If you are about to have a baby or recently welcomed a newborn into your world you will likely have thought long and hard about breastfeeding. But what they don’t tell you, you won’t know… that’s where I come in.
While some women choose to go straight to formula (which I am sure presents its own obstacles), those who breastfeed have a whole other level to their experience as a new mum.
Although it is not all skin to skin bonding and staring out the window smiling at the sunset! Information I read before having Jaxon lead me to believe you either were going to be good at beast-feeding, or you weren’t.
I was determined that I would be a breastfeeding mother and I’m lucky for that as it was definitely NOT as easy as I expected it to be.
Here is what I wish I knew before I started breastfeeding.
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Getting a baby with their tiny little tired mouth to latch onto your swollen nipples is not easy. Get the latch wrong and you are set to endure the worst amount of pain while you frantically try and unlatch baby – not an easy thing to do!
Imagine bleeding chapped nipples being sucked on with the force of a Dyson. And you can’t stop because you need to feed through the pain to make sure your milk comes in.
And how do you get your milk to come in? Cluster Feeding…….
The phrase itself is enough to make me grab my boobs and shudder.
Cluster Feeding is when your baby wants to feed continuously for 2-4hour long bursts. On our second night in the hospital Jaxon was literally swapping from left to right continuously for 3hours. This was between 2-5am. After a 12 hour labour. Exhausting much?
My advice? Get yourself a tube of this amazing Lanolin Nipple Cream. It actually saved me from giving up breastfeeding. It’s a little pricey but 1 tube should last you until after your nipples get used to the sensation of breastfeeding.
After feeding put some expressed milk on your nipples and let it air dry. Then slather this cream on and let your nipples breath!
Put a light cotton shirt on if you need to, or do what I did and just close your hospital curtain for a bit of privacy.
Remember the midwives have just had a 12hr private show with your downstairs, a couple of free nipples aren’t going to phase them #freethenipple
Once you get home do the same thing. You can also use these Hydrogel Breast Discs to soothe your nipples once or twice a day. Make sure to pack some in your hospital bag!!
My pain went away around the 2 week mark. Just hang in there, it does get better.
There Is More Than One Way To Do It
My nurses in the hospital (and at home visits) only taught me one way to unlatch Jax from my nipple. That was to stick my finger in the edge of his mouth to break the seal and make him open his mouth.
The problem with this method is that when I stuck my finger in, he would start to suck on my nipple AND my finger together. And let me tell you his suck was fierce! Not to mention the one time I knocked Jaxon’s gum with my nail and he cried so hard (and then I cried so hard).
After a particularly difficult day/night feeding Jax I was up at 4am crying in pain with my nipples and my breasts which had gone completely hard.
I came across this video which completely changed my life. After watching this I patiently implemented all the points of the video at our next feed and I was amazed at how he latched on so easily and it didn’t even hurt.
If you take away something from this post, it’s to watch this video (and buy the lanolin cream).
The advice of The Yellow Nursery is to place your finger on the top lip of baby and press up (like an Elvis lip). This breaks the seal and voila, you can then re-latch properly.
This video also goes over the different ways to hold baby which they showed me in hospital too. I didn’t know there was more than one way so this was very helpful. The football hold was very useful when Jax was tiny as I could see how he was latching better and the shape of my nipple worked better that way, without me having to squash my boob in an unnatural way to get him to latch.
To be honest sometimes in Summer when it was 35°C+ it was just too hot for either of these holds so I would make it up as I went along.
I would place Jax straddling my thigh facing me. I would then just let him sit forward and latch on face first. This was also great for the days when we was a bit gassy and was spiting up his milk after each feed. The more upright he is when feeding the better for his gassiness.
Another thing that I learned in this video that completely contradicted the hospital midwife’s information was how to get a successful latch.
They would tell me to rub my nipple on Jaxon’s top lip and around his nose to make him smell the milk. He would then go crazy trying to grab onto the nipple, usually missing. This would get him super frustrated and then I would get frustrated and it just wasn’t working.
Placing the nipple in front of your baby’s mouth and letting it only touch the bottom lip is a much more effective way to get your baby to open wide.
And remember, always bring baby to your nipple, do not bring your nipple to baby as this is not good for your neck and back. Or your boob’s likelihood to sag FYI.
You Need to Be Patient… Like REALLY Patient
In the first few weeks before stumbling upon The Yellow Nursery’s video I was regularly getting frustrated with the experience. Jaxon was too. For a sleep deprived new mother, being patient isn’t exactly easy.
On several occasions I would call Alan into the nursery and hand Jax over while he was howling so I could have a 5 minute break. Alan with his dad-charm would be able to settle Jax in 2 minutes and then we would try again.
A really important take away from this is that you need to stay calm if you want this to work. Your baby is totally new to this too and they are just as confused about the whole experience as you are. I mean, they had their food delivered on a silver platter through a tube in their stomach for 9 months and now they have to work for it? Stuff that!
Make sure you have the support of your partner (or anyone) so when you need a break you can rely on them to be there for you. A neck massage, cup of tea and a conversation are wonders for the soul when you are busy living, breathing and dreaming breast milk.
Your Supply Will Take A While To Level Out.
One minute you have no milk. The next, you bend over to pick up a fallen wash cloth and start spraying your husband’s leg on the couch. (Haha yes that happened…)
You will go from being able to sleep with a nursing top and a set of pads to waking up drenched in breast milk and needing to wear proper nursing bras 24/7.
Then just when you think you have it all worked out your bubs starts sleeping longer hours and you wake up engorged.
And what’s more? The leaps. Where it feels like you never have enough milk because baby is cluster feeding all day/night. This is baby trying to up your supply so you have enough when they go through their impending growth spurt (leap).
If you need help increasing your supply I have some amazing (and proven) recipes you need to check out!
Witching Hour Is Real!
You may or may not have heard this expression before. It falls usually sometime between the hours of 4pm-7pm. During this time your baby is seemingly ravenous. He wants to eat every 45-60 minutes and it feels like you will never get anything done, which you won’t.
The reason that baby gets so hungry at this time? Well he is about to go and have a loooong sleep (you hope) and so he is simply stocking up on your delicious milk for the night.
I myself would always have really low supply in the evenings. What I did to combat this was to pump 1 bottle of milk in the morning, every morning. This would then become Jaxon’s night time feed before bed.
This was a great time for Alan to bond with Jax too as he would be able to do the bath/bed routine and give me a chance to have a break.
I also found preparing dinner in the day would mean this time was less stressful as it was ready to be eaten when we were able to. Between feeds or during!
It Is the Most Rewarding Feeling Ever
No doubt about it I as so proud that I was able to push through the obstacles that we experienced to get to where we are now. Exclusively breastfeeding and completely satisfied.
That being said, our breast-feeding journey was pretty linear. It started out awkward and painful and as time went on, we learnt together what works.
All I can say is I am really happy that I stuck with it because the pleasure (and convenience) of being able to feed my baby how my body was made to, is just so rewarding.
Did you find breastfeeding harder than you thought it was going to be? What is the one thing you wish someone had told you or shown you before your breastfeeding journey? Leave a comment below!