Sunday, 3 July 2016

Breastfeeding - one month in.

I keep going to start this blog post and not getting very far because I don't know how to make it flow. The last two posts went through our weeks day by day, but now we are at a month of breastfeeding each day is pretty much the same. Some days are still harder than others, but all in all we get through each day pretty much in the same fashion as the previous one. So instead I thought I would just write down some random thoughts I have as I'm sat during the many night feeds Oskar and I share, about our breastfeeding journey now we have reached our first goal; one month of Oskar being exclusively fed on breast milk.

* I am so proud that my body not only grew this beautiful little human but I am now providing his sole nourishment too. He has gained 2 pounds since he was born, following the 25th centile exactly, and it's all down to me and my milk, it's an incredible feeling. Coming from someone who has huge hang-ups about her body, it's lovely to look at our son and think "I made him, and now I'm growing him too". 

* Having said that, I still want to give up most days. Usually at 4am when he has fed hourly since about 7pm, and giving him chocolate hobnobs suddenly becomes an attractive option if only he will go to SLEEP! It's definitely not easy, although it's getting easier. But I rationalise it in my mind but reminding myself that I would do pretty much anything for him to not have formula. I am not judging anyone else for making that decision, but it's not what I want There have been many times I thought I couldn't carry on breastfeeding and would have do bottle feed, and certainly wouldn't judge anyone who made that decision. At the end of the day we are all feeding our babies in the way that is best for them. But for me personally, the best way for me is breastfeeding. Cows milk is for baby cows, my body is capable of providing all our baby needs, so I will continue. For now. 

* During the difficult days I imagine myself sailing across an ocean. When you have put a decent amount of ocean between you and the starting point, no matter how hard things get it becomes easier to focus on getting to the end than it does to think about turning back. Although at this point I have no idea how far our "end point" will take us, I also know that we are a long way off yet, so I keep looking forwards and not back. 

* Being able to soothe your baby instantly by putting him to your breast is magic. This doesn't mean to say that Sarah can't soothe him. In fact he settles and relaxes far easier for her because she doesn't smell like milk! But after he's had a bath (God forbid!) etc, he will want to nurse and often it's just for the comfort of knowing I'm there. Moments like that make me know that however hard the journey was at times to get him, it was worth every single second, to be able to become his Mummy and to be able to be only one of two people to calm and soothe him in an instant.


* Breastfeeding takes a lot of time! Sarah is yet to return to work full time but had to go in last week for a morning of meetings ahead of her return. During that 4 hour period Oskar breastfed continuously for 3 hours, meaning by the time she got home again I'd just about managed to get dressed and clean my teeth. In the evenings I'm pretty much glued to the sofa as 7-11pm he pretty much feeds continually, and at other times he feeds for a good 40 minutes or so. Bottle feeding takes less time, I believe, and can obviously be shared by others, but right now, at five weeks old, all Oskar knows is that he has a desire to nurse, so however long it takes for him to do that, or no matter when he last fed, I will happily provide that for him. I just have to remind myself that babies breast feed for hunger, warmth, comfort, protection and a thousand other reasons.

* It is not recommended that you express prior to week 6 whilst your supply establishes, but due to Oskar's initial weight loss I was expressing pretty much straight away. So I've carried it on, which means that we can share the feeding sometimes, and it gives my tired boobs a break! It means Oskar's last feed at night is usually a bottle of milk, which Sarah gives him before putting him down in the bed nest next to us. We both plan for this to continue, not because Sarah feels that she needs to bottle feed him in order to bond with him, she and he have done a pretty beautiful job of that regardless, but just because it means we can hopefully ensure Oskar will continue to take a bottle, and that he isnt reliant solely on a breastfeed to go to sleep, for when I return to work. 



* A supportive partner is everything. We made the decision together that Oskar would be breastfed, and we have got to this point together. Sarah sits with me during night feeds and makes me laugh through the tiredness. She cuddles me when I'm exhausted and think I can't do it anymore. She tells me I'm beautiful even though my boobs are enormous and I constantly have to wear breastpads. And she tells me she's proud of me for providing every drop of our son's food. I couldn't do this without her constant support. 



* Night time breastfeeding bras are an actual thing and you need one. Well, I need one. A couple of nights after waking up in soggy puddles taught me that I need to wear a bra and pads all the time, especially at night. The ones I bought are really soft cross-over bras that are easy access for feeding but don't make you feel like you are actually wearing a bra to bed.

*Making milk is thirsty work! I am getting better at getting a big glass of water ready before I sit down to feed him, making sure I have a bottle with me whenever I am out, because it's like Oskar begins to gulp the milk and my body screams "WATER, WATER, I NEED IT NOW!"

* I worry constantly about if he's getting enough. He's gaining weight amazingly, and the phrase "what goes in must come out again" is definitely true! But even so I worry about how much he's having. But you have to learn to take a step back and trust in your body and your baby. Sometimes he nurses for 10 minutes and the sleeps for ages (2 hours is considered ages in Oskar's life!). Other times he is attached for an hour, comes off for 10 minutes and goes back on for another hour. You just have to learn that you can't quantify breastfeeding, so it's easier to not look at the clock and instead look at your baby. If he wants to nurse he can, the end. 



* Nipple shields, a good breast pump and bottles have saved our breastfeeding journey on many occasions. The gold standard is not to use anything that resembles a teat in case the baby gets "nipple confusion". Except here's the thing - when the baby won't latch on, is starving and needs milk, or if you just can't take the pain any more, these teat like things will stop you from giving up altogether. So surely breast feeding + bottles of expressed milk, or breastfeeding with a shield is better than not at all. Plus I doubt nipple confusion is a real thing anyway. I think it's one of those things that could happen in theory, but no actual human baby has struggled to differentiate between a human breast and a plastic teat. 

* Oskar has a tongue tie. It was spotted by the lactation consultant we've been seeing, who said it is a posterior tongue tie that is restricting his movement. We are waiting for an appointment to come through for a division, and I'm hoping this will move us from our current "it's fine, it's bearable, we can do this" feeds to "now a comfortable and easy thing to do". 

* It goes get better. In the early days, as I fed him through sore, cracked, bleeding nipples, and literally cried in pain every time he latched, i didn't ever really believe that it would get better. But it does, it has, it can. I can now stick him on without much effort, and I kinda forget he's nursing when he's on. I guess you become much more used to the sensation, your nipples toughen up, your baby learns how to feed effectively from your body, and together you learn how to do it.

So if you are reading this whilst nursing a tiny one who is making you so sore you think it'd be kinder just to chop your breasts off and be done with it, I want to tell you - keep going. It is one of the hardest things I have ever battled through, honestly it is. When there is an alternative out there that the vast majority of society believes is as good as the milk you are providing, that doesn't mean you are in pain, awake every single hour of the night and needing to worry about getting a private part of your body out in front of others, it can be so easy to allow the idea of giving up to creep in to your mind and then grow and grow. But I can honestly say that the only thing that has gotten me and Oskar to this point is my absolute sheer determination that we can do this, we will do this. And all of a sudden I now sit here and look back and realise how much easier it has gotten. There wasn't a day that I felt a switch and I thought "there we go, it's easier now", it's a gradual process, and one that is so hard to believe will ever really happen. Until it does! 

So now we have reached the point that only 24% of the UK society reaches - exclusive breastfeeding at one month of age. I am more proud of that than I could tell you! But one look at our gorgeous son and there is no doubt that it has been worth it, and will continue to be worth it every single day that we can continue. From here on in I guess we just continue to practise, learn and evolve. We need to crack feeding lying down, which will make night feeds a lot easier, at some point we need to learn how to feed without nipple shields, and we need to get better at feeding whilst out and about - not because I have any qualms about doing it but rather that I can't manage to latch him on without getting my whole boob out and then faffing around while he latches properly. But we have all the time in the world to get it right, and now we are on our way to success there is no stopping us!

6 comments:

  1. Thank you!

    This is what I'm going through. Baby Hudson is 11 days old and I was getting very upset thinking that I can't do it! My friend shared your blog with me and it has given me hope. I'm at home alone all day and struggle to go to the bathroom n get food n water at times. It will get better, and I'm already finding he latched a bit better today ☺️

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    1. Thank you so much, the reason for us posting a diary was to help other women struggling with breastfeeding, and give them hope. Good luck!

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  2. I am very surprised breastfeeding is so uncommon in UK! My wife breastfed our daughter for the first 5 months after which we started gradually add some real food to her diet. Now, our daughter is 1year and 1month and still being breast fed for comfort and when going to night sleep, so basically twice to three occasions per day. My wife will stay at home until she is 1year and 7months(then go back to work) and by then, the breastfeeding must end. The reason is that we are expecting our second baby, and ofcourse, at that time the milk is not meant for our toddler anymore.

    All in all, of my friends, most have breast fed at least 4months continuously and not many have voluntarily chose to use formulas.

    In case you did not yet have it, we think Lansinoh is the best nipple cream there is to heal the broken and sore skin ;)

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  3. Hi girls, he is gorgeous! you are both doing a great job :)

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  4. Why does everyone seem to be so anti-formula? What about the women that are not able to produce breastmilk? It is not, like as if they are unhealthy or contain toxic elements. There are organic ones (https://myorganicformula.com/), there are hypoallergenic ones (http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/bottle-feeding/hypoallergenic-formula), there are vegan ones (https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/vegan-diet-children-and-pregnancy)... You name it. I can understand that maybe vegan formula is not optimal, but what is the problem about substituting your mother's milk with organic formula?

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    1. Wow 'Unknown', did you even read the post, or are you just not very bright?
      Nowhere in the post does it say we are against formula- in fact we said "there have been many times i thought I couldn't carry on breastfeeding and would have to bottle feed, so certainly would never judge anyone for doing so. At the end of the day we are all feeding our babies in the way that is best for them".
      Why don't we give our baby formula? Because we don't want to, and that's our choice. Some women don't want to breast feed, again, that's their choice. Both are perfectly fine.
      This is a diary about breastfeeding, to help other women who are breastfeeding. It's a personal account. If you don't want to breastfeed, that's absolutely fine, but don't attack us for doing so!

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