‘My nipples are about to fall off and I just want to go to sleep’

Breastfeeding.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to do a post, but I have such a passion for breastfeeding that I felt I would regret not writing one.

Our journey was not easy, but I don’t think anyone’s is. The first few weeks are filled with stress, self doubt, pain, crying (from both parties) and many, many ‘I give up!’ moments.

But the truth is, as much as I would never believe it at first, it does get better.

Winnie was a slow starter, she was so drugged up from labour she slept almost constantly for a week and she didn’t latch for the entire time. I found myself hand expressing into teacups and syringe feeding her colostrum in order to ensure my milk came in. Once it did, I was pumping like a mad woman to continue upping the supply and offering the breast before every bottle of expressed milk. Then finally, one day, she got it. She latched on and we never looked back. I developed mastitis and battled through many a blocked duct. It was hard, but so very rewarding.

I know I said this wasn’t an advice blog, but for anyone currently battling to feed here are a few things I have learned in my few short weeks;

  1. Its stressful. If someone had told me how hard it would be, I still would not have been prepared. But remember, it gets easier. By 12 weeks you don’t even think about it anymore, it becomes second nature. Hang in there.
  2. Your baby will feed when it wants to feed. Every 4 hours, every 2 hours, or every 20 minutes. It’s supply and demand. The more you feed, the more you produce. Get your partner or relative to play waiter/waitress and bring you snacks and water, set up camp somewhere comfy and feed, feed, feed. During growth spurts your baby will feed a lot more. Some days all you will feel like you are doing is feeding. Enjoy the special time with your baby.
  3. Blocked ducts are horrible. They’re painful and can lead to mastitis or even worse, breast abscesses. If you suspect a blocked duct, feed/pump as much as you can from the affected breast, massaging downward towards the nipple and using hot/cold compresses as much as you wish. Boil and cool some Savoy cabbage leaves and pop one in your bra, it does provide some relief. The best way to unclog that duct is by feeding your baby, their suck is better than that of any pump.
  4. Just because you can’t pump, doesn’t mean you have a low supply. Pumping is no reflection of how much milk you have. Babies are very efficient. Trust your baby and trust your body. You’re amazing.
  5. Feeding in public is nothing to be ashamed of. If you want to cover up, do so. If you want to let it out, do so. Your baby is hungry. If people don’t like it, don’t look.
  6. Eating oats can help increase your supply. Nothing will increase your supply like feeding your baby, but oats are fairly wonderful too. Porridge, flapjacks whatever u fancy. You can even buy flapjacks with chocolate on. Win, win scenario.
  7. Sometimes it’s not for milk, it’s for comfort. Babies will suckle when they’re distressed or upset, as it calms them. Breastfeeding is not simply about food.
  8. If baby won’t latch, get it checked. If you suspect a tongue or lip tie, mention it to your midwife or health visitor. Get it checked so you can fix any problems there might be before they cause long lasting effects on feeding.
  9. It hurts. Your nipples may bleed, they may blister, they may feel as though they’re about to fall off. Nipple shields provide relief, but use with caution as some babies are hard to wean off of them.
  10. Relax. Remember, how you choose to feed your baby is your own choice. If you have tried, and you want to switch to formula don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a mother or that you have ‘failed’. If you have encountered problems, or if you are part of the 2% of women that cannot physically breastfeed, then don’t ever allow yourself to feel guilt. No one is any better at parenting your child than you. The same goes for those who don’t wish to try breastfeeding at all. If that is your decision then stick by it and be comfortable with your choices. We’re all mums and we should all support each other. Facts are facts, but mothers are unique. You’re doing the best for your baby.

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