Breastfeeding is a beautiful and devoted gift a mother can provide for her child
It is considered the most natural way to feed a baby. For many mothers and babies natural does not translate to easy, simple or even short. Breastfeeding is often a complicated, time consuming and distressing for many mums. So here, I am going to discuss some of the common (but not so common) concerns you may encounter when beginning to breastfeed, whether for the first or the fifth time.
Breastfeeding is a learnt skill
It takes a great deal of learning not only for mum but also for baby to get everything together and to succeed in a beautiful Breastfeeding journey. On that note, it is also important to remember that success is going to be different to every mother, to every family. For some being able to feed for the first 6 weeks is a huge success and for others it is continuing to feed until baby natural weans.
The first 6 weeks is hard! The first week is harder!
So often it is said that “Breastfeeding doesn’t hurt”, “it shouldn’t be painful”, “there is something wrong if there is any discomfort!” It is a fact that it takes time for your breasts and your nipples to adjust to having a small vacuum cleaner attach every few hours (or less) in the first few days.
Breastfeeding works on a feedback loop, in which the more baby sucks, the more your breasts receive the message to produce milk, this is the what happens during the first few days to bring in the milk. During this time your milk has started off as Colostrum (which is quite thick) and involves a fair bit of effort, or vacuum (scuse the pun) to bring it out.
As your milk comes in, it becomes thinner, more milk like, and your breasts have become accustomed to bub attaching and will often have a let down quite quickly. These factors come together to create a much more comfortable breastfeeding experience.
During this adjustment phase, it is normal to feel uncomfortable, it is normal for babies initial attachment to hurt (this should settle after a few seconds). This is really prominent when there is nipple damage, something, we all strive to avoid, however often occurs due to exhaustion and not knowing what it is meant to feel like.
So what can you do to prepare?
- Lansinoh – rub on damage after feeds.
- Hydrogel Breast discs – make sure to wash nipples prior to feeding baby.
- Colostrum – hand express some of your own colostrum and rub it on your nipples in before and after each feed and allow nipples to air dry.
- Hand Expressing and Pumping – while many of us don’t plan to pump, it is worth being ready for the unexpected. Whether this be by perfecting your hand expressing technique in hospital, buying an electric or manual pump, borrowing one, or ensuring you have someone ready to lend you one if required. If you have damaged nipples having the ability to pump and rest your nipples is a massive bonus. A pump can also come in very handy as your breastfeeding journey continues.
Supply can be an issue…or not
Babies breastfeed for a number of reasons, to relieve their hunger, for comfort, for pain and just because they can. It is for this reason that demand feeding is encouraged. Babies will have times during the day that they “cluster feed”, feed and feed and feed. This could be because of any of the above reasons, they are having a growth spurt or simply this is the time of the day they are particularly hungry.
Consider your own eating habits, do you eat exactly the same amount at the same time every day? If baby is upset, is looking for boob, offer it. It will become very clear, very quickly whether or not your baby wants it or not, or whether they just want a small little feed.
If there is a genuine supply issue – see below, see someone, be assessed, get appropriate advice, get a second opinion if required and remember there are medications that can help. These should only be used with advice and guidance of a health professional to ensure length of use and dosage is appropriate.
If it doesn’t feel right…talk to someone! Get Help!
If you have continuing pain, either in your breasts or nipples, get help. Talk to your midwife, talk to a lactation consultant or get in contact with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. If it doesn’t feel right or you just aren’t sure, the same applies. You should never feel unsure, you should never doubt your decisions when it comes to feeding your baby.
Feeding your baby should be an easy, relaxing, bonding experience. If it isn’t take steps to ensure it becomes a nice experience (sometimes this might be a long process and sometimes it might be a short process) and don’t ever feel guilty about the decisions you make regarding your baby.
Each baby is different, each journey is different. Just like each pregnancy and birth is different and will not be the same for each child, their feeding experience will be just as varied. It is important to listen to everyone’s opinions, advice and experiences and use what works for you and this baby at this moment. This may not be the case next week or for your next baby, so take each day as it comes, you and your baby are unique and individual.
Want to check out our other blog posts on all things pregnancy, birth and beyond?
Do you have more questions about Breastfeeding? Please get in contact to let me know and discuss.