Gentle Parenting

Breastfeeding: The first four months!

You’ve had your baby and you’re about to start the most amazing journey. Breastfeeding has been such a great tool in my parenting chest.

I have loved breastfeeding my son, and as he is starting to move on I feel both joy and sadness. Joy that he is making this decision himself and sadness over losing the quiet cuddles when I nurse him to sleep.

I have experienced many things in life but breastfeeding my child has by far been my greatest and most cherished achievement as a mother.

You’ve called your breasts to attention and you’re getting ready to nourish and provide for your baby in a way no one else can. You’re awesome mama, you’ve got this.

“Stop obsessing over when you last started feeding” Rachel Toynbee

When I started breastfeeding I had no idea what I was doing and all the articles I came across where great from a factual standpoint but overwhelmingly boring. I was tired and needed some advice to get me started, I didn’t need to read about the fat content in my milk and I didn’t want to keep falling asleep mid-text.

So I thought I’d compact some of the information I found and some advice from other breastfeeding mothers and here it is! A “real life” breastfeeding SOS!

Breastfeeding is so much more than milk. It’s love, comfort, sleep and pain relief; all at once. When you start out it can feel overwhelming but it’s worth it in the long run.

Breastfeeding survival kit –

  • Support Contacts – Make sure you have access to good support. Check to make sure that whomever is supporting you, is qualified to do so. I will add a few links at the bottom of the page.
  • Lansinoh – When in doubt apply a generous amount. By generous I mean as much as you can possibly fit on the nipple and after every single feed. Stock up so you have a sufficient supply in your cupboard! Lansinoh save nipples on a daily basis. (If you’re very cracked I recommend jelonet. It’s a moist plaster that feels like a little bit of heaven when you’re sore.)
  • Chocolate – Preferably covering oats so that you can justify your mass consumption with the fact that oats may in actually help you increase your supply. Oats are amazing for us, so your chocolate is in good company, it’s a win/win situation!
  • Water or Tea (or any fluids) – Leave insulated cups and bottles strategically placed all over the house. Not only will you need a drink to wash down all that chocolate you’ll be eating, you also need to keep your fluid intake up!
  • Muslin squares or Wipes – Make sure you have constant access to these. Nothing will reassure you about how much milk you actually produce as your precious little bundle being sick all over you. How did all that fit in there?
  • Remote controls and Chargers – Attach these to your breastfeeding pillow in any manner you see fit. There is nothing worse then sitting down for a cluster feeding session and finding that you’ve left the remote just out of reach. How will you switch on “Friends” without the remote? You need telly for when baby has closed her milk drunk eyes, leaving you stranded for a good hour at least.
  • Breast Pads – Or as in my case a cloth nappy liner. There will be leakage when your milk comes in and you don’t want to wake in a pool of milk every morning.
  • A correctly sized nipple shield – If baby is struggling to latch and you’re at the end of your tether, these are under-used life savers. However, they may affect milk transfer so only use as a last resort.
  • YouTube – Watch videos explaining how to hand express. Sometimes you will be very full and baby may struggle to latch but expressing a little before offering the breast to baby can make a huge difference.
  • Pee before – that’s it! Always pee before a feed, unless you’re considering a potty or catheter. This is a crucial part of being comfortable when breastfeeding and words of wisdom I wish I had taken part of long ago.

“Have access to a self heating cup of Redbush tea or glass of water food and a catheter plus bag” Dani Stockwell

Ouch my nipps!

You’ve likely been told that if baby is latched correctly breastfeeding will not hurt.

I disagree with this!

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who never experience pain or maybe you’re like the hulk of pain tolerance but for us mere humans it CAN hurt. Your body is getting used to something new. This I found completely confusing as a new mother. Breastfeeding did cause me pain at times but I was told that the latch was perfect. It’s important that we are realistic in the advice we offer.

Of course, there is a difference between ”hurt” and “excruciating pain”.

If you experience persistent and severe pain contact your local breastfeeding support as this is not what to expect.

“I wish I had know not all babies like to be covered in public and that’s ok. Sometime trying to cover up ends up with both boobs on full display and a crying baby.” Ellie-Mae Gilbert

There are many things that can cause a very painful latch such as issues with positioning and in some cases it could be as a result of a tongue tie! It really is crucial that you make sure to reach out if you feel continual pain and feel it’s a struggle so you can receive the support you’re needing.

Positioning, positioning and positioning!

“Laid back feeding” or the biological feeding position as it is also called is my standard advice when I meet a mum who is struggling with positioning.

Apparently this is the way we are supposed to feed, which makes total sense. yet it’s pretty hard to achieve the right angle and support when you start out and especially if in the M&S cafe with a toddler running amok. I would recommend you to trial this at home initially, at least until you’ve mastered the slide, lean and latch. I didn’t and as a result I landed on the ground, baby in one hand and boob in the other.

There are several reasons why I would happily write a love song in honour of the laid back feeding position, and I will outline some of the benefits below.

  • If you like me, have a killer let down and baby sounds like she’s choking at the start of a feed, you will find that the laid back position reduces speed of flow. It’s ingenious, or maybe it’s just gravity?
  • If baby has a shallow latch the laid back position can help achieve a deeper latch which ultimately will make you more comfortable.
  • If baby has reflux this can be a beneficial position again, due to the slower flow.
  • You can lean back! It won’t hurt your shoulders and it causes less strain on your body.

I used to build myself a throne of pillows, lay back and feel like a nursing Queen!

You and baby are both new to this and like all things we do in life, it takes a bit of practice. Very few mothers’ can latch baby on and rock breastfeeding from the first feed!

Nursing is something you need to work on together and to give you both an optimal chance of continuing your nursing journey, make sure you respond to your baby’s needs. Skin to skin is an awesome way to calm baby, bond and build supply.

When it comes to breastfeeding it seems that everyone has an opinion but the only opinion that really matters is yours! So follow your instincts and try to ignore unwanted advice!

Breastfeed that baby to sleep, let her sleep in your arms. Only lay her down if you want too. Respond to early feeding cues such as hand sucking and rooting and just let baby take the lead. We don’t give nature enough credit!

There are NO bad habits, only bad advice!

“Always remove breast pads when swimming or your boobs look like they just keep getting bigger and bigger. Breast pads can hold a surprising amount of liquid!!!!!” Denise Whittaker

When the going gets’ tough!

There are several periods of cluster feeding in the first few years of baby’s’ life. Your baby will need more milk, more connection and more comfort. Rapid brain development, teething and an ever growing body needs parental support.

You will feel tired and it will be hard at times but it will pass. Help yourself by asking others around you for support. Go to bed early so you can cope with the interrupted sleep and prepare yourself for possible all night long nursing marathons.

Please, listen to your baby and do not doubt yourself. It may not feel like it, but you’re doing fantastic.

Golfball in my boob!

Most new mothers find themselves having a hiccup here and there and one thing that is common are blocked milk ducts.

This can be the result of positioning, or anything putting pressure on the breast really. A shoulder bag, a underwire or even babys’ chin. If you get a blocked duct it’s best to try and clear it as soon as possible and here are my top tips on how to clear a duct.

Hand express gently at the same time as you feed.

Feed and feed on the breast with the blockage. This can help baby clear it.

I never tried this one myself but apparently many are keen on wide tooth combs. Gently stroke the comb over the lump outwards, towards the nipple.

I have however happily used an electric toothbrush in the past. It’s like a vibrating miracle of magic. Put the tooth brush on, hold it against the blockage and keep it there as long as you can then run to get your baby and again feed, feed, feed.

As you maybe guessed from my recommendation to use “laid back feeding” I am a huge fan of using gravity. This is where the next advice come in.

Dangle feed! Yup, lay your baby down on the bed, dangle your blocked milk machine over him!Help him latch keeping yourself as comfortable as you can. Relax and feel gravity and baby do their thing. This is my “go to” and it works a treat!

If you struggle to clear the blockage and you start to feel unwell, please contact your medical service and ask for further advice.

“Check all your clothing before answering the door to the postman!” Charlotte Dolphin

It’s all settling down!

So the first few months have passed and you’re starting to find your own patterns, you feel like you’ve got this.

Baby‘s needs are becoming somewhat predictable and some nights you might even get a three hour stretch of uninterrupted, beautiful sleep!

You feel amazing, and the world is your oyster then BOOM.

Meet the four month developmental leap. You will feel like you’ve gone full circle back to having a new born again. This is the time to be kind to yourself and realise that you can’t do it all.

It’s ok to not clean continually. It’s ok to have a washing basket flooding your bedroom floor. These things do not matter tomorrow. Right now your only job is to help that baby grow and you’re doing it like a pro.

So when you walk past the dirty dishes, the dusty shelves and step over a floor with dirty washing carelessly thrown on it; remember as you reach out for your baby who instantly soothes in your arms and feels comfort at your breast, that this isn’t forever.

“I remember thinking I needed an extra set of arms and a beer helmet to hold all the water I was guzzling.” Becky Idems

What reality is today will only be memories tomorrow, so make them the kind of memories that you can cherish for a life time!

A huge thank you to my sisters from Breastfeeding older babies and beyond for their input and support, and of course the awesome quotations.❤️

The Gentle Mum is a natural term breastfeeding advocate and (breastfeeding) peer supporter. You can follow The Gentle Mum Blog on Facebook and Instagram.

Contacts

IBCLC register

La Leche League

References

UNICEF

The World Health Organisation

For more information on cluster feeding

KellyMom

The Milk Meg

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