Breastfeeding Challenges Part 3

My baby’s home, now what

Now a whole new challenge would arise… How do I breastfeed? While in hospital, I alternated my breast with a feeding tube or bottle (I also suggested using a small cup to avoid nipple confusion). He wouldn’t have one complete feed on my breast. And so I had no idea what I’d do now that he was finally home. That first night, with the leftover milk we’d brought from the NICU (they always thaw enough for 24 hours), we fed him a bottle. And the following morning I had a lactation consultant come to see me, which was what helped me the most in achieving my goal – breastfeeding my baby exclusively. We actually bought a tin of formula powder but ended up giving it – unopened – to a couple who had twins a few months after Baby S was born. The appointment with the lactation consultant – her name is Filipa – was crucial. I felt I’d been run over by a truck, that had decided to reverse in order to make sure he’d done his job. Mr B looked as bewildered as I did. And nurse Filipe showed me a tube, a translactation kit (by Medela) and showed me how to use a feeding cup. She positioned Baby S on my breast and he fed until he fell asleep. We learnt the expression “milk drunk”.

That same day we offered Baby S breastmilk in a cup and a miracle ensued… from then on, he latched on and breastfed exclusively. This was due to the support I had, the knowledge I’d been passed and above all the trust nurse Filipa gave me. Not to mention Mr B’s unwavering support. So, is this the end of the story? D’ya think? A whole new series of challenges would come up.

As a first-time mum, I was anguished by the question “when will he be hungry”. The NICU dictated that he was fed every 3 hours but as soon as he learnt he had my milk on tap… well, you can guess how quickly that went out the window, right? I didn’t want to take too long between feeds and so my darling geek Mr B installed an app so we could keep track of things. In fact, we even bought a tablet so I could install it too, as my phone wouldn’t allow it. During those first few days I recorded everything. It seems I+ was more worried about recording the feeds than actually concentrating on what I was doing. This lasted about a month I breastfeed on demand, that is, the baby feeds when he is hungry, wihtout any rules or restrictions – what he wants when he wants it. After all, our babies didn’t read the book that dictates they should feed every x hours for a given time. They feed when they’re hungry – it’s that simple! It’s a need that must be met immediately, as the baby doesn’t understand why he “has to” wait. So bye-bye went the app, as he fed whenever he wanted to and quickly it stopped making sense. It was
important for me at first, to get an idea of my baby’s pattern, but as I got to know my wonderful baby, I
got rid of the app.

Well, then, I had another mastitis, this time my left breast suffered. My breasts are so democratic – one in each. It really was mastitis and not just a clogged duct, as I felt like I had the fly or had been beaten up. Or both. Another round of antibiotics. About 3 weeks after breastfeeding exclusively, I felt excruciating pain on my left nipple. It was so bad that I remember sitting on the living room sofa feeding Baby S, crying my eyes out and swearing like a sailor. I must’ve painted a pretty picture because Mr B remarked “if this is how it’s going to be, then we’re switching to formula. I don’t want to see you suffer”. I chose to express from my left breast and offer him my right one only. At one point, I was feeding him on the right WHILE expressing from the left, with Mr B helping me by holding the pump in place while I held the breast. Thank God I couldn’t take a selfie (no free hands) LOL.

The pain was not due to chapped nipples, for some reason mine never got chapped and I have yet to know why. It was… chewed on. Baby S had tongue-tie and so his tongue didn’t cover his gums when feeding. In other words, every time he fed it was as though he were chewing on my nipples… I went to a doctor who snipped the tongue time and gave me some amazing tips to make breastfeeding easier. She also suggested I use a water-based cream instead of lanolin, as it turns out about 1 in every 10 women don’t get on well with lanolin on their breasts (I’m fine with it everywhere else). I’m one of those women.

About a week later um right nipple also started to feel sore but it was a false alarm. More challenges? Of course! A baby who spat up like it was going out of fashion, and who looked visibly bothered after feeding and needed to be held upright. Going anywhere with him implied a lot of changes and bibs. Babywearing, which is great after he was in the wrap meant that a lot of wraps were washed during those early days.

The most important thing I’d like to say is that I felt supported, loved and calm. I had a wonderful team of nurses and doctors and Mr B was my pillar. We never breastfeed alone. When the first month growth spurt hit, I suffered, of course. But it wasn’t too bad. The 3 rd month… well, that was a whole new ball game. I often heard “maybe your milk is not enough to feed him, he needs formula” or “maybe your milk is not good enough”. At one point I answered “my milk is so good that he wants to spend all day drinking it”. But it was hard… he fed every hour, he even fed for two whole ours one night. But with the help I had, I knew it was only a matter of “waiting it out”. My body would adjust. And it did. It was like the initial milk supply let down all again. This phase lasted a few weeks and I had my doubts, believe me, I did. But every time I did, Mr B would ask me two questions, which I suggest you ask yourselves: Is he feeding?” “Yes.” “Is he gaining weight”? “Yes”. “Then your milk is just fine”. So, to all the mums out there going through this, hang on. Your body has the ability to produce the milk your baby needs. There is no such thing as “bad milk”. Trust yourselves, trust your body and trust your baby. And seek help if you need it.

I returned to work when Baby S was 7 and a half months old and he already had two meals a day, in addition to my milk. The challenges were others… Do you know which? Do you have any experiences to share? Please do! We hear about the difficulties so often, I’d love to hear about success stories too. And trust me, there are plenty!