As I was lying in 5 minutes of sun the other morning, I realised a few things:
- I am in serious need of a tan
- Stretch marks really suck
- I have never heard the word “breast” used so casually and frequently as I have since I fell pregnant.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude – although I’m not sure some prudence is a bad thing nowadays. We just rarely used the anatomically correct terms for things growing up. However after becoming pregnant, it was one of the most frequently heard words, normally used in sentences like, “Are you going to breast feed”, “How is the breastfeeding going”, “Breast is best”… You get my drift.
I don’t know if it was because of the casual overuse of the term or just plain ignorance – but I expected breastfeeding to be easy. Assuming it would all come naturally (I mean God did design us this way), I didn’t really read up on anything prior to Kyla’s birth. However I did know that following my breast reduction in 2006 there was only a 50% chance that it would work anyway. With this knowledge (or lack thereof) I walked into the labour ward (well actually more like crawled in pain) thinking that once the birth was over the rest would be smooth sailing.
Wow… Was I wrong!!! In hospital Kyla and I were already having a hard time. I am sure that she had a problem latching because we waited so long to get her on. She was born at 6.30pm and for some stupid reason – mostly my ignorance, we never latched her on right away (actually that is completely the nurses fault). Anyway, then at 7pm it was visiting hours and naturally for the birth of the first grandchild on both sides, the world and his wife arrived at the hospital to meet Kyla Isabella. This was great, however it meant that latching her on was postponed even further. Eventually at 8pm we started the process. She would not latch. I was told a million different positions, how to tickle her mouth, chin, armpit or whatever, nipple shields etc. We managed to get her on a couple of times and by the time we left the hospital I was using a shield and she had only lost like 100 grams (which is pretty good going as they normally lose about 10% of their birth weight).
Arriving at home I was smashed (my body was definitely not used to so little sleep) and my nipples were so sore they were bleeding. I didn’t have a pump at that stage and out of desperation and not wanting my child to become a vampire by sucking blood, we resorted to formula. Boy was she grateful to just be able to get it when she wanted it without too much effort, and boy was I grateful that now Seth could help out during the night and give my poor boobs a break. By the time my milk came in I had already given up hope in breastfeeding Kyla, thinking it was because of my reduction. I think I also just didn’t want to ask for help, it was like I would be failing as a Mom to ask someone and I was too proud to do that (how flipping stupid can you be). So on that note I just expressed as much as time allowed for and then gave her breast milk with a bottle for about the first month. Then my milk dried up completely.
Now with Riya I was determined to make it work – no matter what it would take. I think this made a big difference going into it with a positive mindset. I did a bit of research but not really enough – all I knew was that I was going to get laser treatment in the hospital as much as I could and that I was going to latch her on immediately. So in my immediate after-birth daze I put Riya on and she took to it immediately! That snapped me back to reality and I was overjoyed that it actually worked!!! Latching like a pro, we had none of the problems of positions etc etc. My nips were still very raw and bleeding a bit but the laser helped slightly. This is when I discovered nip cream which made it also a little bit easier. My biggest problem was that I didn’t realise that one should only feed for 15 minutes a side (this is highly debatable as I have read many different things) a lot of the time Riya was just using me as comfort. We tried to get her onto a dummy, but she was not really interested (and still isn’t which is great as she puts herself back to sleep without us having to give it to her).
By the time we got home from the hospital we were in pretty much the same position in terms of pain as I was with Kyla, the only HUGE difference was that she would latch without a problem. No one had ever really told me how excruciatingly painful breastfeeding was. Maybe I am just over sensitive, but I had a really hard time. For the first 5-6 weeks it hurt like nobodies business! I often fed her in tears, wanting to pull her off as it was so sore but obviously not wanting to as I was actually managing to provide for my child. I continuously had one or two bleeding nips, engorgement or something not cool going on. But I was dedicated to making it work and to give my child what is supposed to be so good for them.
I was so determined that I would feed her for as long as she would suck – often 1-2 hours at a time. I didn’t care about the stupid 15 minutes a side. After 2 days at home we went to the clinic to check her weight and see if it was working as she was sleeping an awful lot. She had not put on near enough. They weren’t too concerned yet as it was still early days, but I started to take the Blackthorn Berry Elixir – I could feel it working and it helped with my energy too, but by the next weigh it had hardly made a difference to her weight. I then started to take Fenegriek (or something like that) – it’s a herbal supplement to increase milk supply, and it really did!! But still, even with waking her up with a cold facecloth to keep her eating, she had not put on any more weight. It was then decided by the Pead that I would feed 15 minutes a side and then top up with formula. Then the only way to keep the milk supply up was for me to feed 15 minutes, then feed her formula and then still express for another 30-45 minutes to empty out everything – I had the milk, but there is obviously just a delay in it coming out. So you can imagine, that by the time I was finished expressing, I had to start feeding her not even an hour later sometimes. She then started to really like the bottle and by 8 weeks or so she just wouldn’t take the breast any more.
I am pretty proud of myself that I stuck through it (if I do say so myself). It was really tough going and I was so close to giving up, especially feeding for 3 hours at night sometimes. But there were a few things that I found very helpful:
- Nip cream – Alternating between Bepanthen (anti inflammatory qualities) and Lansinoh after each feed really helped, and often about 3 times before the next feed too!
- Sun Tan – Get as much sun on them as possible, it builds resilience. I know right, when are you supposed to go and get a tan? I managed to squeeze in about 5-10 minutes in the morning in our room through the window – I didn’t want to flash my neighbours in the backyard.
- Go Topless – The air helps, try and only cover up when you have people over – I’m pretty sure your husband won’t mind. 🙂
- Rub Some Breast Milk On Them – It’s amazing all the different things you can use breast milk for.
- Laser Treatment – Helps with resilience and healing.
- Give Them A Break – Pump milk out for a feed and get hubby to give it to them or whatever, but give your nips a break for a feed, it does wonders. If you are worried about them getting too attached to a bottle, you can give it with a syringe or even a spoon. But if it helps ease your mind I feed Riya about 6 times a day with both breast and bottle and she only preferred bottle after 4 weeks!
- Blackthorn Berry Elixir – Helps a lot with energy and milk supply (awesome).
- Different Positions – This helps as they latch to a different part of the nip.
If you are struggling I would definitely encourage you to talk to someone, I found it easiest to talk to my clinic sister but I always have a shoulder to help if you just want to vent a bit. 🙂