“It takes a village to raise a baby”
I say this, because, it really isn’t something you should do alone. Surround yourself with people that can and will help you!
These 13 months have possibly been the biggest learning curve of my life. They’ve also been some of the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging.
I’m not going to pretend that breastfeeding is easy, it’s not. Neither will I say that these past 13 months have been a breeze, or that having an easy baby, makes breastfeeding a walk in the park.
It isn’t. It doesn’t.
Breastfeeding requires your whole being. Mind, body and soul as well as sweat, blood (ouch!) and tears.
But that doesn’t mean that it is difficult, or unachievable. I’ve had some of the most awful days and nights, I’ve sat sobbing in another room whilst my teeny infant screams for his Mama as daddy tries to soothe him with a bottle of Formula. Formula that was there because I couldn’t do it. Because giving up is okay. Because I was exhausted and we’d just moved house. Because I didn’t have the knowledge to carry on.
When Sebastien refused point blank to take the bottle proffered by his daddy, when his tiny little cries became big deafening sobs. When he was red faced with sweaty matted hair, I feebly resumed my seat upon the nursing chair and latched him on.
I think it was then that I decided I was asking the wrong questions. That I was asking the wrong people for help. I realised that friends and family that hadn’t/couldn’t breastfed their babies, despite their best intentions would never be able to help, encourage or inspire me to push through.
I sat there for hours on end. My cluster feeding infant screeching if he broke his latch for just one second. My head was light from lack of sugar, and I had started to tremble and shiver from sheer exhaustion of it all. My husband rescued me with Jelly babies and a cup of tea, and I continued to feed well in to the night.
I cannot remember when exactly it happened, but I can tell you that the arrival of other friends, also with tiny infants, some nursing their second, third, or even fourth baby, helped. It helped more than I can ever describe. There are not enough thank you’s in the world for these wonderful women.
Gemma and I at Halloween.
Breastfed babies all in a row…:)
They took the time to explain so many things to me. In my befuddled state. They told me about cluster feeding, about foremilk and hind milk, (Or the different properties of milk) about growth spurts, about electrolytes, milk production in hot weather and The fourth trimester. So many things that for those first weeks I just hadn’t known. Sometimes (often) they would just sit with me. All of us squished on to the settee. All of us pinned in place by our nursing infants (although we could all walk round without breaking baby’s latch pretty quickly, that old tale of answering the door to the postman with your breast hanging out. Yup. Got that T-shirt a dozen times!)
So here’s what I’m hoping. I’m hoping that by sharing some of the things I’ve learnt, and some of the brilliant blogs that I have read along the way, that I can inspire, encourage and help someone on their breastfeeding journey, as my friends did for me.
(Disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, peer supporter or lactation consultant, I am sharing what I have learnt through my own breastfeeding journey)
1) Watch your baby, not the clock.
This was one of the very first things I learnt. A breastfed baby is fed on demand. Irrelevant of when they last fed, and the clamours of “but he just ate” from grandma, because she’s not ready to give up snuggle time. You may have barely had time to pee, or you may have had a blissful 41 minute reprieve, but either way, as son as baby cues for mama, feed him. A newborn tummy is tiny. They will feed little and often. I kept track of Sebastien’s feeds/wet nappies for the first few weeks because he was jaundiced (you don’t have to do so, because in a way, keeping track means you are watching the clock, which is exactly what I’m saying you shouldn’t do!.) we averaged every 90 minutes day and night for the first 6 weeks. In the first few precious days after baby is born, they have a lot of work to do. Whenever they suckle that gold nectar (colostrum) they don’t just feed. The simple action of them latching on also stimulates your breasts, helping to “call in” your mature milk, and also helping your uterus to contract back to its original size. I live by the mantra, “if in doubt, get ’em out” (by them, I mean boobs!)
2) All night long.
Remember those pre baby all nighters at the bar? Well now it’s your babies turn to get drunk at the Milk bar (milk drunk baby is very cute!) many times in the first few weeks and months you will experience cluster feeding episodes. These are periods where it feels like your baby is attached to your breast 24/7. These episodes are usually the first stumbling block (and the reason I mistakenly reached for formula) and you may find yourself wondering if you aren’t able to sate your babies demands. Firstly, don’t panic! Cluster feeding is a very normal and very clever part of your breastfeeding relationship. It is essentially your baby planning ahead for the amount of milk they will need for the next few days/weeks/growth spurt. The best advice I can offer, is set up “camp” with everything you need (breast pads, lanolin, nibbles, water, muslin cloth, phone/phone charger/kindle or your favourite TV box set, and feed feed feed!) also look up the guidelines on Bed sharing/ Cosleeping as having baby close can be a huge help in getting you through the cluster feeds!
I also found the following app very useful for reassurance at 03am!
Breastfeeding Timeline by Allison Dixley
3) Hello Boobies!
When your mature milk does come in, boy will you know about it. This can happen anytime from around 48 hours to 5 days postpartum. This is when you wake with sodden sheets and breasts so hard you can’t move your arms. This is normal! Hopefully by now you will have breast pads and lanolin cream to hand, and will have established a good latch with your baby. I used Multimam products: Lotions and potions
Take a look at some Great advice on bra’s A great bra can make a huge difference! Better still, head on over to Boob or Bust where our trained fitters can help you find the perfect bra.
4) it’s all about the latch.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. It can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. Sore, cracked, dry or even bleeding nipples are not a normal part of breastfeeding. It does happen, but do not fear, it can be remedied. It’s important in your first few hours/days of feeding that you seek advice from a lactation consultant/midwife who can help you to latch your baby, and to find feeding positions most comfortable for you and your little one.
5) TT and LT
Your baby should be checked for TT and LT (Tongue tie and Lip Tie) and if they do have either, then the Tie should be divided immediately. This is a very quick and simple process, and your baby can feed straight away after the procedure. Both TT and LT can have implications on your babes ability to latch and feed correctly NHS
6) Daddy needs to bond too
So many times in my first few weeks as a mother, I was told by well meaning family and friends that I should express breast milk to allow daddy to feed him and bond with him. This isn’t true. You don’t only bond with your baby by feeding them. Also, expressing is a whole new level of skills. The amount you express is never an indication of how much milk you are producing as It doesn’t stimulate the breast in the same way as a suckling baby. Daddy can bond with baby in many many ways. Bathing, changing, skin to skin, or wearing in a sling/Stretchy wrap
7)Toe Curling Sting
That bit about it not hurting? Ok, maybe it does, a little, sometimes. Around 7-10 days in, you will find that the first 10 seconds of any feed, your nipples will tingle in a way that makes you curl your toes and inhale through gritted teeth. This stinging sensation is normal, and will pass after a few days, once your nipples have toughened up.
5) I’m leaking! (Let down) not all women feel letdown, whereas others feel it every time baby feeds. This is a brief tingling sensation that usually runs from the top of your breast to the nipple. It is stimulated by baby suckling, or sometimes just by baby crying! The tingling is usually followed by a small leak of milk, so have your breast pads or milk collection shells in place! Milk Shells
As a parent, so many of your conversations will now become about poop/vomit/milk stains. The biggest worry seems to be when your baby doesn’t poo. Breastfed babies that are over 6 weeks old can generally go up to 7-10 days without a dirty nappy, as there is very little “waste” in breastmilk. As long as your baby is still having wet nappies, and is feeding well, then don’t worry too much! Be prepared for the poonami that will follow when they do go! There’s a reason you can pull vests down over babies torso! Vest hack
Of course, if you have other concerns for the reasons your baby isn’t pooing, then always seek medical advice.
9)More than milk
Breastmilk (or infant formula) (Weaning guidelines )is absolutely everything your baby needs for the first 6 months of life, although breastfeeding isn’t just about milk! It is comfort, reassurance, warmth, a hug, or even a drink, in hot weather, you may find your baby nurses more frequently. This is normal!
Historically there has always been a concept of Hindmilk/Foremilk which would advise that Foremilk is a clearer more watery fluid, packed full of essential nutrients to keep your baby hydrated and that HindMilk, is the thicker fatty milk that serves as “food” for your baby. This can sometimes lead to a lot of anxiety surrounding time that baby should be spending at each breast, and concerns over weight gain, new Research has shown that fore milk still contains fat, If you express, you will see the difference between the milk at the start of a feed, and the milk at the end of a feed, but all breastmilk contains fat.
You will also notice a teeny little line of fat (like on bottles of Gold top milk) even if you’ve only supposedly expressed what is referred to as “foremilk”
Another blog About milk
There are many more things I would like to share with you, but for now, I will leave this here, as I feel it is already a lengthy blog post!
Thank you for reading!
edit* I have now been breastfeeding for over 3 years!