It’s no secret that I’m a reader if you’ve been reading my blog or following my Pinterest for any amount of time. As I gear up for a third baby and delivery and get through a third pregnancy, here’s the books I’ve been loving.
Some of these links are affiliate links – if you make a purchase using my link I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Someone in my birth month forum on Baby Centre mentioned this and I’m so glad they did. I adored the fact that Oster has done the research for me so I can consume the data and make my decisions about everything from sleeping position, to deli meat and epidurals. You can see my full review on this book here.
Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
Curious after a quote I read from this book in a blog post, I ordered this book from the library. The insights into another culture’s parenting is amazing. I actually found some sleep tidbits that resonated with me such as “the pause” – where you give baby five minutes to see if they are actually waking or just transitioning sleep cycles. I liked the writing and the content.
Meditation has made a huge difference to everyday life so why shouldn’t I employ the principles into labour? Research suggests that there are benefits to mother and baby from meditation! I like their affirmations so much that I created myself some pretty pictures with them written on for use during labour.
This book really promotes laid back feeding as a way for mama to get more rest and help baby learn to latch well. It goes through the science of nursing and baby biology which I enjoyed. The best piece of learning – use those first two weeks to set up your supply, more milk out equals more milk made. I will really work on getting 8-12 feeds per 24 hours.
If you want a light-hearted breastfeeding book, this is it. But don’t think it isn’t well backed by scientific knowledge. My number one take away is that postpartum women are the most undertreated of the medical world, ask for the pain relief if you need it. Labour is rough on your body. Pain relief is more likely to support than hinder lactation.
If you want a book specifically about pregnancy with fibromyalgia you might like my book Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia- its my research and experience, including the results of two informal surveys I took with advice from other mamas fighting fibromyalgia while pregnant.
If you love reading like me try Amazon Kindle Unlimited Membership – you can try your first month free and access unlimited reading or listening on any device! They now have magazines too! It’s also available for those of us who use Amazon.com.au *squee*.
If audio books are more your speed, as they are for me with three little ones, you know you can get a free trial of Audible on Amazon here. I’ve recently started reading a lot more audio books as the hands free option is far easier to access with the wee ones. You will get access to two audio books, plus two Audible Originals, and other cool membership options for 30 days. Cancel anytime if you don’t want the full subscription.
If you want to know more about Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia:
The one thing I disliked about the antenatal classes that we attended, is that they were not allowed to talk about bottles or expressing at all. I had to learn the hard way that mix feeding is a very good option to help your baby get some of that precious liquid gold.
In my Nursing with Fibromyalgia article, I recount my first two experiences with nursing. After three awful days with my son, during which I had to hand express onto a spoon while he screamed next to me while alone (they refused to let my husband stay and the night midwives didn’t want to help as I wouldn’t have their help at home *sigh*) the midwives showed me to the expressing machine. I didn’t even know that expressing was an option. My mum nursed all of her five children and if babies weren’t nursed they had formula, I hadn’t heard of this middle ground!
Video: Pumping/Expressing for your Baby
I wish I’d known about this middle ground so I didn’t have to take a crash course when so sleep deprived and sore.
Now I always include expressing/pumping as an option when I discuss nursing with Fibromyalgia because my number one tip with coping postpartum is to express early, go to bed early and then have a support person give the baby the next feed. As someone who cannot nap, I need those precious hours of sleep at night. So, I would express at 9pm, go to bed right after and then my husband would do the next one or two feeds (depending how early on it was and if he was going to work the next day). I would then wake after a few hours sleep in a row to deal with the baby for the rest of the night. We couldn’t do this for our second because his reflux was so bad that we had to keep each other company to get through the scream-filled evenings. And I suffered for it. There were nights when I fell asleep upright while feeding him.
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The Breast Pump and Supplies
For the first two I used a heavy duty hospital grade electric pump (Unimom, not currently available on Amazon UK or US). This is necessary if you are looking at exclusively expressing or regularly expressing.
If you are going to express semi-regularly, say a few times a day (at work perhaps) then a double electric breast pump, like this Avent one, is a good idea.
If you are going to express once or twice a day, like I plan to with number three, then a single electric breast pump, like this Avent one, is a good idea. This is actually on my Amazon Baby Registry, and as a third time mama not many things are on my to-buy list.
If you only plan to express occasionally, a manual pump, like this Avent one, may be the way to go. I didn’t like manual pumps, they hurt me to use (I only tried two brands that were given to me by the hospital to use when my son was sick), but the Unimom hand pump was the best for me for a tight spot.
I want to try this Hakaa manual pump this time, this is more for catching let down from the other side while nursing or helping you out between feeds if you find yourself without a baby or a pump.
The reason I am so amped about using Avent this time is because their bottles are our favourite, we have used them for both of our first two and will use them for our third. I believe the shape of the teat helped Wyatt to avoid nipple confusion and enabled mix feeding. The anti colic bottles are what we used. Don’t forget to start off with the newborn teat size! We had no idea there were different flows with our first baby and that was terrible at first (far too fast a flow does not help wind!).
You can buy the Avent steam steriliser, which would make things easier, but we were on a budget with our first and found that a basic tub that we filled with water and put sterilising tablets in did the job. You should sterilise all bottles, teats and dummies for at least the first six months.
There are special bottle warmers that some people swear by, but we found a jug of hot water to be sufficient. Please don’t microwave your milk to reheat it, it may heat unevenly and burn baby.
If you are exclusively expressing then you need to express as often as the baby would feed, approximately three hourly. You will need to do this until your supply is established at around six weeks. After this you can try reducing the frequency (say once overnight) or four hourly or both. The trick with expressing exclusively seems to be keeping up with what baby consumes, you may need to express more often than they feed to keep up with the growing amounts they consume.
If you are mix feeding, then you choose which feeds you are replacing to express (say 9pm). If baby is due for a feed near the same time, then you can choose to pump before or after according to your comfort level or routine. This is best while you’re establishing your supply.
You may be able to just always use formula at the late feed and your supply adjusts, just don’t do that with more than one feed at a time or you may find your supply reduced.
Sit as comfortably as possible, if you have a good pump then you just sit upright and time yourself for the 10-15 minutes.
To get started it helps to massage your breast and it can help to look at baby or a picture of them to encourage letdown. Start on a lower suction level and gently work your way up (without getting too strong).
I was advised to pump for no more than 15 minutes at a time with my hospital grade electric double pump, check what the recommendation for yours is.
If you’re feeling a bit lumpy or sore (like a clogged duct) a hot flannel on the breast can help as does massaging down toward the pump to help clear it out. I also gave myself a good massage in a hot shower when I had that blocked/lumpy feeling.
It’s also good to treat expressing like nursing directly and have a big glass of water and a snack. Hydration is important as is adequate nourishment.
When you are finished you can store the milk in a milk storage bag, like this, label it and put it in the freezer. They are useful with the zip close top for reopening if you are putting in multiple expressions before freezing.
A few tips
If you are expressing exclusively, or regularly that day, you can place all of the pump parts in a snap lock bag in the fridge between expressing sessions (so you don’t have to wash them all every time).
You can keep one milk storage bag in the fridge and put it into the freezer when full (or at the end of the day).
Generally you can keep milk in the fridge for three days and in the freezer for up to six months. This was great for me as I made an abundance of milk for my first baby very early on and was able to keep him exclusively breast milk fed for another four weeks after I stopped expressing. For more information about storage, see this article.
If you want to use previously frozen breast milk, put the milk storage bag in the fridge overnight. Use the thawed milk within 24 hours.
It takes several weeks for breast feeding to be established, but once this point has been reached you can generally reduce the expressing frequency. With my second I expressed four hourly during the day and once overnight to mimic how baby fed – but I did stop making the total amount he fed and that was OK because he had to have thickened formula for the bulk of his milk anyway.
For two great sites (I don’t want to overwhelm you with heaps of extra reading, but you can definitely Google “exclusive pumping” or “expressing breast milk”), see Kelly Mom and Exclusive Pumping.
Final notes about pumping or expressing for your baby
I feel like my whole life was taken up by milk for my second baby’s first 12 weeks, between the expressing, the thickened formula (for the reflux) and the direct feeding. When I read the research that suggests even 12 weeks of partial feeding breast milk is protective against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, I felt very proud. So please don’t think it’s all or nothing. If you can give 20ml a bottle like I did (it made the milk too thin if I put more than that in the bottle) – that’s amazing. If you manage to give baby only breast milk for six months, that’s amazing too. If you can’t manage to nurse and you give your baby formula – you’re still amazing.
I found it ridiculous when people tried to say that giving the bottle was more impersonal, I didn’t feed with the baby an arm’s length away – I cradled him as if I were nursing directly and I looked into his eyes, spoke to him and stroked his skin in the same way, however I fed. And as a bonus, my husband was able to feed him about as often as I was and they bonded beautifully too (not that they can’t bond without that!) just a silver lining. The biggest silver lining was that I was better able to bond with my first baby this way, nursing directly was so painful for me and it was such a strain on me physically and emotionally – I was so relieved when parenting no longer included my breasts. Your physical and mental health is vital, your baby needs you more than your breasts.
Please remember that all of my learning shared above is just that, personal learning through a lot of reading and personal experience with two children. Always seek support from a lactation consultant or midwife if you need help, particularly with latching. However, if you feel that those who are supposed to be supporting you are just forcing you to do something you can’t or don’t want to do, I hope the things I share help.
Like many areas of living with Fibromyalgia, I have found there to be little information on nursing with Fibromyalgia.
There are a few articles, like this one on Fibromyalgia Symptoms that mentions research but provides no links, “Numerous studies have been done evaluating how fibromyalgia influences breastfeeding. These studies all indicate that it is very hard to breastfeed with fibromyalgia.”
The Fibromyalgia Health Center on WebMD posted an article in 2004 referencing a new study about nursing with Fibromyalgia. This study was very small, with just nine mothers included:
“All nine women felt that they were not successful in their attempts to breastfeed, and felt frustrated,” Schaefer writes. Difficulties included muscle soreness, pain, and stiffness; fatigue; a perceived shortage of breast milk; and sore nipples.”
The article lists a few tips from the study which includes good nutrition, proper rest and paying attention to where and how you are nursing.
Please do remember that we are all unique, how we experience fibromyalgia and how we experience pregnancy or nursing. My story will not reflect yours. Before I give you my experiences, I’d like to show you some information from a survey I undertook when I was writing my book Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia.
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In response to the question, did you manage to nurse? 40% responded that they did for 12 months or more! 20% managed for both 12 month and 6 month periods (that’s 40% for 6-12 months!). 15% didn’t manage to nurse. 5% exclusively expressed. There were 20 respondents, so the sample size was small, but these are encouraging results.
Some advice from a respondent about nursing:
“The two hardest things for me have been lack of sleep, and being forced to sit in the same position for long periods of time while nursing, or while my son slept. I kept five different pillows on the couch, and used them to prop myself and him up at every angle. Really helped.”
Having had three children now, I thought I would share my experience. As with all areas of this illness, my experience may not be the same as another’s with Fibromyalgia, so my difficulties do not translate to all women with Fibromyalgia.
I found nursing extremely painful with my first two children, I had cracked and sore nipples from the second day cluster feeding with both babies. Both times, it took a long time for them to recover. Expressing was less painful, but still resulted in sore breasts.
The differences in situations were extreme.
With Nu, we found he was excessively windy and by week two we were going back and forward to doctors at the after hours centre. At last, at week three, we were sent to the hospital and there they found that he had pyloric stenosis – a thickened sphincter that wouldn’t let food out of the stomach to be digested, so it was forced back up and out of his mouth in projectile vomiting. After several days in hospital and a small operation, we came home and found that he doubled the amount he was taking at each feed. My supply couldn’t keep up, despite pumping three hourly the entire time he was in the hospital, my supply decreased in real numbers and relative numbers. I managed to keep him exclusively on breast milk until eight weeks. At this point whenever it was time to express, I would cry, so I knew it was time to finish up. I was just tired and sore and Nu was not a very settled baby and so cried the entire time I tried to express.
I was so relieved when parenting no longer needed to include my breasts. I am proud that I managed to give him such a good start in life, but I also wish I had given up sooner, but the pressure on mothers to breastfeed is enormous, even my expressing rather than feeding directly was seen as failure. My doctor and my Plunket Nurse were both supportive as they understood the Fibromyalgia and how hard I had tried.
With W I managed to persevere a little longer. My right breast got so sore and cracked from the second day cluster feeding that when I first tried to express, I expressed blood in the milk, it was a frightening sight! I persevered with the one side for another week before that became too sore (this guy is a rough feeder and liked to pull away with it clenched between his gums). I expressed four hourly during the day and once in the middle of the night (that was hard to leave baby sleeping after giving him a bottle and stay awake). My supply stayed static no matter what I did to try to increase it, so by week four, I was only just producing enough from both breasts for one feed. Luckily I had a lot of frozen milk from the first weeks of expressing.
This time I knew it didn’t have to be all or nothing (this is an important message for all mamas, you can mix feed!), I had more knowledge and therefore more power. I also ignored any messages of my being deficient or not trying hard enough. I managed to add in a physical feed each evening after he had spent the previous few hours having more regular bottles in his nightly cluster feed, this meant I didn’t have to worry about him not getting enough and he got some comfort from it at the end of a long day. It hurt, but swapping which breast I gave him each night helped me to cope. I worked with my midwife to reduce to a few feeds a day of my milk and add in formula for the shortfall. My plan was to give him whatever breast milk I could, for as long as I could.
As we know, plans do not always work out. Little W developed reflux and vomited my milk and got very sore. Through long weeks of trial and error we found that I could feed him directly (my measly 40 ml or so) followed immediately by a bottle of thickened formula, reducing the vomiting to spills and the gas pains greatly decreased. At seven weeks I was still managing to mix feed, with the miniscule supply I produced.
Due to the very different positions in my health and a lot more knowledge and confidence, I believe it was slightly easier the second time around. However, by 12 weeks my supply had completely dried up. I was really happy that I had been able to provide him with these vital nutrients for that long. I was also happy to not have to deal with expressing, feeding and bottles – it had begun to feel like my whole life revolved around his feeding. And at this time my life turned to revolving around his sleep, or lack of!
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One thing that helped me both times was my breast-pump. I used the Unimom Hospital Grade Double Expressing Machine (not currently available in US or UK Amazon) for these two. With my third, I have decided that I will not be able to express more than once or twice a day given that I have two other children four and under so I have the Avent Electric Pump (single, but you can get double) on my Amazon Baby Registry. FYI: Did you know that Amazon has a baby registry? You can sign up here Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry It’s basically a mobile registry (available anywhere!) and you will be eligible for discounts and rewards. If you’re going to purchase some of your items from Amazon, you may as well sign up (I did).
I also only used Avent bottles because I liked the teat shape (it mimics the breast-shape) and found that helped my boys to avoid nipple confusion. We introduced bottles of expressed milk very early, so please don’t worry when people talk about waiting until breastfeeding is “fully established” – because of all the women I have heard of who have done this, they never got their baby to take a bottle. This may be alright for you, but for me, I needed that ability to leave someone else to do a feed.
Baby Three (2019 update)
I have finally got a more successful story for you! After a much more comfortable pregnancy (even with severe pelvis issues that resulted in my being put off work at week 23 and on crutches and is still causing trouble at nine months postpartum) nursing was not such a kick in the pants. I had gotten my health into a much better place prior to pregnancy and reaped the rewards in pregnancy and nursing. This was due to low dose naltrexone and my ability to sleep in more than one hour blocks. You can find my post here about LDN.
My doctor and I agreed I would stay on it because the potential risks were minimal and the benefit of my sleeping and managing my pain were astounding. That was a personal decision, made by reading the research, listening to other women’s experiences and talking with my doctor.
We did have a bumpy start with the nursing. For three months we battled thrush and it was so distressing as in those early months every time I nursed I would have to stomp my feet and grit my teeth with the initial pain. I had to really push for people to take me seriously and realise it was not just me (or the fibromyalgia). So please do explore continued pain when breastfeeding. If I weren’t so committed to my personal goal of three months (at that stage) I would definitely have given up in those early weeks. I also got mastitis. I felt suddenly worse and I thought the fibromyalgia was just catching up with me, thankfully I went to the doctor and realised I had a bad case and needed antibiotics immediately.
We got through all of this and at about four months I realised that there was no trepidation about having to feed him and no pain! We nursed exclusively until he started solids and were still going at 9.5 months (August 2019). I have no end date in mind. We will see how it goes.
My tips for nursing with Fibromyalgia are what most nursing women are told:
Try to rest as much as you can
Eat as well as you can
Drink lots of water
Make yourself as comfortable as possible when you feed
Know that whatever you manage to give your baby is awesome and that you cannot fail. You will be a great mama whether you feed physically, by expressed breast milk or by formula. A fed baby and a happy mama are both minimum requirements. (Your well being counts as much as baby’s and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!)
Advocate for yourself – check out any pain (do not just chalk it up to the fibromyalgia – sure, it might be, but check it out)
I’d love to hear about your experiences with nursing with Fibromaylgia, if only so that others have something to read when they Google about it.