Are you one of those many new mums who thought breastfeeding is a piece of cake? Perhaps you had rosy dreams about it and now the reality is opposite. You are not alone, there is very little information provided to pregnant women about how tough breastfeeding can be for a new mum. Many of us think breastfeeding is the easy part and naturally just happens.
Breastfeeding is a topic that is close to my heart, and I would like to share my experience with any new mothers that are going through tough time with feeding their babies. Personally I didn’t put a lot of focus on the topic of breastfeeding when I was pregant. When my son was born, and the breastfeeding started it was pure torture. I couldn’t get my son to the breast without midwifes’ ongoing help. It also took three days for my milk to come, and my nipples and boobs were so sore that I just wanted to cry. The fact you have to breastfeed a newborn baby up to twelve times a day won’t make it any easier! I stayed extra couple of days at the hospital mainly because of the breastfeeding difficulties and during those extra days I learned different positions how to feed my baby and got some reassurance when the attachment was correct. However, breastfeeding for me was very painful for a long time. Feeding from the left side started to work better, however the right side was still extremely sore. I didn’t know why until the moment I got a red spot, became physically really unwell and realised I have a mastitis. Luckily my GP advised me to contact a physio and diagnosed the problem to be a blocked milk duct. She wisely advised I could wait before starting antibiotics and try self-treatment with physio first. I was considering should I just give up breastfeeding, it had been so painful since the start. I was exhausted, had a starting mastitis, milk from the right side had died down and the left side was size of a DD cup because it was doing all the feeding.
I made a decision I will try my hardest now and if it just won’t work out then I give up. So I agreed with my partner I focus on purely on feeding and getting well. We canceled all the dates and social activities for couple of weeks, and said no to visitors. I went to a physio where they treated the blockage in the milk ducts with ultrasound, and did a lot of self treatment like hot showers, massage, heat pack, feeding in several different positions, drinking a lot of water and eating well. My partner did all the housework during this time so that I can get rest. I couldn’t have survived without him. Eventually there was light end of the tunnel. The pain started to go away, milk came back to the right side and my baby enjoyed again feeding from both sides. It took two to three weeks to fully get it sorted. Slowly I started to enjoy breastfeeding and then by the time my baby was three months feeding was going well and I enjoyed it as much as my baby.
My top tips for the first weeks of breastfeeding for anyone who experiences challenges are following:
- Utilise the knowledge of Midwifes as much as possible, ask help from different Nurses to get a broad range of tips and ideas for feeding positions
- Request to see a Lactation Consultant ideally as soon as possible to learn the right attachment to the breast and eliminate any other issues (there is a range of different reasons why breastfeeding may not work or is painful)
- Breastfeed as exclusively as you can to boost your milk supply. Avoid formula, and rather use breast pump if you can’t breastfeed due to the pain or other reason. (If you have a problem of oversupply, then please seek specific advise from the Lactation Consultant how to balance your milk supply).
- After the feed clean and “moisturise” your nipples with little bit of your own breastmilk. The breastmilk is gold and will be the best medicine to heal broken nipples. You really don’t need any commercial nipple cream, in fact this can cause issues like blocked milk ducts.
- If you have a constant pain in your breasts, don’t hesitate to seek help. I would encourage you to see your GP and/or Lactation Consultant as soon as possible.
- If you can, try to make the feeding your priority for the first four to six weeks. Breastfeeding is very physical and exhausting job, if you can delegate housework etc. to someone else, rest and look after yourself you will enjoy it more.
- Practice makes the Master, keep in mind it’s completely normal that it will take some time before you and your baby will master the different feeding positions and correct attachment.
- If it just won’t work out and starts impacting your mental wellbeing, then there is always an option to go with formula milk. In the bigger picture it really doesn’t matter whether you breastfeed or not, or how many months or years you breastfeed. The main thing is that you have a beautiful baby and feeding should be enjoyable for both of you.
We are very lucky mums in Australia as there is a lot of support around us. Some of the Early Childhood Centres in Sydney run free breastfeeding clinics. Australian Breastfeeding Association is a great starting point to seek support. Via online search you can also find a range of private Lactation Consultants. Good luck, and please share your personal experience and/or tips via comments below.