Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Breast feeding for beginners

When I think of breast feeding,I think it's the most natural thing on earth. Women have been using their breasts to nourish their babies for thousands of years. What I didn't realise, was how bloody hard it is to do!

My breast feeding career did not get off to a good start. On the day she was born, I vaguely remember someone putting Sticky onto my breast and telling me to feed. That's about all the information I was given. I remember us both battling to stay awake and her staying on one breast for an hour. I had no idea how long I was meant to feed for or how long she was meant to stay. Given I had very little milk, it most definitely should not have been an hour.

At one point on the first night, I remember a midwife coming in and hand expressing me. I felt a little like a cow but we had to get some colostrum to feed. I understand the importance of starting to feed the baby as soon as possible, but leaving a half drugged, exhausted woman in charge of such a delicate operation was never a good idea. 

The next day I had cracked and bleeding nipples that were so painful I had no choice but to give Sticky formula. I sobbed and sobbed when we had to do that but I wasn't prepared to watch blood drip onto my daughter's face, despite that particular midwife telling me it was ok. I'm glad she never returned while I was there because it was certainly not ok with me! 

My husband and I had talked about giving her formula before she as born and we were both ok with it. We always assumed we may have to if my milk took a while to come in. We never expected we would have to because I was in so much pain I simply couldn't feed. We just wanted our child to be healthy and safe and formula was a better choice then letting her starve, especially given her low birth weight. 

The day after the surgery I was still recovering from the drugs and hormones so having the peditatrician and an over zealous midwife tell me what a bad idea formula was was way to much to bare. I didn't see how berating me for this choice, then telling me "Its your decision" was in anyway helpful. In fact, it upset me immensely. I thought these people should provide  medical advice if asked for without judgement. Sadly, I had a few midwives and lactation consultants who had nothing but judgement, but I also had some that were total gems so they were the ones I listened to.

One lactation consultant spent a lot of time with me showing me how to get it right. This began my introduction to the world of breast feeding paraphernalia. I was given a nipple shield to protect my nipples and give them a chance to heal, which allowed me to still feed despite the bad state they were in. I was also given hydrogel breast discs which are gel caps you put over your nipples. I was also told I would have feeding issues because my breasts are floppy and I have fair skin. I have to use a rolled up face washer to support my floppy boobs and try to get them a bit higher but alas there is nothing I can do about my fair skin. Apparently I just have to accept I will feel some discomfort and suck it up.

This doesn't really sit well with me. I accept the DIY boob lift and I'm happy to do that. But, on the rare occasion I have managed to get a good attachment, I don't feel any pain so I'm thinking the fair skin issue is a crock. I'm going to hunt down a lactation consultant and get extra help to get the attachment right.

So, 10 days in, it's still a battle. Between feeding and expressing I feel like a cow but I'm doing my best. It's playing havoc on my back and I've just bought my second breastfeeding pillow to try and give me more support. I have had a win in being able to express more milk and am now expressing about 30ml a day. It's not enough for an whole feed, but enough for a top up feed which she seems to need about 230am.

I keep reminding myself that getting the hang of breastfeeding is like starting a new workout at the gym. You use muscles you haven't used in a while, or ever before, and you're going to have pain before your muscles harden up and build some resilience. You just have to push through it, use all the help that's available to you, show some patience with the process, cut yourself some slack when you're struggling and celebrate the wins. It won't be long before you're lifting those heavy weights with ease and you'll forget you ever struggled with it. I put my faith in the fact that's true and I'm not totally deluding myself! 

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