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 A MILE.
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.
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