What no one tells you about breastfeeding...
No-one talks about just how hard it is! approxamately 60% of women give up in the first month because it's so difficult / painful / stressful (yes stressful).
I'm no expert, but I have made it to almost 5 months, even though it was all of the above.
Here are my tips, that I wish someone had told me.
Get it right from the start
It may be natural, but that doesn't mean we know how to do it - nor does your baby.
It is something that you both need to learn.
Get the latch right. Get help, and get it straight away!
Develop good habits from the get-go.
I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to tolerate pain & a bad latch just for the first time (because I was so grateful he was even feeding).
WRONG! it caused months of problems, that could have been easily avoided!
We (as women) can all 'put up' with pain & discomfort (martyr complex) but why would you if there is a better way?
Correct latch: Make sure baby's mouth is wide so that the whole areola is in the mouth (which is hard for a newborns tiny mouth) and nipple should be at the back of his mouth. There are many ways to encourage baby to open wider (a lactation consultant can help with this) squeezing your breast into a 'sandwhich' for eg. or flicking the chin down.
Position: there are many positions: Football hold, cross cradle, lying down (otherwise called the knackered mum position) depending on what kind of birth you had, and how big your boobs are :-)
it’s easier at first to swaddle them (so they don’t thrash around and bump your sore nipples. By the way they do stop being sore and you will wear a bra again. There was a time when I worried about putting on clothes and going outside. I couldn’t (still can’t) believe there was not an invention to protect them from touching any clothing or rough surface.
Get an electric double pump. Don't bother with single/hand pumps - they may be cheaper but theyr'e a waste of time. [when I finally got a double pump I produced double the milk in less time!]
You will probably need to pump at some stage for some (or all) of these reasons:
To boost milk supply
So someone else (like dad) can feed the baby - if you are sick, go out, or just want to get some sleep! your partner or someone else can give baby a bottle.
Build a stock pile of freezer milk for emergencies. Milk can last up to about 6 months in the freezer.
like when you get that positive test result!
Just like HypnoBirthing, the theory needs to be learned, practiced & practiced some more - until it's second nature. Because when baby is here, you do not want to, or have time to think about learning this invaluable skill. Trust me, learn, research, beome an expert before you need to be!
There are some issues that can inhibit your ability to breastfeed your baby.
My baby had a tongue tie, which means the tongue is short & can't protrude beyond their lips (there are varying degrees) and they cannot open their tiny mouth wide enough to get a good latch.
It is very simple to correct & if left unchecked can later effect eating and even speach.
For me this was major and it was missed by the nurses, doctors, midwives and the pediatrician!
I suspected there was an issue when It was still painful after 3 months. I found a specialist, and it was rectified with a quick snip.
Tip: do it sooner rather than later the younger the baby the less traumatic - for the parents. Breastfeed immediately after to soothe your baby ( & your nerves ).
Thrush / Mastitis / Blocked ducts are all as common as they are avoidable.
With regular breast massage, avoiding being engorged (this happens when you go too long - more than 3- 4hrs - without feeding your baby) and a healthy diet, you can steer clear of these nightmares. I of course did not know this - which is why I can't stress enough the importance of being healthy, and avoiding the pitfalls, especially in the first few months until you 'find your feet'.
I had thrush twice, maybe 3 times and here's what I learnt:
Thrush — as well as many other health problems — loves damp & sugar. You are more prone to thrush in wet moldy conditions. So avoid sugar, chocolate, too much wheat, dairy etc. basically all the bad stuff. See dietary tips here.
Seriously - it is NOT worth it. Like a baby with jet lag, it's just not worth it.
After trying everything, this is what I found to work the best (& most importantly - quickest):
ACV (apple cider vinegar)
baking soda - 1/4 teaspoon in warm water with lemon, to drink / put on nipples
GSE (grapefruit seed extract) mix 10 drops in a cup of water and apply to nipples after feeding - this is also a great way to gently give to baby
probiotics - for you and baby - you should take this any way its AMAZING! ( from pregnancy actually ).
epsom salt - again add to warm water, you can soak your sore enflamed nips in small cups to soothe them. (the only thing that gave me releif)
garlic - eat loads / bathe in it (kidding) it's anti-candida ( which is what thrush is )
GENTIAN VIOLET - Ok I didn't use this, but I did read about it for extreme cases.
cocnut oil - use this to massage the breasts in the shower, also anti-candida.
If one more person tells me to 'sleep when your baby sleeps' I might just loose it!
I cannot sleep in the day, no matter how exhausted I am, plus it's the time when you get to have a shower, cup of tea, write your blog ;-)
But seriously, now 6 months in, I can actually take 10 minutes of chill out time - & I can really see the benefit.
I used to get so tense about feeding time, because of the pain mainly, that I would subconsciously avoid it! My baby then lost weight - which as a new mother is the end of the world.
So now I just sit breathe, have a cup of warm water, visualise flowing milk rivers, and make sure I'm relaxed when I begin feeding. This in turn relaxes baby (they are so in tune with you) and becomes dare I say 'enjoyable'.
As you may have read but not yet experienced, it truly is a bonding experience with your baby. and yes all the cliche's are true!
My advice: cherish every minute - I can already sense that it's flying by all too quicky.
You will miss it when it's gone...
2 months ago I laughed when someone told me they enjoyed breastfeeding.
1 month ago I actually had a moment when I thought "hey this isn't so bad"
Now baby & I have got this feeding thing down.
Someone told me recently how sad she was that after 4 kids, she would never get to breastfeed again, and that she actually missed it! ( mind: blown!)