So you have just given birth and with your Midwife’s consent, baby is placed onto your chest for initial skin to skin contact. That beautiful moment where you lay eyes on your baby for the first time and everything feels oh so surreal. You feel like you are in a dream, but really you are being consumed by your precious hormones Oxytocin, Adrenaline & Endorphins. Nothing generally matters at this point except that your baby is healthy and breathing... you know, anything seems to go. If you found out you pooed yourself – no biggy, I just gave birth, I don’t care anymore. You can once again thank those above mentioned hormones for that.
Oxytocin, also known as the “LOVE” hormone is peaking at this point. It has acknowledged that baby has been born and speaks to its best mate ‘Prolactin’ which is your “MILK” hormone and together they initiate the onset of breast attachment and it is now that your breastfeeding journey begins.
Initially, we are all pretty blahzay about this breastfeeding gig. If baby attaches at birth it’s a bonus and if it doesn’t, well we have plenty of time to establish feeding right? My baby has just been born and I just want to weigh it, kiss it, cuddle it, dress it and share it around for everyone to cuddle. Then comes the reality. It is time for the next feed, just a few hours on from birth. Baby is sleepy or the complete opposite (totally vigorous) and now I can’t attach it regardless OR just like a dream, baby sucks like a vacuum and it is really easy…for now.
Gradually, you as a new mum become tired, emotional and tender. You are still on Cloud 9 but everything is a little bit harder now. Your vagina or caesarean wound is throbbing, your bum feels like you have pushed a bowling ball out of it and really all you want to do is just rest for 5 minutes but you struggle to. The next visitor arrives, your baby is stirring for its next feed and by now you REALLY need that pain relief you should have buzzed for an hour ago. Your nipples might be a little sore at this point but I will push on, baby needs a feed and that is important. I will just try on my own and if baby doesn’t attach I will press the call bell. Let’s not forget Day 2 when all baby wants to do is stay glued to your breast and the only way we feel it will settle is giving it one litre of milk. Is this sounding familiar to you?
This is my point and this is the truth about breastfeeding.
It is hard, it is emotional and it is time consuming. It is tiring and it hurts. It is meant to be easy but its not and it is meant to be enjoyable but right now you may be doubting this.
My advice – if you really want to breastfeed, if you really want to make it work for you and baby and if you absolutely want to make it an enjoyable experience than push through. It is as simple as that. Persevere & Patience is crucial. Your baby, like yourself is learning and it is really testing at times but it does pay off if you commit 100% to it. I have found in my time as a Midwife there are women who would give their left leg to breastfeed successfully and other women who can take it or leave it. And that is fine also. Of course it is. We are human and that is only natural. There is nothing wrong with women who chose not to breastfeed and it is our society that has poorly created this nasty stigma. What ever happened to us hippy women uniting as one?
If you do want to breastfeed your babe then this is how it goes. Talk to your Midwife, buzz her EVERY time you need to feed until you are comfortable. Hound her/him until you are satisfied with your attachment and ensure they are answering your questions. Truth be told, we can be that run off our feet, if you tell us baby has fed well we take your word for it. Don’t be embarrassed.. pleaseee don’t be embarrassed, we can’t help you feed if you are attaching baby with your top on. Believe me, boobs are just meant for feeding to us, not a beauty contest. They are beautiful no matter how saggy, big, small, hairy, pimply.. you name it we have seen it and WE DON’T CARE! Write your questions down so you don’t forget to ask us and no question is EVER dumb. If your nipples are tender, TELL US!! If your boobs are on fire when we attach baby TELL US!! If you aren’t enjoying it and finding it difficult and emotional TELL US!! Boy, when those baby blues hit me, I nearly threw my boobs out the window, I had just about enough.
As days go on it gets better. As your milk comes in it gets easier. Baby is suddenly happy to feed every 2 hours instead of every half hour (Phew) and you finally feel comfortable that your baby is attached and sucking correctly. I honestly think it takes a good 6-12 weeks to feel confident breastfeeding and to understand what your baby wants and know your baby is receiving adequate nutrition. Do not get caught up on the whole (how do I know if my baby has had enough?) scenario. It is simple. If your baby has wet nappies every feed, is content (lets be honest some days babies just cry ALL day for no reason), is sleeping a solid 2-4 hour block during the day (newborn stage) and most of all is gaining weight, then that is a sure sign your baby is getting enough milk. This obviously differs if you have a premature, jaundiced or unwell baby as you may have a strict feeding plan in place.
So Mumma’s – some simple wise words for you. Back yourself in, trust your instinct, relax and enjoy. That saying “you reap the rewards” applies to both you and your baby. It is challenging, but it does get easier. It does eventually become second nature and most of all, it is not a competition. Do not worry about your friend that can pump 150ml or the other friend that can confidently breastfeed standing up or the friend that doesn’t have to wear nipple shields. Do what works for you. Never be ashamed to ask for help (I still ask my mum and I am a midwife). I have boobs too that ached, stung and turned into unpleasant concrete balls. I am a mum remember, we all have crap days where everything seems too hard for now.
We have such a broad support network out there Today, do not be afraid to utilise it.
Last but not least, we can be our own worst enemies. When you are having a bad day, so are 37 million other new mums with you (that always makes me feel better). No one is perfect. Never judge anyone for their decision to breastfeed or not. Support is key, regardless. You and your baby’s health is number one – NEVER FORGET THAT.