To me, breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world. Babies practice sucking in the womb and instinctively look for the breast when they come out. I can lay my son on my chest now and he can wriggle his way down to find my breast, even though he can’t even crawl or roll over yet. It’s really quite incredible.
I knew when we got pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed. It’s great for babies and for mums too: it can reduce the chance of breast and ovarian cancer. It’s also cheap – there’s no buying formula, and no faffing around mixing it up and sterilising bottles. And it’s just so natural.
But apparently natural doesn’t mean it’s easy.
When the Little Moore was born, we had about an hour skin-to-skin time, and then he fed for about 20 minutes after I’d been stitched up. As his dad was holding him he was making sucking movements so we knew what he wanted. It was a bit new for both of us but he fed really well.
That was one of the only good feeds we had in hospital, and we were in there for 3 days.
For the first day and night he pretty much refused to feed. He was very mucusy and kept coughing stuff up, and the midwives said that probably put him off feeding a bit. He also just seemed tired to me. Every time I held him he’d just fall asleep, which was sweet but pretty annoying too.
He fed maybe once or twice on the breast with the help of a midwife, otherwise I had to hand express and the midwives fed him with a syringe. It was really frustrating. During that second night I had to use a breast pump and feed him with a bottle, which I found really upsetting. I was so desperate to breastfeed and he just didn’t seem interested at all. The tiredness probably didn’t help either – I’d probably slept less than 5 hours since my waters broke nearly 3 days ago – and that felt like a real low point.
The next morning we had a really long feed and the midwives discharged us, reminding me he needed to feed every 2-3 hours. I understood that, but when we got home I found the same disinterest. I ended up expressing and bottle feeding again, and by the end of that night I was in tears.
Luckily for me, something clicked the next day, and suddenly he was hungry and quite happy to feed from the breast. After reading other people’s stories online, I think it was just tiredness that was putting him off. I know I was exhausted after the birth, and it’s a pretty traumatic experience for them too.
Fast forward a couple of weeks of happy breastfeeding and we hit our next problem.
I started getting sore nipples and realised he wasn’t latching very well – the nipple wasn’t going deep enough, so he was basically sucking on the end of the nipple rather than the whole breast. The pain escalated really quickly and it got to the point where I was dreading each feeding – cue more tears and feeling like a breastfeeding failure.
Luckily Coventry has a great Infant Feeding Team. I went to one of their group sessions to check my positioning was okay (it was) and see if there was anything they could do to help. We were told when he was born he had a bit of a tongue tie (a tight piece of skin connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) and this could be affecting his feeding. After having a specialist check him out, we’ve been referred to a clinic to get this snipped, which should improve the situation. It might take a couple of weeks before we’re seen, so for now I’m just gritting my teeth when it hurts and focussing on getting the best latch we can to prevent it. It’s already a lot better than it was a few days ago.
My advice for anyone struggling would just be to keep at it. It might be the most natural thing in the world, but breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby, and it takes practice and time to get it right. I wouldn’t worry too much if it’s slow in the first few days – remember, you’re both tired and they will let you know when they’re hungry. After that, as long as they’re gaining weight and giving plenty of wet/dirty nappies, then they’re getting everything they need. Little Moore has put on a pound in less than a week, so despite our struggles he’s definitely eating enough!
Stick with it, if you can, because it’s worth it for the health benefits and bonding for you and your baby 🙂 Check out what help is available in your area, as seeing someone who knows what they’re talking about is much more helpful than trying to Google things on your own. And try not to feel rejected or like a failure when it’s not working out – it will happen when it happens, and even if it doesn’t, it’s not a reflection on you as a parent.