Breastfeeding – My Experiences
Today I am choosing to share my own Breastfeeding Journey and my own tips. Some I have established myself and others have been passed on to me by other mothers and also health care professionals.
Everyone has different experiences and I feel I’m lucky to still be feeding my son, there were many hurdles but we overcame them in the end. If you would like to learn more about my journey then please keep reading.
This piece is known as one of my honest posts because this is what happened to me in my life and how I dealt with it all. Thank you for supporting me by reading this article today.
I understand that it’s not for everyone, depending upon your maternity leave and personal situation. Some babies just don’t get the latch, or are tongue tied, there are a ton of reasons why it won’t work. Yet certain hospitals in the UK seem to have staff that are more supportive than others.
I was one of the lucky ones who spoke to a breast feeding coordinator within 24 hours of my son being born. Despite the fact we had to stay in hospital for 2 weeks due to him being jaundice, I still soldiered on like a mummy warrior because it was what I wanted to achieve. I breast fed my son every 60 to 90 minutes, and pumped in between every 2 feeds. He was then breast fed and given a top up of expressed with a cup after every feed. Exhausting isn’t the half of it.
We were supported and my own perseverance served us in good stead for continuing with this schedule. I contracted Ductal Thrush during the 7th week of breast feeding and it reoccurred meaning I was on antibiotics for 6 whole weeks. Applying cream, then removing the creams before feeds, rubbing gel on my sons gums, I had lanolin for my bleeding nipples which were struggling also. It was a nightmare time and yet I still got through it.
Ductal Thrush was more painful for me than giving birth. I’m not exaggerating. Any mum that has had it will back me up. The only way I can describe it is like this… When baby latches on the first 30 seconds feel like he’s pulling your milk and nipple through shards of broken glass. Then it’s like a burning sensation that radiates down from the nipple into the deep tissue of the breast. As milk is drawn up and through by baby, the pain moves down the ducts and can be felt right down. For me it was all the way into my arm pit and into my back. The pain was present for the first 4 or 5 minutes of every feed. It was so bad at times that I cried out in pain if my baby let go during those first 30 seconds to a minute, and had to latch again and start the process over again. The one evening tears were rolling down my cheeks as I bit down on something to stop myself waking up the neighbours. My husband sat next to me looking terrified asking what he could do to help… the answer was nothing. I had had the tablets prescribed by this point but they took a few days to do anything.
I was asked if I wanted to stop feeding when my Ductal Thrush came back for vengeance. But I knew we could beat it and come out stronger the other side. It was a really difficult time, we had to ask people to stop visiting us because I was embarrassed by the amount of pain I was in. But because I have Stage 4 Endometriosis it was more beneficial to me to keep feeding my son. It was overall better off for both of us if we could continue. And we did it! I’m also proud of my pain threshold, I read about some mum’s having to give up after their infections. But I was not only determined for my son but for myself, breastfeeding creates hormones that keep my cycles at bay, which means no Endometriosis pains, for now.
A lot of mothers are misdiagnosed where Ductal Thrush is concerned, so please speak to your local breastfeeding team before going to your GP if you’re concerned. They will be able to help with your symptoms are let you know what the GP needs to do to confirm it. My GP thought I had Mastitis but in fact it was Thrush. You must be aware of both of these as a Breastfeeding Mother, yet some people don’t know what to look for. To clarify Mastitis is when your Ducts get blocked with milk from engorgement and your baby not feeding effectively. Make sure that if you get any redness with heat, any pain and swelling of the breast that doesn’t subside after a feed and a let down, you should see your GP urgently.
Another hurdle that I had was to have a baby who cluster fed, some days he would have 16 feeds in 24 hours. The most he had was 18 feeds a day when he was having growth spurts. The feeds were anything from 15 minutes to 50 minutes and all times in between. It was an exhausting time, but the bond that we created was worth every moment of the no sleep and the bleeding body parts. Thank goodness for my Pregnancy Pillow!
By the time I got to 5 months I was infection free, we were down to 14 feeds in 24 hours and we were almost ready to begin some basic Weaning of vegetable purées. But my son had issues with his bowel and with his skin, eczema had flared up all over his body since he had his vaccinations. So our GP sent us to a pediatrician for advice.
They asked me if I wanted to continue feeding, if I did I would need to give up dairy products entirely, to consume nothing which contained dairy, that meant nothing with milk, lactose or whey powder in. That would’ve been easier if the alternatives weren’t all nut related. My husband has severe nut allergies and therefore products of this nature don’t even enter our house. I knew it was going to be a struggle to negotiate this new challenge before me and I remember shedding a few tears of frustration… after everything we now had this to deal with as well.
In the end I gave up over half of my usual food items and I managed to swap into a third of alternatives. The rest is just given up on for the foreseeable. I would do anything to stop my son scratching his skin and/or experiencing his crippling wind pains. But it’s so hard when they’re little and they cannot tell you what’s wrong or how to fix it.
that is because it takes time for the dairy proteins to pass into my milk supply and then into baby and their digestive system. So far we found him have a very unsettled sleep within 3 days of me having anything dairy. It meant he had wind and sometimes nasty nappies along with it. It was awful to see him react this way, though the doctor has advised we try dairy once a month to see how his digestive system copes, especially as he is getting older now.
I have a few tips for women hoping to Breastfeed, these are my personal tips and obviously won’t work for everyone. Some are factual though and you should be reminded of them by your midwife or heath visitor…
Sabrina’s Top Tips for Women New to Breastfeeding
1. Drink a ton of water! I’m not exaggerating when I say that feeding makes you really thirsty! I had to carry a 1 litre bottle with me everywhere I went, and I had a pint glass by the side of my feeding chair. A bottle by the side of my bed and also a cup in the bathroom for drinking at night. You will still pee quite a lot after the birth (natural or c-section) while your bladder recovers, and so despite needing to wee you’ll find yourself very thirsty at the same time. On average they recommend 3 litres of water a day. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee, two of tea or one can of pop. Water is what makes milk ladies! Drink up! Add a little squash if you’re not fond of water but get it down you.
2. The second tip I have is be comfortable! Your baby will be small when they’re born, but they won’t stay that way for long. I invested in a pillow, and it was one of the best things I ever bought. On offer from Online4Baby I paid around £12 for it. It’s a half circle shape and allows baby to lay across it while the pillow goes around your middle. I will pop an image below! In the end I bought two and kept one on my bed and the other in the lounge. Cushions for your neck and elbows are also essential when you have a baby who likes a longer feed.
3. Look after yourself! Keep showered and in clean clothes, changing them every 24 to 36 hours at least. You won’t have much time on your hands, but try and make your partner see that being clean is important so as to minimise risk of infections. You will feel so much more human too! Having a little human attached to you is daunting!
4. Eat Well! This might sound silly but you need plenty of protein related foods and also vegetables and fruit as a new mum. Calcium is important too! Unless like me you have a baby who has issues! If not then get yourself some milk and cheese. I ate cereal every morning that had extra iron and vitamins. It’s a good idea!
5. Fresh Air! Fresh air should help you be a bit more relaxed and also help baby sleep. Be careful if it’s cold and wrap yourself and baby up warmly. Remember to shelter baby from any sun rays as well if they’re a newborn. But getting out even for ten minutes for some fresh air is a good plan.
6. It took me a while to be comfortable breast feeding in public. I put that down to my sons problems and then my infections. Once those were all rectified we had no problem getting comfortable on a cafe sofa, usually rolling up my coat to go beneath him and help my arm take the strain. My biggest tip is to just consider it as your baby is having a meal. You wouldn’t deny yourself lunch if you were out for the day would you? Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you cannot do as you would do when at home. Baby will tell you when they’re hungry enough for you to not ignore that cry any longer… whip out a boob and stick that hungry baby on it, because they’re the most important thing.
7. Don’t be surprised if you get lopsided and baby prefers one boob over the other! I didn’t think I would ever get this lopsided but my son prefers my one boob over the other. Who am I to argue?! Despite trying to get him to feed off the other one for months, he only usually does so when he is half asleep and cannot tell the difference.
8. Pumping or Combination Feeding is not as easy as you’d think and it isn’t for everyone. I had to stop pumping after I got my Ductal Thrush infections. After those 7 weeks had gone by my breasts didn’t produce as much milk on a pump as they did when I was physically feeding my son. We had hoped to combination feed so my husband could help, but our son was reluctant to take to many bottle types and then I simply couldn’t pump enough anyway. Just because you pump doesn’t mean that’s all there is, some mum’s require babies own latch to produce milk, others find they have a bigger supply and can feed and pump large amounts easily. Remember what I said above about Water – it’s what makes the milk so you need to increase your intake of it so as to increase milk for baby. At a certain point your boobs will be less hard and your baby will stimulate the making of the milk rather than your body just constantly producing it…
9. My final breast feeding tip is to go with the flow. Not the milk flow as such but the flow of you and baby. Feed when baby wants it, those first few weeks will be a mess of body fluids and bits hanging out. But you’re learning and your baby is also learning as well. After a month or two it will feel so natural to you, and hopefully you will choose to continue feeding for as long as is appropriate for you and your baby. I’m hoping to get to the year mark and maybe even go for longer, it all depends if baby has an allergy or not… until then we will just be feed feed feeding!
Thank you for reading this post today, I know it has been an honest one, and I hope it helps someone out there. Breast feeding is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever decided to do in my life, and I wouldn’t change my experience despite the ups and downs. The bond I have with my son is incredible and it’s the look on his face when he knows we are going to settle down for a feed that makes it so worth it. The look he gives me sometimes part way through feeding, locking eyes with me and smiling, sometimes he smiles so much he either lets go of his latch or spills milk all down himself, it’s so cute and it’s a look of love and thanks. It’s amazing…
If anyone has any questions about breast feeding I’m happy to try and answer them. There are also pages on Facebook, local groups you can contact and your GP too. Forums are also good I’ve heard people say (although I’ve not joined one) that there are also some good breast feeding apps too!
Dr. Jack Newman has a Channel on YouTube, known as a Breastfeeding Guru and has lots of tips for a new mum. Including Latch, Cup Feeding and tons of other videos. It’s worth a look if you’re stuck.
Always ask your friends who are Breastfeeding mum’s for advice.
Breast Feeding Apps
Top Tips For New Breastfeeding Mums from the Breastfeeding Team
With a newborn you’re looking for 3 sucks, then a swallow and a breathe.
A good latch is essential learning for you and for baby, usually before you leave hospital after the birth. If unsure then don’t go home uncertain.
Thank you for joining me on Severn Wishes for this honest post, I hope you have found it useful or in the very least interesting.
Breastfeeding is not the easy way of feeding your baby, especially when there are many issues with things that some people aren’t even aware of.
The main thing is that if you’re pregnant and you want to feed baby yourself, get the help you need that first day in hospital and speak to the right people, they will support you if you’re willing to work hard and make it work.
But remember that not all babies take to breasts, and you shouldn’t feel like a failure if it doesn’t work for you.
Just give it a go, that’s all you can do to start with. Good luck if you’re starting your BF journey!
✩ Sabrina ✩