I first breastfed Baby M in the delivery room shortly after she was born. We were in hospital for 2 days and during that time she fed little and often. Our breastfeeding relationship got off to a happy start and the midwives said she had a good latch although I had pain for about 20 seconds when she latched on.
When I was pregnant I had no expectations about how long I would nurse for because I didn't know if I would be able to. I had a breast lift nearly 10 years ago so I didn't know if my boobs would work. When I discovered they did I was determined I would nurse my baby, at least for the first 6 weeks. Then the problems started.
We first hit a problem when my milk came in after a few days. Baby M woke in the early hours for a feed and I couldn't get her to latch on. My breasts were hard and engorged. After a very long hour she was finely persuaded to nurse. Over the next week there were times when I struggled to get her to latch on, probably when my breasts were fuller.
During her first growth spurt at around one week old a new problem emerged: my nipples got increasingly sore and eventually chapped and bloody. One nipple had a crack down the middle, the other had several chunks missing from it. Sounds sore? It was. Instead of putting Baby M to the breast whenever she was upset it became a last resort. I only offered her the breast if she hadn't been fed for 2 to 3 hours (well that's how often babies are fed formula isn't it?). She spent a lot of time crying over the next few weeks when she almost certainly just wanted to nurse.
I dreaded when she would want the next feed, I would flinch when she was about to latch on and I often sat in tears while she nursed because of the pain.
No one ever identified anything wrong with Baby M's latch or position. The only reason anyone could suggest for my mutilated nipples was the frequent feeding during the growth spurt: my nipples had got damaged and didn't have time to recover.
After a suggestion by a midwife I started using nipple shields on one side and pumping exclusively from the other to maintain my supply. After a week I was able to feed again from both sides and over the next week I gradually stopped using the shields.
It was months before I was breastfeeding without pain. After my nipples healed I started getting pain in other parts of my breasts. No one could identify what that was caused by either, although it might have been due to scar tissue. It wasn't as bad as thrush or mastitis and it was nothing compared to the pain I had been feeling.
So the first few months breastfeeding were difficult for me, but I got through it due to great support and despite all the pressure I put on myself. Apart from the occasional bite or scratch Baby M and I are now very happy with our breastfeeding relationship.
|Baby M breastfeeding at around 6 months old|
That first night when I couldn't get Baby M to feed my partner got up with us. While I tried to persuade Baby M to latch on he looked for help. In the middle of the night:
- He looked on the internet for helplines, but non of them were open 24 hours.
- He tried to get the breast pump I had borrowed to work (neither of us could manage it)
- He tried to work out how the steriliser worked so we could use the 'in case of emergency' cartons of formula. We eventually gave up on this too.
- Finally he found instructions online on how to hand express and he expressed some milk for me into a measuring jug.
After removing a bit of milk Baby M finally managed to latch on.
My mum was a great support in the early days too. She was there in the delivery room while I was in labour and she helped encourage Baby M to latch on for her first feed. She also came over several times in the first few weeks when I cried down the phone and she held Baby M while I got some much needed sleep.
Our local midwives (in Loughton) were great. One morning I called them when yet again I couldn't get Baby M to latch on and someone came over within half an hour. I also remember crying down the phone to a midwife saying I felt like a failure as a mum because I was struggling to breastfeed. The midwife firmly told me that I wasn't and told me off for thinking it. When I was struggling they suggested it would be ok to use formula, but when I told them I didn't want to they supported that decision.
The last group of people who kept me going are my twitter friends. I've credited them before on this blog for their support which kept me going on the longest, loneliest nights, but they are definitely worth mentioning again. Mama's all over the globe (and a few Dad's) offered me support and advice when I was very close to giving up. When things were going well they kept me entertained during long night feeds. They continue to be brilliant now when I've had no sleep and I'm close to despair (although rarely about breastfeeding these days).
Using hashtags such as #bfing, #bfcafe and #zombiemoms helped people find me, but I think there are some people out there that just search for any mention of breastfeeding and offer support to those who are struggling. I now have a brilliant group of twitter friends who I can share the highs and lows of being a mum with.
I would strongly recommend identifying support before you need it. Make sure your family and friends know how you feel and what they can do to support you. Read the other posts for the Keep Britain Scavenger Hunt this week to find out where you can get support from. Here are 5 blogs to get you started:
A New Addition
Breast 4 Babies
The other support that is essential when you are breastfeeding are good nursing bra's. My bra size near the end of pregnancy and in the first few weeks was different to what it has been for the last 8 months. I ended up wearing some cropped top style ones for the first few weeks and then went out and got fitted for some more supportive bra's when I was up to going out.
As well as organising this scavenger hunt Karen from Boobiemilk shop and blog is offering a nursing vest to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below and confirms their entry via the Rafflecopter widget. Boobiemilk have a range of nursing bras, sleep bras and nursing vests as well as other breastfeeding accessories. To ensure you get a good fit she offers unlimited free exchanges on the bras and vests. If you are lucky enough to live in or around Kent she will even come to you to provide an in home fitting service, this is ideal if you don't have a comfortable bra to leave the house in.
a Rafflecopter giveaway