How can I sum up breast feeding… with a mixture of words… relentless, challenging and painful, but also rewarding, fulfilling and worthwhile. Its definitely harder than I ever imagined and I thought that by 11 weeks it’d be a walk in the park. How wrong I was!
Breastfeeding isn’t often spoken about and its assumed that it’ll be easy as its natural. But as I’ve learnt it’s definitely a skill that both you and your baby need to learn. There’s so much pressure to breastfeed your baby but at the end of the day fed is best. There’s no way to know if someone was breastfed or bottle fed if you were to line up your friends… you’re all as smart, intelligent and healthy as one another. During my time breastfeeding I’ve asked many friends and family what they did and how their journey was. I’ve learnt a lot including that my nanny only fed my uncle for 6 weeks before being made bottle feed him due to low body weight. As a result she then bottle fed my other uncle, mum and aunty. My sister and close friend in the US also breastfed for a bit before turning to formula due to issues. In the US they usually only get 6 weeks off before returning to work – I literally have no idea how they did it! There’s no way you could exclusively breastfeed and work a fulltime job. My friend ended up getting mastitis a couple times something I’d never heard about before my breastfeeding journey started.
Whichever way you chose to feed your baby you’re doing your best for you and your baby and that should be applauded. Bottle or breast, whatever works best!
I felt like breastfeeding Rory was my only choice but it is one that I wanted to do. I had wanted to breastfeed and had heard of friends having a several issues before working them out and carrying on. I know of only a few friends who got on with it perfectly from the off.
I’ve had a bit of a rollercoaster with my breastfeeding experience. As I’ve previously mentioned here, we ended up having to go back into hospital for several days during our first week to up Rory’s weight. We had some great midwives who were very helpful, however, it would have been great to have some proper time with someone to try feeding positions and get a proper latch. It’s all well and good remembering the phrase ‘nose to nipple’ but in reality your little bubba is also learning to feed so it isn’t necessarily a walk in the park.
It took a while to try and get a good latch and in the end I booked for a lactation consultant to come out and see us at 9 weeks. I was so close to stopping but thought I’d give it one last go.
Rory would get frustrated during a feed and push himself off coughing/ crying and also would need an upwards position to help with his reflux/ colic. Luckily the colic has gotten better recently, however we had many weeks where he needed burping for at least 20-30 mins after a feed and would be v sicky. I had to try and feed him in a diagonal position and then burp him for a while to try and keep the sick down. The past week he’s been much better and not so sicky which apparently happens as you approach the 12 week mark.
For the past couple weeks I’ve been suffering from recurrent lumps and clogged milk ducts, milk blisters and mastitis which has been horrifically painful. It partly comes from having an oversupply and thicker/ ‘stickier’ milk. It’s hard to try and describe the pain… it was even worse then those first few days of feeding pain.
The advice for a milk blister and clogged milk ducts is hot compresses before feeding, epsom salt soaks and feeding off it regularly. For the blister I was told to also gently scrap the skin as a blister is where there’s a blockage of milk and skin has grown over the top. I did this a little too much and ended up with a literal hole in my nipple which took a while to heal. I was told I had to try and keep it moist so that a scab didn’t form and so it could heal from inside out.
This was definitely the hardest few weeks of my breastfeeding journey to date and I wanted to stop a few times. The only thing that got me through was that I couldn’t just stop breastfeeding and that my nipple would have to heal anyway. I’d then reassess how it was going after it was healed and sorted.
I can now say that now those issues are out of the way it is much easier and less painful to breastfeed. I’m going to try and get to 6 months but I’m taking each day and week as they come. As long as I’m a happy mummy, I’ll have a happy baby <3
I do wish I’d had a lactation consultant come out sooner. With her help we were able to nail our feeding position and helped me fix my recurrent clogged ducts and mastitis. Unfortunately with covid the breastfeeding help was all on zoom or calls. I was recommended Vikki by one of my NCT friends and she saw me the next day as she had an opening. We chatted about birth and the whole breastfeeding experience to date. After seeing my breastfeeding position, she altered it to another one which has been perfect since. She was then at the end of a phone for my milk blister as well.
I’m still on my breastfeeding journey and there are things I’m still trying to get my head around. Like what do I do that first time I go out for dinner with friends during feeding time? Do I pump before? Do I pump after? Will Rory want a proper feed when I’m back if he’s had a bottle? Will it result in clogged ducts? I’ll definitely have to do an update breastfeeding post once I stop to let you know how the rest went and any other things I can share that might be helpful.
Before I sign off, I thought it’d be useful to share some resources and things I found helpful.
I liked reading up about other people’s journeys with breastfeeding to see if they had any hints and tips and whether they went through anything similar.
Rebecca: Roses and Rolltops – Our Breastfeeding Journey
Liz: Hello Adams Family – My Breastfeeding Journey
Rosie: The Londoner – Lessons in Breastfeeding
Kelly Mom Website – really useful tips and tricks to try when you have breastfeeding issues. I was pointed in this website direction by the NHS Solihull Feeding Team when I had clogged ducts and also by my lactation consultant when I had the milk blister.
NCT helpline – 0300 330 0700 or webchat avaliable
National breastfeeding hotline 0300 100 0212 or webchat here which is open every day of the year
Lactation consultant (IBCLC) I used who is West Midlands based – Vikki Kidd – website here.
Handy purchases and resources that helped me out:
Hot compresses – use either a flannel and rinse in hot water, wring out and place on breast. Or, wet a cotton pad, squeeze out the water and hold in place. If you’re wearing breast pads, you can place it in your bra and the pad will stop your bra/ clothes from getting wet. Just remember to remove and replace the breast pad! It is suggested to do this for 20 mins before a feed but even 5-10 mins helps if you have sore nipples or engorged breasts.
Water bottles with straws – I got this one from amazon in 2 different colours. Perfect for feeding!
A travel cup to keep your tea/ coffee warm! In the early days I ended up leaving so many cups of tea unfinished as Rory would want a feed and I would have left my tea out of reach. I then started using my starbucks travel cup and keep cup (this ecoffee cup from Boston Tea Party which cost £2.50 on their loan scheme) so that I could either have my tea during feeding or that it wouldn’t go cold if I left it for half and hr. It also felt safer drinking from a travel cup than a mug while I had Rory on me feeding or sleeping. (I love the look of this chilly’s travel mug!)
Breast pads – I started using these lansinoh pads which were very comfy but then moved to the supermarkets own branded versions. I went for the ‘luxury’ ones with double stickers on the back and they still came out as less than the lansinoh pads.
Lanolin nipple cream – this stuff is just amazing. It soothes and protects sore, cracked and dry nipples/ skin. Definitely get some for your hospital bag as your nipples will thank you during those first few weeks of feeding. I’ve also been using it recently to help soothe and protect my nipple while it heals from the milk blister. Apparently it also doubles up as a great lip balm!
Medela pump – I brought myself the Medela Swing Flex from Boots. I’d been unsure whether to go for the Medela or Elvie but after talking to friends and reading up online I went for the Medela. You can also buy a pumping bra which means you can go handsfree!
Let down pump: Haakaa and ladybird – I find the ladybird a more gentle suction and although a little bulky sits ok in a bra. This also means it doesn’t get knocked off by Rory while feeding, whereas I find the original haakaa gets knocked off.
Mam bottles – a friend suggested these as they self-sterilise in the microwave and are easy to take apart for cleaning. Rory gets on well with them and has no issue with the anti-colic teat. He took to these from 2 weeks old when we had to do top up feeds after coming out of hospital.
Nipple shields – worth taking these to hospital and having them handy. These help the little one latch on. Different midwifes say different things about these but a midwife suggested I use these during my second stint in hospital. Another midwife however wasn’t so keen and suggested I start a feed with them, remove then put Rory back on. It ended up working for us.
Rather than buying lots of new clothes I tried to adapt my wardrobe. I brought a few more cami tops (I got these ones) so I could wear another normal top over it and do 1 up, 1 down (pull jumper up and cami down) and keep my tummy warm while feeding.
I did get a couple new button down dresses (this one from monsoon which is now on sale), strappy tops (this one and this one) and cardy/ jumpers (this one) that were feeding friendly. Buttons on clothes are perfect for breastfeeding!
I’m still on the outlook for some good bras, but my favourite so far is this one from Gap.
I hope you find this useful! If you’ve got any other tips or things you found you couldn’t do without, comment below!