When I was pregnant with my first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. It sounded easy from what we were told at antenatal classes and read online, but I just wasn’t sure if it was for me. Then he was born, instinct seemed to take over and I knew right away I wanted to try to feed him myself. Only it turned out it wasn’t easy like we had been lead to believe. It didn’t feel natural finding the right position, he didn’t know what he was doing and neither did I! Here are some things I wish I had known about breastfeeding during those first few months:
- Some babies find it hard to latch. Maybe it’s because they are born early, or they are born small. Maybe they have a tongue tie, or maybe they are sleepy from jaundice. Babies have to learn how to latch; some need guidance to the right place, or to have the nipple flipped into their mouth (google flipple technique, it’s awesome for non-latchers) Persever, mama, it usually gets easier.
- Some mummies have an oversupply or low supply of milk. Oversupply sounds great right? Wrong! A great friend of mine had this with both her babies. Imagine regular bouts of mastitis, so much milk that your baby chokes because they can’t swallow fast enough, constantly being covered in milk from leaking.
- Relaxing helps with milk supply. So do oats and skin to skin contact. What this means is you need someone to make you a batch of lactation cookies, take them to bed (with a cup of tea if you are that way inclined) and enjoy cuddles in bed with your baby. That’s right – have a nurse in!
- Your nipples are likely to get sore. It gets easier but MAN does it hurt at the time. Very sore nipples can be a sign of a shallow latch or a tongue tie so if you are not finding it gets better see your midwife or a specialist lactation consultant. She was an angel from heaven for us and discovered our son’s tongue tie when the midwives missed it.
- babies are amazing. In the first few weeks and months, your baby is training your body to make enough milk. What this means for some mummies is during the first few weeks your baby may appear to be constantly feeding. This is hard, it can be painful and tiring. BUT this is what breastfed newborns do. Your baby is letting your body know how much milk to make and they have tiny tummies! This feedathon happens a lot during the first 12 weeks. It gets easier though mama, hang in there!
- Some babies are just small. My eldest was really tiny, born 6lb3oz and 42 weeks. He gained slowly, some weeks he didn’t gain at all BUT he met or exceeded all the milestones set for babies his age. It was clear he wasn’t starving but I felt bullied into giving formula. I was prepared for the fight second time round but he was a rolly polly baby! If your baby seems healthy, is meeting milestones, having wet and dirty diapers and gaining some weight then slow gain doesn’t always mean you need to worry.
- Babies are fussy. They go through fussy periods of time, especially when they are learning new skills or teething. Your baby being fussy isn’t necessarily an indicator that breastfeeding isn’t working for you.
- So you struggle to pump more than an ounce? You are worried baby isn’t getting enough. Think again! A pump isn’t nearly as effective as a baby. If your baby is producing wet and dirty diapers, you hear them swallowing and they are gaining weight then they are most likely getting enough milk. Believe in yourself!
- Here’s a big one. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. I fed my first for 6 months and my second for 16 months. I was lucky that although we had an issue with both boys, I had the support and guidance from my husband to make it work for us. If it doesn’t work for you, or if you just chose not to, you have that right. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for your decision.