Express Yourself

From a few weeks ago, but the expression on Max’s face is great!

So the time has come to talk about feeding! We all know the great breastfeeding/formula feeding is one of the big debates designed to make moms feel judged whatever side of the fence they fall on! You may also know if you’ve read previous posts of mine that I breastfed my daughter for just under a week before switching to formula, partly because she just wasn’t getting the hang of it and there was a worry she’d become jaundiced again and wasn’t putting enough weight on, and partly because I was very poorly.

This time round I’d decided I wanted to try and feed my son if I could. Then within hours of his birth he’d been transferred to NICU and was being attached to various wires and tubes so I was advised to start hand expressing and then on day 2 to start using the electric pump to build up my supply.

As it was, Max was partly tube fed for the first two weeks of his life while being nil by mouth on the other days. When it came to establishing feeding on day 15, I was told to essentially pop him on the boob and ‘see what happens’ although I was warned he was small so may not take to it. I tried on that day a few times but felt massively unsupported. I was sat in a room with a curtain around our section of it, trying to get this tiny poorly baby to attach himself to me. He was so tired he kept nodding off with the effort of it.

And I cried. I cried at every feed because it was bringing back all of the memories of trying unsuccessfully to feed Alexandra. I cried because I knew the only way we would get out of the hospital is if Max started gaining weight and he had to be having a substantial amount of milk to do so. I cried because I really didn’t know what I was doing – and neither did he bless him.

So when they gave me the option of feeding him from a bottle (still
my expressed milk), I took it. And he drank the entire thing straight away despite them saying he may struggle to do so because of his size. And from then on, I carried on expressing and giving him the milk from a bottle. I didn’t even try putting him on the boob.

When we were discharged a few days later, I knew his fast progress was because he’d taken to bottles so quickly and I wondered how much longer it would have taken for us to establish breastfeeding. Occasionally I thought I should have stuck at it longer but I figured he was still getting exactly the same milk, just from a different receptacle!

When we got home they said I could try breastfeeding there if I wanted to. Perhaps I would have done if he was my first but I couldn’t see a way to sit all day trying to establish breastfeeding when there was also a toddler to look after and SO many hospital appointments to attend. Probably once feeding was established, it would take less time than expressing but I couldn’t see a way we could get to that point?

Max is now on a mixture of my milk and a special Neocate formula since he was diagnosed with dairy allergy FPIES. I’ve donated the four litres of milk I’d got frozen from before I went dairy free. Max has 120ml every three hours which is a lot more than most babies his size, but he’s trying to catch up because he’s still the size of a newborn not a two month baby! So if I was able to express eight times a day I would probably be able to build my supply a little and solely give him EBM but it’s normally more like six times a day that I express and sometimes it has to be a quick five minutes rather than a full go, so that’s why we’re topping up with formula.

I don’t know how long I’ll carry on expressing. I felt like it was important for him to have my breast milk, more so because of him being prem and poorly. It would be SO much easier to transfer to just formula (have you ever tried looking after a baby and toddler on your own while expressing?!) but I don’t want to do that just yet.

I’ve only had one bit of outright negativity (I may talk about that separately) and the advantage is that other people are able to feed. So for example sometimes Dylan will be feeding Max overnight and I can go off and express – or even try and get some sleep.

Downsides are I do feel incredibly like a cow ‘milking’ myself all day and night!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

A Wee Weaning Update

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About a month back, I posted about our first few weeks of weaning (post is here if you missed it). I figured now would be as good a time as any to update on how Alexandra’s getting on with food. I won’t update every month as that could get incredibly boring but may do something when she’s completely off milk and on to solely solids. I’m going to put this into sections, more for my own peace of mind that I’ve covered everything I want to cover.

Milk:

When we began weaning, Alex was on five bottles a day of 210ml water plus formula (this equates to about 8oz in total once it’s made up). She dropped down to four bottles fairly quickly when she was eating only a small amount a couple of times a day, we had a bit of an odd blip for a couple of days where she went back to five but then went back down to four.

After a while I worried I was never going to get her down to three bottles but we’ve managed that about a week or so ago and she seems very content now just having one when she wakes, one during the day (she quite regularly splits this one into two sittings) and one before bed.

I think I’m going to give her about a month on this routine before actively trying to reduce the daytime bottle (obviously if she drops it herself before then I’ll go along with that). Then the next step will be stopping her morning bottle, which I think would be fairly achievable just by moving breakfast forward a bit. Then the idea is by the time she’s around one she’ll stop having formula, although she might still have regular milk as a bedtime drink if she seems to still want it.

Schedule:

Alex has her breakfast around 10am, if I give it any earlier she’s not really hungry enough after her morning bottle. Lunchtime is quite late really, around 1.30/2pm but can be later if she’s dozed off for a nap. Then dinner is about 6pm.

What does she eat?

What doesn’t she eat? Alexandra hasn’t refused anything we’ve given her. Current favourites are Weetabix, yoghurt and strangely enough she’s quite partial to a bit of spicy food. She’s obviously taking after her daddy with that one!

All in all, I’m feeling much more relaxed about the whole thing than I was for the first few weeks. It’s becoming much easier now, especially as she can pretty much eat what we eat (blended a little, although she eats much chunkier things now) and because she’s not fussy in the least. Just keep shovelling it in! (That’s where she takes after me, clearly)

Harriet and Alexandra x

Whining About Weaning

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Weaning is one of those topics which really divides mothers (and prospective mothers, and even just incredibly nosey people). Some people believe we should be forcing tasty morsels down our baby’s throats from pretty much the second they cut the umbilical cord. Others see no rush to get onto solids and are happy to wait a few months before they try out proper food with their baby.

I’m firmly in the latter camp. I accept there are occasions where a health visitor or doctor may advise early weaning, usually if there’s some sort of medical problem which necessitates it, but other than that I think all the research screams ‘wait til six months’ so that’s what I’d rather do.
Now Alexandra is five and a half months there’s almost a temptation to start trying her with foods, but equally she’s not quite sitting up by herself yet and I just don’t think she’s ready. Yes she puts everything in her mouth: tasting things is part of exploring and there’s nasty teeth coming through making her want to rub her gums along things. Yes she watches sometimes when I eat: but equally she watches me while I fill my pill box every week, should I be encouraging her to try some warfarin? She’s five months old and the world is new and distracting and amazing, colours and noise astound her and she wants to know what’s going on.
As someone choosing to wait to wean it seems like there’s a lot of pressure to ‘cave in’. Examples of people being weaned early and not immediately keeling over are banded around regularly. I myself was on baby rice aged 12 weeks. But the facts speak for themselves. We know early weaning is more likely to cause problems later on in life.
Plus I invite anyone advocating early weaning to look at my child, really properly look at her. She’s 23 weeks old and putting on weight along the 50th centile. She’s been following the 50th centile for as long as the health visitor’s been tracking her weight. She sleeps all night and is a happy, smiley baby. Does it look like she’s desperate to eat? Does it look like she’s malnourished?
Alexandra is perfectly happy on a bottle. She knows no different. But as a mom I feel confident to rely on the experts as well as my own instinct that we’re fine solely on milk for the next few weeks. Yes it will be amazing trying out different foods with her and hopefully instilling her with a healthy appetite for the rest of her life. But she has years and years of eating solids ahead of her, there’s no rush to make her grow up just for the thrill of telling people your baby eats solids or a cute Instagram picture. My baby thrives on milk and I thrive knowing she’s fine and dandy doing just that!
Harriet and Alexandra X

Feeding Guilt

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I’m absolutely all for mothers having a choice when it comes to feeding their baby. I wrote a post on here while still pregnant stating I would be trying to breastfeed but wouldn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t able to for whatever reason. I think moms should feel comfortable feeding wherever they like and shouldn’t have to deal with comments from ignorant jerks who don’t want to see a baby being fed by its mother.
However I can’t help but have this tiny bit of guilt attached to the fact I didn’t maintain breastfeeding. We tried to get Alexandra latched on pretty quickly after birth – although in my hazy drug-addled and exhausted state I have no memory about whether she actually fed properly that time. Over the next seven days I tried repeatedly to get breastfeeding to ‘work’ for us. I was producing milk, a lot of milk, so that wasn’t the problem. Alex just didn’t seem to want to go to the effort of feeding properly. She might latch on sometimes but then she wouldn’t actually do the necessary to get any milk.
Each day we seemed to spend longer and longer trying to get her to feed. It seemed I was either trying with her at my boob or expressing. She was being cup fed by Dylan occasionally and then we were also having to top her up with formula. Countless people tried to help us out (by people I mean midwives and healthcare assistants not just random passers by!) and offer advice and a helping hand. So many helping hands I felt like someone was constantly touching me!
By the Friday (she was born the previous Saturday) I was crying a lot about it. I know I’d just given birth and was hormonal anyway but I was very seriously ill by this point, I hadn’t been able to try breastfeeding for 24 hours due to a CT scan (they put dye through your veins which obviously isn’t safe for baby as it can get into your milk), during which time I’d had to express and throw it all away.
I was in pain, I was hooked up to oxygen 24/7, I couldn’t get to the bathroom and back on my own. Midwives were expressing concern Alex’s jaundice could return and she’d dropped the 10 per cent of her body weight and was a tiny 5lb 15 so we couldn’t afford for her to lose any more. Dylan and I had a chat and decided the best thing to do would be to formula feed. Immediately she began eating so much more and all the concerns about her health and the crying at every feed (from both of us) stopped. I knew we’d made the right decision. And thank heavens we did because three weeks later when I was back in hospital without her, how would we have coped then if I was still breastfeeding? And even if I’d managed to express enough to keep her going through the nights when we were apart, she would have to have been solely formula fed by the time I was in intensive care two weeks after that. By the time I came round my milk supply had ceased.
So all in all I think I have a reasonable back story to why I don’t breastfeed, even if I didn’t it would be absolutely fine. But I do still get these occasional pangs of guilt. I like to think I’d have tried for longer had I been well but who knows. I just know when people who don’t know me ask me whether she’s breast or bottle fed or when I perceive looks from people seeing me bottle feed her in public, I want to explain to them. I want to tell them I tried and it didn’t happen. I want to tell them even if we’d got through the first few weeks there’s no way we could still be breastfeeding now.
And I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone why we as a family made the decision we did. As much as it’s horrific for breastfeeding mothers to feel pushed out of social situations or to be sat at home feeling like they can’t go out, we also should be supporting bottle feeders! After all, we know the benefits of breast milk but as long as your child is happy, healthy and eating something – and you’re happy too – surely that’s the important thing?
Harriet and Alexandra X