For those of you were didn't read my blog when Wilf was just a newborn (and not many people did, ha!). Like many women I really struggled to get to grips with breastfeeding in the early days. To say 'get to grips' puts it lightly I suppose as truthfully it was one of the most emotive and painful things I've ever been through. I actually just read back on my post about my experience eight weeks after having Wilf (you can read it here) with tears streaming down my face. Whilst I hadn't forgotten how hard I found those first few weeks I forgot just how raw and extreme those emotions were.
After breastfeeding was finally established it became something I felt really passionate about. Not only that but it became easy. I'm generally a fairly unorganised person and what struck me a lot during my breastfeeding days with Wilf was how easy it was to just feed him anywhere and everywhere without having to remember bits and pieces. Ask Tom and I am always the parent that forgets to bring things like snacks or toys or spare clothes. He is so much better at being organised!
I didn't really have a time frame in mind with how long I wanted to continue to breastfeed Wilf. My main goal all along was to get to a year and then see how we both felt like then. I know a few people who's children have self weened at this time and I sort of wanted the feeling to be mutual when it came to stopping. That being said I knew if there was a time that breastfeeding became a chore or not working for me after this point I was very open to ending when it felt right for me. As it happened by the time we'd reached two years I was only feeding once a day (first thing in the morning) and we seemed to heading to a natural end.
One day Wilf forgot to ask to nurse, then one day became two and then three and then on the fourth day he did and I decided to tell him there was no more left. I treated it like he'd done something really clever by finishing all the milk and told him 'well done! you drank it all!'. His reaction was to say OK then and toddle off..Tom and I looked at each other like 'that was easy?!' and the next thing you know Wilf comes back in with a carton of almond milk he'd got from the fringe and told me I could just fill up again!
After explaining that wasn't really how it worked but he could have a glass in a cup he really never mentioned breastfeeding or wanting to ever again. I think it ended perfectly for us as it was so mutual and there really weren't any feelings of sadness. That being said I didn't expect the hormonal imbalance it gave me for some weeks afterwards which is something I would mention to anyone about to end their breastfeeding journey.
I have mixed feelings about how breastfeeding will go this time round. I want to prepare myself for it to be tough so I'm not so shocked again but at the same time I want to feel positive about it not going badly. I feel better this time round knowing that even if it is hard there are things I can do to ensure I don't suffer for as long as I did first time round. I'm not sure if it was the new baby fog or because I am a stubborn idiot but I refused to consult a lactation specialist last time round, even though having been on a NCT course I actually had a contact at my disposal. Tom was really encouraging me to seek help and I was just too proud to let anyone know how hard I was finding it. Actually having Tom there to support me is probably the one thing that really helped me persevere.
I always say that it's such a personal choice how you choose to feed your baby and I hate that anyone would ever feel judged for choices they have made. Recently there was some question as to whether mothers felt a pressure to breastfeed. I have to say honestly I never felt any pressure from anyone but myself, in fact whenever I did mention to people how hard I was finding it generally the response was 'just give up then if it's not making you happy'. I feel conflicted about that response because on one hand I can totally see how someone who cares for you would want to make you feel like you had an option to stop, but on the other hand I desperately wanted someone to say 'I can see how much this means to you, I'm so sorry you're having a tough time, lets see what we can do to help'. I think truthfully it was only because Tom knew how much it meant to me and that he never once suggested anything other than helping me achieve this that I was able to get through those awful (awful!) first weeks.
This time round I am actually teaming up with Medela to share my breastfeeding experience and my experience of pumping (something I never really attempted with Wilf). As part of this I will be able to contact a Medela lactation specialist if I have similar issues and also just have the support of the team and their breastfeeding advice. I asked Sioned their resident lactation specialist for a little breastfeeding advice on some of the concerns I had last time and this was her advice:
1. I initially had trouble feeding my son and found breastfeeding extremely painful for a good few months (although once established I went on to breastfeed for two and half years). It was the cause of a lot on anxiety and makes me nervous for the early days of motherhood, although there never seemed to be a reason as to why I was in so much pain. What is the likelihood I will have issues again?
This is a difficult one to predict as there are so many reasons why this could have happened. Sore and painful feeding is usually down to latch challenges and in your case it could well be that your baby had a high palate and that your baby applied high vacuums that cause the pain. It improved over time and this could be that your baby mouth and oral cavity has grown and reduced the high vacuum. I’m sure you tried different positions but a laid back position is often useful so that baby is lying on you and nipple falls in deeper into the baby’s mouth and positions at the soft and hard palate junction.
This time around you may find that your experience is very different and you may just get nipple tenderness in the early few weeks after birth. Get advice and support early on and if it is high vacuum a nipple shield can assist to make feeding more comfortable for you and bring the vacuum strength to what is manageable for you.
2. Does what you eat really effect the baby when breastfeeding? My son had quite bad colic and I was never sure if changing my diet really had an effect on this.
For some babies yes it can. Colic is a multi-factoral condition and can be made worse when mum has a lot of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflowers, onions, cabbage, chocolate, diet drinks in her diet. It usually improves after 3 months of age and this is often when babies gut matures and works more effectively. So keep on eating a healthy variable diet and keep a food diary to see if it is worse following the Sunday roast.
In some babies colic can also indicate an intolerance and there is more awareness of cow’s milk protein allergy, soya allergy and what mum has in her diet dairy wise can pass through into the breastmilk. There is a great support group on facebook but these babies often show many other signs such as stools, faltering growth, rash, eczema, reflux. If these are present you need to talk with your Health visitor and get referred to a paediatrician, dietician for further investigation.
3. I didn’t end up pumping with my son as I had a hand pump I tried when he was around 6 months that I didn’t get on with it. This time round I will be taking a much shorter maternity leave (although I will be working from home) and may need to pump to attend events or meetings for a few hours. What is the best time to start introducing a body of expressed milk so that it doesn’t interfere with establishing breastfeeding?
Pumping can be one of those things that you either click or don’t and the longer it is before you start expressing the harder it is for your breastmilk hormones to condition to a let-down with a pump. Ideally wait until breastfeeding is established around 4 weeks after birth so that you have the 3 week growth spurt under your belt. Also you don’t want to over-supply and in the first weeks you have an abundance of milk and your baby doesn’t take it all so what you don’t want to do is pump in this period unless you have engorgement, mastitis or baby isn’t feeding well.
Thanks for you answers Sioned, I had never heard of having a high palette!
What was your experience with breastfeeding? I'd love to hear!
I am working with Medela in return for their advice and support over the first few months of breastfeeding and trying out their products but all words and thoughts are my own.