Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be difficult!

Before Saskia was born I knew I wanted her to have breast milk but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to exclusively breastfeed or if I was going to express more so that my family could help with some feeds. I was aware that the breastfeeding benefits were incomparable and that breastfeeding my newborn would be the ideal situation for us. My worry was that if I was exclusively breastfeeding that I would have her attached to me constantly, it would be very demanding and I wouldn’t be able to have my body back after 9 months of pregnancy and I didn’t like the idea of that at all. Also, I didn’t want the pain of cracked bleeding nipples or sore boobs, I just wanted to feel like myself again regain control over my body. Here is my breastfeeding journey…

Useful Breastfeeding Products

I wasn’t sure if my body would be able to provide her with breast milk too so I prepared for all outcomes by purchasing the following products:

– Tommy Tippee bottle set, bottle warmer and steriliser 

– A tub of newborn formula 

– A Tommy Tippee manual breast pump 

– Breastfeeding pillow

– Boots silicone nipple shields (more about these later on!)

– Boots disposable breast pads

– Lansinoh nipple cream

– Calvin Klein maternity bra 

My baby’s first feed

Saskia was born at 6:28pm but was taken for some tests around 7:30pm and was unable to have her first feed until she was returned to me around 10pm. This time away was awful as I couldn’t go with her and neither could my mum because of covid. When she came back she was so obviously hungry and I began to  feed her for the first time. Thankfully she latched straight away and was clearly hungry after being away for so long. I was so thankful that she was back with me after her X-ray, safe in my arms with no health complications and able to feed.

The midwife asked if I’d like to be discharged around midnight or spend the night on the ward. I decided that it would be more helpful to stay in hospital for the night to have the help of the midwives and nurses for breastfeeding tips and support in the hope that she would continue to have a good latch.

Later that evening we were moved up to the ward where we would spend the night and she started crying in the bedside crib. I knew she wanted feeding but she wasn’t managing to latch on as well this time and I didn’t understand why. I buzzed for one of the nurses to come and give me some help and a lovely lady came and sat with me helping to improve the breastfeeding position and she once again was able to feed. She tried to get me to hold Saskia under my arm like a rugby ball which just didn’t work for me at all, but it was worth a try as I heard it works for some mums. I have been really lucky that she managed a good latch from the start with a bit of help and breastfeeding has been a great experience which I’m really proud of. 

I was advised to use Lansinoh nipple balm after each feed to try and prevent from and cracked, bleeding nipples. This really helped as I used it from the start rather than when my nipples became sore. 

A God-send: Nipple shields

On day three my milk came in and WOW; my boobs were huge, sore and hard as rocks. I genuinely looked like I’d had a botched boob job and it was so uncomfortable. I was finding it painful to feed Saskia as even brushing against them was sore so I decided to make use of the nipple shields I had bought. They were easy to use as you literally just pop them over your nipple and they stick to you as they are silicone. From that day until about 3/4 months we used nipple shields and I actually credit them to a long and happy breastfeeding journey. I believe the shape and texture allowed Saskia to easily swap between breast and bottles of expressed milk easily (which many babies find difficult as it requires a different technique.) This allowed a family member to do a feed whilst I enjoyed a hot coffee or 10 minutes peace which for new mums is a luxury! 

I am the sort of person who just does things her own way and as a mum I think it’s so important to listen to your baby and your body and do what’s right for the both of you! Other people’s opinions and experiences aren’t always helpful as they had a different baby and we all know there’s no manual for how yours is going to be! When I decided to begin using my nipple shields quite early on it helped me not to get sore, blistered or cracked nipples. My baby was feeding really well, my milk supply was good and we had found something that worked for us and made our breastfeeding journey as easy as it could be.

Cue unsolicited “advice” from breastfeeding “support” on the other end of the phone, due to Covid they rang most days for the first couple of weeks to check on how feeding was going. I told them it was going great, we were using shields and I wasn’t in pain and she was feeding well so I was thrilled. Saskia was having wet and dirty nappies, gaining weight, sleeping well and was a happy baby, I was experiencing no breastfeeding problem at all. The woman on the phone told me that nipple shields aren’t advised and to be careful using them as it can cause low milk supply, mastitis and nipple confusion for my baby.

I am so glad that I ignored this awful advice and carried on doing what was best for us, she didn’t know about my milk supply, she clearly didn’t understand that they had helped make this experience so easy for me and Saskia and she was so unsupportive that I wish I’d told her to fuck off. I never got mastitis and my milk supply only dipped once or twice over the first 7 months which I regained by pumping up my supply. As for nipple confusion it actually helped Saskia take a bottle, which for a single mum is so important as it allows others to be able to take her if necessary and I’d know she would feed well if I wasn’t there! 

An important thing to remember is to find what works for you. If holding them in a rugby ball position to feed helps, do it, if nipple shields stop the pain and tears, use them, if you want to combi feed , then that’s your decision. Your body, your baby and your choice.

Editor’s note: When we search for information about breasfeeding online, we are inundated with horror stories about agonizing pain, cracked nipples and sleepless nights. Breastfeeding can be very difficult, there’s no denying that, but hearing about the negative experiences of just a handful of women may put off expectant mothers who are contemplating breastfeeding. That’s why we believe that it’s just as important to share positive stories, like this one from @SophandSass (you can follow her journey on Instagram).

Let us know about your breastfeeding journey in the comments – the good, the bad and the ugly.

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