Why I’m harvesting colostrum at 35 weeks

I haven’t told all that many people that I am antenatally expressing my colostrum (first milk) into tiny little syringes but I am and I am actually pretty proud of myself at the moment (even though my running total is 1.5ml at the time of writing).

I haven’t told all that many people that I am antenatally expressing my colostrum (first milk) into tiny little syringes but I am and I am actually pretty proud of myself at the moment (even though my running total is 1.5ml at the time of writing).

So why am I doing it?

Tongue tie

Primarily, I decided to do this because I have a tongue tie, my son has a tongue tie and so do several members of my immediate family who have subsequently had issues breastfeeding. There is very real risk that this baby will have a tongue tie as well and having a supply of milk that she doesn’t need to work so hard for could buy us some time to get it sorted.

When I was pregnant with my son four years ago I had no idea that I could save this stuff and that it could be even remotely useful. As it happens, the reason babies can survive on so little before your normal milk comes in after a couple of days is because colostrum is high in sugar, fat and calories. It really is amazing stuff and I want my baby to have it even of it can’t come direct from the source right away.

Allergies

At 2 days old, between phototherapy lights for jaundice and having my boobs manhandled by several midwives a day because I wasn’t “feeding right” I was coerced into feeding my son a bottle of cows milk formula because “his blood sugar must be low and he’s too exhausted to feed” even though frequently falling asleep at the breast before finishing a feed is a tongue tie symptom that should have been spotted by these experienced professionals. He promptly threw up pretty much the entire feed and we were back to square one. Now, I have no real evidence to back up this theory but part of me believes that if I hadn’t been guilt tripped into giving that bottle of formula my son might not have developed an allergy to milk. Tiny little babies aren’t designed to break down such complex proteins. If there is even the smallest chance that I can avoid this baby going through what my son still suffers I will take it.

Being in tune with my body

Last time I didn’t know what my body was capable of so I didn’t trust it and I didnt work with it, I possibly even worked against it. I remember being told to just express a bit of milk by hand onto a spoon or something and I just didn’t really know how to handle my breasts effectively (sounds daft, right?) so I didn’t get anything out.

I did go on to pump breastmilk a little and learn how/when it was best to do that and what my breasts responded to and what they didn’t but it was slow progress with a lot of sore nipples and heartache. It was also nearly four years ago.

Being prepared like this, knowing what my body can do and understanding some of my limits is making me feel stronger as I head towards full term and much more confident that my body can take care of my baby.

Recovering from trauma

I haven’t talked too much about the trauma of my son’s birth and the weeks that followed it. They somehow manage to be both the best and worst weeks of my life and unfortunately a lot of the happiness is still shrouded by simmering anger. I have been working hard to turn that angry energy into positive progress throughout my pregnancy and expressing my colostrum is surprisingly therapeutic. All the knowledge and experience I gained from being let down over and over with my first child is being channelled directly into making more informed choices this time. Any bitterness I felt towards my boobs for letting me down (yes, that’s a thing and yes, I know it’s silly) is melting away now I can see how well they are already working for my unborn child.

If I am separated from my baby at birth

No one wants to think about some of the things that could go wrong during labour and childbirth or unexpected complications with mother or baby that result in separation at birth but sometimes it does happen. If I am unable to attend to my baby’s needs for whatever reason then I know she will have a little stock of my milk to get her through for a little while, packed full of my antibodies to protect her in this big scary world.

Gestational diabetes

Now, I don’t have gestational diabetes but it definitely deserves a mention here! If a mother has GD then there is a risk that her baby’s blood sugar could drop rapidly once they are born. Having expressed colostrum on hand means baby will be able to get the sugar they need quickly without the need for formula milk.

If you liked this you might enjoy…

Can you breastfeed a baby with tongue tie?
Allergy alienation
taking control of my second pregnancy

7 Actual Important Things all Pregnant Women Need to Know…

There are so many practical things no body ever told me when I was pregnant and I never even thought to ask  – You don’t know what you don’t know, right? 

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I see a lot of posts on this subject that focus on the funny side, about how everyone will see your nakedness and you won’t care, about how you’ll get used to being puked on etc etc.  This post isn’t that, there are so many practical things no body ever told me when I was pregnant and I never even thought to ask  – You don’t know what you don’t know, right? 
 
So, here is MY personal list of really important things that I should have been told, I’d love to hear yours in the comments!

1. Group B Strep 

It’s strange, I was asked several times on the maternity ward whether I was Strep B Positive and I always assumed that I must have been tested or they wouldn’t be asking (after all, they nicked enough of my blood for testing over the course of my pregnancy) I also assumed I must have been all clear or they would have told me. WRONG. It wasn’t until Harriet got her results that I found out what it is and why it is so crucial for EVERY mother to be tested in EVERY pregnancy. (Read her story here)
 

2. Your birth might not go according to plan

Okay, thats a pretty obvious one and I guess on some level we all know that but what I mean is that no one told me exactly what it was that could go wrong and how that might be resolved. Nobody prepared me for emergency procedures in theatre. I suppose nobody wants to scare a pregnant woman, well, I’m gonna do it. You might have to have major abdominal surgery. You might have to have your lady bits sliced and diced. Your lady bits might rip and you could lose a lot of blood. If you are pregnant I would strongly advise you to talk to your midwife (or relevant healthcare professional) about what you can expect if you need to have an emergency procedure. What the risks are, why they happen and what you have to sign when they thrust the surgical permission slip at you between contractions. It’s going to be easier to take that information on board when you aren’t 15 hours into labour and drifting in an out of consciousness.
 

3. Packing for hospital stays 

I see a lot of posts about hospital bag essentials. I disregarded most of them because they contain bluetooth speakers, tablets and essential oils. I packed a small bag of actual essentials (clothes for me, clothes for baby, nappies, sports drink, vaseline, maternity pads, granny pants, phone charger, hospital notes) which would have been absolutely fine if my birth had  gone smoothly and my son wasn’t crazy jaundiced. My poor husband was back and forth with clothes and supplies all week. He doesn’t drive so he was walking three miles to the hospital and three miles home (what a trooper). So, pack a bag for if things go to plan. Pack another, bigger bag for if they don’t. Oh, and hospitals don’t give you shampoo. 
 

4. Tongue tie (and other feeding issues)

This is a huge deal to me and I will be talking about it in more detail in another post soon. I did hear tongue ties mentioned when I was pregnant. ONCE. It was in the following context; “You can’t breastfeed a baby with tongue tie because they can’t latch to the breast”. This is possibly the single worst piece of misinformation I was given. My son had a tongue tie and he latched and fed, just not very well. None of the midwives or health visitors picked up on it and I had no idea what to look for. I was supported by amazing local services which are now facing massive budget cuts (see their campaign here) but I wish I had gone to see them when I was pregnant for some advice and again after my son was born before I was told that his behaviour was normal or that it was my fault.
 

5. Nappies

You are going to be changing a LOT of nappies. I decided to use cloth when I was pregnant but my dinky baby didn’t fit in them to start with. If I had realised just how many disposable nappies we’d get through in the first three months (around 900) I would have invested in some smaller sized cloth nappies. Obviously a lot of people told me that it would be a lot but the actual figures still startled me. If you’re in the UK you can find your local cloth nappy library here.

6. How and when to bathe a newborn 

This one was a source of panic for me from around 20 weeks. I asked at an antenatal class but I was shown with a rigid toy doll and no actual water so I was ill prepared. When I was presented with a mucky baby fresh out of the womb I had no idea if I should be washing the gunk off of him and how I might go about that. I avoided it for a while and picked the crispy bits of womb lining out of his perfect hair as best I could. He was eventually washed for first time at a week old by a lovely member of the maternity ward team who talked me through top and tailing. I still had no idea how to give him an actual bath so I just didn’t, for weeks. I’m still not 100% sure but if you’re concerned I hope you find comfort in the fact that it isn’t just you.
 

7. Dressing your baby 

How do you get those tiiiiny little vests over the head of a baby with zero muscle control? (Answer – you put the head hole under the back of their head and pull it gently over the top). As silly as it sounds, no one ever told me or showed me and I had not slept much so how was I to know? It took me a week to figure it out – luckily I have a summer baby. He lived in fully poppered sleepsuits most of the time. Also, everyone kept telling me I needed a going home outfit for him and that is a lie. I needed a clean sleep suit for him to go home in. I did pack an outfit but he was too tiny and I didn’t care one bit, I just wanted to get home.
 
I’m sure I’ve missed some because… well because my son is two and my brain is mush from all the parenting. As a bonus, I asked my husband what he wished he’d known. Apparently he’s quite traumatised. Here is his list:
 

Labour is terrifying

Seeing your partner in labour, in that much pain and not being able to help is awful. Seeing them in theatre and having to hold it together when you’re worried you might lose the woman you love and your child is the scariest thing. 
 

Babies are terrifying

How do you hold them with out breaking them? How do you change nappies? Dress them? Undress them? Put them in the carseat? Pick them up? Put them down? HOW?
 

The weight of the world is terrifying

Your partner just made a small human. She is in no position to do anything much so you’ve just gone from being responsible for yourself to being responsible for you, your wife and your baby… and all of the cooking and cleaning. Two weeks in and you have to work again. It’s a massive adjustment to make and it can be a little overwhelming.

The soft spot is terrifying

Every time you touch the soft spot you think you’ve hurt your child. Absolutely. terrifying. 

 


If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

harriet labour
 
 
sarah birth story
 
tongue tie
 
We are linking up to some of these amazing blog linkies!
 
Mummies Waiting

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

 

Cuddle Fairy

Can you breastfeed a baby with tongue tie?

At the clinic we were told that she had an anterior tongue tie. We had been positive it was posterior given that it went unnoticed for so long, but the severity of it was another example of how let down we had been by the health professionals. She could poke her tongue out, yes, but she could neither move her tongue side to side nor up and down. Her movement was that limited.

This is something I’ve balled my eyes out over. Not once, but what feels like a million times.
I never knew what a tongue tie was, until I had Olivia. Even then, it wasn’t a case of her not being able to feed from me and it being diagnosed straight away. Oh no, no, no… She was exclusively breastfed for the first 11 weeks of her life (I hate that it wasn’t even 3 months) and at that time everything changed.
You see, a tongue tied baby can breastfeed, and the longer they can manage it, the more they are exercising and stretching their frenulum – the little bit of skin holding the tongue to the base of the mouth. BUT it will get to a point where the movement is too limited to continue to be able to latch. What makes it more difficult is that the exercise and stretching, in my case, confused the health visitors and breastfeeding gurus/lactation consultants because Olivia could poke her tongue out… something which tongue tied babies aren’t supposed to be able to do.
At 11 weeks old, Olivia’s weight had already dropped twice the 2 weeks before, and there I was at the weigh in, confident that she had been fed much more regularly and must have put on weight this time. That all came crashing down in a split second. In the space of 3 weeks she had plummeted from being on the 75th percentile to the 0.9th. The health visitor looked at me. If you’ve experienced this you know that look. It was saying, “What have you been doing to your baby?” I broke down. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t hold my baby. The guilt consumed me. I only wanted what was best for her. Why was MY milk not good enough to keep her growing?
And then she said it.
“Your baby needs formula.”
It all happened again. I couldn’t breathe. I nodded silently, sobbing uncontrollably.

If you’re a formula feeding mama by choice, maybe you won’t understand this… But my choice was to breastfeed her exclusively. I was against formula completely, I didn’t want to put her on it, I wanted her to have my breastmilk that my body had made specifically for her. I was proud of breastfeeding and there was never a doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed her for as long as I could. Until I couldn’t. The choice was taken away from me.

My daughter was starving.
Starving.
That’s the first time I’ve admitted it, you know. Before now my partner and mother in law have said it. I know that it happened but I couldn’t admit it. It added to my guilt. If she was losing weight why didn’t I put her on formula sooner? But the truth is I was blamed for the problem. It was thought to be because of her having a dummy, or because I had a routine with her and wasn’t feeding her on demand (even though I was).
Jamie (my other half) and his mum pleaded with me to give her a bottle for my own sanity too. I remember in particular she said I couldn’t have Olivia hanging off me 24/7. But they didn’t get it. I did everything to keep breastfeeding.
When she finally got diagnosed with a tongue tie, we were referred to a specialist clinic in London to have it snipped. She was 14 weeks and 2 days old. The oldest baby in the clinic. I had to lie about how much breastmilk she was having because for the NHS to snip the tongue tie the baby had to be almost exclusively breastfed. I hired a double breast pump and my GP put me on domperidone, an antisickness tablet with a side effect of lactation. But even that wasn’t enough to get my supply back up. For 6 weeks at that stage Olivia had either been not getting enough milk herself or had been having formula, and once the demand isn’t there, the supply isn’t either.
At the clinic we were told that she had an anterior tongue tie. We had been positive it was posterior given that it went unnoticed for so long, but the severity of it was another example of how let down we had been by the health professionals. She could poke her tongue out, yes, but she could neither move her tongue side to side nor up and down. Her movement was that limited.
At the clinic they told us we needed to massage the wound daily to stop it repairing, and that the babies weren’t to use any artificial teats. We should finger feed them instead with a nasal tube in their mouths like a straw. That was nonsense. Maybe it would have worked on a newborn baby for a mum whose supply hadn’t deteriorated like mine, but again I had to choose formula. I carried on breastfeeding and the first feed after the operation was amazing. I could tell the difference in her latch. I could see how hungry she was. And I took comfort in the fact that I had this perfect feed and that my milk was healing her wound.

Don’t get me wrong the operation itself was horrendous, but at least she could feed now. I wanted to go back to exclusive breastfeeding, but once your supply has virtually gone it is so hard to get it back. So she stayed on formula, and on the minute amount of breastmilk that I was able to give her.
One night she just stopped. She didn’t want it anymore. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt final and it was the last time she ever latched onto me for comfort in the night.
That was 5 months ago.
At 9 months old we ended our breastfeeding journey. And believe me there were A LOT of trials and tribulations along the way, but her tongue tie was the worst one of them. It broke me again and again. I felt guilty for such a long time, but I did everything I could and I’ve accepted now that formula and breastmilk made my baby girl grow from this….
To this…
I loved breastfeeding. I could never understand why you wouldn’t try, but sometimes you will end up formula feeding anyway. It still upsets me, but I know I can’t carry that guilt anymore.
That’s my breastfeeding story.

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…


Bottle Feeding Through World Breastfeeding Week

I am absolutely pro breastfeeding (it’s giving your child food that is designed for them, why would anyone be against it?) but somewhere along the line that has become, to some, synonymous with anti-bottle/formula and that is really not the case.  I don’t want there to be ANY parents out there feeling bad for providing their child with nutritionally appropriate food. 

World Breastfeeding Week makes me kind of emotional because I am constantly reminded of what I fought so hard for and ultimately couldn’t manage. I can’t let this whole week pass me by without saying something because I know it isn’t just me… 
If you are a bottle feeding parent then World Breastfeeding Week can put a bit of strain on you. I know this because I was one and this same week last year was much tougher for me. So, I’m writing this for bottle feeding parents to know they are not alone and it’s okay to feel a bit ‘mehhh’ this week. I am also writing this so that all of you amazing booby mummas  know that us bottle mummas want to offer you support on your journey but can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by it all.
I am absolutely pro breastfeeding (it’s giving your child food that is designed for them, why would anyone be against it?) but somewhere along the line that has become, to some, synonymous with anti-bottle/formula and that is really not the case.  I don’t want there to be ANY parents out there feeling bad for providing their child with nutritionally appropriate food. 
I desperately wanted to breastfeed my son and I was blessed to be able to do that for a short while but ultimately I made the decision for his health and for my own mental health –  he was better off on formula and I have to keep reminding myself a lot that I couldn’t actually have tried any harder than I did. So, without meaning to, I sometimes find myself feeling a bit bitter over the course of World Breastfeeding Week. It’s not because I hold any kind of resentment towards breastfeeding parents but because I sometimes have a wobble and struggle to be okay with the choices I made for my son.
Some women breastfeed and take to it like ducks to water and feed their little booby monsters right up, they’ll have their rough patches but they come through it well.
Some struggle through it, maybe they find their feet after a little while and breast feed exclusively. Maybe they combination feed or switch fully to formula. Maybe they even discover that they hate breastfeeding but their baby just won’t take a bottle. There’s always going to be more to the story than you’re seeing on the surface.
Some women battle. They fight and cry and scream and fight and cry some more and it just doesn’t work for them. Traumatic birth, tongue ties, allergies, medication… whatever the reason, if you are one of these women I can tell you now, I have cried for you. You don’t know how strong you are. 
Some women choose to formula feed from the beginning and as much as I have struggled to understand that in the past I know darn well it is none of my business. A friend of mine explained her reasons to me once and it was like a storm settling in my head. It was 100% the right thing for her to do.
Some women would desperately love to bottle or breastfeed but can’t do either because  their child needs a tube or other special feeding apparatus. You guys are real heroes.

The point is, lets celebrate! Lets promote breastfeeding and support parents through their journey regardless of its length and if a woman you know is feeding in a different way to you then you have an opportunity to open a really interesting dialogue with her. 

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Happy World Breastfeeding Week, you are doing an amazing job.