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Breastfeeding my first baby started very badly. After a long birth, she was put on antibiotics and formula every three hours due to a suspected infection. (Read more about my breastfeeding story) I kept offering her my breast, but not surprisingly she wasn't interested, so I had to express every three hours in order to establish my milk supply. I wasn't given very clear instructions on how to use the Medela electric breast pump I borrowed from the hospital, and found it quite painful. A few days in, I overheard a midwife telling another woman that if it hurt, she should turn the machine down, otherwise she was sending her body the wrong signals. I wish someone had given me that advice since I had been using the machine on the highest setting, wondering why I wasn't getting much milk out.
On day five, I finally got my baby to latch on with nipple shields and the milk was there, so expressing had worked to some extent.
By the fifth week of breastfeeding I had such deep cracks in my nipples, I was advised by a lactation consultant to exclusively express for a few days to allow them to heal. I expressed every three hours and fed my baby a mixture of breast milk and formula because there wasn't enough breast milk coming out. Apparently you can actually mix the breast milk and formula together, but I so wanted my baby to have as much breast milk as possible, I fed her that first and then topped up with formula.
I was using a Medela electric breast pump, which came highly recommended by several friends, but it took me ages to produce any milk at all and I got really stressed out by the amount of time it was taking me away from my baby.
I went on to try a hand pump and produced milk much faster. It suggested only expressing for 15 minutes to start off with, which I did, because the process was opening my cracks up even more. On the fourth day of solely expressing I stopped letting down completely, perhaps because of limiting the time, perhaps because of the pain. I tried to put my baby back on my boob but she wasn't interested.
Breastfeeding went much better with my second baby. We had a really good start and I used nipple shields and creams for every feed to avoid cracks from developing. I mixed breastfeeding and formula feeding from week 2 and had great success. I did attempt to incorporate expressing into my routine, as suggested by Gina Ford in The Contented Little Baby Book to boost milk supply and therefore prepare your body for your baby's growth spurts, but again, I didn't actually produce very much milk and gave up. I think I must be one of those women who is not very good at expressing. I can imagine that this method would help some women prevent their nipples from getting sore during growth spurts.
Antenatal classes did not prepare me for sterilising bottles, pumps, or nipple shields. Since this is actually vital information for protecting your baby from deadly germs, I share my methods here. Please let us all know if you have any other tips:
- Dismantle completely and rinse in running cold water.
- Wash thoroughly in warm soapy water using a clean bottle brush and/or tooth brush.
- Place in microwave, electric, or water steriliser, and follow instructions.
Please share tips on routine, methods, pumps, sterilising and more!