Truths about breastfeeding

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

We're bombarded with horror stories from those who attempted to breastfeed and likewise we've all seen the serene pictures of established breastfeeders with content feeding babies yet very little about the inbetween other than a whole host of perpetuated breastfeeding myths.  So here are just a few tips and issues you may encounter:

* Breastfeeding although natural is a skill and as such needs practice.  It's okay to struggle at first, both Mother and baby are learning something.  Nobody expects you to be a pro.

* It will hurt, at first.  Generally a rule of thumb is that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt and if it does, there is a problem with babies latch.  However, in the early days? I'm not going to lie, it hurts like a bitch.  We're talking cracked, blistered, bloody nipples at times.  Although painful (think toe curling wanting to give up type pain) it can be normal.  Your nipples are adjusting to being strongly and expertly sucked for what seems like 24/7.  Invest in some Lansinoh, it really an save your breastfeeding relationship and your nipples too.

* Although it does happen, it is actually very rare to not have enough milk to feed your baby.  You may feel like you don't and you may even be told you don't but that doesn't necessarily mean it's true.  If your baby is gaining weight, has wet nappies, alert time during the day and dirty nappies then your milk supply is just fine.

* Don't judge your supply on how much you can pump.  A pump is nowhere near as effective as a baby at removing milk from your breast so thus is a poor indicator of your supply.

* Demand feed, don't feed on a schedule.  Breastfeeding works on on a supply and demand basis, the more your baby feeds the more milk you make, clever innit?  The best way to establish your supply is to basically, keep feeding.  A newborn baby may feed at least 10-12 times a day, this is normal.  Offer baby the breast at the first signs of hunger, don't wait until they're crying for it.  Signs of hunger can include chomping on their hands, stirring and rooting.

* Don't time feeds, you will drive yourself crazy.  So long as baby is actively suckling, leave them to it. If they stop actively suckling offer them the other breast.  It's okay if they don't want both but offer it anyway.

* Your baby may be sleepy for the first few days after being born, more so if you had pethedine or diamorphone as pain relief.   It's okay.  Keep regularly putting them to the breast but don't panic if they don't appear too interested at first.

* Newborns lose weight.  It's perfectly normal for them to lose 5-7% of their birth weight in the first week.  It's really not you or your magnificent boobs, it really is them.  They get over it and usually regain the weight quite quickly so chill out.  Your boobs aren't broken.

* You may leak like a broken pipe or you may not leak much at all.  Both are normal and neither are at all indicative of your supply.

* Constant feeding although mind wrecking for you at times, is normal.  Breast milk is the most biologically appropriate nutrition for a baby and as such is easily digested so usually within 1.5-2hours.  Wanting to constantly feed doesn't mean you don't have enough milk, it just means your newborn is being a newborn.

* Supplementing can be counter productive.  You may be tempted to give formula 'top-ups' to make sure your baby is getting enough milk but to do so is undermining the entire basis of how breastfeeding works.  Every time your baby feeds it tells your body to make more milk.  Every supplemental feed you give your baby is one they're not taking from the breast so thus no message is being sent to make more milk, get it?  Every bottle feed you give essentially tells your body it doesn't need to make more milk and thus lowers your supply.

* Make yourself comfortable.  You're unlikely to be doing much other then feeding at first.  Have the tv remote, a book, a drink and your phone at hand.

* Growth spurts are a bitch.  If your baby suddenly appears to be trying to drain your very soul through your breasts it's not because you don't have enough milks, it's most likely a growth spurt.  They will feed none stop to naturally up your supply to their growing demands as they get bigger.  It will pass.....eventually....until the next one. Common growth spurt times in the early weeks are the first few days at home, 7 – 10 days, 2 – 3 weeks and 4 – 6 weeks.

* Hob Nobs are your new best friend.  Feeding a newborn can burn anything from 500-1000 calories a day, whoopee! It's vital you replenish yourself regularly.  Hob nobs are medicinal, the oats can help boost your milk supply and the chocolate can stop you going homicidal.  Also drink drink drink, no unfortunately not the Gin, sorry, we're talking water.

* Keep perspective.  A newborns stomach is only the size of a cherry so don't worry if you don't appear to be having gallons of milk, it's not needed.

* Colostrum is like liquid gold.  Even if you really really really don't want to breastfeed, at least let them have the colostrum it really is invaluable.

* Hello Ms Parton,  Your milk won't usually come in until day 3-5 after birth, be prepared to look like Dolly at first.

* After a while your breasts won't feel as huge or hard as when your milk first comes in, relax, this isn't your milk supply depleting it's merely your breasts and supply adjusting and regulating.  Generally they''ll only get hard and huge if baby has skipped a feed and engorgement looms.

* It's okay to not always like it.  Once established it is often a chance to reconnect, to just be together, it can be relaxing for both mum and baby an breastfeeding releases hormones that can make you sleepy.  Other times, you may feel totally touched out, want to snatch your breasts away and scream 'get the fuck off they're miiiiiiiiine' and run to the hills gibbering.  Again, it's natural and should pass.  You may find it gets worse when you're menstruating.

* Learn to breastfeed lying down as soon as possible, you will thank me for this.

* Safe co-sleeping can make breastfeeding on demand infinitely easier.

* Persistance pays off.  As I've already said at first breastfeeding can be hell.  You may here the elusive promise that it gets better after six weeks and this statement may feel like a huge fallacy that makes you want to break the teeth of anyone who dares say it to you.  There's a reason so many people stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks.  Seriously though, it's not a fallacy.  By six weeks most of the original issues should be sorted and for the most part breastfeeding should be relatively easy and pain free.  If you're still finding it painful you may need to check your babies latch.  If you can just persist through the first six weeks it really truly does generally get better.

* There are very few breastfeeding problems that can't be fixed.  If you genuinely want to breastfeed, obstacles and problems can be overcome.

* Ask for help, if you need it.  Be it in person or online there is a wealth of support out there, you just need to reach out.

* You can't overfeed a breastfed baby.

3 comments:

  1. With my 1st breastfeeding seemed easy. In comparison, with my 2nd it was a nightmare. I was desperate for someone to say that it was normal to hurt and that it wasn't that I wasn't doing it wrong. Nobody did, but we endured - I read every website I could find - and stuck with it. I'm still feeding at almost 7 months. I enjoyed reading this post xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I'm so glad that you managed to stick with it, 7 months is awesome!

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  2. I wish I'd read something like this before my son was born. After some unhelpful advice from midwives and health visitor I ended up stopping at about 5 weeks. I wrote about my breastfeeding story if you'd be interested in reading it. http://tobygoesbananas.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/a-breast-feeding-story/

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