BREASTFEEDING - MY GUIDE TO ESTABLISHING FEEDING
With my first pregnancy and first time as a new mum I was extremely naive when it came to breastfeeding. I literally just thought your baby would know what to do and so would your body. I hadn’t heard about engorgement, blocked ducts, mastitis, under or over supply, poor latch, tongue ties or any of the other challenges that come especially in the first 6-10 weeks when you’re trying to establish breastfeeding well. I seriously still believe my lack of knowledge and education provided to me as a new mum is what made my first experience so hard and what eventually led to me giving up so soon as bottle feeding was much simpler in the end as I felt I had no hope or idea what to do to make my situation with breastfeeding better.
This time around I came in with the hope of a better experience but also with less pressure on myself. This time I educated myself, I asked questions, I sought out professional help and I got so much great advice from experienced mums on here aswell as friends.
I truly hope that in the future women are more supported through out pregnancy and early postpartum with more education in the challenges you many face while breastfeeding.
I can only hope that my platform on social media can help to provide some more info or at least give mums to be or new mums a little push to become more educated and get help if they chose and want to breastfeed while also providing some more info where I can from my personal experience but also from mums in my online community! I often find the best advice comes from real Mums who have been there before!
So I will continue to share my breastfeeding journey as each day that passes I become more passionate about helping others have a positive experience or at least have the education behind them to know they did everything they could to breastfeed if they wanted/chose to or if they could!
In this article I will share some tips on establishing feeding, what to expect in the first 6 weeks or so and some advice from my online community. Of course I am not an expert just sharing my own experience and experiences of many others.
How long does it take for milk to come in?
Something you don’t realise as a first time mum is that your milk won’t actually be in your breasts as soon as your bubs is born and that it can take any where from 2-5 days or sometimes longer for it to come in depending on the circumstances of your delivery, your hormones and body. Don’t fret and trust your body - your baby will be fine on the colostrum your body is producing until then, babes only need a few mls of this at each feed and this colostrum is pure liquid gold providing so much to your little baby.
When your milk does come in you will notice how sore and hard your boobs become. For a lot of us this is when engorgement starts to occur and ouch it hurts like crazy. It also can make it hard for your little newborn to latch properly as you nipple is flat and hard and your babes mouth is so small. Try hand expressing a little to release the pressure to help.
Another crazy thing that can happen in the shakes/chills you can get when your milk first comes in. It was something I certainly wasn’t expecting and it scared me quite a bit. If the shakes and chills also come with a fever be sure to visit your doctor as it could be a sign of mastitis.
Although we are led to believe that breastfeeding should come naturally thats not the case for so many women. Its an absolute foreign ground for so many, its hard, its tiring and its also emotionally draining as you want to do know your baby is getting the best and the most from you. Having a good lactation consultant to help in those first few weeks I believe can make all the difference and keep you breastfeeding. Without the help of mine this time I think I would have not made it this far. She helped me set achievable goals and gave me realistic, personalised advice. If you aren’t comfortable with the advice given I suggest seeing another and another until you find one you’re most comfortable with. Lactation consultants can help you with all types of breastfeeding issues from under supply, over supply, engorgement, blocked ducts, checking for tongue tie etc. I never even knew such a person existed until I started having issues breastfeeding Millie.
I highly recommend my lactation consultant - Amberley who is a midwife and lactation consultant.
Amberly is based in Melbourne but does Skype or FaceTime consults (which is what I did).
BLOCKED DUCTS AND MASTITIS
Mastitis is very painful illness that happens while breastfeeding which is usually an infection of the breast, swollen breasts and blocked milk ducts. You mist immediately seek medical attention if you feel these symptoms.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:
Tender, swollen breasts
You can feel one or more lumps in your breast
Breast that is warm/hot to touch
Breast pain or a burning feeling either during or when not breastfeeding
Red skin - sometimes it can be in a triangle shape pattern on your skin
Flu-like symptoms like body aches, chills or extreme tiredness
Fever/ high temps
I wrote more about mastitis HERE IN THIS BLOG. I personally don’t think we are given enough info as new mums about this illness so if you have a sec go read about it.
ESTABLISHING BREASTFEEDING - SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW AND THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP..
There are a few things you can do to help establish breastfeeding and bond with your baby:
Educate Yourself ask friends, family, medical professionals and read books, online articles and listen podcasts during and after you’ve had baby. Knowledge is power and you should never be ashamed to ask any question that you have to any one. If you are struggling with an undersupply, over supply, poor latch, cracked nipples or anything else there are others out there who have experienced this too so reach out.
Plan on doing not much else in the first weeks to really establish your breastfeeding - enjoy your baby bubble, the world can wait.
Demand feed - let baby feed as often as they like, day and night. This will also help your milk supply and help you avoid blocked ducts and mastitis. Its is normal for your newborn to feed 8-12+ times a day. It is tiring but also beautiful at the same time. Don’t set routines or live by the clock.
Cluster Feeding - is normal and helps build your supply. It will feel like you’re constantly attached some days but it will pass and it won’t be forever.
Skin to Skin - For the first few weeks breastfeeding skin to skin helps to form the bond and will help your milk supply too.
Carry them close - wear your baby, cuddle them, hold them, nurse them to sleep and just be with them as much as possible when establishing feeding. Don’t let any one tell you that you’re spoiling your newborn - it’s not possible.
It will be hard - there is no doubt that establishing breastfeeding can be hard, demanding and emotionally draining. Its ok not to love every moment.
Don’t put time limits on feeds - Let baby nurse for as long as they are interested. It can take a few minutes for your let down to even occur and they need to be feeding for long enough that they hare getting the “hind milk” which is the high calorie part of the milk that will fill them up and also make them sleepy.
Get enough rest - this can be hard with a newborn and other kids but the more tired you are the more emotionally challenging you may find this time. Let others help around the house and even let them take the older kids for a night.
Eat enough and drink enough - making sure you are eating enough calories is important for your milk supply and your recovery as is getting enough fluids. You should be aiming for an extra 400-500 calories per day and drinking 2.5 l of water.
Uterus contractions are normal and painful while breastfeeding in the first couple of weeks. This is your body’s natural way of shrinking your uterus back after birth.
Offer both boobs each feed - Allow baby to fully drain one before burping and then offering the other and then start on the one they finished on or didn’t drain the next time you feed.
Massage and check your boobs - massaging and checking for lumps daily is important to help stop blocked milk ducts.
Check baby’s latch - have their latch checked by a professional and keep having it checked as many times as you see a midwife, lactation consultant or nurse to make sure they are latching correctly and that baby doesn’t have lip or tongue tie. This will help in so many ways. Never be afraid to ask and get more opinions.
HERE IS AN ARTICLE ALL ABOUT YOUR BABIES LATCH
Hot showers and hand expressing can help if you find a lump or you’re feeling particularly engorged.
Warm/Ice packs - A warm pack just before or while feeding can help to unblock any milk ducts. A cold pack after will soothe any pain and inflammation. I used these ones “BODY ICE WOMAN” ones you can get them here - https://bodyice.com/collections/bodyice-woman . They’ve come in handy a lot since having Remi.
Set up feeding stations around the house so that you’re set up and ready to go each time. I had a nursing pillow, some burp cloths, my HAAKA pump to catch the let down, nappies, wipes etc. in my spots I would sit in - one up stairs and one down stairs and one beside my bed.
Be patient with yourself and your baby - both of you are learning about each other as well as the art of breastfeeding. Be gentle and kind with yourself and trust in yourself, your body and your baby.
Set realistic goals - another thing that helped me a lot was having small goals to achieve so first I set a goal of 3 weeks, then 6 weeks then 3 months and now I have my next goal of 6 months. These small goals help you to see a light at a smaller distance but also place less pressure on yourself.
Try different positions - there are so many different ways to hold your baby while feeding. Check out a range of different ones here. Different positions can be more comfortable and effective at draining the breast properly and by changing it up it can help you to avoid blocked ducts. It can also be useful to use different positions if you’re recovering from a c-section birth.
Seek medical help if your baby isn’t having many wet or dirty nappies as they may not be getting enough milk or if you are in pain constantly.
Cabbage Leaves in your bra actually help with engorgement, I don’t know why or how but they do - I swear. Just don’t do it too often as it can affect your supply!
Do your best but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. At the end of the day yours and your babies mental and physical health are important and if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you then that’s ok too. Your baby will still love you and thrive either way.
To get help with your breastfeeding questions the ABA have a hotline you can call 24/7 which will be answered by breastfeeding counsellors.
Breastfeeding Helpline- 1800 686 268
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) Is a condition that affects some breastfeeding mums and is worth understanding and educating yourself on.
“D-MER is characterised by negative emotions, that occur seconds before a mother’s milk ejection reflex when breastfeeding or expressing or with a spontaneous MER (ie milk releasing when not breastfeeding or expressing):” - taken from Breastfeeding ASN website. Read more about D-MER HERE.
PRODUCTS THAT HAVE HELPED ME ON MY JOURNEY
Besides the obvious main tool need for breastfeeding (your boobs) there have been some things that have definitely made this journey easier!
Active wear crops for exercise and walking THE MILK BOUTIQUE CLICK HERE (use code “LOVEBRITTANY” for discount)
Sleep crops/home bras - “Seam free by Underworks” from BIG W CLICK HERE
I wear these most days to bed but also around the house and for the first 6 weeks I pretty much wore nothing else.
CHLOE AND LOLA TANK - Best sleep tank I can find. I have worn them with both Millie and Remi, they are looser around the tummy too for early PP.
BONDS TANK - Has hidden support so you can wear it out of the house with no need for a bra.
Whether you have an undersupply, an over supply, you will be returning to work while still feeding or just want some time off sometimes you will need to invest in a high quality breast pump.
I know everyone has their own opinion but pumping saves me in the early days when I have an oversupply and before my body figures out its supply I NEED to express 1-2 x a day to hold off mastitis.
HAAKA MILK CATCHER/HAND PUMP
This little baby has been an absolute lifesaver this time around! I used it in the shower to help my engorgement an also on the opposite side to Remi is feeding to catch the milk and then I can store it. I also take it when I go out in my bag incase I need to pump. Such an incredible product and so affordable too. Highly recommend every mum to be and BF mum to get one!
BODY ICE WOMAN ICE/HEAT PACKS
These ice/heat packs have come in so handy - I use them all the time.
I was recommended these ones by my lactation consultant as well as hundreds of women in my Instagram community. These can actually also help reduce the symptoms of mastitis too.
I use cloth diapers so much -as a burp cloth, change mat, a milk catcher and mess cleaner - I have them in my feeding stations around the house. Stock up mama - you will use them. You can get them from Big W or any baby store
I have never used them personally but I know they help heaps of women to establish their feeding with out pain.
Even though they say breastfeeding should never hurt - it does and hours upon hours of breastfeeding can lead to sore nipples.
When first breastfeeding and getting comfy in public its nice to have a cover to help you feel more comfy.
Snuggle Hunny swaddle just tie corner and throw over my shoulder
BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY CLOTHES
Buy yourself some comfortable and flattering BF friendly clothes. Honestly buying actual breastfeeding clothing has been a life saver and has made me so much more confident when feeding in public.
Like I said at the start I am no expert but I have become more and more passionate about helping other mums to become more educated and hopefully they can have the experience they hope for BUT if not just remember fed is always best mamas.
Any questions or comment feel free to contact me!
If i’m missing anything super important please let me know and Ill add in!!