I thought breastfeeding would be straightforward. Organic, effortless.
After a gruelling labour and the subsequent physical and mental challenges I bottle-fed my son from two weeks. They say breast is ‘best’. It was not best for me at that time. Mums matter too. With my daughter I felt more empowered and prepared to breastfeed. But, unfortunately, it has not been the best feeding option for her so we are combination feeding between specialist formula and expressing.
Best laid plans and all that.
With motherhood you just must take everything in your stride, even if the steps are clumsy. There is no perfect baby template and expectations you have can go out the window. Let them. Don’t mourn what you can’t do or have. Don’t expect glossy toned perfection.
Perfect is in dirty nappies and exhaustion, in doing the best you can. It is real.
Norah’s feeding journey has been a complicated one over the eight weeks of her short little life. Before the trifecta of colic, silent reflux and a limited supply I breastfed her for the first month. It was not for the faint of heart. As a second-time mother I thought I had readied myself for the challenge. Retrospectively I should have sought more advice, read more tips as holding a new born in my arms, I felt…unprepared.
The reality is that for most women, breastfeeding takes a lot of patience, and determination.
Five ‘what not to do’s’ when breastfeeding.
Don’t disregard the importance of a latch.
The starting point of feeding. A bad latch will result in pain, blisters, cracked nipples (rub a bit of breastmilk on them) and an inefficient feed. Habits form fast. Don’t feel embarrassed if you or baby struggle at first. The first week I literally had to Google ‘how to’ pictures as I was so tired I barely knew where my boobs where!
The statement ‘If you are doing it right it wont hurt’ is crap. Yes, this may indicate an incorrect latch, but, especially at the beginning, or if you have a piranha baby like I did, nursing is uncomfortable until your breasts get used to it. Let down can also feel painful, I used to distract myself by drinking a cold glass of water!
Try not to panic, you and your baby are both learning, it can take time.
Don’t freeze into one feeding position.
I got stuck in a rut; only attempting the cross-cradle. And a badly done cross cradle. I hunched, awkwardly thinking it was easier for baby. Mum and baby both need to be settled, calm and comfortable. Prepare yourself for nursing, grab a glass of water, a pillow and the remotes.
Lots of mums like myself suffer from engorgement or fast let-down. Try the rugby ball or leaning back so the babies body is on top of yours. Sore after labour, or just plain shattered? Feed lying down in a side position.
Don’t worry about how much.
In the first few days I OBSESSED over Norah only feeding for short bursts, or cluster feeding. Was she getting enough milk? I was desperately trying to get the same peace of mind as when I bottle fed my son, as I could see how much he was having. If your baby is gaining weight, then there is nothing to worry about.
Try not to watch the clock, observe your baby’s cues, like rooting, hand sucking or crying and feed her, even if you just did. Putting your baby on latch with the early signs of hunger means a powerful sucker wont cause so much discomfort. Use a nursing pillow, easy access tops, nipple cream and cabbage. Yes cabbage, will make you feel more comfortable.
Don’t buy a cheap pump.
I found it most comfortable and efficient to use a Medela Swing double electric pump. You also need to pump correctly otherwise you can damage breast tissue. When your milk first comes in express and store any excess milk. Don’t get lazy and stop pumping at night feeds even if you are bottle feeding.
RELAX. At first, I would try and multitask whilst pumping, fold laundry etc. It will affect your supply so instead just sit. If you do find your milk diminishes try Alfalfa and Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek. Nursing tea. Give things a whirl if they work they work, if not, no harm done.
Don’t introduce a bottle or dummy to soon.
Sometimes you don’t have a choice and that is ok! Sometimes a baby can manage to breastfeed and have a dummy from the get go. Ideally try and have a solid feeding foundation, keep it simple, ensure breastfeeding is established before bottle feeding to avoid nipple confusion. For me introducing a bottle was necessary but the ease of it also did mean I lost some motivation to pump as it is a constant demand on your body and time. Lactation consultants are always there to provide support.
Nursing is a different experience for every mother and baby, so what works for one woman may not work for the next.
Medela once again are demonstrating their passion for all things breastfeeding as they bring back the celebrated ‘Big Breastfeeding Café‘ initiative on Tuesday 15th May 2018. Created to bring mums across the UK together to host their very own breastfeeding cafes at home, or a local coffee shop (why not raise awareness of feeding in public) they can meet for some #mumtomum support and share experiences over a cuppa. And a biscuit or too! (You can also make use of the amazing support from their lactation consultant!)