Wednesday 27 June 2012

Keep Britain Breastfeeding 4 - After the 1st Month

This is my fourth post in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt in the run up to National Breastfeeding Week 2012. If you've missed my previous posts, you can find them here:
This week's theme is breastfeeding beyond the first month. I thought I'd write about a few of the obstacles we faced after the first month.

"Overall, only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months." (UNICEF)

Far from being the massive pressure group they are often accused of being, women who breastfeed after the first month are in the minority. So, it can be difficult to find out the truth about obstacles you might face as you progress along your breastfeeding journey. Myths abound; horror stories are plentiful; doubt and worry sets in. We hear about hungry babies, who hit 4 months and threaten to consume their mothers. We discover that growth spurts keep on coming, and get longer and tougher. We are told that after 6 months breastmilk loses all its goodness and babies need extra iron. How do we sort the fact from the fiction when it's hard to find women we know who have fed past a certain point?

It's definitely worth doing your own research. Forums are great for anecdotal evidence, but the quality of advice can differ from group to group, depending on the experiences of the members. Never trust formula companies to give you breastfeeding friendly advice. Look for the facts, the scientific evidence, the presence of research material that you can look into.

We have encountered a few obstacles along our way. Dehydration, a traumatic hospital stay and poor advice in the first week. B had her tongue tie snipped at 1 week old, and then proceeded to feed literally all the time, and yet continued to lose weight. I was diagnosed with mammary hypoplasia (insufficient glandular tissue) and so would be unlikely to ever make enough milk to exclusively breastfeed. We had to introduce formula top ups, which I initially gave using a Supplemental Nursing System. Not the easiest thing to use, but it meant that B was still stimulating my milk supply and getting whatever milk she could from me.

However, the first obstacle after the first month of breastfeeding was B learning to smile! We had just got to the point where I could get her to latch well, and she started smiling at me while she was feeding. Utterly adorable, but highly impractical. I'd have to go through the whole rigmarole again. But that soon passed, and she soon learned to latch on properly herself.

With increased age came increased awareness and the trouble of distractibility. B started finding everything interesting. If we were out she wanted to feed, but she wanted to look around too. Cue a lady in Starbucks getting an eyeful of breast when B pulled off to see what Daddy was saying. That time, fortunately, she left go before looking away. Other times she has remained latched on whilst pulling her head in the other direction - I didn't know my nipple could stretch that far!

And the most recent obstacle has been B's development of her pincer grip. Not content with using it to pick up blueberries or baked beans, she decided she ought to practise it whilst nursing. Little pinches here and there make the feed much more extreme!

However, jokes aside, one of my biggest worries was teeth. We had had a difficult start. B had a tongue tie, and I had been in a lot of pain. How would I cope with teeth? I had heard dreadful things about sharp teeth, nasty bites leading to infected nipples and nightmare feeds. I'd heard some say that teeth are nature's way of telling you to stop breastfeeding, though I swiftly popped that in my myth pile - for a start, I knew some babies are born with teeth (!) and the first set of teeth can't be called milk teeth for nothing. I did a bit of research:
  • The tongue should cover the bottom gums when feeding, so will cover teeth when they appear. Therefore, a baby who is latched on correctly and actively nursing will not be able to bite.
  • I read that in Mongolia some children nurse until they are 9 years old! (Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan) 9 year olds definitely have teeth, so breastfeeding a toothy child is possible.
  • La Leche League suggest that nursing while a baby or toddler is teething can be very useful for comfort and pain relief.
  • "Before the use of the baby bottle, dental decay in baby teeth was rare." (KellyMom)
Ok, so it seemed that nursing a baby with teeth was not only possible, but quite normal and helpful. I also read that by the time a child is 1 year old they would have 6 teeth. Oh fine, by then B would be nursing less and eating more solid food, wouldn't she? Up to 6 teeth wouldn't be a problem. And the first one most likely wouldn't appear until about 6 months. Phew. I could do this. 
Christmas came. B was 4 months old. Her first tooth appeared, quickly followed by her second. Hmmm. There was no chance I'd be weaning her any time soon, so we had to go with it. And, much to my surprise, it was absolutely fine. I had the occasional nip, which I dealt with by removing B from the breast and putting her down, saying, "You don't bite Mummy; it hurts." If she was biting by accident and wanted to continue feeding, I put her back on; if she was biting out of boredom, or curiosity, then she would be uninterested in feeding again, and we would find something else to do.
I felt it was a good thing that my baby was the first in my NCT group to get teeth, as I was so adamant that we would continue feeding as long as possible, and we could help alleviate the worries of the other mums in the group.
Now, at 10 months old, B has 7 teeth. She can chew a bit when she's teething, or doesn't really want to feed. Occasionally she'll bite me deliberately, mischievously. But I can safely say that any discomfort is nothing compared to the hideous pain I suffered at the start of our breastfeeding journey.
Along the way I've discovered hints and tips to prevent biting and the following have really helped:
And I'm sure that as she gets older, as well as making use of breastfeeding to alleviate the pain and discomfort of teething, B will learn fully how to nurse nicely...

If you have enjoyed reading, you will find more articles about breastfeeding, and some giveaways, at these locations:

Life, Love and Living with Boys
Where Roots Flourish
Twinkle Mummy
Natural Mamas
Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths

Hot Milk Lingerie has kindly provided a set of lingerie for the Grand Prize. Go take a look at their gorgeous collection.

Thank you for reading.

Keep Britain Breastfeeding
You have found the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Logo!!  You can now enter to win the Grand Prize.  Remember, the more posts you read on the hunt the greater your chance of winning.  Please enter using the rafflecopter below.


  1. Lovely post, I don't find teeth a problem either. The occasional nip really isn't as bad as people think. I hope both my boys (4yo and 10 months old) self wean when they are ready.

    1. Thank you :) I'm always pleased to find others who have no trouble with teeth. The more we tell it, the better.

  2. Great post. My goal is to feed or as long as possible, my first self weaned and it was so easy to do.

    1. I want B to self wean, but I also worry about tandem feeding, and at the same time I never want her to wean!!

  3. Great post, thank you. I'm not sure how I missed this from your posts before, but I'm amazed how much we have in common (I thought I was reading my blog for a minute!) I too have hypoplasia and my son was also born with a tongue tie (which wasn't spotted til 8 weeks and snipped at 10). We too had a stay in hospital for dehydration at the end of week 1, and we too used an SNS in the early months! And I'm also a Christian :)

    Great info on teething, and I agree that breastfeeding helps with teething - my son always wants to do it more when teething, it's a great way to comfort him.

    1. Yes! I read your post about using the SNS. I think I even commented on it. Hubby accidentally melted it whilst sterilising :) I follow your blog with great interest! Thank you x

  4. Great post thankyou i had no problems with biting with my little one and she also got her first few teeth at four months old. My goals are the same as they were with her to take each day as it comes, relax and enjoy and allow her to feed until she decides to stop. :)

    1. Were you as shocked as me when your little gummy bear suddenly sprouted teeth?

  5. This post rocks. I used an SNS too and had such a love-hate relationship with it. I loved that it helped me but I hated how unnatural it felt and how annoying it was to use. Ah well. Teeth. I was amazed at how many people thought I was only still breastfeeding because my daughter hadn't got teeth yet. Well, she's got five now and though she used to bite when she only had gums, she never bites now. My aim with breastfeeding is just to keep going and see what happens.

    1. Thank you. I really struggled with getting B to latch - she was all arms and legs and bobbing head, so trying to get tube AND nipple in at the same time was tough. I will use one next time, if I need to, but was (secretly) a little relieved when hubby accidentally melted it!

  6. I initially intended to breastfeed for 6 months, but after reading some fabulous blog posts this afternoon/evening for breastfeeding week I'm more inclined to let baby make the decision

  7. My daughter occasionally bites when she has a tooth coming through, but I'm sure she is more pain than me.
    I want to breastfeed as long as my daughter wants to