Vanessa Christie is one of the UK’s most well-regarded Lactation and Early Parenting experts. As a Lactation Consultant, Birth & Post-Natal Trauma Recovery Practitioner, Health Visitor and Children’s Nurse, she has worked with an estimated 10,000 new families across the globe over the past 20 years. Vanessa answers your questions on breastfeeding below:
1. Is it true that breastfeeding only has benefits for 6 months or what is the optimum length of time ?
Breastmilk and breastfeeding has countless benefits whether it is just for one feed on the first day or feeding all the way through until school. If you are able to and want to, giving breastmilk all the way through the first year in-particular means that your baby is getting human milk that is tailormade to them. Breastmilk is a living substance that is changing in your breasts all the time depending on the age of your baby, the environment around them (ie making antibodies to the bugs you are exposed to), the time of day and even the seasons and the weather! As long as breastfeeding is working out for the both of you, Breastmilk is all a baby needs for 6 months and then continuing beyond this alongside solid foods. So the short answer is, if you want to keep going with breastfeeding and you have a little milk monster, then go right ahead until your little one (or you) are ready to stop.
2. Is it possible to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work?
Yes it is absolutely possible if you want to find a way to continue. This may be weaning down to breastfeeding only at night and giving formula (if under 1yr) during the day OR if you are able to either stockpile in the freezer and/or express whilst at work, then depending on your circumstances, you may not need to give formula. In the UK you have a right to ask your employer to support you with this by providing a safe, private place to express and store your milk. Have a look at the NHS info on this and ask your manager/HR about their maternity policy
3. Is it true breastfeeding is always agony until you get used to it?
It’s very normal for breastfeeding to be pretty tender at the start but it should never be a “grit your teeth and squeal” kind of a pain. Women do frequently experience this but being common doesn’t make it ‘normal’. This kind of pain ALWAYS indicates that there is an issue of some kind and should always be recognised. Don’t get fobbed off with “the latch looks fine” if you are in pain. Most commonly the answer is in how your baby is positioned and this can often be swiftly rectified so don’t hesitate in asking for help. If that doesn’t help, there may be a hidden tongue tie, an infection, compression in the baby from their birth or pregnancy position causing tension in their jaw or other reasons…. there is always an answer with the right help.
4. If your child has a cow’s milk intolerance do you need to avoid eating dairy if you are breastfeeding ?
Yes. There’s no doubt that cow’s milk proteins can pass to the baby through Breastmilk. Therefore, if your baby is reacting to cow’s milk (and it is usually the protein in the milk that is the main issue) then it is necessary to take it out of your diet. It can take around 2 weeks to fully clear out of your system and so the full effects won’t necessarily be seen for a little while. It’s also necessary to check all labels as milk protein sneaks into so many things. If this is new to you then definitely seek advice about a dairy-free diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
5. Am I able to have a glass of wine in the evening if I’m breastfeeding?
Very important question! The answer is yes but there are a few t’s and c’s – it takes around 30-60 mins after consumption for the alcohol level in your milk to peak (although this will still be very low) and then around 3 hrs to fully metabolise and work it’s way out… so it is actually safest to have a drink towards the end of a breastfeed to give you the longest possible time until the next feed. Stick to 1-2 units, 1-2 times a week ideally. Excessive drink can have a negative effect on milk supply and never be tempted to bedshare with your baby if you’ve had a drink
6. I want to start expressing. Any advise on how, when, storing etc?
I love silicone pumps which are so simple and easy to use and clean. You can even pop it on whilst your baby is feeding and collect milk without adding any time to your day :). Any time of day that suits you works although if it is going to become a daily routine then try and stick to a similar-ish time, so that your body gets used to extra stimulation at that time and will make more milk then. @thebreastfeedingnetwork has all the timings and advice re storage so have a look at them. If you want to talk more then don’t hesitate to let me know and we can schedule a call – all the details are on my website: http://www.vanessachristie.com/
7. I’m thinking about weaning my 1 year old who wants the breast more than ever and won’t take a bottle. She also has a cow’s milk intolerance. Do you have any tips?
Until she is around 2 yrs, if she wasn’t receiving Breastmilk then your best option is a hydrolysed or amino acid formula as other types of milk such as soy, goat, oat etc may cause a reaction too and are not necessarily nutritionally sufficient (depending on the type). Unfortunately these types of formula don’t taste that great and some older babies really let you know! You could also skip the bottle entirely and move straight to a free-flow cup – messy to start with but babies tend to accept these more readily than a bottle at this age, if they haven’t had one much or ever before. It sounds as though you are finding the breastfeeding overwhelming – it may be worth chatting with a breastfeeding counsellor, or an ibclc such as myself, to figure out the challenges you are having breastfeeding and see how things could be made easier for you, if you did want to consider carrying on a little while longer.
8. Is it worth breastfeeding after 1 year old? Are the benefits still really good? I want to continue but I’m anxious as I want to get pregnant again and need help by taking medication that I can’t take whilst still breast feeding so feel I should stop when baby reaches one next month!!
It’s a great question and is a dilemma felt fairly frequently. I answered about length of breastfeeding towards the top of the thread. Essentially it comes down to your goals and priorities… you have done amazingly for feeding as long as you have. If you stop in order to work towards bringing a sibling into your little ones life, then that is incredible and there are so many positives in that. Write all your thoughts down – it can really help to make sense of situations like this and create a plan you are happy with when you can see it in front of you.