Breastfeeding is always something I have wanted to do. When I became pregnant with my first, I should have done a lot more research – everyone said how it just comes naturally, and I took their word for it. Baby would latch on and feed away, and everything would be sweet.
How wrong was I?!
Baby no. 1
I barely remember those first few weeks of my son’s life. After over 30 hours of induced labour, I’d ended up with a c-section – as you can probably imagine, I was beyond exhausted and pumped full of drugs. What I do remember is that first crawl to the breast. It was the most amazing and magical thing I have ever witnessed. This tiny little baby crawling his way up my chest to latch on and have his first feed. Precious.
Those first couple of days went well. I mean I say they went well – there was actually quite a big struggle for the first 24 hours or so after that first latch; he wasn’t interested in feeding. He was simply too tired. I was having to try and hand express colostrum onto a spoon for him which just wasn’t happening. I was having nurses and midwives come in every couple of hours to help me and my partner, by trying to keep him awake long enough to feed. Clothes off, nappy changes, foot tickles, arm flopping, you name it we tried it. We got there in the end though, and were sent off on our merry way.
That first night at home was horrendous, as it often is with newborns. It’s as if they can sense they are no longer in a place full of medical professionals, and all the stress and pressure is now on the parents. He would scream and scream and scream, and we couldn’t understand why. He’d been fed, changed, and was having cuddles – what was the problem?! That’s when we introduced the dummy. It worked! But what I didn’t know at the time, is that’s probably one of the biggest reasons our breastfeeding journey took a turn for the worse.
Postnatal Depression, lack of knowledge, and terrible feeding advice meant that at 5 weeks old I gave up and moved to formula and bottles. I have never once regretted that decision – my son and I needed it equally. I have, however, always felt sad that I wasn’t able to continue for longer.
Baby no. 2
When I became pregnant with our second, I was determined to reach at least 6 months. 5 weeks came and that was my first goal hit. Then 6 months, and it was so ridiculously easy. She has just turned 1 year, and I can’t see an end to it any time soon.
Second time round I was far more prepared. I had friends and family who had breastfed for a long time, and I’d done my research.
Here are the biggest five things I wish I’d known when I began my first journey:
1. They don’t feed every 3-4 hours
We so often hear that baby should feed every 3-4 hours. When my son was born, I was essentially told to time his feeds and go from there. What a load of rubbish…if you are breastfeeding, the best thing to do is feed on demand. Yes, at times that might be every 3-4 hours, and at other times it might be every 10-15 minutes. Go with the flow.
2. Cluster feeding is real
This goes hand in hand with the above. I had never even heard of cluster feeding then, and many get worried that they aren’t producing enough milk if their baby wants to feed so often. That’s rarely the case though. Cluster feeding is your baby’s way of upping your milk supply. It is perfectly normal, and something that should be embraced. We had many days where my daughter would start feeding at 6-8pm and carry on until the early hours of the morning. Yes, it was exhausting! Especially with a toddler to look after the next day too. But it doesn’t last for long.
3. Don’t introduce a dummy
They recommend not introducing a dummy for the first 6 weeks, as it can affect your milk supply. You will find it harder to recognise hunger cues, and baby will spend his or her time suckling on the dummy when they could be putting in their food order. We gave our son a dummy on day 3 or 4, because he’d already been fed so I thought he just needed something to suck on. Because I didn’t know about cluster feeding, it seemed like the right thing to do. I really regret it now.
4. Drink drink drink!
There are arguments now that the amount you drink doesn’t affect your milk supply. Breastfeeding is very thirsty work though, because your body uses its fluids to help produce the milk. So make sure you are drinking enough to keep you healthy and hydrated.
5.Tongue tie isn’t always obvious
Tongue tie doesn’t always mean your baby can’t stick their tongue out. My daughter could stick hers out, and had posterior tongue tie. Midwives and nurses only have basic training surrounding tongue tie – always get checked out by a specialist if you think there’s a problem. If they have tongue tie, they are unlikely to be able to latch properly. If they can’t latch properly they might not be getting enough milk, and it is often very painful for Mum!
My advice for new mums
If I could give any advice to new mums who are hoping to breastfeed, it would be to do a little research first. Look into local breastfeeding support groups, look for support groups on Facebook, talk to friends and family who have breastfed. Whichever way you choose to go, make sure you know the basics. Learn about cluster feeding, proper latch, and what problems to look out for. Remember that everyone’s journey is different, but this is what our bodies are built to do. It may be difficult to begin with, but well worth it in the long run!