I have been exclusively breastfeeding for almost five months now. Before I became pregnant I didn’t put much thought into breastfeeding itself. I assumed the majority of mothers bottle fed their babies. Probably because I don’t regularly see women breastfeeding publicly. In addition to that I have never seen a breastfeeding advert on television, it’s has always been formula being advertised as a substitute for breastmilk. Breastfeeding hasn’t been the easiest road for me but it has definitely been worth it. As a new mum, there aspects of breastfeeding that I wasn’t educated about. Most of the information I have gathered has been from my NCT breastfeeding consultant (I would highly recommend one) and kellymom.com (an amazing website for breastfeeding mothers).
Now not everyone experiences pain during breastfeeding, I was just one of the unlucky ones. After giving birth I initiated breastfeeding within the first hour. India latched on beautifully and started nursing with ease. For me, I felt horror as my uterus started to contract. Yes, those contraction you just had during labour is not the end. I felt like I was in labour all over again. I looked forward to feeding my baby for the first time, but when it actually happened I dreaded having to feed her again. The contractions lasted for a day. But the pain didn’t just stop there. My nipples were in agony, it felt as though someone was pinching and pulling them with pliers. The sore nipples lasted about 2 weeks, it did get better the days went by. Breastfeeding from then on was easy and pain-free.
I am pretty bad when it comes to drinking water. I just don’t drink enough of it. When I started breastfeeding the thirstiness was on a different level. My mouth was constantly dry. When I sat down to feed I had to make sure I had a bottle of water near me because I was bound to get thirsty. It was even worse at night. I had to go to bed with a bottle of water, wake up in the middle of the night to get fetch myself some more water and by the morning I was still parched. So the rule is, if you plan to breastfeed, carry water everywhere you go.
Milk Coming In
When my milk came in, it was an odd sensation. I sat on my sofa whilst I could feel my breast suddenly fill up with milk. It felt very surreal. My milk came in three days postpartum. My breasts went rock hard, and I mean rock hard. When I took off my bra to look at my breast, I couldn’t recognise them. My breast were lumpy, veiny and swollen looking. They didn’t feel painful but it was very uncomfortable. It makes me dread the day I stop breastfeeding. I will definitely have my savoy cabbage leafs at the ready.
I believe the best way to maintain you milk supply is to feed as often as you can according to your baby’s needs (on demand). Spacing out feeds or trying to implement a routine can decrease your milk supply. In the early days I fed India every hour or two. I massaged my breasts whilst feeding her to help to release any blocked milk ducts. This helps to release more milk, which will help to product more milk. Blocked milk ducts can also cause infections and that was one aspect of breastfeeding that I feared.
I assumed pumping would be quick and easy. I imagined whipping out my boob out and pumping a whole bottle of milk in 15 minutes max. Well, I was wrong. The first time I pumped, I wanted to test out my new Medela Swing Breast Pump. I sterilised all the parts and bottles, attached it to my breast and patiently waited as my breastmilk was extracted one drip at a time (no exaggeration). It took me 20 minutes to pump two and a half ounces from one breast, then another 20 minutes to pump another two ounce from the other breast (not even whole bottle).
I thought to myself is this it? This what pumping is all about. The next time I did it, about a month later I was able to pump a whole five ounces bottle out of one breast and another five ounces in from the other breast. It’s best to pump when you have a good milk supply going, which I didn’t have the first time as it was still early days. I get better results when my breast are full and also when I feed India from the other breast at the same time as pumping.
If you exclusively breastfeed you baby on demand and they are under six month old, it can prevent your period from returning. Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones whose period came back three months postpartum. It can take some women up to a year before their period come back. I thought I was breastfeeding enough for it not to come back so soon, but obviously that wasn’t the case for me. It is rare for your period to come back if you are EBF on demand. Breastfeeding is also a natural form of contraception, known as lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM).
At the beginning of my breastfeeding journey I felt as though there wasn’t much support from the midwives and health visitors. I remember repeatedly asking them “Is breastfeeding supposed to hurt?” and they each told me “No, if you have the right latch then breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt”. They asked to watch me breastfeed and I let them, they said my latch was “Good and she seemed to be feeding really well”. Which indeed she was, but I was in pain I didn’t understand why they couldn’t have said that yes, sometimes breastfeeding does hurt but the more you feed the easier it will get. That would have helped me see the light underneath the tunnel.
I had my antenatal classes with the NCT, where we had a two hour session with a breastfeeding consultant and it was worth every minute of it. We learnt the physiology behind breastfeeding, when and how to breast, how to keep up your milk supply, the symptoms of breast infections and what to do if they arise. She told us where we can go for drop-in breastfeeding support, which I saved on my phone, just incase I needed support. There are various places for breastfeeding support such as children centres, your local GP and even if you search on Google you are likely to find a breastfeeding consultant in your area.
What’s cluster feeding you say? It’s when your baby decides they want to breastfeed for several hours, to the point where you question whether you should breastfed whilst on the toilet. I underestimated the definition of cluster feeding. I thought to myself how can a baby feed for such a long period of time, surely they must get full or bored. When the day arrived, India fed for 4 hours straight. I fell asleep as some point and when I woke back up she was still feeding. I couldn’t believe such a little person could feed for so long. It didn’t happen very often, and most times I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I just snuggled in bed with her.
My breasts leak all the bloody time and I always have to wear breast pad. I wouldn’t even think about leaving the house without them. It will almost certainly happen when I have just come out the shower. I unwrap my towel and feel a constant drip on my feet. I looked down to see my breasts dripping like a tap. If I stood in one place long enough I would have had a puddle of my own milk. One thing I really miss is not having to wear a bra. But the risk of staining every top I wear to bed isn’t worth the pleasure of sleeping braless. Also be prepared for your milk spray across the room, yes it is possible and will happen at some point. When India abruptly unlatches the milk the sprays in her eyes and all over her face (her fault not mine).
The Unbreakable Bond
This by far outweighs everything. I adore the bond I have with my baby. There is just something about taking a moment out of your hectic day to sit down, cuddle and feed you baby whilst she stares at you with so much warmth in her eyes. It makes you sit back and think how lucky you are to have this tiny human in your life who relies on you for survival. The start of the journey was tough but I’m glad I stuck to my guns and persevered. If you are having difficulty breastfeeding don’t be afraid to ask for help as there are so many support group out there and trust me, you are not alone.
Let me know in the comments about your breastfeeding experiences as I would love to hear about them.