I’ll be completely honest. Breastfeeding didn’t work for me first time around. And although it bothered me, I tried not to dwell on it and I just got on with feeding Little I in whatever way worked for her. I don’t think I was remotely prepared for how difficult breastfeeding can actually be.
Little I was an incredibly hungry baby, and along with perhaps not getting enough support, persevering with breastfeeding was affecting my bond with her and I had to give up. I don’t think I managed to push through the first couple difficult weeks because I never realised it might get better.
This time around I am hoping to go into my feeding journey with my eyes open a little bit more. I have been asking friends, who managed to breastfeed successfully, as many questions as I can think of, and have probably been annoying them in the process!
With that in mind, these are my breastfeeding hopes for this time:
‘To stay in hospital a bit longer to get feeding established better’
– With Little I, I went home the day after giving birth without actually finding out if she was latching properly or if I was holding her in the right position etc. The hospital I gave birth in was really good but the postnatal care was lacking, due to staff shortages, so we didn’t really get any specific breastfeeding help. I think second time round you have a little more confidence in yourself as a parent and are more likely to demand ask for help. The hospital I’m giving birth in this time are known for being good for helping with initial breastfeeding. I discussed my hopes and concerns with a midwife, who seemed positive about me being able to stay in a couple days to try and get feeding established before we come home. Also, with the craziness of being at my parents’ for this baby (husband deployed), the husband getting back at some point (we don’t know when) for his two weeks paternity, having visitors come to us pretty quickly (because the husband is only back for a short time) and already having a toddler at home – I think it’s best to be in hospital, where it’ll hopefully be a bit quieter, to get feeding established.
‘To establish a good latch from the get go’
– As mentioned above, I don’t think I really had much of idea what I was doing last time round in terms of latching. I know there are things that can affect a baby’s latch that simply mean from the get go that breastfeeding can’t work, but I’d like to be able to say I tried my best if there’s nothing medically wrong with baby’s latch i.e. tongue tie etc. I’m worried I’ll do it wrong again and end up in too much pain to continue.
‘That I’ll be more prepared for what’s coming’
– I can, hand on my heart, say that no one really made any comments when I was pregnant with Little I about how hard breastfeeding can be. I genuinely didn’t expect the level of pain that I experienced and felt really alone because I thought everyone else was just breezing through it. The second time around, everyone is more than happy to share their breastfeeding experiences. And I’ve found, even the ones who managed to feed successfully for a long time have their own share of interesting stories to tell! I think talking and sharing experiences goes a long way with helping each other out.
Which in turn hopefully means…
‘I’ll be more relaxed this time’
– Even pre birth, I do feel more relaxed about breastfeeding this time. I know that if it doesn’t happen for us it’s not the end of the world but at the same time I’ve heard so many positive stories about friends who didn’t manage to do it the first time but have loved it the second time round. Fingers crossed! I’ve gotten a lot more information pre baby this time and feel like I’ll be able to ask a lot more questions, which definitely helps.
As part of being a Medela Mum, I was lucky enough to get to ask Medela’s lactation consultant a few questions ahead of starting my breastfeeding journey with this new, soon to be, baby:
I really struggled with breastfeeding with my daughter and ended up stopping after a very short period of time. What would be your best tip for trying to relax before attempting it again this time?
First thing here is to be positive. Even though last time it didn’t go as planned your first born did get a great start and had your milk. Looking back you could possibly pick up some of those things that were contributing factors such as sore nipples, apprehension, feeding when out and about, and reflect how did they make you feel apprehensive and chat with your midwife or pop down for a coffee at a local breastfeeding group and chat with other mums before having baby.
What is known is that stress and apprehension switch that vital milk let-down reflex on. If you are worried that baby is not feeding well, extremely tired or sore and not looking forward to a feed because you know its difficult then these all will make nursing less enjoyable and influence your milk production..
Tips to relax is to find a nursing position that you are comfortable in, if you need help with a nursing pillow but find it more difficult when out and about look at trying to feed in a different position , using a baby sling to support or your pram blankets.
Quick relaxation techniques can be worthwhile , deep breathing for a few minutes, empty your mind, any tactile massage will stimulate your own oxytocin so – hand massage and have all those positive thoughts. Breast massage also helps to relax just before nursing – you can do this over your clothes as you get baby ready.
What would be the best way to ease the pain of when your milk originally comes through? I was shocked last time at how sore I was – even showering brought tears to my eyes!
Milk coming in is really uncomfortable and unexpected first time round – you go to bed soft and baby is nursing every few hours and next morning they just get really heavy, hot and sore.
Engorgement is often associated with milk coming to volume – your breast are using a lot of energy to make the milk and give off a lot of heat. Many mums find it’s a combination approach of cool packs – some pain medication such as ibuprofen, frequent feeds with good attachment and positioning. Breastfeeding should not be painful, if this is the case something is not quite right so getting advice early on is really useful. Using nipple cream to keep nipples moist and helps with those early days , a good supporting nursing bra is also useful.
In terms of expressing, how often and for how long is best? Or does it just depend on you and your baby’s routine?
When it comes to expressing in the early week after baby is born it is only recommended if you are having feeding difficulties to help initiate and establish your supply when baby cannot nurse – this maybe because he is born early, sleepy, jaundices, have difficulties feeding and with the support of your midwife you would express 8-12 times in 24hrs ( every 2-3 hrs no longer than 5 hrs between sessions at night) mimicking your baby’s natural newborn feeding pattern or if baby isn’t feeding well after each feed until they start to feed better.
It is advisable if there are no feeding issues to wait until baby has had his 3-4 week growth spurt. This week means that what you thought was a fairly good pattern will go out of the window as they nurse a lot more frequently and graze. Fitting in any pumping sessions in will be difficult and really those first 4 weeks just means that you both gets lots and lots of practice at getting nursing spot-on.
When you pump is really down to you and baby – if he only takes one breast and he has fed well you can pump off the other. Some mums find they pump when feeding, others when dad is giving the feed. other mums find a mid-morning time suits them better others one before they go to sleep at night. There really isn’t any fixed rules its just baby watching, getting to know your baby and also if you feel like a feed but don’t want to nurse or dream feed you can pump then.
I am trying to be more positive ahead of this baby’s arrival and with the right help, from Medela, I’m sure that I can have a different experience this time.
What were your breastfeeding hopes before you had your little one?