Before I delve into this I would just like to make it really clear that this entry is in no way stating that breast feeding is ‘the best’ or ‘correct’ way to feed a baby. The most important thing is that a baby is fed and cherished however parents feel is right for them and their situation. There are so many reasons behind peoples choices and with something as complicated as a new human life there is never going to be a ‘one way fits all’ rule. It doesn't matter how you feed so long as baby gets fed.
AND GO!!! For me that’s what feeding felt like and on occasion still feels like. It certainly wasn’t a slow and steady process with opportunities to reflect, recoup and go again. However I feel that the part of my personality that came in handy on this occasion: ‘naivety’.
If I’d have known what I know now 10 weeks down the line I’m still not sure what advice I’d give myself in order to prepare myself better. Looking back I was totally clueless. Did I buy a breastfeeding book, yes! Did I read it? Partially? Did I attend a breastfeeding specific session for hours on a Saturday morning? Yes! Did I learn a lot? Yes. Did I even take notes thinking that I would calmly look back and refer to these in coming weeks? Yes, yes, yes. I did all the things you are ’supposed’ to do and of course I patted myself on the back and prematurely congratulated myself on the fact that I felt semi prepared-after all I’d even taken notes hadn’t I?
WHAM! My little girl arrived and that was it, the feeling of being on a treadmill that you absolutely cannot get off and yet your emotional compass is so massively embroiled in the fact that you have to keep your beautiful baby alive that you go with it. Plus absolutely zero time to look back on those beautifully taken notes you'd written down the week before.
Now don’t get me wrong I had spoken to people prior to my little girl being born and had heard varying degrees of stories around breastfeeding all varying in length but the main word that seemed to come out of them was ‘perseverance’ and again in my naïve pre-baby brain I thought ‘how hard can it be?’.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I attended a new parents event at Mothercare (something I would highly recommend) and spoke to one of the assistants about feeding as until this point I had not invested in any equipment and I remember her saying very clearly after asking me if I was going to breastfeed and my response was ‘I’m going to try” (forever the pessimist), she said ‘you don’t just try with breast feeding’ and there it was, a challenge! I’m not hugely competitive when to comes to team sports but if you set me a challenge of me vs me I’m in! And most likely give myself a really hard time in the process. But again I thought ‘how hard am I going to have to try?’ Well………………
Day 0: somewhere in the foggiest part of my brain I remembered an idyllic tale that new born babies instinctively know where their mother’s breasts are and if you leave your baby on your tummy they will gradually make their way to your nipple and latch on. Perfect, piece of cake, no problem, I’ve got this! Now (and this is purely in my experience, everyone is different) I have found this to be only half true, yes, babies do seem to know where their mother’s breasts are but the latch, oh the latch, the one thing that means so much, the thing that you will agonise over (literally), the thing that looks so easy on paper but actually in real life is pretty tricky because as much as you would like your new born to be like the dolls you practised with at your pre baby sessions, they are not, they are living, breathing, beautiful little creatures with arms and legs and a wobbly neck that you again are solely responsible for: LATCHING the kryptonite of breastfeeding.
The perseverance started with the colostrum stage; I told myself that at the very least I would get through this stage and in some hazy, foggy, sore and sleep deprived state I did but I knew something wasn’t entirely right but no time to worry about that because WHAM day 3, I woke up pinned to the bed by two rock hard boulders attached to my chest, I couldn’t even lift my arms above my head, what on earth was this and what was I supposed to do with these new, rock solid boobs? Don't worry that naïve little voice in my head said; you don’t need to do anything your body knows what to do! Hmmmmmm…………..really? My boobs clearly thought I needed milk for 10 tiny humans rather than just one, but again its only with the power of hindsight that I can say this, they were HUGE!!!
Second words of the week: engorgement and owwwwwwwww!!!
I now know that there are many things that I could have done at this stage to ease my pain but again its only with the power of hindsight that I can reflect on them. Firstly there is hand expressing, I think I looked at the midwife in complete horror when she suggested this, all I could think was I can’t possibly touch them they hurt so much and they feel like they could literally explode if I squeeze them! Anyhoo…….I tried, but not very convincingly I may add. Then came the cabbage leaves (a great recommendation by a lovely friend) you keep them in the fridge or freezer and they help cool and are a great shape. The warm baths/showers, massaging and cool compresses non of which I really wanted to do because it all just hurt too damn much and then that brings me back to latching arrrggghhhhhh!!! Not again! Also by this point I started to feel so overwhelmed by the relentlessness of it all; again in my mind I knew that newborns fed anywhere from 8 to 12 times a day, I'd read it, I'd heard it at my sessions and still thought easy right? Nope. Looks fine on paper but in reality its slightly different. How do I eat? How do I sleep? How do I just do anything other then feed and have my baby in my arms. Send help. Also (slight tangent) but that age old tale that you should never wake a sleeping baby, nope, also incorrect in the very early days and weeks. Newborns need to feed every two to three hours and even if they are sleeping you are encouraged to wake them, I must have again missed this in my literature! Strip them down, change their nappy, blow on their faces, tickle their feet, all little tips to help wake your little bundle.
By this point cracked nipples, bleeding and crying. Tears of frustration ‘I can’t do this’, tears of joy because you love your little one so much, tears just for the sake of tears, tears of anger and resentment that you can’t see a way out of this but equally berating yourself with ‘you knew it was going to be hard’ but also the thought of ‘why isn’t this easier yet?’. I hadn’t bought any bottles or formula, we didn’t have any in the house and for that reason and equally my feeling of not wanting to be beaten I carried on. At this point I cannot recommend the following two linked products highly enough for any new breastfeeding mums, total lifesavers:
Lansinoh: HPA Lanolin (Nipple cream)
https://lansinoh.co.uk/product/lansinoh-hpa-lanolin/(have it in your hospital bag)
Multi-mam Compresses (soothing gel patches)
In the early days I also used these to try and give myself some form of respite:
They absolutely worked in the short term and I reference them as bridging a gap when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. However I was encouraged by a wonderful post natal nurse to only use them occasionally and not to become solely reliant on them for many reasons including ‘nipple confusion’.
I have since also invested in the following due to further research and info, you don’t necessarily know what you are going to need first time around:
I am yet to fully try these out, currently they are occupying space in my freezer, I may well review them in the future:
Haakaa pumps (a fantastic New Zealand born brand) or silicone pumps were something that I'd equally never heard of prior to this crazy new journey and again, it all depends on you but if you struggle with engorgement or want to catch the let downs from your opposite side I would highly recommend. Really good suction, works a treat, however pump is quite big so you need to get your positioning right. But their company moto and quality of products and packaging is brilliant.
Again in the early days there are lots of visits by midwives, health visitors etc and the weighing begins........obviously they want to see that your baby is gaining weight after the first few days or so. My little girl dropped weight and dropped weight again. Normal.......I hear many of you cry but that didn't help the mummy guilt. It's my fault, I'm doing something wrong, I can't do it, why can't I do it, I should be able to do it, other women make this look so easy! Anyway in amongst all these million thoughts I saw a wonderful post natal nurse and I would honestly say 'she saved me' and gave me both the skills and confidence to continue. She got hold of my baby and showed me exactly how to hold her and then she showed me exactly what I should do with my boobs time and time again until we got it right. She didn't rush me nor did she make me feel like I should already know this stuff and bingo the latch felt so much better! Hallelujah! So back home we went armed with new skills, and although it was still very bumpy after this I felt far more competent. Equally with the support of my husband, who never once made me feel stupid or that I should already know how to do this helped keep me going.
I don't say this to put anyone off but it took 6 weeks for me to feel completely pain free as although my latch was much better there was still pain from let downs and engorgement. Mentally I found this really hard because why would you continue to do something that really hurts? But no pain no gain I suppose. Deep down I just wanted to do right by my baby girl and like I said earlier 'not be beaten by it'. Equally the times I would find it most challenging would be in the middle of the night when I wasn't in a position to go out and get formula anyway so what could I do apart from keep going and now 10 weeks down the line it doesn't hurt. However that doesn't mean its easy, some days I still find it exhausting and overwhelming and then some days I think nothing of it. Its amazing how the body and mind adapt and develop through this crazy period of such dramatic change.
My aim with breastfeeding is 6 months so I will keep you posted as to how it continues but for now my little girl continues to grow and gain weight which i am forever thankful for and for the support of some fantastic people and some wonderful products. Thank you!
#breastfeeding #lansinoh #multimam #perseverance #keepgoing #haakaa #medela #tears #earlydays #journey #myjourney #everyoneisdifferent #everyonehastheirstorytotell #feeding #itdoesntmatterhowyoufeedsolongasbabyisfed #soreboobs #sorenipples