Breastfeeding Mamas – Pumping and how to make sure you can

For most breastfeeding mums, at some point expressing some milk becomes a necessity. Maybe you’re returning to work or perhaps you are ready for a bit of well earned time away from baby.

With my first baby I began expressing at six weeks when I was away from baby for a few hours due to illness. It worked better for me than breastfeeding and I switched to exclusive pumping. I found out so much about how to make it work because I needed it to.

One of the main things I learned is that you must stimulate the breast to ‘letdown’ otherwise no matter how much milk is there it’ll be very slow getting it out. It may take some patience and trial and error. Play around with positioning and pumping speed settings (or with a hand pump the speed or force you use) but keep going. Once you get a let down the milk will flow. Try switching breasts. You may find milk then flows from both. Once you figure out the best method to get a let down for you personally you can do this each time and it’ll get quicker.

The other important thing is fit, positioning and flange size. This is the equivalent of latch. Make sure the pump flange fits you well. Read the instructions properly about fit and positioning and order other sizes if your flange is uncomfortable. Use a mirror to make sure you are positioned nicely. You can also turn the flange to point in different directions just as the baby could feed facing different directions. Find a position that works well for you.

As far as which pump to buy. I recommend an easy to use hand pump for infrequent pumping. It gives you lots of control and may come more naturally to you. I like the Phillips Avent.

If you get on well with pumping and plan to express often, any of the Medela electric pumps will work well. Before deciding which one is for you I recommend renting.

My second baby was exclusively breastfed and not at all keen on bottles or dummies. But the hand pump came in very useful when I had problems with over supply and when I wanted to leave him with his Dad and get out on my own and go swimming once a week! All breastfeeding mums need a break now & then!



Your Experiences as a Language Student can help your kids learn to talk

It’s amazing how you can make yourself understood with very few words when you really need to. Knowing just the words for ‘where is’ ‘I need help’ and a few nouns for everyday objects I could get myself out of most mishaps in Central America when I was travelling.
So I look at my toddlers situation in the same way. He knows these basic phrases and has a good understanding of names for everyday things. So I try to use what he knows to have concise but meaningful communication.
we have a lot of conversations between us that sound like repetitions – “where’s the car?” “It’s there” etc but I gradually include new words, for eg, it’s under there, it’s gone, or if the situation seems right I might introduce a new phrase ‘I don’t know where it’s gone?’ I only do so when I know my toddler is really familiar with the meaning of the surrounding words and phrases and the context. Then we bring this new phrase into our conversation and repeat repeat repeat. Using body language and facial expressions he gets the meaning. We use games to make it fun, we hide things and ask “where’s it gone?” We then apply his new words and phrases when he needs to express himself. For eg. You’re a hungry boy. Where’s your dinner? It’s in the kitchen. Let’s go to the kitchen”
It can be painstaking and my husband has asked me how I manage to keep up this kind of conversation all day without getting bored. But my little budding student is gaining so much confidence and it’s thrilling. As we climbed downstairs after his nap the other day he suddenly throws his teddy down and says to me “it’s there, go get it!” I was amazed he had learnt a new phrase. He’s only eighteen months but he has the building blocks for conversation and he’s so happy about it.
Once he has a new word or phrase under his belt we apply it to as many situations as we can. I know he understands ‘mummy help you’ because I say it when he brings me his Lego to help him, so I use this word wherever I can. For eg, when I said mummy help your nose he all of a sudden allowed me to wipe his nose when previously it had upset him. This made me realise that learning to communicate verbally really impacts a child’s understanding of what is happening to him and around him. The sooner we can do this the better.
I really believe that backing up the things that happen around us with verbal explanations that children can understand, helps give them a sense of inclusion and control in a world they are just beginning to make sense of. I can empathise with the sense of not being able to communicate from my times spent traveling parts of the third world where nobody spoke English. We can all remember what it was like being in a language class where we couldn’t keep up! As well as everything being new to a toddler, they have this to deal with. Looking at it this way can help us really get involved in helping them learn to communicate using basic words and phrases and really bringing our conversation down to their level of understanding. There is so much you can actively do to help your little one learn to talk!

Tantrums – why the goal isn’t to stop them but to acknowledge them

Just imagine that every time you feel upset, annoyed, bored, cross or worried, your partner would say “it doesn’t matter” “come on, you’re making too big a deal of this” or “look I need to do something else right now, I can’t listen to you”! Imagine that you didn’t have the tools to figure out what you were feeling on your own and that the things you were talking about were a really big deal to you. Do you think you would become more upset and anxious? We all would!
Essentially a tantrum is a child’s immature way of expressing their feelings. According to Adele Faber, author of ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ the best way to deal with children is to acknowledge their feelings and give them a name. So for eg. You’re feeling sad because Daddy left for work. You’re feeling jealous because your baby brother is taking Mummy’s time. I read her book whilst pregnant. She says her methods work better than all the yelling and pleading in the world, something I’m keen to avoid.
So one day when my baby who is really only just a toddler and starting to speak at 18 months started to scream when Daddy left for work, instead of ‘its ok darling’ or ‘let’s play lego’ I said ‘yes it’s sad when Daddy leaves for work isn’t it. You miss him. You feel sad. Come on let’s cuddle.’ I have no idea how many of the words he understood but it worked. I think he appreciated my understanding tone and patience and I’m glad because that lays the foundations for good communication between us. And the tantrum stopped!
I’ve continued to use the method and have seen the look of ‘oh ok, she understands’ and ‘oh ok so this is a thing’ in my toddler’s eyes and although the tantrum may not immediately disappear, it does not escalate. I believe respecting a child’s feelings, and taking a few moments to help them learn what is going on inside them is their right just as teaching them the names of colours, shapes and words. It may not be so enjoyable but it certainly will pay off to have an emotionally intelligent person developing in our home who will gradually be able to figure out their own feelings. And in years to come they will hopefully become individuals who recognise their feelings and deal with them in a healthy way, rather than impulsively acting on feelings of rage or hurt.
Of course there are times my little boy does need to be distracted from something upsetting and times when we are in a hurry.
But on the whole so far I find Adele is right, and I hope what she says about kids responding by opening up will also happen in our home.

Your Personal Iron Store, what all mamas should know (and how to spend a snowy day out in London…)

I was trudging the streets of Regents Park, London through heaps of white snow – husband, babyjogger and 15 month old in tow. The traffic was going at snail’s pace and the pedestrians, mainly stoic professionals, trotted along in their smart leather shoes, careful not to slip. I must be the only person actually choosing to travel in to London for a health check up right now I thought. There had been trains cancelled and weather warnings but I felt sure this was going to be worth it. I was sure my doctor was wrong, and that I was very low in iron, and that I needed a top before I gave birth in two months time.

We were greeted in Harley Street by an Australian female doctor who was bright eyed and bushy tailed, and took all my details down quickly and efficiently, ushering me straight in to see the Asian Registrar in charge. He worked at all the top London hospitals and had set up The Iron Clinic with his peers, to help patients who could not get treated on the NHS. He looked at my readings and said that at 37 my ferritin iron store was definitely low and that I would benefit from an iron transfusion. All my symptoms pointed towards it. It would help me out if I lost a lot of blood when I gave birth, as I had done with my first birth. It would also set me up for breastfeeding and when my periods returned.

So I sat in the bright white therapy room that they rented, and after being on a drip for fifteen minutes, my iron store was restored. It wouldn’t kick in for a few weeks, so I still needed to grab a coffee as I trudged back to the car. But that was ok! My hunch had been right and I was so glad I had got a second opinion privately.

The other clients at the clinic were mainly athletes and nurses, both of whom need to be physically strong and both of whom know a lot about how the body works. I found that interesting. I was later told by my midwives that I had done the right thing.

A couple of months later I felt stronger. My birth went on to be complication free and despite moderate blood loss I had no symptoms of anemia. In fact I was up and about and eating lasagne an hour after my home water birth. I had been on quite a journey and found out so much I didn’t know about how important iron is so I wanted to share it with you…

Most women of childbearing age in the UK are deficient in their iron ferritin store. A low hb and diagnosis of anemia is the last stage in a cascade effect in the body when we do not have enough iron. Few of us in the UK consume enough iron in our diets and this is especially so if you tend to try to avoid red meat (meat contains heme iron which is the easiest to absorb).

During our childbearing years women need 18 mg of iron a day and that rockets to 27 mg during pregnancy. To put that into perspective that is the equivalent of 6 200g steaks a day! No wonder so many of us are deficient!

A low iron store can give symptoms very similar to anemia – tiredness, weak muscles, cramps, headaches, hair loss, all things we women tend to put up with and put down to pregnancy, hormones or our lifestyle.

There are lots of iron rich foods we can include in our diet. Leafy greens, oats, apricots, beans and lentils to name a few. I now have a cupboard at home full of these foods and make sure to include one or two in every meal. There are too many to list, but its a good idea to know about iron rich foods, find ones you like, and make sure you always have them on hand. They are better absorbed if you match them with foods high in vitamin c, or simply have a glass of orange juice with your meal. They are not absorbed so well with caffein, so its a good idea to have your coffee or tea at another time of day rather than meal times.

Meat contains heme iron which is absorbed more easily. Shellfish are very rich source of iron, so if you are not allergic (sadly I am) you can go ahead and have your fill. A steak every now and then is a good easily absorbed source of iron. And if you like it, liver is rich in iron as is liver pate.

I found out about an amazing way we can add more iron to every meal, by cooking in an iron skillet. In places in Malawai where they have a lot of malaria and anemia, they have experimented with cooking in iron skillets, and studies have proven that the villagers who use them regularly have a better result in treating anemia than those who do not. I have also found that they give food a lovely rich flavour and are a pleasure to cook with!

Another source of iron that is a very canny little number is molasses. You can buy a jar and 100 g will give a woman their whole days’ rda. I’m not suggesting you would eat that much of it, but you can easily see how adding a desert spoon to your bolognese sauce will really up the iron content! It also tastes sweet and yummy, and my eighteen month old little boy and my husband love it!

Basically, I have found out that if we are not actively trying to get enough iron in our diets, then we are probably not. And ironically if we are health conscious and trying not to eat too much meat, we need to be even more careful to include enough iron in our diets.

Going back to that snowy day in London, its a good idea to have your ferritin store checked every now and then and definitely during pregnancy. That way you can take iron supplements or even choose to have an infusion if you need it. And be aware you may have to go private to do so.