Well, baby is three weeks old today and we’re already reaching our first growth spurt. How do I know this? An increase in fussy feeding and crying (that’s her, not me, although the frustration makes me want to cry on occasion).
I really wanted to write about this tricky phase of feeding as I think it’s probably one of the greatest risks to breastfeeding success. Just as the initial adrenaline and ‘novelty factor’ of looking after your precious bundle starts to wear thin, as the regular broken sleep starts to bite, so we get the first of many growth spurts.
For us, the fussiness seems to be worse in the early evening, traditionally a time when baby cluster feeds. I have a very fast and copious milk flow – a nice problem to have, perhaps – which seems to cause her problems in latching and staying latched as she repeatedly chokes and screams with frustration as she is unable to satisfy her hunger. Despite having fed as regularly as ever all day, she seems ravenous, her enthusiasm to latch on for more milk almost the cause of her inability to latch. Frantically searching for the source of food she is all fists and bobbing head, her mouth not coming close to where it needs to. In my mounting frustration, I realise I am holding her too tightly at the back of her head – far better to guide baby from a hold behind the ears as they tend to rebel against being pushed towards your boob by the back of the head (wouldn’t you??).
After several failed attempts, we are both soaked in milk and pretty hacked off. To make matters worse, this has been happening all day, and frequently as she is busy putting in an order for ever more milk, upping her quantities for future days as she puts on ever more weight.
I hear many mums saying they didn’t continue breastfeeding because they simply couldn’t satisfy their baby. ‘Hungry babies’ can’t exist just on breast milk – this must be one of the most common myths out there. Time is the key to getting through this tricky period and succeeding in continuing to breast feed. Time: in as much as you need to give your body time to respond to your baby’s requests for more milk. In a day or so, production will increase to meet her needs and everything will settle down again. Time: in as much as you need to set some aside, put some other elements of your life on hold for a day or so to focus on feeding. This is exactly where I have been for the past couple of days – increasing the amount of skin to skin time together to keep her as settled as possible and allow her to feed in short spurts, which makes the volume of milk coming at her easier to deal with. Just chilling out, using this as an excuse to sit back and feed as and when I need to, keeping her topped up throughout the day in an attempt to try to reduce the frantic searching for food in the evening and, in turn, help her to have a more successful feed each time she latches on.
Also, of course, a little time for yourself is important too. If, like me, you have a fast supply of milk, some time in the shower or bath and a little hand expressing can take the speed off the flow just prior to a feed and make things easier for your little one. But have your relaxing bath or shower first, enjoy the down time and the chance to be alone. I don’t know about you but I think one of the hardest things about having a baby, especially first time around, is the complete lack of alone time. Suddenly this little person is almost surgically attached to you and the responsibility is huge. Especially if you are breast feeding as you can’t really share the feeding unless you are expressing enough milk to give the odd bottle.
Take the time – focus on yourself, your baby and your feeding. You’ll get through this little tough patch and come out the other side all the stronger for it. As I am sure I have said before, breastfeeding is a very natural and basic thing, but it is far from easy. The rewards, however, are well worth the effort.