My expectation : Me, smiling down at my sweet little cherub while she nurses happily.
My reality : Ouuuuuccchhhh. It’s a pain in my….. Well, literally a pain in my nipple 😂
Very early on in my breastfeeding journey with my first born, I failed dismally. While trying to heal cracked nipples I started expressing and fed her with a bottle. I knew nothing about paced feeding or slow flow teats back then. Thereafter it seemed like my milk wasn’t enough as I only managed to express minuscule amounts. Needless to say she wanted nothing to do with my boobs thereafter.
My initial plan was to nurse for at least a year, maybe even two. When the plans changed I held on to a lot of mommy guilt. I set a long term goal that I didn’t need to and I set myself up for failure.
The second time round I wanted to give this breastfeeding thing another try. I got all the information I needed, I made sure I knew exactly what to expect and I even had a session with a lactation consultant. I wanted to arm myself with everything in order to give this my best shot.
Our second born arrived and latched like a champion. Yesss! This time around it was going to be different. I was going to have my rainbows and butterflies moment while nursing.
5 days in and my nipples felt like they were going to fall off. I would cringe at the sound of her waking for a feed. I literally held my breath as she latched. I kept hearing about how it would get better and I couldn’t help but roll my eyeballs into the furthest depths of my skull. When? When would it get better? Even though her latch seemed fine, the constant pulling on already cracked nips was still so painful.
I almost gave up about 5 times until I got the best advice from my lactation consultant. Never quit on a bad day. And yes while the winter nights were harder, the mornings came and somehow, it did get a bit better. So we persevered.
And then there it was, that 6-week mark. Suddenly everything did get better. The latching became easier and my boobs suddenly felt so much better! We took Sharaya for her 6-week checkup and my heart swelled with absolute pride when her pediatrician told us she was gaining weight really well.
Omg!! I did that! I felt like a freaking rock star. It made me so happy that my body had everything my baby needed to thrive. We are so quick to doubt ourselves, to doubt our milk supply and to question the quality of our milk. All we actually need to do is keep going! Just keep feeding, just keep feeding (que Dory’s voice). If your baby is gaining weight and having enough wet/soiled nappies, your milk is more than enough!
8 weeks in and I no longer cringe at Ray’s hunger cues. I now use my boobs to settle her even when I know it might not be hunger but just some comforting that she needs. I now enjoy breastfeeding. I finally got my rainbows and butterflies. Well until I scream out in agony from what can only be described as a tiny lock jaw and twist, “Don’t bite the boob that feeds you RayRay!”
For international breastfeeding week I am celebrating my milestone of 8 weeks of nursing my little girl. As a mommy who has had two very different feeding experiences for both my kids I can say that no matter which way you choose to feed, making an informed decision and having the right support structure is very important. Always trust your mommy instinct, celebrate every milestone, take lots of pictures and remember what a magnificent job you are doing.
Here’s some of what I have read, learnt and experienced along the way on my breastfeeding journey thus far :
1. Breasts are amazing.
They can never actually be emptied. They are like rivers, continuously flowing. Every river is different. Some are fast flowing while others are calmer and slow flowing. Both still work in being able to sustain your tiny human.
2. It’s ok to ask for help.
Just because it’s a natural thing, it does not mean it’s easy. There is so much help available to enable breastfeeding. It is not just the help of a consultant but there are wonderful groups on Facebook with excellent advice that would not cost you anything. I joined La Leche League South Africa and it really has great breastfeeding advice as well as leaders that are readily available.
3. Colostrum is all your baby needs in the beginning.
In the first few days, your baby’s tummy is very tiny and only needs the rich colostrum that you produce. To be able to get your mature milk to come in you have to keep feeding. Every time you skip a feed or supplement/top up your body will adjust your supply as it thinks the baby does not need to feed at that time.
4. Breastmilk is magical.
No lies, I cleared Mayil’s conjunctivitis and Sharaya’s nasal congestion in a day with my breast milk. If that doesn’t make me part unicorn, what else would? (N.B Mayil was not impressed having to put boob juice in her eye 😂)
5. It hurts.
It will inevitably be uncomfortable in the beginning but it really does get better. Invest in a good nipple cream and find a nice sunny(but private) spot in your room. The UV does wonders in healing those cracks. I got this nifty trick from my doula. If pain persists then consult your lactation consultant or midwife to check your latch. My discomfort only eased up at around 6 weeks. I had good days and bad days in those first few weeks. I also read that if you prepare your nipples by lubricating them with lanolin while you are pregnant you can avoid cracking. I only read this after Sharaya’s birth so please try it out and let me know if it does work.
6. You don’t have to follow a strict breastfeeding diet.
You should actually eat as you normally would. You only remove items from your diet if baby does show a reaction to it after a feed. I followed my “everything in moderation” rule that I apply to life in general. Obviously still staying away from high amounts of caffeine and alcohol. I did learn that you can have an occasional glass of wine and still be OK to breastfeed.
7. Breast milk is not always the same.
It changes during the feed, it changes between day and night and it even changes during growth spurts or illness. It adjusts to the exact needs of your baby. Read more about that here
8. Breastfeeding is a team effort.
Breastfeeding is easier with the right support and education. It takes a lot of perseverance and time. The support from your partner is also imperative to make it work. Yes the split of responsibilities is not even and that may be frustrating but dad’s are the best burpers/nappy changers. It’s also important to decide in advance who you will take breastfeeding advice from and who will be your “go to” on the bad days.
9. Don’t set long term goals.
Take each day as it comes. There is absolutely no need to set any goal on yourself. This is your journey and you have the right to feed your baby in whichever way you see fit. My very first goal was 1 week and I started setting myself a weekly goal. I celebrated every week!
10. Breastfeeding helps your body recover.
During the early weeks of breastfeeding I felt my uterus contracting with each feeding session. While this was uncomfortable it really helped reduce the mummy tummy. And yes, all our bodies are different but I have found that the breastfeeding has helped me lose the pregnancy weight quite quickly.
11. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand.
The more you feed, the more milk you will make. It is as simple as that. Lots of moms try to express to gauge how much milk they have, but expressed milk is not actually an indication of milk supply. Baby is very likely to be able to remove much more than a breast pump can. I have also heard that it’s best to avoid pumping in the first 6 weeks till your supply is established. There are also lots of cookies, juices and supplements that are said to increase milk supply. I tried out the jungle juice mix and ate lots of oats in the beginning. Now I just stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, do lots of skin to skin and just keep feeding!
I would love to hear some of your breastfeeding stories or tips, so please do share in the comments. ❤️
Disclaimer: This statements made in Mamas’ Stores are not medical advice. The Mama’s Stories section is a place for women to share THEIR EXPERIENCES with postpartum health topics. Statements or third-party promotions made by mother’s do not necessarily reflect the 4th Trimester Project brand. The 4th Trimester Project does not endorse the statements, brands, or products mentioned in any posts. The 4th Trimester Project aims to only partner and promote people and organizations who adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (also known as the WHO Code). For details, click here .