This week’s session was about ‘Understanding Baby Needs from Infancy to Toddlerhood’ and it was reassuring to realise that we were all aware of almost all the information that we discussed – particularly regarding new babies.
However, there were a couple of points raised that I found especially interesting and I would like to learn more about.
Firstly, the subject of weaning onto solids. Having had five children over a nine year period, I can vouch for the fact that recommendations on weaning have changed dramatically! With my eldest, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible, but I found an overwhelming amount of advice to begin solids, to help my baby sleep better. The earliest recommended time for weaning then was 14 weeks and so that is what I did. Well, my boy loved food, but he didn’t sleep any better! You’d think that I would have learned from that experience, but I ended up following the same advice not once, but twice, more – with no.s 2 and 3! With my third, I had already heard that WHO were advising six months exclusive breastfeeding and I was crushed when the GP advised weaning at 4 months to help his reflux (as well as his sleeping, which it didn’t).
With no.4 I dug in my heels. Despite poor weight gain and reflux which put no.3 in the shade, I breastfed exclusively for six months – and I did the same with no.5.
So I was really pleased to find that the current Health Authority advice is a definite trend towards ‘baby-led weaning’. That sounds more natural to me, although I hardly know what it means. Wait til six months, offer finger foods (if baby will take them)…. This is all so different from the advice in baby books 11 yrs ago! Can anyone out there tell me anymore?
I had a bit of a Eureka! moment when I was thinking about this the other day. When I began this course, I didn’t think that I had had any particular difficulties breastfeeding. However, I have come to a realisation. It’s been a long time since I felt the need to ask advice about parenting – mainly because I have found I can quietly discover things within a book, without having to consider refusing the advice of the person I have asked, if I didn’t like the sound of it. Thinking back to that time when my eldest was not sleeping well and I was looking for a solution, I was met with the advice to begin solids from both health professionals and relatives and, although I wasn’t happy about it, I followed that advice (and actually felt more disappointed when it failed). It only just occurred to me this week that that advice is the same as saying that my breastmilk was not enough for my 3 month old baby and that if I had stopped to think about how capable my body would be at providing milk for twins, I would have seen how ridiculous that was. I never really saw that as a breastfeeding difficulty, but of course it was. In fact, the difficulties with sleep and my eldest became such a problem for me that I embarked on sleep-training when he was 5 months old. He slept through the night within 3 days and I was incredibly relieved, but that, combined with his early weaning and love of food, led us down the path of reducing my supply. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but when I fell pregnant when no.1 was eight months, he no longer showed any interest in breastfeeding – although I would have happily continued through my pregnancy.
The other discussion I found fascinating was about ‘nursing-strikes’. I have read a little about this. On occasions a baby may refuse to breastfeed – and this may continue for up to four days! This is obviously very distressing for the baby’s parents and we were given some advice on how to support a mother through a nursing strike:
We must reassure mum that it will pass;
Bottles and dummies should not be offered (in fact, nipple confusion can be the cause of a nursing strike);
Mum should express, to keep up her supply;
It is important that mum rebuilds her baby’s trust with calm, peace & quiet, skin-to-skin contact and avoiding separation from her baby, if at all possible.
There may be other ways to get the baby interested in feeding again, for example: attempting a feed when baby is very sleepy, trying different positions and walking with or rocking the baby.
There are many things that can cause a nursing strike. For example: fright, illness, teething, distractions/interruptions, long separation from mum, a change in routines and arguments or disruptions in the house.
Have you experienced a nursing strike? Did you manage to overcome it? Please write a comment if you can.
Finally, we talked about instances where we had met a new mum experiencing difficulties and had not found a way to help (or, had been that new mum and had not been able to get help from other experienced mums).
I fall into the first category, as I found it extremely difficult to pinpoint the problem when my relative was having difficulties breastfeeding – and my frustration was compounded by the huge changes that would occur in just 24hrs. 24hrs is such a long time in the life of a newborn and his mum, but a mere blink of an eye to the rest of us!
Our instructor reassured us by saying that for breastfeeding difficulties involving newborns, it is vital to spend lots of time with the mother. Only by doing this will we develop a full awareness of the difficulties the mother and the baby are experiencing.
I am sure I must be more prepared for my role of supporting breastfeeding than when I began this course, but I still worry that I might be met with that situation again – where I don’t know what I can offer to help. At least I am aware now of the team of people who can be called upon to help alongside myself.