We all know breastfeeding is naturally and nutritionally the most beneficial for our babies. I’m not going to become some kind of tough lactivist and ram info down peoples throats because in my opinion the BEST thing for babies is being fed by any means. The truth is some women can’t breastfeed as their bodies haven’t produced the milk and some just don’t feel comfortable, and while yes, all the natural antibodies and such are the best thing you can offer your baby I think your own mental health is equally important. Before I share some tips and things I’ve personally learned from my previous breastfeeding experience and this one I’m currently on with my 30 day old I wanted to discuss the importance of a healthy mother.
When pregnant you’re offered lots of information regarding breastfeeding etc with the benefits mothers milk can provide. It’s all encouraging to read but what if your milk doesn’t come through or what if you can’t provide enough? are you a bad mother? the answer is NO. What if you really don’t want to breastfeed or feel uncomfortable doing so, does that make you a bad mother? NO.
I have friends who have wanted to bf and couldn’t which left them heartbroken, defeated and depressed. I have friends who have said out right they didn’t want to breastfeed and you know what, every single one of their kids is A-OKAY. The best thing for your baby is getting the feeds they need be it breast or bottle and the care from a mother who is doing their best.
I’ve been lucky to be able to breastfeed both my children, I have two slightly different experiences but one word that relates to both, patience. I wanted to share some tips and things I’ve personally learned from my previous breastfeeding experience and this one I’m currently on with my 7 week old.
The first thing the midwives will do after they cut the cord is give you and baby skin to skin time. This regulates the baby’s heartbeat and temperature and allows them to feel comforted by you. With my first son he navigated his way across to my breast on his own with a very quick head shuffle motion, it was surreal and fascinating to watch!
Here’s some things I’ve learnt breastfeeding 2 children,
Don’t Time Feeds
I’ve heard, read and been advised wrongly when it comes to this. With André (my first son) I was told in the hospital “babies need feeding every two – four hours”
As he was my first I had no idea how often babies need fed or the signs to look out for. I had to stay in hospital overnight and remember feeding him then after an hour he started crying, I didn’t know at that point that breastfed babies needed winding so didn’t try and as I was told they feed every 2-4 hours I made him wait another hour until I tried feeding which, by that point he was very hungry and very upset so it took a long time to calm him down to feed.
With my second I’ve fed on demand so timings vary. In the first 4 weeks Oliviér had cluster periods so he could feed constantly from one breast to the other for a couple of hours then sleep a couple, other times during the day it may be every 1 to 1.5 hours sometimes sleeping for 3 hours.
I noticed that he would settle into a routine of a feed then sleep, feed then sleep then for a couple of days he would really fuss and constantly want feeding. This could be a sign they’re having a growth spurt but go with it. He’s now feeding a lot but seems to wait a little longer between feeds although at 7 weeks I’m still not timing them or counting the feeds I just wait for his signal then feed him. You can tell by the swallowing and drawing motion from inside your breast if he/she is feeding or just using you as a comforter. If they’re feeding then they’re obviously wanting it as once they’re done they usually fall off the breast like they’re drunk.
And basically yes, it means you’ve got to dedicate your day and evenings to your baby’s feeding requirements!
I popped into town this week to go for a little shopping trip and this is how it went – he needed a feed on the way there so once we stopped I quickly fed him in the car, I browsed two shops then he needed feeding again so I fed him in H&M changing room. (Babies can be completely content and asleep then a split second later they can need a feed and all hell will break loose.) I then went into another store spent around an hour looking for wedding gifts and low and behold, yes he needed a feed so went to Fenwicks feeding area and fed him in our own room complete with rocking chair. After that I was completely shattered and to be honest, pig sick so went home. So to round things up I looked in 3 shops, fed 3 times and went home…
Watch for the signals
Your baby may be completely dependant however the human body is sophisticated enough to alert you from a very young age.
- Listen to the cries – your baby will have different cries depending on the situation. It took me until little man was 2.5 weeks to know his “I’m hungry” cry, and his “help me sleep” cry.
- They tell you when they’re hungry or had enough, not the other way around. I’m saying this based on breastfeeding a newborn by the way, it may differ for formula fed but in my experience feeding on demand leads to happier babies. Their stomachs are tiny and breastmilk doesn’t stay in the system long which is why they may feed more often.
- Fussing – this is where they cry for a feed but when you put them on they seem to pull off and go back on in an erratic, angry state. I’ve been at breaking point with this until I observed, I noticed that sometimes if my breast was engorged the milk would spray out. This can be too powerful and cause your baby to gulp air as they try keep up with the flow. The opposite problem could happen where the flow is slower so they have to work harder to draw the milk out. The other reason for fussing I’ve found is where he just wants soothing to sleep and doesn’t want to deal with the milk. This is when I know he’s tired!
- Colic, reflux and poos – If they don’t want the breast but still seem upset they may have painful trapped wind or need a poo. I sit Olivier upright on my shoulder and stand up bopping in an up and down motion whilst patting his back which always helps. I also lie him on his back and gently push his legs towards his tummy, the relieves wind and helps him have a dirty nappy too.
TIP -Your baby may do the mouth rub with his/her hand to gesture hunger but if you have just fed them and they’re still doing it, it could mean they want soothing to sleep.
My mother and her friend mentioned this whilst I was pregnant and I didn’t really understand what it was. They both said that with your second child and subsequent others you experience labour type pains after birth as the uterus contracts. I didn’t have anything as they described with my first born so didn’t quite know what to expect. So before I do go into how it felt I want to say it may not happen to every person.
After birth I began breastfeeding straight away and noticed that with each feed I was getting contraction like pains followed by a flow of blood, the pains were quite intense that they gave me ibuprofen,CRAZY considering I gave birth in 6 hours having just paracetamol!! so I’d like to think my pain threshold is quite high. They would last a couple of minutes at most but it was very uncomfortable. When I got home it continued and I found that taking a paracetamol before a feed would help take the edge off it. The good news is it stopped completely after 3 days!
Apply Every Time!
Ok, so cracked nipples. OUCH!. Yes this is the thing that will change your experience with breastfeeding. With my first I suffered with this horrendously, they were cracked and bled.I now realised it was because I was letting them dry out. The best thing to do is keep them moisturised so apply that nipple cream after EVERY feed, even during the night! Cracked nipples are not fun at all and I remember crying with every feed with André for the first few weeks. I use Lansinoh but if you’re vegan try one by mamma angels.
If you’re still struggling there’s nipple shields which are covers that protect the nipples but allows them to feed. Don’t use vaseline!
This will also impact your nipples and effect the comfort levels, wrong positioning can cause the nipple to rub on the roof of your baby’s mouth causing sore spots and cracks. Your midwife or health visitor should be able to help with positioning and advise on some positions to try. The rugby ball is a good one but I found it hard to get comfortable, just try a few until you feel happy with one.
Things To Have To hand
- A bib or muslin square
- Nipple cream
- Bottom cream
All babies are different but I have found that Oliviér feeds much better without distraction, so I have the tv volume low, avoid talking on the phone and generally being too noisy.I’ve found that distractions cause him to get upset which in turn leads to him gulping air as he feeds causing trapped wind.
I’ve learnt that fancy expensive nursing bras aren’t always the best. This time around I’ve lived in soft bralets and regular non-underwired bras. Bras that are easy to quickly whip out a breast and are comfortable are EVERYTHING. I’ve curated a list below.
You may find your child has an upset tummy, seems unsettled or a change in his/her dirty nappy. Obviously first of all make sure there’s no illness causing the problem, my advice is to call the midwife as a precaution. Oliviér was having crazy explosive watery dirty nappies but the midwife said he seemed fine so wasn’t concerned health wise. Once you’re happy there’s no issue with them look into your diet, I found it happened when I had milk with my cereal so decided to cut it out completely. I also had a day where I drank a coffee then had a large iced mocha and it made Oliviér so unsettled so now might have 1 caffeine drink a day.It’s helped a lot and he hardly gets reflux.
Watch for patterns
Babies go through growth spurts, the first 3 days are the hardest as the milk is not in properly so baby feeds more often and your nipples are getting used to being rubbed constantly. Once milk comes in your baby may be a little unsettled as their tummy gets accustomed to the milk change. Olivér didn’t poo until day 3 so you might notice the same. They then settle and after a few days may have another growth spurt, this lead to cluster feeding with Oliviér. This is when they seem to feed constantly without seeming satisfied but go with it and persevere, just make sure to applY the nipple cream after each feed!
As feeding is inconsistent it can mean the breasts can get a little sore. If Oliviér fed constantly for a few hours then slept for 3 my breasts would get engorged, hard, lumpy and leak milk like crazy. Right now breast pads are my best friend, at 7 weeks I’m still having to change them up to 4 times a day.If you find yours are lumpy near the areola give them a massage and manually express a little to relieve some milk. Another issue is mastitis which is NOT fun.
This is a topic I really want to mention even though it’s a totally grim subject!
So after birth your body gives you a break as you may have suffered internal fissures (cuts) where it has stretched. Going to the loo can obviously be painful as any pushing motion can open these cuts, so you might notice you don’t need to go for a couple of days. Keep an eye on this as although it’s giving your inside time to heal it’s also meaning that your waste is getting more solid which makes it hard to pass when the time comes. I went almost 7 days with my first son, 1 out of fear then 2 out of the physicality of it. This is TMI but keep things soft by drinking apple juice however don’t go mental on fruits and juices when breastfeeding as it can cause wind or diarrhoea in babies. I would 100% advise drinking lots even during the night to keep hydration levels up. Breastfeeding takes fluid from you and so dehydration can lead to constipation so keep topping up on the liquid. FYI tea/coffee/green tea/cola are diuretics meaning they cause you to urine more often so in turn make you lose more fluids making them counter effective. If I have a cup of coffee I’ll have 2 extra cups of water.
Keep on top of that constipation game as it’s no joke!
Mother nature is amazing
I always know when Oliviér needs a feed even before he cries as I’ll get shooting pains in both breasts like an alarm. I’ve nipped out for food shopping before, felt those pains and text Rich “is he ok because he needs a feed” got a reply “no he’s fine” then 3 seconds later “okay, he’s crying and doing his fist thing, he’s hungry”
P.S apparently this can also happen if you hear a baby cry, thankfully this has never happened to me or I’ll be leaking gallons at the baby weigh clinics, ha!
I wanted to leave with some things not to say to someone who’s just had a baby. ESPECIALLY if you are a stranger.
- “Are you breastfeeding?” unless you are a doctor or health visitor mind your own damn business. I had a lady ask me this IN A LIFT!!! on Thursday. I said yes, her reply, “good. Don’t stop. ” yeah right, stupid cow. I was furious because what IF I couldn’t breastfeed, what if I physically couldn’t, what if I’d had a mastectomy? What if it was not of her fecking business!
- “Does he/her sleep?” oh yeah. I get 8 hours a night. What do you think? I have a new baby. Moron.
- “He/she is looking big/little, how you feeding them” Erm get outta here.
- “You shouldn’t feed on demand it’ll spoil them” are you actually kidding me with your prehistoric, unsupported advice.
Just be mindful as mothers are still filled with hormones and you don’t know someones situation!
Before I go I’ll give a quick update of Oliviér so far, he has put weight on steadily and unlike my first son, Oliviér hasn’t lost any weight since birth. He’s growing healthily and is surprisingly strong. Both the health visitor and Doctor have said he’s very alert for his age and yesterday at his 6-8 week check up the doctor said quote “I see a lot of babies and this baby is one of the calmest I’ve ever met” I left feeling that the persistence, painful nipples, incessant night grazing and constipation was worth it for a happy, content child.
Just do the best you can and remember a mothers mental health is so important so do what is best for you and your baby be it breastfed or not. Please share this with any one who may find it helpful. Thanks for reading!
The bra I’m wearing in the images is from Topshop