Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Works For Me Wednesday: breastfeeding advice

Having nursed both Liam and Simon to 18 months (with Liam it was his choice, with Simon it was complicated by my pregnancy with Andrew and bleeding), I figured I knew just about all there was to know about breastfeeding... I'd done it for 36 months -that's three years!- in total.

With both older boys, I would nurse on one side then switch to the other. When did I know when to switch? I did what came naturally... I counted. Each suck and swallow. At each nursing session. After a few days, I knew how much they would eat, divide by two and switch then so they'd be getting the same amount of milk from each side.

This had the added benefit of keeping me "even", but it also led to me neurotically counting everything. ALL. THE. TIME. Stairs in a staircase, telephone polls, beats in a song, even steps I would take on walks. I was a little OCD about it.

When Andrew was born, the midwife suggested that I feed him on one breast at a time instead of switching part way through. Knowing my abundant supply and ferocious letdown, I was hesitant to disrupt the "balance" that comes with nursing equally on both sides.

However, with her promises of a baby who would sleep better, longer, and be more happy ringing in my ears, I gave it a shot.

She was right.

(I even took her advice a bit further and used block feeding for the first month or so. This helped drastically with my oversupply and fierce letdown.)

I know that this can also be attributed to temperament, but Andrew is such an easy baby. Sure he still cries, but 99% of the time we know exactly what the problem is. He nurses like a champ, his sleeping patterns are what dreams are made of, and he's such a happy little guy.

The reading I've done in the past few months has led me to the conclusion that this has a lot to do with the amount of hindmilk he's getting by nursing this way. By nursing a bit on each side, a baby gets mostly the watery foremilk and very little of the rich, fatty hindmilk.

(Did you know that breastmilk contains over 50 percent of its calories from fat? Much of it is saturated fat too -gasp! Mother's milk also provides a higher proportion of cholesterol than almost any other food. Both cholesterol and saturated fat are essential for growth in babies and children, especially for brain development. Puts into question a lot of the claims made by the American Heart Association regarding what's good for us and what's bad, eh? But that's another post.)

So how do you know if your baby is experiencing an imbalance in the amount of foremilk and hindmilk he/she is getting? So many parenting mysteries can be unraveled if we simply...

Examine their poop.

A breastfed baby should have poops that are bright yellow with "seeds" or little chunks in them. THEY SHOULD NOT BE GREEN. While this can also be attributed to something more serious like lactose intolerance, green, frothy poops often indicate too much foremilk. Too much foremilk causes a gassy baby who needs to nurse more often both for comfort and because foremilk is not as filling and satisfying as the hindmilk.

After the advice from my midwife and subsequent research, my biggest question was WHY HADN'T SOMEONE TOLD ME THIS BEFORE. It makes perfect sense and I think it's made all the difference with Andrew as it is the only thing I've done differently with him. We coslept with all of them, carried or wore them constantly, cloth diapered, my diet is similar... I just nurse completely differently. And, again, he's our easiest baby yet.

By far.


So last week we examined my poop, this week it's my newborn's. And while I could write a post next week about my two year old's poop issues related to his allergies, I think I'll spare us all.

For more Works For Me Wednesday, visit We Are THAT Family.


  1. Ahh, poop. Amazing how many times we have to talk about poop when raising little ones, huh? But yeah, if a baby's poop is green and they are only breastfeeding, then something is up. I miss the days of newborn poo!

  2. that really is a great advice, did wonders for my forceful let down. We still do block feeding and A turned 1 today. Too bad it doesn't work on her sleeping though, ha!

  3. I have just nursed one so far (though he's 26m and shows no signs of wanting to give it up, but I'm pregnant and it's starting to hurt so I'm having to make him cut back...) In any case, I can VERY much relate to your heavy letdown situation. Mine was enough that I had to hold him up at an angle to nurse, because if I laid him flat he would choke. I co-sleep but had to sit up with him in the bed every night for the first 4 months so he could eat.
    Anyway, the ladies at my local LaLecheLeague group gave me the same advice about block feeding, and it was GREAT.
    For the first 6 months I was actually donating milk to a friend with supply problems, but I'd latch baby on one side and put the pump on the other and go to town. LOL!

  4. My son turned 12 today. I was told in the hospital by the nurse the day he was born to feed only from the one breast at each feeding so he would get the hind milk. Too bad everyone isn't given the same information.

  5. Interesting!

    My daughter (first born) nursed on both sides and was a very fussy/gassy child.

    My son (second born) is nursing only on one side, but this is because he has never wanted/needed boob#2. He is much happier, but I will say unfortunately, he isn't a good sleeper.

  6. I have a single child, but had such difficulty latching on. Through the travails of all that, I found the same thing you did. If I pumped both breasts first and took off most of the foremilk, she got the rich hindmilk when she nursed both sides. I was even, she was full and happy. She has always been a great sleeper and I have to think that it had so much to do with the substance of the milk she received. Good for you! I'm glad you are sharing this with other moms. :)

  7. I had heard this too, and have been block feeding this baby for the most part. She is our easiest baby too, very happy and content all the time!!

  8. Hmmm, maybe I'll try that with my new baby!

  9. Brilliant post.
    I breastfeed a village of children...all around 15 or more months. They are all teens now...and I have never regretted doing it once.
    It was the best gift ever.

  10. Very good advice, I try to remember to tell every new mom I know about this. We have to do block feeding too, I do night on the right side, morning on the left, afternoon on the right, evening on the left. Lopsided, but this is how we get the nice yellow poos and happy babies ;)

  11. Bingo! With my first I did the switching side. Result, left side produced double the right side, I am still lopsided. With my second, a health nurse suggested NOT switching sides because he wasn't likely getting any hind milk. I can with 100% certainty say that is true. The milk I pumped with my first looked like watery milk and I could pump exactly one ounce from each side. With my second it looked like cream and I could pump 4-5 ounces easily from each side.

    It's safe to say I spent much of the first 6 months breastfeeding my first, he was always hungry! The second was down to 4 feedings a day by 4 months.

    Great post!


Comments satisfy my need for validation. LEAVE ONE!