This is a #throwback post to those first few gruelling weeks establishing breastfeeding. My sister is due with her first bub in a few weeks & we’ve been talking a lot about breastfeeding & how it looks so easy from the outside but those first few weeks of getting established (& the challenges) are not widely talked about. For some lucky mum’s it comes quite naturally & there aren’t any issues with attachment but for a lot of mum’s (myself included) this is not the case & it takes a world of effort to get breastfeeding working. When you look around & see family or friends or people in public just pop their baby on & off they go, it’s hard not to question yourself & why it’s not working straight away for you. It’s so important to remember that everyone’s experience is different & that (in most cases) there has been a lot of hard work go on behind the scenes of what appears to be an ‘easy’ & natural process. These are my stories… dun dun
. . .
My firstborn son didn’t attach well &, after lots of hand expressing in hospital, one of the midwives introduced me to a nipple shield. I continued to use it for a few weeks & it worked really well for us. After a few weeks, I went to a mum’s group & everyone sat in a circle & just fed their babies as needed. As a very self conscious, first-time mum who was venturing out for the first time, I was incredibly overwhelmed by this public feeding. I was trying to keep myself covered up, whilst trying to use the shield with a baby that kept hopping on & off & knocking the shield. He eventually hopped off just as the shield had filled up with milk, knocked it & spilt milk down my clothes. It was at this point that I packed up my things, gave some excuse that I had to leave, rushed off to the car & cried all the way to my mum’s house. From that point I was determined to feed my son without the shield & although I’d had an awful experience (in my eyes), it was the kick I needed to keep pushing & we finally got feeding working for us without the shield. To add to this, there was the constant concern that I couldn’t see how much he was drinking & if he was getting enough (which ate at me everyday) but with regular weigh ins I could see that he was gaining weight & was a happy & healthy baby. I was very lucky to be able to feed him for 13months.
. . .
The twins were an entirely different story (as each baby is different!) They both attached fairly well in hospital (still a lot of hand expressing) & to begin with I was able to tandem feed.. & boy was I so proud! The midwives were all pretty confident that I ‘had this’ & I was sent home with the tick of approval to exclusively breastfeed our twins. Once I got home, I found it excruciating to feed one bub, let alone both at the same time & I found they weren’t feeding for very long. I was so incredibly lucky to receive a visit from a midwife / lactation consultant who quickly educated me on breastfeeding prem bubs & how they weren’t strong enough to feed entirely on their own. I was put on a strict feeding & pumping schedule to help establish a good supply & to help the twins gain weight. I was reintroduced to the shield and continued to use it for the first 6 months of my twins life. I tried multiple times to get them off the shield and onto the boob, but was often met with gagging and choking. Eventually (after lots of perseverance) I was finally able to feed them without the shield. I owe it to this midwife & to my amazing mum (who stayed with us for the first 6 weeks & took care of our 2yo & everything else so that I could solely focus on breastfeeding the twins while hubby had to work) that almost 9 months later I am still breastfeeding our twins (& to lactation cookies & nursing tea). I also owe it to myself (& I’m strong enough from this experience to know that) because it was damn hard work to maintain a 3 hourly feeding/ pumping schedule whilst getting approx. 1hr sleep before it was time to start again.
. . .
My main message here is to show a snippet of what goes on behind the confident mum that you see breastfeeding her baby (or babies) with ease & to hopefully help at least one person see that they’re not alone in the struggle & that they can do it too!