I always let the Mothers I am supporting know on the early days after birth, that yes they have just run a marathon ( the actual birth), but they still have work to do in terms of establishing feeding their precious new baby.
Firstly, let me share a bit about my two breastfeeding journeys with you;
- Experience One - Polly my daughter, now 6 years old.
Polly was born, placed on my chest, I was told by my beautiful Midwife to “offer her the breast”. Polly latched beautifully, fed, fell asleep and I kid you not basically did that beautifully for 11 months when she self-weaned to a sippy cup!
2. Experience Two - Theo my son, now 3 years old.
Theo was born, placed on my chest, I was told: “offer him the breast”.
Theo fed briefly. Theo was a big boy born on the 95th percentile, 4.2 kgs of cuteness. On our first night, he was unsettled and seemed to want to feed every 20 minutes. For the first few weeks, Theo fed often ( very bloody often ). He would often not settle after feeds and need to be rocked, cuddled to sleep after every feed. I was hospitalised and given IV antibiotics after my first case of mastitis and had two cases of mastitis in quick succession after this.
Feeding hurt and to be honest I find it difficult to write this, I began to dread it.
I would feel anxious and worried that I did not have enough milk to satisfy him. My sleep deprivation led to further anxiety and he was dropping weight fast and I was struggling. It can be hard to acknowledge how much you are struggling.
I was then diagnosed with nipple thrush and Theo with oral thrush. I eliminated sugar from my diet and commenced treatment for Theo and I. Following each feed I would pump to increase my supply and was on medication to increase my milk supply. I bottle fed this to Theo. I was exhausted, anxious and my son was hungry, unsettled and not gaining weight. We were not in a good place. Eventually, we started to offer comp formula feeds and slowly, slowly with my anxiety also being addressed we started to see the light.
Two very different experiences and to be honest, and it has taken me time to say this. I am thankful for them both.
Because it has made me such a better, more empathetic, supportive Midwife. If I had only had Polly's experience I would have been pretty smug about the whole thing. But now I get it, I know that every breastfeeding journey, every baby, every Mother is different.
I can relate to my Birth Beat women who are struggling as I have felt their pain and for that I am truly thankful.
To you dear Mumma, here is my best advice to breastfeeding.
- Get educated. Not only do you need to be educated about how to have your best birth ( I know a great course ha ha wink wink nudge nudge). You need to educate yourself on how to breastfeed and then remember the babies have not read all the books!
- Have a supportive village. If you are choosing to breastfeed, great, but maybe don’t surround yourself with friends and family who have bottle fed? At times it might be tough and you need support and encouragement from your village
- Get in touch with your local Australian Breastfeeding Association. These women rock and are passionate about supporting other women.
- It should not hurt. That is right if bub has a good latch to the breast it should not be painful. If it is painful get advice and support from your Midiwife or Lactation Consultant. It is seriously worth taking the time to get the latch correct early on.
- Give yourself 6 weeks to find your groove.That is right, feeding is a learnt art for you and your baby. Go easy on yourself and remember it may take some time to master. Some days you will feel like all you are doing is feeding that gorgeous bubba. I remind my Birth Beat Mums to think of it like this and remind yourself “ you are sustaining human life” pretty cool job if you ask me and a huge achievement.