As most of you would be aware, December last year I became a mummy for the first time. This new journey has come with many life changes and adjustments, some of those both exciting, yet also quite challenging. One of those challenging things I had to learn was to breastfeed. I always knew I wanted to breastfeed Felix, it was something that was really important to me. No saying I have anything against formula fed babies, as my intention was always to have formula available to him as well if he needed a top up, or for any other reason. However I really wanted to be able to offer him breast milk over formula due to the antibodies that help protect the baby, as well as the bonding experience and comfort. Also we can’t forget breast milk is free! Compare that to the formula we also purchase which is about $28 dollars! Thank goodness we are not exclusively formula feeding him otherwise we would go through formula a LOT more than we currently do, and we would have less money to spoil Felix with new clothing, blankies and toys.
Today I wanted to talk about the struggles I have been through during my breastfeeding experience, and the methods I have used/what I have done to make things easier, and even enjoyable. It would be lovely if I am able to help any fellow new mummas out there with their breastfeeding journey’s as well! Are you a new mumma? Or are you planning to have children soon? Let me know down in the comment section, let’s have a chat!
Not going to lie, breastfeeding can be bloody painful. Especially when you are first starting out, and not know what you are doing. Usually when it’s painful, it genuinely means the child is not latched on correctly, making the experience both unpleasant, and a struggle for bub to get a decent flow. At the very beginning I cried and got stressed out by the pain, and in my head I would think that I just simply couldn’t do it. Also, when you are first starting out, your nipples crack, bleed, and then scab over, making them look disgusting. I would get so turned off at them, not wanting to put them near my sons mouth. One thing that helped relieved my nipples was a little product called lanolin nipple cream. My mum told me about it, and so did the hospital. They gave me a couple of samples till my mum was able to race out to the chemist and buy me a tube. Lanolin nipple cream is a little miracle worker that helps to heal the nipples, making breastfeeding a little easier. You don’t need too much, and you just gently rub some on your nipples after a feed. It smells pretty disgusting and is quite pricey (especially for the larger tube) but I cannot live without it now. The one I use is called Lansinoh, in case you wanted to know!
With the latching, I honestly believe it comes with practice. (You WILL get there mumma, trust me!). I got a lot of information, advice and support from the lactation nurse whilst I was in hospital which I found quite useful. Because I had a cesarean, I saw her more often as I had to stay in the hospital the whole week following surgery, so I took all the help I could get! If you have a natural birth and get to go home the next day and still need some support with breastfeeding, I recommend booking in to see a lactation nurse because in my opinion it’s definitely worth it. I learnt how to hold Felix the correct way when breastfeeding (facing towards you, not the ceiling) I learnt how to insert my nipple correctly into his mouth (not just the tip of the nipple, omg no!) And that you aim the nipple towards the babies nose. You also need to watch the jaw line to see if it’s moving adequately, and listen for tiny little noises of bub swallowing. If you feel bub is not latched correctly and it’s hurting a lot, carefully insert the tip of your pinky finger into bub’s mouth to release the nipple, and try again. I also was kindly gifted a breastfeeding pillow from Nick’s sister Ashley whilst I was in the hospital. This has actually made breastfeeding much easier for me, and comfortable for Felix too. When I need to breastfeed him when I am out, I obviously can’t really take my pillow because it’s pretty big! So instead l use one of my jumpers or jackets and hold it underneath him, just for a little added support. I now have more confidence breastfeeding him in public, I just go to a secluded area so I don’t bother anybody. Or, there are a couple of mothers rooms I can go to in the city as well that I only found out about recently.
Whilst I was in the hospital, I learnt how to use the breast pump machine. This was such a strange experience that I am now extremely used to. They got me to learnt how to pump to keep my milk flow producing, and so I can give my nipples a break from breastfeeding in order for them to heal. At the beginning I was hardly pumping much milk at all because your milk doesn’t really come in properly until a week after birth I believe? But now I am able to pump quite a decent amount at times when I need too. Being able to give myself the occasional break from time to time is a great opportunity for the nipples to recover. I do this sometimes, but usually I only will use the pump now if he sleeps for a long period of time, and I need to stimulate my boobs to keep them producing milk, as you need to either breastfeed or pump your boobs every 4 – 8 hours or your milk can stop producing/dry up and you can get really painful lumps, that I had in the hospital and had to massage out! Pumping is also a good option if you are making a substantial amount of milk and want to freeze it, or if you want to plan to have more than a glass or two of alcohol, which I still have not braved just yet!
Frenotomy (Tongue-Tie Snip)
When Felix was born, I noticed pretty much immediately that there was something not right with his tongue. As an anxious person, I showed one of the midwives straight away, and she informed me that Felix had a little tongue-tie. For those of you who don’t know what a tongue tie is, it’s when the thin membrane underneath a babies tongue restricts the movement. (Called the lingual frenulum). Some tongue-ties can be worse than others, in some cases the child is quite restricted from being able to move the tongue from side to side, or poke it out beyond the lips. It can also affect latching when breastfeeding, resulting in lots of nipple pain, and frustration for the child. There is also the chance that the child could grow up and have possible speech problems. We were lucky enough to only have what the dentist said was a ‘textbook tongue-tie’ so Felix was only 50% tongue tied, still able to move his tongue around and poke it out reasonably. He did however have the classic ‘heart shape tip’ of his tongue that comes with tongue-tie cases. The procedure to fix this issue is called a ‘Frenotomy’ which the lingual frenulum is cut with sterile scissors. Even though Felix’s tongue-tie wasn’t actually too bad, we chose to get it snipped after lots of research because we didn’t want him to have any issues with his speech down the track – children can be cruel. Also around this time, his latching wasn’t the greatest, and it upset me watching him struggle at times to get it right, and sometimes he would look up at me after many attempts and cry, which broke my heart. Once we had it cut, I didn’t notice a difference straight away, but gradually, each feed slowly became easier. I do admit, some days can still be nasty, but I just put that down to Felix getting too eager to feed and latching on before I am ready, or when he’s still a bit too sleepy and won’t open his mouth wide enough! Having a frenotomy is definitely a personal choice, you don’t have to get it done if you don’t feel comfortable, but if your child does have a tongue-tie and you are finding feeds too painful and challenging for the both of you, then I definitely recommend considering it. Do your research like I did, it will help with the nerves. I was so scared before he got it done, but it didn’t even hurt him, and was over in a blink of an eye! He didn’t even care afterwards, he was more interested in how far he could poke out his tongue which would of been such a new experience!
Determination & Practice
Felix is 12 weeks as of today, and I am not about to claim that I have breastfeeding down pact, in fact I still have many days where it’s still painful, he slips off or won’t latch correctly after multiple attempts. I can’t say every feed is now 100% better, but with determination and practice, it does slowly get easier. You have to remember, your baby is learning how to do this as well, so it is a team effort between mumma and bub. I admit I still to this day get a little emotional if it starts hurting, not knowing why he’s still frustrated at times, or whether I am not making enough milk for his high demands. But then I have good days where he will feed effortlessly, and when he comes off he goes into a ‘milk coma’ (as what Nick and I like to call it) and he looks SO peaceful, most of the time there is still milk dribbling from his lips. These are moments I treasure, and they are also so satisfying knowing my body is able to keep another human alive and well! Breastfeeding even though can be so tedious at times, is also a very special bonding experience with your child that nobody else but the mum can understand. I also find it fascinating that once a baby is born, they go to the boob and know exactly what to do! With all this is mind, it helps me to push through and keep at it. I’m not sure how long I will breastfeed at the minute, but my goal is for 6 months at least so he can get as many nutrients as possible before we begin to introduce solid foods. If I can keep going for longer, that will be great! But right now, six months in my mind is a fantastic, solid amount of time, in fact my doctor was really impressed that I have already made it this far!
I hope this post was able to help any of you new mummas out there, and remember if you choose not to breastfeed your bubba, or if for any reason you can’t, that is okay too, do not by any means feel bad about it! I remember one time in the hospital where I came SO close to giving up in the first few weeks, one of the midwives told me that she used to know a woman who was unable to breastfeed her children because of health related reasons. These children grew up to be the brightest in their class, and are beautiful and healthy to this day. So if anybody gives you their unwelcome opinion if you don’t breastfeed, just remember that no matter what you choose to do, as long as bubba is getting fed whether it be via breastfeeding, expressed milk or formula, they will still thrive and be happy. As long as you continuously love and care for them, you are doing an amazing job. Keep up the good work!