Early Childhood: Breastfeeding Tips

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Do you follow a routine with your baby?

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On this page I am going to share with you my ideas and tips for having a routine with your baby.  It would be great to hear your advice too, so please feel free to share below and read each other's ideas.

In order for me to understand my baby's needs and to avoid unnecessarily latching my baby onto my already sore nipples only for her to use me as a dummy and fall asleep, I have found it vital to follow a routine. The advice I was given by midwives, breastfeeding counsellors and health visitors was to feed on demand, to only offer one boob for a feed, and to allow the baby to stay on the boob for as long as they need.  This just didn't work for me, and I had to stop feeding my first baby after five weeks because my nipples just couldn't recover and I couldn't cure my mastitis and blocked ducts.

When my second baby was born, I decided to do things differently in order to breastfeed for as long as possible. Furthermore, as a working mother, I need to be able to fit teaching in between feeds, and I also need to get my older daughter to and from nursery and other commitments.  Without a routine, all of this would be impossible.

You are strongly advised against routines with your baby in the early weeks, but I think you are actually being advised against leaving your baby to cry when they need to be fed.  I never leave my baby to cry.  Instead, I have listened to my baby's needs and have developed a routine so that I can then work out how to fit the rest of my life around it.

Routine: week 1

In the first week of my second  baby's life, I made sure I fed her every three hours in the daytime (or more if she demanded it), waking her up if necessary, to try to get her used to the difference between day and night. During the night I would wake her if she went longer than six hours without a feed because the midwives at the hospital told me it was dangerous to leave her for longer.  In order to avoid getting sore nipples I followed the ideas suggested by Gina Ford in The New Contented Little Baby Book.  She suggests feeding for five minutes on each side on day one for each feed, and then building it up a few minutes each day.

Routine: week 2 and beyond

I have continued to use Gina Ford's suggestions for lengths of feeds on each boob to avoid sore nipples as a guide, although my feeds are about five minutes longer because my baby seems to need more.  

Until my baby slept through the night, I found it quite difficult to follow Gina Ford's feeding times, so I usually fed my baby every three hours during the daytime (or more if she demanded it), following the Feed-Play-Sleep routine suggested in Tracy Hogg's and Melinda Blau's Baby Whisperer.  I kept trying to follow Gina Ford so that I could teach a lesson between the first two feeds of the day and by eight weeks we were loosely following the Gina Ford timings. I added a bottle after the second feed of the day to get a good sleep in over lunchtime and two bottles in the evening because my baby wanted to cluster feed and my nipples couldn't cope.  Read more about combining bottle and breastfeeding on my Mixed Feeding page.

With regards to Gina Ford's nap times, I have used those as a very helpful rough guide.  I don't go crazy trying to get my baby to sleep in a darkened room at home, but do whatever is necessary, for example taking the baby out in the buggy or in the car, or on my lap at a friend's house with a dummy and white noise.  I don't like being stuck at home all the time, so would hate to be in a situation where my baby was only able to nap at home.

Getting baby to sleep

In the early weeks, I was often concerned that I needed to feed my baby when she was actually tired.  It is so heavily drummed into us that we should feed on demand, that the subject of sleep is often overlooked. My baby is very good at sleeping, but she finds it quite hard to actually go to sleep.  She doesn't like being rocked or bounced like my first baby did, and strangely goes crazy in the carseat and pushchair.  I have discovered that using a dummy has gradually worked, and before that a white noise app on my phone and the hoover were the only things that would work!  Please share your ideas on sleep below.  I am sure there are a lot of people who would be interested in your advice.

When to breastfeed and when to bottle feed.

In order to keep breastfeeding for as long as possible, it is always important to offer the breast before the bottle.  In the first eight weeks, I tried to follow Gina Ford's timings for breastfeeds, but usually ended up breastfeeding every three hours because my baby was hungry, and I found it hard to stick to her timings if my baby woke up for a feed at 4 or 5 in the morning. I started giving my baby a bottle last thing at night during week 2 because she wouldn't settle.  She then demanded more milk very soon after the second feed of the day during the 2/3 week growth spurt, so I gave her a bottle then and found that it carried her through to the next Gina Ford feed, which helped me to get my older daughter from nursery, so I kept doing this. Quite soon after that, she seemed hungry after the 6.15pm breastfeed, so I added another bottle then. 

Missing and dropping breastfeeds

I find that missing a breastfeed causes engorgement and then soreness because my baby finds it harder to latch on. I therefore try to stick to the same number of breastfeeds and breastfeeding times each day, following Gina Ford's timings, and then topping up with bottle feeds. Even though I do have the option of bottle feeding my baby when out and about instead of a breastfeed, I try to make sure that I make up this breastfeed later in the day to avoid problems.  This can mess the routine up a little, since my baby goes a little longer after a bottle feed than after a breastfeed. It seems to take my body about 8 days to get used to dropping a feed, so plan for sore nipples if you do decide to drop a feed.  One strange issue that I have found is that as soon as I drop a feed, my baby demands another feed very shortly after the new penultimate feed of the day so I have to give her a bottle at that point, which then pushes the last breastfeed of the day to a later time.  

I dropped the breastfeed before the last bottle of the day during week 4 because my baby kept falling asleep on my breast and I was getting very sore, so I was then doing 5 breastfeeds per day, roughly at the times Gina Ford was suggesting.  My baby was spreading the feeds out by 8 weeks, so I again dropped the last breastfeed of the day, cutting down to 4 breastfeeds per day. I dropped the 5/6.15pm breastfeed at week 12 because I found it was more convenient to feed with a bottle when out and about with my older daughter who attends nursery in the mornings. I dropped the 2.15/2.30 breastfeed at week 13 because my baby was often demanding the lunchtime bottle feed later and was then not interested in the breastfeed until later.  I found this arrangement very convenient because I was then only breastfeeding my baby when my older daughter was at nursery. During week 14, my baby refused to take the breast for the second of my two feeds. I tried to get her to take it for several days but she only wanted the bottle. I stopped breastfeeding altogether during week 17 when I developed mastitis. Read more.

Also read about stopping breastfeeding.

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I really struggled to get my babies to do this routine until they were about four months old and then they just slipped into it. I agree that it is very …

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