, hold him like this; he’s lost too much weight we must supplement (and horror: you cannot leave until we know he’s gained weight!) [sound familiar?]….  And you know what?  It didn’t take long for that empowering birth to be quickly eclipsed.    Everything I *knew* was cast into doubt by the supposedly *knowledgeable* staff.

It took me a week at home to finally get back on my two feet and realise that all the maternity nurses and even the home visitor were NOT my baby’s mother and it was up to me to make things work.  I ignored everyone’s advice (who wants advice at this point anyway?  Information and support is what I needed, if I wanted advice, I’d ask!) and just tried to listen to my baby.   Thank goodness I had my own old fashioned postpartum doula at home (my mother) so there was no laundry to do, food to buy and prepare, house to clean, etc.  I participated when I wanted to (not because I *had* to) and just enjoyed being a new mother.

Breastfeeding was MUCH easier when I just listened to my baby (and my boobs!), but after two weeks of bad advice, it was like starting over from the beginning.   Then I started going out to a breastfeeding clinic once a week.   It was actually at these clinics that I “got my groove on” so-to-speak.   I had sorta figured everything out (though I wasn’t confident yet that I had) and just being there amongst other mothers, seeing all the different ways they were holding their babies, loving their babies, mothering their babies, solidified things for me.   And, talking to the other mothers and to the on-staff lactation consultants meant I could do what women do best “talk things through” until I found the “solution” that was best for me.  These women, though I haven’t seen them since, became an important “circle of support”.

(c) LLLI for World Breastfeeding Week 2008

All the while, my mother said encouraging things, explained to people around me why saying “if it’s so hard why don’t you just switch to formula” was NOT supportive or helpful (another booby trap), and just generally loved me.  I especially remember her commenting one day something along the lines that she “enjoyed seeing me in this new stage, learning to be a parent”.  My doula visited me at home too and she had only encouraging things to say, which was also a big help.

At 8 weeks postpartum my mother, my son and I boarded a plane to Amman, Jordan, where I was now moving with my newborn.   The hard newborn days were behind me (but not forgotten).  Breastfeeding was going well and feeding on the plane (take-off, landing, and on cue anytime in between) made things OH.SO.EASY.   In the following 10 months in Jordan, breastfeeding was always something I could rely on (blebs, plugged ducts, thrush and all — I knew where to turn for help now and/or what to do when these things happened).   In fact, between the blebs, plugged ducts and occasional feeling of huge rocks on my chest, breastfeeding was straightforward.   I was even able to help new mothers now, with both pregnancy, breastfeeding and babycare information and support, and did so regularly through online fora.  These online mothers were my circle of support in Jordan (I like to think that it’s this time that the majority of my practical training in peer-support and “doula-ing” occurred!).

But life as an expatriate mother was not easy:  Other than the online mothers (thank goodness for them), I was living mostly alone and I when I ventured further than the local store, I was invariably hiding in the car to nurse (for various reasons, including second-hand smoke EVERYWHERE, the need to not show ANY skin whilst feeding, etc.).   Undiagnosed PPD soon set in (alleviated by 4 months back with my parents in the summer of 2008) which came raging back with another move, this time here to Switzerland.  But this time I knew what I needed to be a the mother I wanted to be:  other mothers to talk to, a support network, a tribe of women.   A Circle of Support.  So four months after arriving, our Parents & Kids club was born…