Thursday, 28 June 2012

Rootn Tootn & Breastfeeding

It is National Breastfeeding Week here in the UK, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and experiences. This is also the first post I intend to add to the Britmums linky - I wish I had found out about Britmums before their event last weekend!

When I was pregnant, the midwives kept asking if I was "going" to breastfeed. I knew enough from friends' experiences that it is not always a choice - sometimes the baby just won't latch, or your breasts do not give enough milk. So I told them that I "hoped to" or "planned to" but figured I wouldn't really know until Junior was born. I bought a few nursing tops and bras, as well as a few bottles. I thought it was best to be prepared for any eventuality.

When Junior was born, he was on my breast within minutes. He had a strong latch and I was pleased. He fed nearly non-stop for the first two days in the hospital, and I let him, being encouraged by the midwives to do "baby-led breastfeeding". I was told not to pull him off until he was done, so we did marathon hour and hour-and-a-half feeds - just on one side! I didn't usually offer him the other side immediately, knowing that the next feed was only an hour away.

By Day 5, my nipples were raw.

The midwives were supportive and encouraging, but kept offering conflicting advice. There was no latch problem, so we experimented with different positions. There was a possible tongue-tie, but no one was sure. I started using various accessories to try to reduce the pain: Medela nipple shields, Lansinoh soothing gel pads*, Lansinoh lanolin, vitamin E, and pure aloe vera gel.

By Week 1, he had lost a few grams. By Week 2, he was still under his birth weight.

When he continued to struggle with his weight over the first few weeks, more drastic measures were discussed. At Week 5, he had his mild tongue-tie clipped; I started taking Domperidone and Fenugreek to boost my milk supply; and we started supplementing with formula. His weight gain was fine after that.

I continued to breastfeed, although every feed was still painful. Gradually, I found out that "baby-led breastfeeding" didn't mean feeding for hours every time and that it really was best to offer both sides. His feeds became slightly shorter, and I began to offer both sides each time. We managed to get into a routine of alternating breastfeeds and formula, and I admit I did not adhere to the recommended not-more-than-X-hours-between-feeds advice since his shortest feeds were still around 45 minutes long.

The pain didn't stop, though. I stopped using the nipple shields after a few weeks, and stopped using the gels and creams as well in an effort to "toughen up" my breasts. Junior and I had found comfortable positions, his latch was as strong as ever, and my milk was increasing.

Now, at six-going-on-seven months, breastfeeding is still painful but I do it. Every few weeks, when he is on a growth spurt, he does what I call SSM: Super Suck Mode. My right nipple is still raw and I curse under my breath whenever he latches, but I only pull him off when the searing pain goes through my entire body. The left side has never been that bad, perhaps because he still feeds longer on the right. (I have come to think of the left side as my "reserve breast", which I give him first when the right side is unbearable.)

Why do I keep going? There are times when it's not so bad and I sort-of-kind-of understand what women mean when they talk about the tender bond between mother and baby. It soothes him, when nothing else will. And I believe that it is still the best foundation I can give him. So my goal is to get to one year. Or he has teeth. Or I just can't bloody take it anymore.

In the meantime, I got in the early habit of timing all his feeds. My lovely husband developed an iPhone app, which makes it easy to record feeds and set reminders for the next side, feed, nappy change, etc. I am proud to say that I came up with the name, Rootn Tootn. Junior was born at St Georges Hospital in the neighbouring part of London called Tooting, and I started calling him the "rooting tooting cowboy" since he was always hungry and often ... well, let's just say making certain noises.

I wish that breastfeeding was not so painful for me. I wish people wouldn't tell me it shouldn't hurt anymore (thanks for nothing!) I wish Junior sucked nicely and properly. I wish he spent the same amount of time on each breast. I wish he didn't hit me / wave his arm / scrunch my nose / wiggle his leg AND breastfeed at the same time. I wish he would do quick, efficient no-longer-than-ten-minutes-on-a-side feeds. I wish I could produce enough milk not to need Domperidone and Fenugreek (I'm still taking it. Goodness only knows what it is doing to my insides.)

But I'm glad that I can do it at all. I often think about the millions of women around the world who have no breastfeeding support - how do they manage? Do they give up, or do they figure it out on their own? Do they bother with nursing pillows, pads, creams, (iPhone apps!), different bras for day and night?

I'll keep going and sometimes I'll enjoy it. But listen out for my quiet cursing. Watch me wince. And know that it's not always the gentle experience that they tell you it will be.


(*best things EVER - why aren't they more readily available in the UK? I ordered mine on

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

six months


Junior is six months old already. Everyone says children grow up fast - it certainly feels that way. The past few weeks have been a period of rapid growth for Junior.

We started with a week in Yorkshire and the Lakes.

When we got home, Junior started exercising his legs.

We had the gorgeous summer weather that we missed 'oop North', and we had a few picnics with friends.


Wimbledon Common

Womb Mates

Picnic in South Park, Wimbledon

Picnic (MarbleCam)

Then we started feeding him solids. So far, he has successfully tried baby rice, applesauce, carrot purée and a soft carrot stick.


Carrot purée

But his main achievement has been rolling, which led quickly to getting up on all fours, crawling (or lunging forward, with nearly the same effect), and just two days ago he sat up by himself for the first time - all in the space of no more than five weeks.

On all fours

Sitting up for the first time

We have had to retire some favourite clothes that don't fit anymore, and replace them with new faves. I am proud to say that in six months, we have yet to lose anything, not even a binky or a sock. Sadly, we are about to 'graduate' from yoga class - with Junior's newfound mobility comes the increased potential for accidents or simple mayhem. He is beginning to enjoy swimming more; at least he splashes his arms and kicks his legs. We sing songs ('stretchy stretchy K' brings a smile to his face) and he is showing more interest in his books.

And perhaps it is inevitable that with all this energy and motion, he needs his sleep, too.


Bare feet

Six months has passed so quickly. Junior used to be the smallest baby of the group. Now the other mums are jealously asking me for tips on encouraging self-feeding and crawling. I wish I could take credit for it, but the truth is that My Genius Son figured it out himself. Maybe he'll tackle potty-training next month - ha!