When reading about breastfeeding you will learn and hear lots of different things. You will hear about the 'Special K' position (which doesn't involve eating a bowl of cereal), about drinking lots of water, how to hold your baby while feeding - cradle style or football hold? Anyone would think you are about to participate in a game of rugby not breastfeed your baby!
You will also learn that breastfeeding is 'natural'. But doesn't that mean it should just 'happen'? Well in some cases, yes, it does just happen. The stars align, you win the breastfeeding lotto, and off you go on your breastfeeding journey.
In other cases, like myself, it was a challenging start, both times. I knew before I gave birth that I wanted to breastfeed and I would try my hardest to get it to happen. Remember, its 'natural' right? It shouldn't be that hard, but boy was I wrong!
As I look back at photos I can remember,
- Feeding with cracked nipples. A pain I don't ever want to feel again!
- Being told people with fair skin have more difficulties/pain while breastfeeding. Yes, I agree with that.
- Having warm showers and warm towel compresses to help with my 'let down' followed by frozen Huggies baby nappies on each breast after feeding to calm things down.
- Squirting my babies in the face as they tried to latch. (this is kinda funny at the time ha!)
- Leaking through my top during the night and waking with a breast pad wedged between my boobs and smelling like old milk.
- Realising a few weeks in that I still needed help with attachment and sourcing a lactation consultant to visit me at home.
- Counting to 30 at the start of every feed to get past the initial pain.
- Loving doing something for my child that no one else could and bonding with them.
- Watching them look at me while feeding. Such special moments.
- The moment when you get past all the initial issues and things fall in to place. When your stars have aligned!
- Baby no. 2 had a tongue tie which needed to be cut at 2 weeks old as it was effecting his feeding. The relief that gave while feeding was instant. It allowed him to latch correctly and form the 'Special K' position with his mouth and tongue to suck correctly. (The outline of a babies mouth when attached correctly should look like the Special K logo)
- That all breasts are different (even on the same person) and as such, babies attach to them best in different positions. I had better attachment with using the football hold on one side. (football hold is then babies body and legs are positioned backwards underneath your arms, like you are carrying a footy)
This pic shows a glimpse of the first few hours in with baby no 2. It was 6.00am, he was less than 4 hours old and 2 and a half weeks early. I had been awake for 24 hours and was running on adrenalin after a very quick 2 hour labour, narrowly avoiding delivering in the hospital car park. It was our second attempt at breastfeeding (trying a little 'football hold' to see if that was more comfortable) as hubby crashed on the floor after a crazy night. I was also recovering from whooping cough which I contracted at 33 weeks and which contributed to delivering early.
What I have learnt about breastfeeding my 2 boys until 9 months and almost 1 is that breastfeeding yes in someways is 'natural', but there are also so many stars that need to align for it to truly happen successfully and without challenges.
I have learnt:
1. A positive attitude and a want to breastfeed your baby is hugely important. Without it you won't push through when things are tough in the early days.
2. That in many ways it is a learned skill by both mother and baby. Baby needs to learn to attach to the breast correctly, which mum is in control of. Correct attachment is key to baby feeding correctly and mum avoiding unnecessary soreness to her breasts and cracked nipples.
3. That getting as much help from your midwives and lactation consultants while in hospital and the early days at home will help answer all the 'you don't know what you don't know' questions. The Australian Breastfeeding Association also have a hotline you can call.
4. That it won't happen overnight. It will more often than not take a good few weeks, and in some cases up to 6-8 weeks (like in my case) to get into a good feeding routine and sort out any milk supply issues. So just go with the flow (no pun intended!) and see what happens and get help if you feel things aren't quite right.
5. Cracked nipples are up there with giving birth itself! Protect those puppies, by using a good quality nipple cream or nipple shields if necessary and don't let baby suck for comfort, feeding only!
6. Drink lots of water and have a good diet, your body and baby will thank you for it.
7. Breastfeeding is a great time to multitask. Have your phone handy to catch up on things like ordering groceries online, or ordering some cute goodies from our online store!. You have no idea how many orders we receive during the night!
8. Lactation cookies or booby bikkies can make a huge difference to your milk supply. Breastfeeding is about supply and demand. The more baby feeds the more milk your body should produce. These cookies are jam packed with amazing ingredients and 'galactagogues' which can just give you that little boost along. They can also be really helpful with increasing your milk supply, if you have had a c-section. A c-section is an intervention, your body is not going through the natural birthing process which helps trigger your milk production so sometimes you may need a little help to get things started. So pack a box in your hospital bag just in case.
I should also mention that there is no clinical evidence, to the best of my knowledge, about the benefits of lactation cookies and their effectiveness, however the testimonial evidence and reviews are overwhelming in the support of them.
9. Invest in comfy/easy access breastfeeding clothing and especially for night feeding. Any dual maternity/breastfeeding items that you wore during pregnancy should still last for a month or 2 after giving birth depending on how quickly you are bouncing back!
10. Don't feel nervous about feeding when out and about. Just be prepared! This involves not overstaying your out and about time, try and keep to babies feeding routine. This can avoid baby having a meltdown in the middle of the shopping centre because they are hungry. Trust me! trying to feeding a hysterical newborn in the middle of a shopping centre is not worth looking in just one more shop.
If feeding discreetly makes YOU feel more comfortable, a nursing cover is a great way to give you some extra privacy.
And if after all of that breastfeeding is not your thing, that is 100% ok. You tried and your stars didn't align this time. At the end of the day our goal as mothers is to have a happy, healthy and content baby, regardless if they are fed by boob or bottle.
What was your breastfeeding journey like? Was it easy? Was it hard?