Breastfeeding was something that I had always wanted to try, for me personally it is one of the most natural things you can do for your baby. What I didn’t expect was just how difficult it would be, or that you need to have good support from the people around you. My journey has gotten longer with each child, I am very proud of what we have achieved.
It wasn’t the easiest of roads, but I feel so lucky to have breastfed for the amount of time we have.
I’d like to share some of my favourite things that helped me through breastfeeding my babies.
Every single person is desperate for a glimpse of your new baby, while most are considerate and respectful of new routines and feeding regimes; there are also those who think nothing more than to just sit and cuddle your new baby. This is of course lovely but often they are reluctant to hand the baby back, and try themselves to settle them. Babies aren’t keen on being passed from pillar to post, they’re happy being close to milk and mum. There is plenty of time for cuddles in the weeks after baby has arrived, the first few days and even weeks are so important for bonding. It is a time to help with healing, to readjust to the new surge of hormones. It all takes a great deal of time to settle in. Visitors can wait a little longer.
Bringing in the milk
It is a misconception that producing milk is a quick process to happen, many become impatient for it to arrive. Some assume that having a caesarean section can also stop milk production, yes it can be a little slower but it does come. It can take five days for your full milk production to come through. Our bodies are absolutely incredible; when everything works as it should (it is rare to not produce anything at all), our bodies send messages to the supply it connects to our babies. If our babies have a cold, they somehow get the message across to produce the milk needed to help get rid of said cold. The way our bodies communicate with our new babies, is somewhat magical.
There are many ways to help increase or encourage milk production, some are easier than others. One of my personal favourites was to take a baby moon. There was a couple of days when baby number 4 wasn’t gaining enough weight (but she was gaining), there was talks of topping her up with formula, even mention of taking her to special care; there was no way I wanted to do either. I’d done some research whilst carrying her and wanted to be sure of all avenues before I went down other routes; I knew from previous personal experience that topping up with formula can have an effect on milk production.
I was lucky enough to have a very supportive husband who helped me to take a baby moon; which was to place myself on a bed or sofa, stay there and just feed. He brought snacks and plenty of fluids but simply built up my supply to cater for my baby; by the next weigh-in her jaundice had reduced significantly, and she gained weight. It is also a fantastic way to build bonding and a relationship with your baby. It isn’t always possible to have a baby moon, but it is lovely if you can.
It is drummed into you so much about having the right support to help you through what can be some incredibly challenging months or even years if you find yourself going into “extended” breastfeeding. You need to have that support system in place, people to hold you up, to keep you going when it gets really hard. To listen and encourage you, believe it or not there can be some incredibly dark days, when you’re sleep deprived and hormones are in overdrive. It can be so overwhelming at times; you can find yourself questioning what you have done. This is when you need your people around you.
Not all these items are a magical helping hand, but for many and for me personally here are a few things which helped my milk production.
- Oats – Porridge, Flap Jack. Flap Jack is a great snack to pop into your hospital bag.
- Fenugreek – This one was the most successful for me; you can find it in things like Tikka. I’d have a Tikka in the evening by the next feed, my breasts would be more than ready to feed baby. Nappies are a little questionable though! (Save them for Dad!!)
Different things work (or don’t work) for everyone. The foods which didn’t work for my babies were.
- Caramel – which includes things like coke, and Dr Pepper
- Leafy Veg
This brings me to…
My last baby, even before leaving the hospital developed baby acne. She wasn’t ever comfortable and was upset a lot of the time, it was heart-breaking to watch, we all felt helpless. The GP told me that “babies cry”. This wasn’t helpful. So, I asked a friend who helps breastfeeding mums, and she suggested going dairy free, it would take about six weeks for the dairy to leave our system. So I did, I took the steps to make my baby feel better, we had no idea if it would work. Within days the acne had almost gone, I patiently counted the days to weeks while her crying became less and less. She wasn’t 100% comfortable all of the time, but by the 6th week she was a completely different child.
Although I am now able to have dairy in my diet – she was two when I was able to do that successfully, she still struggles with direct dairy. But I am glad I went down the dairy free route.
Vegan ice cream is amazing, and we always have dairy and gluten free homemade cakes – far nicer!
Premature/Special Care Babies
Check with your hospital about donor milk; our hospital at the time didn’t have one, and I wasn’t aware that such a thing existed. It is definitely worth enquiring at least while you build your supply up through pumping. Have a photo of your baby nearby; this doesn’t always work if I am honest, because having a baby away from you is incredibly stressful.
Have a couple of muslins, they’re light and can be placed onto of cot sheets, so you can place your milky scent with your baby, and your baby’s scent can be on the square for helping to express.
There are some medicines that can help too, speak to your health care professional about these.
Keep your fluids and snacks up and relax when you can.
Lactation Consultants, peer supporters online support is a great way of getting information and advice to help carry on with your breastfeeding journey.
Buy a sling, if you have no idea find your nearest sling library who can help advise and fit you with a sling to help you both feel comfortable. There are some wonderful slings out there; I wish I had used them with my older two children.