Struggling to breastfeed your newborn? Don’t feel a failure, it can be an absolute minefield to perfect.
The ability to be the sole provider of nourishment for my child is a precious gift. One that – due to a rather tumultuous start to our breastfeeding journey – I never take for granted.
Trying to feed my son in those first couple of weeks felt like mission impossible. Individually, Sprog and I were learning a new skill all while desperately trying to sync. I never thought it would work and I certainly didn’t think it would ever be pain-free.
Had it not been for some invaluable advice from a friend and an incredibly supportive husband, I think I’d be telling rather a different story.
The initial days post birth went by in a haze. I breastfed straight away, so Sprog got the colostrum, that important first milk packed with vital goodies. But, as the days went by, we just didn’t click, it didn’t feel right, was absolute agony and I began to dread feeding my precious son.
While in hospital, someone (who wasn’t a midwife) watched me feed, she was incredibly flattering and complimentary about my technique. As I had no experience to base how well I was doing on, with her glowing comments I thought I had it sussed. How wrong I was.
Juggling waiting for his gape, holding his head correctly, and knowing when to put his nose to my nipple was an absolute nightmare. Reading up on all of this before hand was all well and good, but when you’ve finally got your newborn in front of you, its hands on experience you need and that’s the one thing you don’t have as a new mum.
Breastfeeding is one life skill that no amount of reading up on can help you master.
After desperately struggling in the first week, I hit rock bottom. When sprog cried for food, if anyone else was holding him, they immediately passed him back to me. It was so toe-curlingly painful that I just wanted to hide.
It turns out he was suckling on the end of the nipple, he didn’t have any breast in his mouth. I was being far too dainty when he went to latch, so he was nipplefeeding rather than breastfeeding.
After hearing how much I was struggling, a friend recommended Jane, a private lactation consultant she used when she was at the end of her tether feeding her first-born. It was expensive, but we booked an appointment and I can safely say it’s some of the best money we’ve spent, EVER!
In the initial consultation Jane admitted that it would be a tough journey to establish pain-free feeding. We had to forget what we’d learnt and re-learn how to do it all properly.
Prior to Jane, I had gone to a Breastfeeding group in my local town. It was good in the sense that it got me out of the house and confident feeding in a safe, public environment. However, I did get some rather interesting advice which led to things getting worse.
One helpful, big breasted lady told me to stand up and lean over sprog, dangling my boob into his mouth and he’d instinctively reach up to latch. I shit you not, I was that desperate, I did it. I stood up in front of a room full of women and dangled my tit into my son’s mouth. Needless-to-say it didn’t work, and I ended up looking like a right tit.
Long story short, Jane was that hands on experience that I needed. She manually expressed me (leave your dignity at the door ladies when you have a child) to help with engorgement, offered advice on the oral thrush sprog had and the nipple thrush I had and more importantly after some time helped establish pain-free, enjoyable feeding.
Crucially, Jane took the pressure off. She was the first person who made me believe that breastfeeding isn’t as easy and natural as people make out.
All those Health Care Visitors and midwives push that ‘breast is best’ but they don’t have the time or the specific breastfeeding skills to teach each new mum. They just leave you feeling shit if you’re struggling, because it’s something you’re meant to be doing for the health of your child and you’re a failure if you can’t and turn to formula.
It took a combination of thrush treatment, savoy cabbage (yes, you read that right), two full weeks of expressing every 3 hours day and night (to ensure my milk supply was established) then bottle feeding this milk to sprog and then a week of learning how to latch properly before we finally got Sprog to feed from the breast comfortably.
Essentially, if you don’t feel right breastfeeding your child, get help. You might be lucky, you may click with your child, and breastfeeding is a joy from the start. If you have ANY pain, something is wrong so don’t feel embarrassed, ask for help, there are lots of people out there that are qualified to help.