Ivy has taught me that feeding your baby can be a trial. For many people the only simple thing is knowing their baby has to be fed but working out how, when and how much is no simple issue.
Many people I speak to found arrival of their baby the beginning of a struggle to find the answer to these questions.
How? Breast or bottle – or both?
Breastfeeding is a tricky skill and is not for everyone. I think it is important to remember that we have the technology to support you as you work through any issues or to replace breastfeeding if it does not work for you. Formula is a viable alternative or addition for breastmilk and while I have found working to exclusive breastfeeding to be perfect for me I strongly believe it is not the only way to feed your baby.
When and how much?
A real issue for many people seems to be that the milk supply is slow to build up to match the demand of their baby. While it is true that the supply develops in response to the demands of your baby, we all have our limits. One lactation consultant told me that some babies feed as many as 18-20 times in 24 hours (considerably more than the 8-12 times often quoted as ‘normal’). While this is viable for some, some of the time (for example an increase in feeding during a growth spurt that only lasts a few days) it is very difficult to deal with if your baby is demanding to be fed that frequently day in day out.
In my experience it is also difficult because the baby is also tired from feeding that regularly and not getting any substantial blocks of sleep. It seems to be a bit of a vicious cycle because a tired baby doesn’t feed well – often falling asleep at the breast without feeding properly and then waking quickly because she is hungry.
One trick some people use is to use a bottle (or other method such as a cup or syringe) to give your baby some extra formula or expressed breast milk. The approach often used is to feed the baby completely from both breasts (or for about 40-45 minutes). Then provide the baby with some additional milk – until she or he is full. In the early days with Ivy I was providing an extra 30-50 mls of milk after a feed. This technique often provides the baby with additional food and might help to break the cycle of incomplete feeding and short sleeps.
I found that the extra milk enabled me to have some rest too and in the long run supported our breastfeeding relationship. A lot of the breastfeeding advice suggests that bottle feeding can reduce the baby’s ability to suck or interfer with it. This may be true for some babies but my expereince did not support this – you can buy teats specially designed for the breastfed baby and these are very useful, particularly because they have a lower flow rate and don’t make it too easy for the baby to get the milk. There are other tips for breastfeeding and building supply in a previous post.
You can do it
I think that there is a way to help you balance the needs of your baby with your needs. This means you and your baby need to sleep and eat. How you manage this is up to you and following your instinct will take you a long way but if breastfeeding is what you would like to do my experience is that you can do that while also using a top up to help keep the balance.