Keep Britain Breastfeeding

The Value Of Support To The Breast Milk Donor And Recipient

Any breastfeeding mother will be able to tell you the value of support, or the impact of the lack there of. Without the support of those closest to you, maintaining a breastfeeding relationship can be incredibly difficult. The same can be said for both the milk donor and the recipient of donated breastmilk.

I wrote about the benefits of donor breastmilk in a situation where the mother is not able to breastfeed her own baby for whatever reason, or needs to supplement her own milk. Often a mother may feel that using donor milk is a good and necessary step for her child, and even though she’s not providing milk herself, she still needs a lot of support, because if health care providers or family members speak doubt or uncertainties, it can cause a real lack of confidence in her own decision making.

I asked a few donor milk recipients to share with us what their partners, families and health care providers thought about their choice to use donor milk, and also how they felt about the women who donated to them. (To read more about their reasons for needing donor milk, and why they chose it over other supplements, read the first post in this series.)

Source: Crimfants On Flickr

Jorje who writes at Momma Jorjes son Spencer received donor milk for a few months. Jorje met her donor through Human Milk 4 Human Babies and received three lots of milk from her, enough to supplement Spencer for several months. Jorje’s husband was supportive of her wishes as he knew how passionate she was about breastfeeding. “Our pediatrician was not concerned one way or the other. Our son was obviously thriving, that was all that mattered. I think our pediatrician understands and acknowledges that such things are really the parents’ choice.

While Jorje herself was quite sad not to be able to meet all her son’s needs herself, she was incredibly grateful to the donor for keeping her son on breastmilk

Kellie,  from Our Mindful Life, only needed donated breast milk for about a month. For her, the hardest part was asking her friends for breastmilk. Her husband was 100% behind her decision to supplement with donor milk, because they already had one child together and he had seen the benefits of breastfeeding first time round. Kellie never told her health care provider that she was supplementing with donor milk, but her friends were very supportive.

“I was so amazed and honored that my friends were willing to go to such lengths to provide the milk that my baby needed. It really made us even closer. I was just so glad that my baby was able to have breastmilk, and that he didn’t have to be hospitalized.”

Melissa W. has been physically unable to breastfeed her two month old daughter. She has received donor milk from three mothers in her area, and feels so grateful towards the women who have allowed her to keep her daughter on breast milk. Her husband was against the idea, initially, until they spoke to their doctor, who was very supportive.  Melissa is in Washington State, where there is more demand for breastmilk than there are donor mothers. At a rate of $80 for 100 oz of breastmilk, she could not afford to feed her baby human milk, but with the help of generous donors, she hopes to keep Arwyn on breastmilk until her first birthday.

Suzy had a fast labour with complications with her third baby. She required four blood transfusions, and took some time to recover. During her hospital stay, a nurse recommended donor milk so that she could get some rest and begin to recover from the placenta accreta that had impacted her baby’s delivery. In the hospital she received 8 ounces of donated milk, and back  home a friend delivered 20 oz and colostrum to help them along.

“I’m am over the moon thrilled that she had donor milk. It eased my mind while I was recovering. I had managed to exclusively breastfeed my other 2 children, I really wanted the same for my 3rd. I care about newborn gut health and feel breastmilk is more beneficial than formula. I want that for my children.”

Suzy is now tandem feeding her 3 month old and her 20 month old with no further need for supplementation. When I asked her how she felt about the milk donors, she said: “I deeply appreciate the commitment they have made to babies

Often times mothers feel guilt when their children have to receive formula milk. Some mothers feel like they have failed. Others feel actual terror at introducing a chemical sustenance to their already weakened child, and mothers who have read the statistics and know the potential dangers carry that as an added stress at a time when they are already vulnerable, so to them, having donor milk available, is invaluable. Each of these mothers has mentioned gratitude, and how very grateful they are to their donors.

Those who have had milk donated by friends have also spoken of how the bond with those friends has grown, which is beautiful in and of itself.

These are only four stories of donor milk recipients, but one thing that is very clear to me is that positive support and reinforcement has made these mama’s feel happy and confident in their decisions. Sometimes they’ve had to find medical support for it, and other times it’s been accepted without too many questions, but having supportive networks around them has made all the difference to them, and to their babies.

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Where Roots Fourish 
Milk Machine Mum  
The Great British Family 

and support these businesse

Life, Love and Living with Boys
Life Happens So Smile 
Let’s Walk Together For A While
Keep Up With The Jones Family 
Circus Queen 

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

Tips On Expressing Breast Milk

This post is a repost from 21 June 2011. I had just returned from six months in South Africa, where I had pumped for a hospital who used the milk for AIDS babies. Please read yesterday’s post: The Benefits of Donated Breast Milk. @smiffysmrs on Twitter told me that she’d been donating breastmilk for almost seven months. When I asked her what her partner thought about her donating breastmilk, she responded:  {he} thinks its awesome that Bella and I are helping premature babies get a great start.  I loved how she included her daughter in the act of donating. It’s not just something she does, with her body, but it’s a team effort from herself and her nurseling. I just love that! Here’s the post I wrote after 20 months of breastfeeding:

For most of my time breastfeeding, I have expressed. Initially I did so to get my husband to feed my daughter’s 11pm feed so that I could have some ‘solid’ sleep.  At three months, my daughter refused the bottle, but I still needed to express as my boobs were so full, she wasn’t getting everything  and I hoped she’d take the bottle again at some point.

Then I went to South Africa, where breastfeeding rates are abysmal – great misfortune in a country that desperately needs it- and decided to express for a milk bank there. Since we’ve been back in England, I’ve not been expressing much, but I hope to contribute to our local Human Milk for Human Babies group again once things settle down a bit here.

I’ve been thinking about expressing, and realised that I’ve never written anything about it, so here are my hints and tips for successful expressing:

  • Firstly, understand that what you express is not a measure of how much milk you have. Some women just don’t express much.
  • try to change pumps. I used one pump that took about 10 minutes to get 1 ounce. I swapped to another and got 10 ounces in the next 10 minutes.
  • Thirdly, start pumping as soon as possible. I started pumping in between two hourly feeds when my daughter was born and I believe that really benefited my flow.>
  • Fourth, understand how breast milk is produced, and how let down works. This will help you understand the supply and demand, and make the whole process easier.

Gorgeous Gifts: Donated BreastmilkTo express:

  • Try massaging your breasts to stimulate milk flow
  • Place a warm cloth on your breasts
  • Express straight out the shower – the warmth helps with the let down.
  • Visualise your baby breastfeeding
  • A picture of your child (or a video works well too) helps stimulate those hormones that release milk.
  • An item of baby clothing can do the same.
  • Let baby nurse on one side while you express the other. This takes practice, at first, but is achievable.
  • When I need to express a large amount, swapping baby and pump really helps. i.e when I can’t pump anymore from the left, I let Ameli nurse for a few minutes on the left, then start pumping again. This is because your baby is the best pump there is, and even when a pump gets nothing, your baby will.
  • Keep well hydrated – have a glass of water next to you and drink it while expressing.
  • Express a little milk into your hand to rub on your nipples after each session. (If you watch a baby breastfeed -or certainly my baby, so I assume it’s the same for others- here’s often milk just on her lips. This means my nipples are getting soaked in milk during her feeds, which protects them too. A pump doesn’t do this, so you need to do it  for yourself. Breast milk works better than any creams.)
  • Pump at the same time every day to ‘trick’ your body into supplying milk for your baby at that time.
  • Find the best time of day. In the mornings I would normally have a lot of milk, and expressing would be easy. At night it would take a little longer. But also remember that your milk changes, and at night nucleotides are released into your milk to help your baby sleep. If you’re giving expressed morning milk at night, that won’t be present in the milk, and visa versa.

So, those are my tips – is there anything else you can add?

Don’t forget to enter the #Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, and all these other competitions too:

For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Tigerlilly Quinn
The Princess Poets Life Adventures
The Mummy Adventure
Smiling Like Sunshine

and support these businesses:

Breast-Aid
Pixie Pants Cloth Napies
Fudgulous
Baby Beads

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

The Benefits Of Donor Breast Milk

The year Ameli was born, I wrote a series of breastfeeding related posts as a first time mother, entirely in love with breastfeeding. I wrote about the things I wish I’d known before I started, and about some of the very rarely known facts about breastmilk as well as reintroducing breastfeeding if you had to stop for any reason.

By the time my second National Breastfeeding Awareness Week rolled by, I had entered into the domain of ‘extended breastfeeding‘, and attended my first breastfeeding flashmob.

In the blink of an eye, it seemed, it was the third National Breastfeeding Awareness week of my parenting time line, and I had been breastfeeding through pregnancy, through Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and breastfeeding a toddler. In fact, last year all my posts for Keep Britain Breastfeeding were around the theme of tandem breastfeeding.

As much as my own journey of breastfeeding has progressed and developed, and my babies have grown – both of whom are still nursing – I don’t have a huge amount to add this year, so I thought I’d spend a bit of time this breastfeeding awareness week around the theme of milk expressing and donation, something that has been very close to my heart at times over the last few years, and particularly while I donated to a hospital for their AIDS babies in South Africa for six months.

We all know the benefits of breastfeeding now, but very few people know or understand WHY anyone would choose donated breastmilk over formula for new or preterm, or otherwise unwell babies.

Please understand this is not about guilt or about having done it wrong if you’ve chosen differently. It’s about sharing information so that mothers can make informed choices going forward. 

Donor Breast MilkThe World Health Organisation recommends milk given to babies should be breastmilk. If that is not possible, donor milk is the next best option. This often raises questions for people, because we trust something that comes from a shop – they wouldn’t be able to sell it if it wasn’t safe, right? – over simply trusting other people, and often for good reason.

Unfortunately, statistics around milk donations and recipients are ridiculously hard to come by. I’ve been trying to find out who the greatest users of donated breast milk are – as far as I can tell it would be the roughly 15 million premature babies born every year, but don’t quote me on that – and also whether there were reported problems or statistics on actual contamination or illness from donor milk, but again, this hasn’t been something I’ve been able to find any information on.

So, with donated milk being in many ways, such uncharted territory, why would anyone choose to use it over easily accessible formula? According to research from 2007, babies who receive breastmilk, even donated breastmilk, are at much lower risk of Necrotising Enterocolitis, the second most common cause of morbidity in premature infants, the condition where portions of the bowel undergo necrosis – tissue death. Incredibly, the risk is reduced by a whopping 79%. In statistics related to babies, that’s huge.

Breastmilk is also easier to digest. A preterm baby’s gut is very delicate and it absorbs breastmilk more easily because the balance of proteins is different, and designed for the human gut.

I’ve been searching for stories on milk donors causing a child to become ill, or spreading disease, or causing problems, but I’ve not had any jump out at me. Milk donors are themselves mothers to babies or young children, or in some very sad cases mothers who have lost their babies and want to give something of that baby to help other mothers and baby dyads, so I can’t imagine that a mother would take illegal drugs, or do anything that would be a problem in her own milk.

Speaking to mothers of babies who had to use donated breast milk in the early days, I asked them what they felt the benefits were of using donor milk rather than formula.

Jorje from Momma Jorjes son Spencer had some trouble with his oxygen levels at birth. He also had a little trouble with the suck, swallow, and breathe reflexes, so he would get tired out while nursing. She had to breastfeed him, then top him off with a bottle, which was much less work for him. “I could have just done bottle, but I wanted him to nurse.”

Jorje wanted to use a breastmilk donor, because she felt donor milk was less likely to be accidentally contaminated. “You never know when there is going to be a recall on a commercial product, but with breastmilk, if the mother had turned up with food poisoning, she’d have known long before I actually got the milk”.

Kellie, who writes at Our Mindful Life, found out her son had a tongue tie and was only able to get it clipped at 7.5 weeks.  In the meantime, he wasn’t able to nurse or suck and wasn’t gaining weight. Kellie was pumping milk, but wasn’t able to pump enough to give him her milk exclusively, so she also gave him a few ounces of formula every other day.  “After a few weeks, he also began to show an allergic reaction to the formula.  We were told that if we couldn’t get him breastmilk to take him to the hospital and have him admitted.”

Asked what she felt the benefits of donor milk for her son were, Kellie says, “For us, it was hugely beneficial because it kept him out of the hospital, and kept him from having allergic reactions.”

Melissa W. had a terrible experience with her daughter losing 40% of her weight in two weeks. At 8 weeks she switched to formula, but two weeks later, Arwyn developed Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), got a lot worse before she got better. After three more weeks on breastmilk, the doctor recommended swapping to formula full time, but Arwyn was throwing up everything. A week later they went to yet another doctor and discovered that she had a Milk Protein Sensitivity, and formula made her ill, but breastmilk, with or without dairy, was fine. Since then, they’ve been using donor milk, and Arwyn hasn’t been sick again.

These are just three stories of donor recipient mamas and their little people. Read more the rest of the week to find out more about their experiences as breast milk recipients.

If you’d like to add your story for a later post, please answer these questions!

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Where Roots Fourish 
Milk Machine Mum  
The Great British Family 

and support these businesses:

Breast Milk Keepsakes
Melba Maternity

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Beyond The First Two Years

The theme for this week’s Keep Britain Breastfeeding is ‘Feeding after the first month’. That’s great and I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of information by reading through some of the other blog posts, but I want to skip a few months – around 24, to be precise, – and talk about breastfeeding an older child, a toddler. (more…)

Finding Supportive Breastfeeding Supporters

Breastfeeding is one of the most enriching, amazing things I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the hardest at times and often requires a dedication and commitment I didn’t know I had. I’ve often said that support is absolutely essential to a successful breastfeeding relationship, and where you find that support can make or break where you get in your breastfeeding goals.

(This post is not about formula feeding or formula feeding mothers. If a woman chooses to formula feed, that is her prerogative. If she has no choice due to misinformation, or booby traps, that’s another story.)

Where you find your support is essential to your success.

I sat in a class earlier this week listening to mothers talk about advice they’d been given by their doctors on a specific health issue. Every single one of them had received different advice, and some of it was flat out contradictory. (more…)

Six Problems And Suggested Solutions For Tandem Nursing

You know how breastfeeding is ‘the most natural thing in the world’, right? And how it should be as easy as that? And how it often isn’t?

Well, picture every newborn problem (and victory) that you’ve ever had with breastfeeding a newborn. Now picture doing it with that newborn, and a climby, excited, gymnastic toddler too.

It can be pretty rough (and awesome).

  • The biggest problem I’ve experienced in tandem breastfeeding has been feeling thoroughly touched out. In the 13 weeks since Aviya’s birth, I have felt more ‘touched out’ than any other time in my life before. To the extent that the feel of the sofa cushion irritates my skin sometimes! There is no solution for this, other than making sure you understand why you feel as you do and making an effort to have some you-time, even if it includes going for a short walk, a solo bath or something more extravagant, like a well-timed-between-feeds massage.
  • Logistics. In the early weeks, while baby is small, it’s easy to lie one child on top of the other. Unfortunately, the baby grows at a much faster rate than the toddler and sooner or later, you might find the toddler begins to protest. While it’s quite nice and easy to get into the habit of tandem nursing with one lying on the other, while baby is small is a good time to practice tandem feeding in other positions too, such as holding one or both in the rugby ball position.

Jessika from Job Description: Mommy

  • Your toddler may have a huge increase in feeding, and a massive decrease in eating. Ameli was nursing 2 – 3 times a day when Aviya was born, and suddenly she wanted to drink every time Aviya was. While I knew this would happen, and ‘prepared’ myself for it, I really had no idea how frustrating it would be.  It’s really important to have strategies in place, when you don’t want to tandem feed at every feed, for things to occupy the toddler. Wearing a sling for feeding the baby can be very useful as it keeps your hands free to do things with the toddler.
  • Tandem nursing can be very exhausting, thirsty and hungry work. Have a ‘nursing station’ ready. Somewhere with a lot of pillows so you can all be in a good position, and have an easy to use drinks bottle handy – something that won’t have water everywhere if the gymnastic feeder kicks it – as well as some snacks if you feel you need them. Replenish your nursing station daily, so that you can feed without meltdowns while you’re getting everything ready, or upsetting interruptions to your nursing.
  • Breastfeeding works best in a tribe where mothers can look out for each other.  Spend as much time as you can with sympathetic friends who can entertain your toddler (simply by having their children around too, while you nurse the baby) or by making sure you have what you need while you’re breastfeeding one or both children. And when they’re done, you support your friend again.
  • Sensations during tandem nursing. Unfortunately, if you’re ‘feeling’ something when you’re breastfeeding, it’s probably not pleasant. With tandem nursing there’s an increase in hormones and there is a change in breast size which can affect the older child’s latch. These changes can cause either a very painful feeling – with my two year old, it feels like her front teeth are slicing papercut sized slices into my nipples sometimes, simply because the nipple is larger right now. Alternatively, the increased hormones can cause an incredibly unpleasant sexual stimulation. Trust me when I say it is not a good feeling.  It is very uncomfortable. I can’t cope with it and have to stop nursing when that happens. There’s no real ‘solution’ to it. Just stop, have a cuddle, a repositioning and start again.

I think this will have to be part one and a part two will have to follow down the line, because there’s a lot more I can add, but would like to read up more about first.

I do think that breastfeeding is without a doubt the most committed thing I’ve ever done. It’s been very much all or nothing, and I’ve gone for all.  While there are many challenges and obstacles on the journey, don’t forget to also look at the benefits of tandem breastfeeding.

 

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Nine Benefits Of Tandem Breastfeeding

When Ameli was a baby I wrote many articles on breastfeeding and its benefits. I wrote about things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding, and some relatively unknown things about breast milk, and how breast milk is made. I’ve shared my confessions of an extended breastfeeder and I’ve written about the highs and lows of breastfeeding during pregnancy. My last post about breastfeeding was on nursing a toddler during the final stage of pregnancy, so it’s only logical that my next series of posts will be on that thing that is the art of tandem nursing.

I’ve been asked a number of times by various people whether it is possible to nurse both babies at the same time, and the simple answer is yes! I know the concept is foreign to many people, so here are nine reasons why tandem breastfeeding is worth considering.

For the toddler: 

1. Bonding and reduced jealousy

This was one of the most beautiful and surprising parts of tandem breastfeeding, for me. The first time I lay my nursling on top of my toddler to allow them to feed together, and my beautiful big girl put her arm around her sister to keep her from ‘falling off’. I think my heart melted in that moment. We’ve had absolutely no jealousy since the birth of our second little girl twelve weeks ago and I am convinced that breastfeeding both children has something to do with it.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any studies on this subject yet, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, and I’m happy to be adding to that.

Regardless of what you do to prepare a toddler for a new baby, the reality of the new addition is beyond anything they’d have expected, and having something that bonds them together from the beginning is very helpful. It’s also something they can do together.  The first question Ameli asked, while Aviya was still in the birthpool, was, “can it walk?”  She is very aware of the fact that Aviya can’t talk to us and can’t play with her. In fact, as Ameli’s book says, “it’s basically a lump of clay.” Having something they can do together definitely creates a bond from early on.

2. Valuable lesson in sharing and consideration

Sharing breastfeeding is an incredible lesson in sharing in general. This is another area my Ameli has surprised me: she understands that the baby, who cannot eat food yet, needs to have milk more than she does. It’s not always easy for her to have to stop feeding when it’s Aviya’s turn (tandem nursing can mean two simultaneously, or one after the other. We do both.) but she usually does. You can see sometimes that she doesn’t really want to, but she does. I think it’s a great lesson for life.

3. All the benefits of newborn milk

Newborn breastmilk is full of so many good things, and the mother’s body adjusts the milk to meet the newborn’s needs. That means the toddler is getting all the benefits of baby milk, all over again.

For the Newborn:

1. Milk on tap

Now, this is purely anecdotal, from my own experience, but in our case, my milk came in pretty much immediately after Aviya was born. There was still colostrum, as I could tell from Ameli’s nappies, but she had milk available on tap from the start. This meant that she didn’t have to work very hard to fill her tummy, which meant she fed for shorter periods of time than newborns normally do. It also meant that she slept for longer than newborns normally do. In fact, she fed so little and slept so much that she lost 11% of her body weight in the first week, but more than made up for it subsequently (she’s currently in 4-6 month clothes, and is only 2.5 months!) The fact is that she didn’t have to burn much energy in an attempt to consume.

2. Milk supply

Because I had milk and nursed all the way through the pregnancy, bar a few days here and there, milk was just ‘there’ from the start and I haven’t had any issues with supply at all, not even during the six week ‘drying up’ that most people experience as milk goes from reservoired to supply and demand

3. Familiarity with the older sibling

It’s easy to very quickly fall into the habit of saying ‘don’t touch the baby’, ‘leave the baby’, ‘be gentle with the baby’ and any one of a million variations on that theme. We’ve tried very consciously not to plant the idea that ‘sister’ isn’t to be engaged with in Ameli, and have instead decided to accept that babies aren’t actually as fragile as we tend to think they are when you have your first born. Tandem nursing is a way of introducing an older sibling into a baby’s space, so that the younger can become accustomed to the sound and smell of his or her older sibling too.

4. Gag-free drinking

Sometimes the flow of milk can be so strong and forceful that the new baby can gag and choke. Getting big sister or brother to take the edge off, can be really helpful. It’s worth remembering the difference between foremilk and hindmilk and making sure baby is getting enough of both, especially in hot weather.

For the Mother:

Tandem Nursing - a 2yr 6mo and a 1 day old

Believe it or not, tandem breastfeeding has a number of benefits for mama too.

1. Put your feet up

If you’ve had a toddler let loose on your house for any length of time, you’ll know what devastation can be wrought in the shortest of times. Nursing both together means you actually get to have a break without having to directively engage, occupy or entertain a toddler. This is where a hands free water bottle with a straw comes in though, because it can be hard to hold a cup while nursing two children!

2. Health benefits of extended breastfeeding

All those things that hit the headlines from time to time? Those. Reduced risk of breast cancer being the biggest one.  And some people put weight loss in this category. Breastfeeding gives me a sweet tooth, so no, I don’t lose any weight!

3. Relieves engorgement

Despite popular belief, when your milk comes in proper, you can still get really engorged, even if you’ve been breastfeeding through pregnancy. I haven’ t had to express once this time round, nor have I had any problems, such as mastitis or clogged ducts, because when I’ve needed to, I’ve been able to call on Ameli – even in the middle of the night, since Aviya sleeps through – to quickly and effortlessly drain an engorged, painful, leaking breast.

So there you have nine reasons to at least consider tandem nursing. It’s not always easy, and there are days where I wish more than anything that Ameli would wean, but looking at the list above, the benefits are fantastic, and this is a phase in our mother and daughter(s) journey that I will always look back on with a distinct sense of pride in all of us.

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