Breastfeeding doesn’t come with a manual, but there are thousands of articles and books written about it. While breastfeeding often is deemed to be something “completely natural” it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. In fact, doing your fair bit of research can really help you feel like you know (a bit) what to expect. It might have been something people have done since the dawn of time but it can be bloody hard and completely exhausting, as well as absolutely wonderful.
There’s no way of knowing what your breastfeeding journey will look like, you might feed without any problems at all, or you might have low supply, get mastitis, not like it one bit or absolutely love it but your baby has a milk intolerance that is hard to get under control. As long your baby is fed that’s all that matters.
Regardless of what your feeding journey will look like you will be your baby’s biggest comfort and love.
Below are just a few things we learnt along the way of our breastfeeding journeys; journeys that haven’t always been a walk in the park but that has provided us with much closeness and cuddles. As well as soaked tops and milk sprayed furniture – or maybe that’s just me!
Not leaking colostrum during the last months of pregnancy does not mean you will have low supply
‘I leaked colostrum from 25 weeks!’ a friend told me once, sending me, a 38 weeks pregnant first time mother, right into anxiety land. One could easily think that the more colostrum – the first very fat and high protein milk – you leak during pregnancy, the higher your supply will be. Fortunately that is not the case, it doesn’t make a difference at all to how much milk you’ll eventually produce once your little one is born.
I really didn’t see any colostrum until I was sitting on a birthing ball sharing my concerns with my midwife, who firmly took my nipple between her index finger and thumb and squeezed out a whole syringe worth of the stuff to put in the maternity ward fridge for later usage by my little baby. And my supply has been, thanks to a hungry little girl, quite enough until this day, 8 months in.
If necessary you can feed your baby with a syringe or tube in the early days and still establish a fully functioning breastfeeding later
Sometimes babies are too tired after a long delivery, are too tongue tied or have other medical reasons for not being able to latch onto the boob after birth. Rest assured, that does not mean that breastfeeding is a no go.
Some mothers spend days – or weeks, or months – in hospital pumping and feeding either with a syringe in the early days or by tube if your baby perhaps is premature and need to be in an incubator. As long as you pump or hand express to keep your supply up there’s still a chance you will be able to pick the feeding up once your baby is strong enough. And remember, in the first few days your baby’s belly is about the size of a marble so they don’t need much to get full.
A nipple shield can be the difference between breastfeeding and no breastfeeding
A nipple shield is a thin silicone thing that you place over your nipple to make it bigger and easier for your baby to latch onto. For many mums with flat or inverted nipples they can make all the difference as it draws out the nipple and helps their baby to drink properly. If your baby has a poor latch or you have sore or cracked nipples they can be incredibly helpful as well.
Midwives are often hesitant to give them to new mums as it’s said they can cause slow weight gain but speaking from personal experience, as well as having talked to lots of friends who’s used one, that is not necessarily the case. My baby fed with a nipple shield for five months before she one day decided she could do without one, but I’ve had friends who fed with one for a year with well growing and healthy babies.
Breastfeeding is a team effort
When reading about breastfeeding it’s often stated that a supportive partner can make or break it. While you can very much feed your baby without much support it doesn’t hurt having someone cheering you on. Especially if you’re struggling. On top of being a moral support when it gets tough –
1am cluster feeds we’re looking at you! – your partner can support you in more hands-on ways, by for example bringing you lukewarm cups of tea and biccies (Australian slang for cookies) while you’re stuck on the sofa feeding, or make sure you’re actually getting fed too.
Other helpful ways is to have them do the hand pumping of colostrum at the hospital and when you’ve just come home while, waiting for your milk to arrive – it is tiring work! Or they can help position the baby to your breast.
Our baby didn’t latch on the breast until we got a nipple shield and my milk didn’t come in until late on day four after birth but my husband helped me hand milk my breasts to get colostrum out to feed our girl with a syringe. He also washed all the pumping equipment, burped the baby and made sure he took all the breastfeeding advice given to us by the midwives in so that he could tell them back to his sleep deprived and post birth blurry wife. It made him feel useful in what was a stressful situation and it made me feel as if we were doing this as a team.
And a PS. for all other veggie loving mummas out there!
You often hear that your baby might be affected by eating brass veggies like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. While that might be the case for some, it’s not the truth for everyone. After spending 9 months living on sourdough and butter I was looking forward to eating my crazy big plates of veggies again and my very large Brussels sprout consumption has never affected my little girl. So if you, like us, adore your veggies eat away and hope for the best! But obviously be mindful too that if your baby gets lots of wind try and see if cutting it out helps!
A Tribe Called Life