After finding out that I was expecting our first child, I never confirmed how I was going to feed until the very last-minute. I remember when Chloë had given birth to Elodie and there appeared to be a community of professionals preaching about breast-feeding but failed to give the adequate support she required to effectively breast feed her baby. Lets face it, we all know breast is best but as a new mum you cannot prepare for the unknown and we rely on these professionals to prepare, guide and support us.
My first experience of breast-feeding was at our ante-natel class and it consisted of an individual talking to the group about breast-feeding whilst demonstrating using a knitted boob (Yes knitted!) and a doll weighing no more than a pound. She talked through techniques and positioning and it lasted for no more than 30 minutes. The reality is, unfortunately we don’t have knitted boobs, dolls don’t suckle, knitted boobs don’t have nerves or feeling and babies unless in extreme circumstances do not weigh a pound, stay still and feed easily especially in the beginning. Even though this provided me with a basic understanding about breast-feeding it certainly did not prepare me for what was to come.
I decided to breast feed as I wanted to give my son the best start and lets just say it is the hardest thing in the world but once you master it and break through the discomfort it’s easy, cost-effective and more importantly the best form of nourishment your baby can get. I can totally understand why new mums give it up in the early days and its down to lack of support pre and post birth and the overwhelming discomfort.
I experienced all of these and it almost led me to giving up but I battled through it and I finally found a really supportive health advisor who just so happened to be a breast-feeding consultant. She has helped me through every step of the way and proven that if we all had the adequate support needed there would be a hell of a lot more women in the UK breast-feeding. Unfortunately for me, I met her when it was too late, the foundations had already been laid and it proved impossible to turn back. I believe that the reasons why I had to stop were purely down to lack of milk supply which was triggered in the very early days when I found feeding very painful and unbearable. I took a few days off from breast-feeding in order for my nipples to heal when Blake was one week old. I reverted to feeding Blake 4oz of formula every 4 hours and expressed where possible. This was the biggest mistake I believe I made, I got into a routine of bottle feeding and neglected breast-feeding.
Apart from the very first feeling of engorgement when my milk supply started at around 3 days I never had this feeling again. Nor was I able to express any more than an ounce a time.
I tried everything possible in order for me to change this and revert back to exclusively breast-feeding, I breast-fed every 2 hours, I sought advice from a lactation consultant, I took a nursing holiday where-by I stayed in bed and had skin to skin contact for 2 days solid and constantly breast-fed Blake and I mean every half an hour on both sides. I expressed after every feed to make sure my milk was fully drained and to urge increased milk production, I took fenugreek supplements to try to help increase my supply, I ate healthy, drank plenty of water, reduced caffeine intake, fed and expressed in the early hours of the morning etc but none of this worked.
At 10 weeks I had to stop breast-feeding because Blake was gaining little weight, an average baby gains an ounce a day and Blake was only gaining a few ounce every 2 weeks. I had to make a decision on whether I would continue to breast feed and increase his supplements or solely formula feed him and its the latter I chose.
So, here’s a few things I learnt along the way and would recommend:
Research everything to do with breast-feeding during your pregnancy and make sure you are prepared for every eventuality. I learnt so much when it was too late, I wish I had read into breast-feeding earlier and in detail and sought advice from a professional. Kelly Mom is one of the best websites I came across, all the advice is evidence based and there is literally every questioned answered. I must have read every single article on here it really is amazing and very helpful. http://kellymom.com/
Try all feeding positions to see what suits you and your baby. Practice really does make perfect so don’t be disheartened if your baby doesn’t latch on comfortably straight away. Remember you are both learning and it does take time but put measures in place to help guide your baby and ask for help. He who shouts loudest wins and it really is a case of this, make sure you ask for help straight away. Get a midwife to check your positioning on the first feed and if you find that your nipple is mis-shaped i.e. it doesn’t stay rounded as it is in its natural state or you are sore, then this points towards the fact that your positioning is not quite right.
Use Lansinoh nipple cream, it’s approx £10 a tube and available from most pharmacies, supermarkets and Mothercare and be sure to take it in your hospital bag. It’s amazing and you don’t need to wash it off when feeding you’re baby unlike Kamillosan and other brands. I was able to get this on prescription but I had to ask for it, it wasn’t offered (Im assuming because it is expensive). Also Lansinoh breast pads are fab too.
Buy a breast pump before the baby is due, I would recommend the Ameda Lactaline which is what the hospitals use or a Medala, both very effective and highly recommended by health professionals. I know it sounds gross but you can hire these or buy them second-hand off eBay, you can thoroughly clean and sterilise every part before you use them and it’ll save you a fortune. Also make sure you have milk storage bags and pots ready so that you can store and freeze your expressed milk. You can buy these off the internet or in major retailers. The brand of your breast pump will sell their version but the above two brands seem to be most recommended.
I would recommend combined feeding and expressing early on to prevent soreness as I experienced, they say that if you are not breast-feeding then you need to express every 2 hours and a minimum of 8 times a day to keep up your milk supply but solely expressing is not as effective as breast-feeding. Use expressing to keep up your milk supply and to give your nipples a break but always breast feed where you can. Also in the early hours of the morning the hormones that stimulate milk production are at their highest so if you are not breast-feeding you need to continue the routine by expressing. Blake slept from 10pm to 5am from 4.5 weeks which I was told is very unusual for a breast-fed baby but I didn’t know to continue expressing which will have contributed to my slow down in milk production.
Make sure you eat regularly and drink plenty of fluids, I sometimes didn’t eat until the afternoon and I would feel faint. This is down to the fact that your body can burn up to 500 calories a day when breast-feeding and so you need to eat to accommodate for this. But don’t eat for the sake of it, just when you feel hungry and take a little nibble to bed with you because you’ll find that you need it during the night feeds.
Buy nursing bras and nursing tops, it makes life so much easier. You can get cheap button down shirts/tops off the high street. They don’t have to be expensive nursing tops just anything that you feel comfortable in and allows for easy access.
Buy several button front nightdresses, not only are these suitable for labour and whilst in hospital but you will literally live in these for the first few weeks and they’re great to sleep in and for the night feeds.
Attend you’re local breast-feeding support group, its great to meet other mums in the same position as you and you’ll soon feel normal listening to other mums problems. It’s also a great opportunity to gain answers to your questions and generally receive the support you need to be confident in breast-feeding.
I can only give advice based upon my own experiences and if this only helps a small group of new mums then I’ve achieved my goal.
Good luck and please get in touch we’d love to hear your opinions and share your experiences.