Breastfeeding After An Early Return to Work

BF at work

I had always planned to return to work fairly soon after my first child. I earned more than my husband, and his industry (home building) was in a huge slump. I held an administration management position with a local company that only had a small administration team. The owners of the business wanted me back and were prepared to do anything and everything necessary to get me back at work. As I was working in a male-dominated company, there were no protocols for what to do when an employee had a baby, and how to support their return to work. So while my employer wanted to support me, they actually had no idea how to.

After my son was born but before I returned to work, I sent my employer an email outlining the following:
– My commitment to breastfeed to at least 12 months. I said I was very grateful that they were willing to work with me to make my transition back to work as smooth as possible, and their support meant that I would be less distracted and more able to work productively in the office
– I would need to express or breastfeed several times each day while I was at work, in my office with the door closed. I would essentially be unavailable during these times
– As my son would only be 6 weeks old when I returned to work, I planned to pump each day at 10am and 3pm, and my husband would also bring my son in on my lunchbreak (around 12pm)
 – I would need to store my breastpump and milk in the fridge and freezer in the office kitchen. Everything would be appropriately labelled and stored (bagged)
– I would inform my coworkers so that they would not be surprised to see breastmilk or my pump in the fridge or freezer, and that they would expect me to be unavailable during pump/feeds
– As I was returning to work 4 days per week instead of 5, I would use my day off to catch up on emails and phone calls as required. I would also read and respond to emails from home in the evenings while my son was asleep (a huge part of my job involved communication through emails). I was available to be called on the phone when I was not at work (this was important, as our site operated 24/7)
I used some of my management experience in the email I drafted. I took the lead and planned what I wanted to do, instead of asking what they wanted me to do. This is because a manager does not want his worker to bring him problems – he wants solutions. I planned everything without speaking to my employer so that all they had to do was say yes. Or no, if they didn’t approve. But since they didn’t have experience with breastfeeding mums at work, and it was in their best interests to have me back at work, I knew that they had to rely on me to set the benchmark. And that was that.
They agreed to my plan and I went back to work.
Initially it was very important that I stuck closely to my pumping schedule, because I got engorged if I was late at all. I had a medela freestyle pump, which is a double electric. I bought it because of the hands-free attachment, but unfortunately I found it too finicky, and by the time I had it on and correctly fitted, it didn’t feel very stable. So I pumped using my forearm and hand of one arm to hold the flanges and bottles in place, and used my other hand to use the phone. In the early days I used my phone to look at photos of my son to help my letdown, then gradually I was able to use it to facebook and “zone out”. As I got more confident and my employer was more comfortable with the situation, my morning pumping session actually turned into my daily brief with the Managing Director – I would talk to him about what was happening at our site and how our production figures were while I was pumping.
As time went by, occasionally my husband and son came for the lunch visit while I was in a meeting with other workers. I only breastfed in these meetings a handful of times. It generally wasn’t necessary as my husband came at lunchtime anyway, and the meetings were usually wrapping up when he arrived. Some coworkers openly expressed their comfort if I wanted to breastfeed, which felt very supportive, even if I didn’t take them up on the offer. I knew from some practice sessions at home that I needed to pump for 12 minutes before the flow slowed to a stop from my breasts. However after being at work for only a few weeks, my breasts got better at letting down quickly and my pumping sessions decreased to 10 minutes, and over time I was expressing around 150-200ml in only 7 minutes.
I expressed far more milk than my son would drink at home. He loved to breastfeed and was not a fan of the bottle. Although he did reluctantly drink from the bottle when I was at work, he only ever drank enough to keep his hunger at bay. Even when he was 6 months or so, he still never drank more than 70ml. So I donated the excess to another mum who was unable to produce enough breastmilk for her son due to a lack of breast tissue after reduction surgery. It was an absolute privilege to be able to give my breastmilk to another child, and I have always loved seeing photos of him from his mum on Facebook – it’s really lovely to know that I have contributed in a small way to his chubby little body and cheeky smile.
Before returning to work we had two practice runs with a bottle. The Closer to Nature bottle was the one that was recommended most highly at the time, so that’s what we bought. I gave my husband the bottle and left the house each time, and each time was an absolute disaster. The first time I came back inside after hearing my sons distressed cries. The second time after waiting about 20 minutes I came back thinking we had success only to find my husband had given up and was making our son giggle instead. I was worried that my son was too much of a boob lover and would never take a bottle, and it was very nerve racking the first day I went back to work. But I trusted my husband to handle the situation, and our son was too distressed and still wouldn’t take the bottle, well my husband would be able to bring our son to work for a breastfeed in the morning instead of waiting til lunch. Luckily that was not necessary. He found that when I was well and truly out of the house, my son would take the bottle when he was tired and hungry.
If I could give one piece of advice to any mum going back to work, it’s to trust your child’s carer.
I know lots of women who really worry that their child’s care provider (especially if it’s their husband, like mine) won’t be able to cope with a baby who’s been exclusively breastfed and is only used to settling for mum. You need someone you can trust to handle the situation, and to only contact you if it’s really urgent. I’m very lucky that (although he was often nervous and a bit insecure about his parenting skills), my husband kept a cool head and kept the situation in perspective at all times. Yes, it was a worry when our son didn’t have milk for many hours. Yes, it was distressing to hear him cry. But we just as we wouldn’t panic if our son went many hours without a breastfeed through the night because he was sleeping, we didn’t need to panic if he didn’t take a bottle and didn’t have any milk until he saw me at work. Our son did cry, which we hated. But he always cried in the arms of someone who loved him and tried their best to calm him down.  Over time our son got very used to his time at home with his dad. I could only ever breastfeed my son to sleep, but my husband found his own way using some jigging around (that some men may refer to as dancing haha) with our son on his shoulder to an old Sepultura album (heavy metal).
The hardest thing about returning to work was that our son did something called reverse cycling. This is where a baby wakes frequently to feed during the night because he is missing quality time with mum during the day. It’s common with babies where the mother returns to work, but can also happen where mum is distracted by other kids during the day, and other scenarios. It was incredibly hard going to work when I’d been woken every 40 min-2 hours throughout the night.
At one point I sought help from a social worker. Although she made me feel very validated in my concerns and stress, I opted not to go ahead with the sleep solution she offered me (which was very gentle but not gentle enough for me). I had a lightbulb moment when I read Pinky McKay’s Sleeping Like A Baby book. This book helped me so much. It made me feel so much more confident in what I was doing, and reaffirmed to me that this would pass. So I continued bedsharing and breastfeeding whenever my son would take it. And do you know what? When I stopped stressing about the lack of sleep, I wasn’t as tired! I firmly believe now that stress is WAY more exhausting than a lack of sleep! So anyway, back to my work situation.
I continued working, breastfeeding and pumping until I decided I was no longer enjoying work and decided to quit to be a stay at home mum instead. I did this when my son was 18 months and my employer continued to be fairly supportive the whole time, although towards the end of my employment I felt they were wondering why on earth I was still breastfeeding my toddler who was walking and talking. But that’s a whole other story 😉

Milk Sharing Networks – When things just work!

BreastmilkI want to share a story about milk sharing that happened recently.  I apologise if it seems a bit disjointed – I didn’t learn about the whole story chronologically.  I have also made some creative changes to names.

Emma from far North Queensland recently gave birth to her third child, a boy named James.  She was staying with family in the Hunter Valley, NSW, while recovering from the C-Section birth of her son.

James wasn’t gaining weight.  Emma sought help from doctors, but she was left with a routine of feeding and expressing that was unachievable, given she had two young daughters to also care for.  She wasn’t getting a break between feeds/pumps and nor was she expressing enough for the top ups.  So she ended up supplementing with 20ml top ups of formula, given by a syringe.  She understood the risks of nipple confusion and did not want to jeopardise her future breastfeeding relationship.  Emma didn’t expect to experience this problem after successfully breastfeeding her two older children.  She expressed this frustration to an aunt and cousin.  Her cousin suggested Emma try to see Amanda Pauley, a local IBCLC.  Amanda had a very good reputation for helping breastfeeding women, and had saved many breastfeeding relationships with her ability to identify tongue ties.  Emma’s aunt piped up that she was a patient of Amanda’s husband Jon, who was a GP.  Emma’s aunt agreed that Amanda had a very good reputation.  While Emma continued trying to juggle everything, a few days later her aunt called. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve booked an appointment for you to see Amanda”.

Emma went along to the appointment.  Amanda found a tongue tie and had it corrected at the appointment.  She then addressed the top ups.  Baby James was 6 weeks old and still had not reached his birthweight, so top ups would continue to be necessary for the time being, however Emma would be switching from syringe to an SNS. SNS Emma expressed an interest in donated breastmilk, and had a cousin named Lauren who had posted on Facebook about it before.  Amanda knew a Lauren too – Amanda had attended to Lauren’s second daughter when she was a newborn, and Lauren also ran a large breastfeeding support group on Facebook and had previously worked with Amanda through an organisation called BANC (Breastmilk Advocacy for Newborns Collective).  In a town with a population of around 70,000 residents, Amanda knew Emma’s cousin Lauren (that’s me!).

Long story short, Emma was able to swing past my house on the way home from her appointment to collect 400ml of breastmilk that was stashed in my freezer.   In a society where many women are happy to supplement with formula, this feels like a miracle, but it was not complete chance that facilitated this breastmilk transaction.

  • Some professionals are informed enough to educate parents on the subject of comparative risks between formula and unpasteurised breastmilk. In this case, Amanda helped reduce the level of risk by offering to refer the donor for a variety of blood tests
  • People are sharing information about milk sharing on social media, and other people are taking notice
  • Milk sharing happens frequently around in Australia, and I am blessed to be a part of a very active milk sharing network in the Hunter/Newcastle area. If I did not have 400ml of breastmilk available to share with Emma in my freezer, it would not have been a huge feat for me to source it for her from another donor.

While I am chuffed to be involved in this particular incident of milk sharing, I can’t take credit for the ease in which it happened.  Higher powers were at work!  Sharing information about milk sharing, being vocal about participating in it and demanding our professionals are up to date with their information are making massive inroads into normalising breastfeeding, and with it, milk sharing.  Emma may not have been as open to the concept of donor milk if the term and concept were completely foreign to her.  She may not even have considered seeing an IBCLC so far away from home had it not been facilitated by two other relatives.  Thanks to this chain of events, I get to look forward to seeing James thrive, now that his medical issues have been addressed, and I feel some personal satisfaction that I have, in a very small way, helped contribute to his growth.

The current generation of mums are starting to appreciate the importance of breastmilk and want better solutions to their breastfeeding problems then to simply offer a bottle of formula instead.  Reading an article here and sharing something there may not feel like it’s going to make a big difference, but all of these small things are contributing to a big mind-shift in the way we feed our babies.  Thank you for being a part of this change!


The Peaceful Lactivist

Hi. My name is Lauren and I’m a Peaceful Lactivist.

I can hear your surprise at my label. It almost feels like an oxymoron. Lactivists aren’t peaceful. The stereotypical lactivist is often out looking for a fight against medical professionals, formula manufacturers and anyone who doesn’t do it HER way, which is obviously the RIGHT way and the ONLY way to do things. She believes everyone should breastfeed at all costs, and if you don’t you are inferior. She is smug, aggressive and probably has hairy legs. Well actually… I do usually have hairy legs.

I am the silent majority. The silent majority of women who have successful breastfeeding journeys, and who meet (and even exceed) their personal goals are happy and proud. I don’t want to make anyone breastfeed if they don’t want to. But if you want to breastfeed and you need help, you can ask me and I’ll tell you whatever I know. If you look interested enough, you might not be able to shut me up. A woman’s body’s ability to nourish her baby amazes me and I’m always delighted with the opportunity to help someone else see that.

Breastfeeding is amazing, and I am grateful my body, in this instance, has worked the way it should. I’m thankful for people who helped me get through. I’m inspired by the way it’s made me feel as a woman and mother, and I’m blessed to see it help my babies grow. I don’t want to be on a pedestal, and I don’t want to put anyone down. I feel I am doing as I should. My body is working the way it should. Nothing more, nothing less.

I can’t get angry about breastfeeding. I’m disappointed that women are systematically let down by a society that doesn’t place enough value on the power of breastfeeding. It makes me sad that not everyone gets to feel the joy I feel about the way I feed my babies. But don’t mistake my lack of anger for apathy. I am passionate about normalising breastfeeding.

A very experienced lactivist recently scoffed at me and told me it’s because of the love hormone, oxytocin, and that when I’m finished breastfeeding, I will be angry. Maybe so. But right now, I am a peaceful lactivist.


Do you need to top-up?

If you do need to top-up/supplement on your breastfeeding journey, there are ways to do this that are more breastfeeding friendly than bottles. Bottles can easily cause bottle preference, overfeeding and a change in baby’s latch, all things you want to avoid if your goal is to continue breastfeeding.
You can use a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) which has two thin tubes that lead out from a bottle/syringe and stick to the side of the nipple, so that baby sucks milk through them like a straw, while suckling on the breast, providing stimulation to increase milk supply.

Cup and spoon feeding are also options, as well as finger feeding and syringe feeding.

images (17) images (18)

images (19)sns

Night Weaning a Toddler

One subject that comes up frequently in our Facebook group is how to gently wean your toddler from their night time breastfeeds. This is my own story of how we made the transition away from relying on breastfeeding for sleeping and settling. Like a lot of mums breastfeeding past infancy, my son was breastfeeding on demand, I had always fed him to sleep, he didn’t take bottles and we bedshared.


It was a shock to find myself considering night weaning my son, because I had been working towards the elusive holy grail goal of allowing him to self-wean. To me, this meant allowing my son to breastfeed whenever and wherever he wanted until he no longer needed it. But when I formed that goal and those opinions, I had not considered the fact that I would fall pregnant when my son was 27 months old, or that he would be breastfeeding with the voracity of a much younger child. At that stage, Billy was still breastfeeding at least 2-3 hourly through the night, and more times than I could count during the day.


The elation of that positive pregnancy test was immediately followed with a brick wall of fatigue, nausea and sudden, extreme nipple pain. I must have unlatched Billy a thousand times to carefully check my nipple for cracks or signs of trauma. I have never felt pain like that, including the early days of establishing breastfeeding, when a tongue tie shredded my nipples into a bloody mess. Whether it was my hormones, a reduction in my milk supply, or my son’s sixth sense for knowing when I’m unsettled for some reason, his night feeds increased. He was suddenly needing to sleep with my breast in his mouth all night long and between the fatigue and the pain, I couldn’t deal with it. I suffered as long as I could, but as I ventured to the middle of my pregnancy, strong aversions came to me, in the form of feeling furious and protective of my personal space during breastfeeds. These aversions were worse the more tired I was. I masked my anger with impatience, but I knew in myself that it was not the right way to deal with the problem. I knew I needed to make some changes.


I was scared of night weaning. I was scared of bringing another baby home to meet Billy, and was worried about how he would react to no longer being my one and only. Continuing to breastfeed was my plan to reassure him that he was still loved. I was afraid that night weaning would damage our relationship, but it was a necessity. I couldn’t continue the way I was.


The only actual experience I had with sleep training was when a beautiful social worker from my local Family Care Cottage visited me when Billy was around 14 weeks old. I had just returned to work and wasn’t coping with the night wakings, and she taught me about responsive settling, which is where you put your baby down in the cot and comfort them as best you can while they are lying down. I was allowed to pick him up whenever I felt he needed to be held. As kind and gentle as that social worker was, the method was not gentle enough for me, and since my only experience, I’d only really heard negative stories about sleep training. As a mum trying my best to parent as gently and lovingly as I could, leaving my son to cry on his own was not in line with my values.


So I read. I searched for gentle night weaning advice and my search yielded results from many, but most notably from Pinky McKay, Milk Meg (Meg Nagle) and Dr Jay Gordon. Nearly everything I read offered insight and tips that were very valuable to me, but in the end no single method felt exactly right for us. Every family is unique and every child is unique. After reading as much as I could, I took the bits that I liked, discarded what I didn’t, and made my own way.


Talk about it

Respecting my child as a person was important to me, so I told him that our situation would be changing. Our kids may not always understand what we are saying, but I am always surprised at how they understand what we mean. He knew there was a baby in my tummy, and that when the baby was strong enough, they would come out of my tummy and would live with us at our house. I explained to Billy that growing a baby makes mum very tired. We talked about how my breasts hurt, and that I slept best when my breasts were held snug in my bra with no one touching them.


We talked about how we get grumpy and upset sometimes when we’re very tired, and how we felt good after we had a good sleep. We discussed the way that neither of us had very much fun when we were tired, and mums that are tired find it hard to go out and do fun things, like going to the park and riding the bike.


We discussed food. One of the key elements to our flexible approach to eating is that we have a fruit bowl on the dining table, which Billy has always been allowed to help himself to. I told Billy that if he’s ever hungry or thirsty, he can have food or a drink, even if it’s night time. We started taking a bottle of water to bed with us.


Lastly, we talked about day and night. We can have milk in the day time. Night time is for sleeping.


Move on from feeding to sleep at bedtime

The consensus among the expert advice I read was that the first step was to move on from feeding to sleep at the start of the night. Although Billy had always fed to sleep with me, my husband was able to settle Billy to sleep in other ways when I wasn’t around, so I knew it would be achievable.


And we began. We would go to bed as we always had, and I told him that I wanted him to finish his milk before he went to sleep. I breastfed him in my bed just as we did every other night, but when I noticed his eyes starting to roll and flutter, I asked him to hop off so we could go to sleep. His eyes would snap back open and he would continue feeding for another minute before he started nodding off. I would unlatch him by putting my pinky finger into the corner of his mouth and I asked him if he was ready to sleep. If he said no, he was allowed to suckle again, but as I noticed he was falling asleep, I asked him again if he was ready to sleep.


This step was actually not too bad for us. My son was always tired when we went to bed, and he didn’t put up as much of a fight as I expected. He found it irritating that I was interrupting his sleep and that I would physically break his seal at my breast and make him unlatch, and there was a little bit of moaning and wailing, but overall, he handled this change very well.


Move on from feeding to sleep during the night

I continued my plan throughout the night. If Billy was seeking a breast, I allowed him to suckle, but I counted to ten out loud. When I reached ten, I made him unlatch. I asked him if he was finished and if he said no, he was allowed to latch on while I counted to ten again. My end goal was to cut out breastfeeds between bedtime and sunrise, so I repeated my mantra over and over – night time is for sleeping, you can have more milk when the sun’s awake.


Some nights he was really upset and insisted he needed more milk. I would offer him something to eat or drink. There were many nights when he ate a banana and had a drink of water before lying back down to sleep.


This step was very upsetting for Billy, and it really tested my resolve. There were two or three nights where Billy would work himself up into hysterics at least once during the night. I felt awful about upsetting him the way I did, but I was confident in my decision to instigate night weaning, and knew that it was necessary for us. I think the confidence in my decision made my resolve stronger on those really hard nights. I stuck to my rule of not feeding to sleep and although it hurt me to see Billy so upset, I was always there with him offering cuddles and reassurance.


Celebrate the small wins along the way

After about three long nights, Billy was handling these changes much better. It felt like a massive step the first night when he suckled and then lay down in my arms and let me cuddle him until he went back to sleep. As we stayed consistent with this method, over the next few weeks Billy started only suckling until I counted to three, and then to one and he was happily unlatching and going back to sleep with a cuddle.


I was so happy with this progress, that I kept this arrangement in place for a few months. I was getting more sleep through the night and still knew Billy’s needs were being met, so I felt no need to push to the next step of refusing any suckling at night.


My changes didn’t stop Billy from waking every 2-3 hours, but he was basically waking up for a cuddle and then going back to sleep, rather than hanging off my breast, making my nipples hurt or leaving me in uncomfortable positions, which was unacceptable to me while I was pregnant.


Then my daughter was born and my milk came back, and Billy’s nursing frequency increased. A combination of the excitement of a really abundant milk supply and the need for reassurance with a beautiful but demanding baby joining us meant he was nursing as much, if not more than his baby sister. He actually gained a kilo in the first month after Penny’s birth. It was also really handy for me to have a convenient way to relieve my engorgement.


By three months post pregnancy, I felt like we’d found a good rhythm within our family, and I was ready to move to the next step of ceasing all night feeds. I felt mentally prepared for this step. Although I knew it would be distressing for Billy, I knew my approach was as gentle as could be, and I didn’t feel guilt. I was prepared for difficulty with emotions, but I was confident that Billy would handle this step, because he’d handled our previous progressions to this point so well.


We talked about it again. We had a new baby in the home, and Billy was already afraid that Penny would take all of my cuddles, all of my kisses, all of my time and all of my love. He didn’t tell me this, but he did tell me that he didn’t want Penny to take all of his milk. I promised him that I had enough cuddles, enough kisses, enough time and enough love for two kids. And I definitely had enough milk. I told him Penny needed a lot of milk at night and he didn’t – we already knew that if he was hungry at night Billy could have a banana and a drink of water. Penny couldn’t have a banana and a drink of water. But I assured him that I would “save” his milk up so that he could have a big drink in the morning.


And we began. As I expected, he was upset. But not as much as he’d been when I had previously counted to ten during his night time feeds. And again, after about three nights, I saw a big improvement after about three nights.
Initially night weaning didn’t make much of a difference to Billy’s waking habits, but they gradually improved. At a few months past four years old, he is still waking usually once but up to three times between bedtime and wake-up time (so between 9pm and 7.30am) but there is no distress and the disturbance is minimal.


In the end

I’m really glad that I researched as much as I did to tailor a solution that worked for us. Being able to make our own plan based on informed decisions made the process much less complicated. I didn’t wonder if I was doing the right thing – I’d read enough to be confident in my decisions. In the end, I believe night weaning helped Billy’s and my breastfeeding relationship. Not only was I sleeping more at night, but the reduction of angst around night wakings and feeds made me feel capable of being a better parent during the day.


Breastfeeding a baby with teeth – things you can try to stop the biting

If you are a breastfeeding mum who is starting to worry about breastfeeding a baby with teeth, then first of all, WELL DONE, MAMA! You have done so well to get through the initial difficulties of establishing your breastfeeding journey, and you have your sights set on breastfeeding past the newborn phase, which is in line with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

The mere thought of having your nipples anywhere in the vicinity of tiny, new, sharp little teeth that are being “controlled” by a tiny human (and I’m using the word “controlled” very loosely, because it takes babies a little while to learn to control their bodies). But many women breastfeed their children into toddlerhood and beyond, so you’re probably thinking there must be some tips that will help you through the teething phase. There are! Let me share with you what I have learned throughout my own breastfeeding journey about biting.

It’s better to prevent the biting, rather than reacting after it’s already happened

As I mentioned above, babies take a little while to learn to control their bodies. If your baby is just starting to cut teeth, they are unlikely to have much impulse control. It’s my personal opinion that “disciplining” your baby for biting is probably not going to be effective in preventing further biting. I have seen suggestions of a firm “no”, tapping teeth, removing baby from your breast and sitting them away from you while you count to ten, pinching or even biting your baby back. These suggestions don’t feel logical to me. If your baby is biting, there is probably an underlying reason why. Once you have identified the reason, you can decide on an appropriate plan of attack to prevent the biting. The added bonus is that you don’t need to wait for your baby to actually bite you before you can start being proactive in protecting your nipples!

Babies don’t normally bite while they’re actively drawing milk from your breast

In order for your baby to be correctly latched on and suckling the milk from your breast, their tongue needs to cover their lower gums. You will note from the image below, courtesy of “Milk & Baby” that the tongue is thrust past the lower gum, all the way to the front of the mouth so it is able to stimulate the breast. If you have one of those adorable babies that occasionally smiles at you mid-feed, you may have noticed you can see their tongue in the corner of their mouth when their lips part. If your baby’s tongue was not in that correct position, then it would be further back, behind their lower gum and not visible to you. The biting feeling is worst when your breast is crushed between the top and bottom gums. If your baby is actively feeding, then their tongue would cushion the impact between the gums, and you should not feel pain. If your baby is well attached to your breast, but then changes the position of their mouth, they may be preparing to bite. If your baby is biting, it’s very likely that he or she is not actually feeding at that time.


Does your baby want to breastfeed right now?

My son went through a phase of biting as soon as I put my breast near his face. This was a major problem for me, as breastfeeding has always been a big part of the way I parent. If he was hungry, I gave him boob. If he was tired, I gave him boob. If he was crying, I gave him boob. Boob, boob, boob. Sometimes I didn’t know what the problem was, but boob was my go-to solution. I could tell he was biting me because he didn’t want boob at that time, but if I was actively offering it to him all the time, how could I protect myself?

I had to stop offering him breast when he didn’t want it. It was a tough habit to break of waving boobs in his face in all situations, but my son had discovered he had power over when he would and would not be having milk, and he was enjoying exercising it! I backed off with the offering, and instead relied on his cues more. And sure enough, he would let me know when he was ready for a breastfeed (usually by tapping my breast, sticking his hand into my shirt, or, if all else failed, putting his face onto my clothed breast and pretending he was suckling). Not only were my nipples no longer being bitten, but my son had learned new ways to communicate his needs to me! Note, this was not a permanent situation. It was a phase, and after a few weeks of him letting me know when he wanted a breastfeed, he reverted back to his earlier behaviour of happily accepting a breastfeed whenever it was on offer.

Biting from teething pain

If you know your baby is in pain from teething, offering your preferred method of pain relief before breastfeeds can help a lot. Some mums use conventional or homeopathic medication, breastmilk icy poles, a cold teether toy – there are a wide range of options available. We used a facewasher wet with icy cold water. Both of my kids love chewing on a facewasher, and I would sometimes put the facewasher over my finger and give their gums a bit of a massage. Offering relief before a breastfeed will help your baby breastfeed without pain.

Biting from teething pain will usually happen towards the start of a breastfeed, and may be accompanied with your baby looking upset, wincing or even crying. If your baby is very agitated and appears to be unable to relax and breastfeed, find other ways to calm them down, and offer breast again when they are more relaxed.

Biting later in the feed

These bites were tricky for me to make sense of. We would have a lovely, peaceful breastfeed, and it felt like we were both calm and relaxed, then out of the blue my son was biting me! What a way to ruin the moment for me! After paying more attention (instead of zoning out, which is what I’m normally doing while I breastfeed my kids), I noticed that my son stopped swallowing milk after a while, but continued suckling. I could tell this by watching his throat and mouth. His mouth was making the suckling movements, but I couldn’t see his throat moving like it usually did when he was swallowing mouthfuls of milk. I realised that he was no longer actively breastfeeding when he was biting me, so I learned to remove him from my breast once he stopped swallowing milk. If he got upset when I removed him from my breast, I would switch sides and let him continue feeding. It seemed to me that he was biting because milk was no longer flowing freely from my well-drained breast. The faster-flowing milk from my fuller breast made him happy. Again, this was not a permanent situation. After I learned to put him on the other breast when he stopped swallowing milk from the first side, he soon followed suit and learned to stop feeding from a breast when he was not happy with the flow, and indicated to me that he wanted the other breast.

Biting for your attention, or as a “game”

It can be quite distressing to feel the pain of a bite to your breast, only to look down and see your baby thinks it’s hilarious. As I previously mentioned, I don’t believe disciplining your baby for biting is appropriate, however while I don’t agree, I can see why some people believe it’s appropriate in these circumstances – they think the baby is being “naughty”.

I don’t think a biting baby is naughty. I don’t actually think any baby is naughty, but we can save that for another blog post. I think in these circumstances, we have a baby who really wants your attention. Watch your baby during the breastfeed. Talk, hold hands, stroke hair. This is your baby’s way of asking you to put the phone down, stop fiddling with the tv and enjoy this precious moment with them.

Biting to bring on a letdown

I have not personally experienced this, however a close girlfriend of mine did. Her daughter was biting as soon as she got on because she learned it made the letdown happen faster. As my friend had a very forceful letdown, she allowed the biting to continue so she didn’t spray milk across the room. My friend didn’t realise why her daughter was doing this straight away, and by the time she worked it out, her daughter was biting at every feed out of habit. To break the habit, my friend would unlatch her daughter when she bit, and would reattach her, ensuring she had a good, deep latch. There were a few times when her daughter wouldn’t cooperate, and I watched my friend catch a few letdowns into a breastpad, which was very frustrating for her. But she was firm with her daughter, and they were able to break the habit. There are circumstances where your baby may bite due to an issue with low supply. If you believe you have a low supply, you should seek advice from an IBCLC, who would consider a number of factors (including your baby’s weight gains and nappy output) in determining whether your supply is adequate for your baby’s needs.

You don’t need to stop breastfeeding

The information I have given here are based on my own experiences as a breastfeeding mum, and admin of the Breastfeeders in Australia Facebook group. If you don’t feel like any of my suggestions apply to your situation, please don’t despair – you can get further advice from an IBCLC or by ringing the Australian Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 MUM 2 MUM.

She Needs A Cheerleader

The group Breastfeeders In Australia is a mainstream breastfeeding group. It’s full of brand new mums who are hormonal, sleep deprived and often clueless about breastfeeding, normal infant behaviour and normal human biology. The brand new mum doesn’t join the group because she knows what she is doing, or because she is confident, she joins because she is having problems. Because she doesn’t know how it all works. She joins because she wants to breastfeed but it’s not quite going right, and she doesn’t know where to find help. Most women have never heard of an IBCLC, let alone know how to get any other help. She needs a cheer squad.


She needs to be treated gently. Otherwise she will get scared and upset, and listen to the nice GP who said it’s ok, just give formula. I’ve seen the Breastfeeders In Australia group evolve alot over the last few years, people often point out donor milk as an option, people are saying it’s ok to cuddle your baby, you don’t have to listen to them cry, it’s normal for baby to wake at night.
I know it can get frustrating for women who are further ahead at a different stage of their journey, seeing the same questions over and over, pulling their hair out at the current obsession with milo; but she is not just an annoying question or just text on a screen, she is a real mum who needs to be encouraged gently, just as you’d treat a real friend in real life. She needs a cheerleader.

As soon as the brand new mum comes past the fog of the first two months, she comes to a new point in her journey. She now desperately wants to help everyone, just like she was helped, she wants to give back. But she doesn’t always have the knowledge to do that. She needs a coach or a friendly advisor to point her towards correct information, without making her feel silly for not knowing. She needs a gentle teacher.

Once mum has gained a basic knowledge of how breastfeeding works, and she has been around the mainstream questions for a while, her patience starts to wear thin, she sees the same questions over and over, and she gets frustrated. She is angry at formula companies, uneducated health care professionals, societal pressures, and she wants to vent. She wants to surround herself with people who believe what she believes so that she can continue on her journey, have a safe place to relax in, and a virtual tribe to confer with. To have friends and confidantes who will be angry with her. She needs a sidekick.

After she has been in her safe environment for awhile, she realises she’s preaching to the choir. There is noone to help, noone to give advice or support to. She realises that sharing articles with people who believe the same that she believes isn’t helping new mums stick with breastfeeding, or helping mums increase their knowledge. She realises it’s time to step back into the mainstream group. Her perception of the mainstream group has changed. It’s no longer annoying, it’s full of questions that she knows the answers to.
She starts to recognise that the language she uses makes a big difference. She starts to notice the difference between those who need a cheerleader and those who want a gentle teacher.
She starts to see the big picture and how she can change the world one breastfeeding journey at a time. She just needs some direction. She needs a mentor.

Then once she in turn starts to mentor others, she starts to become a leader. She has a vision, a strategy, and a wealth of knowledge. She make connections with everyone she come across, and her online life is no longer separate from real life. She doesn’t need one person now. She needs an army.