Welcome to the indescribable journey of motherhood.
An adventure which is not gifted to everyone. I believe it’s important every now and again to tell ourselves that. Because let’s face it, cluster feeding at 3, 4 and 5am with sore nipples and a body which is still recovering from labour, means that sometimes a gentle reminder of how lucky we are is necessary. We are the blessed ones – no matter how challenging it gets, remember that.
The early days of breastfeeding are often a mixture of two things. The magical, wonderful experience you were promised; staring into your baby’s eyes, watching them gently suckle away and wondering how you ever filled your time before they existed. Then the very under-promoted side; the painful, exhausting and monotonous side. The realisation that this human is going to be attached to my body and my body only for between the next 3-18 months, for some even into the toddler years, can be a daunting one.
It is absolutely okay to have a mixture of feelings; we are human, and not just any humans, exhausted humans! I remember many times wandering down the baby aisle in Asda and noticing a bottle staring back at me, a beacon of light shining around it, or finding myself watching a mum feeding her baby with a bottle for much longer than I should. Assuming, that the answers to my sleep deprivation and pain lay in this plastic product. The truth is they do not. I have both bottle-fed and breastfed, and they are both hard for their own reasons. So for now, in these early days, if breastfeeding is what you want, always keep in mind the reasons behind your decision and what you love about it.
As a mum, I can give you your own beacon of light: that it does get easier. The painful, exhausting, cluster feeding, the ‘am I doing this right?’ stage does fade, and the ‘I am bossing breastfeeding!’ stage soon appears.
There are a few important bits of advice which I can offer, the advice I wish had been made clear to me:
- Be sure your latch is correct. My daughter was feeding well, gaining weight like she was preparing for cage fighting, and if anything I had too much milk. But the pain I felt when she latched on made my toes curl. It was how I imagined an electric shock to feel. However, because of my success in feeding, I disregarded it being a latching issue and assumed it was part of the feeding package. Luckily, my midwife watched me feed and the problem noticed straight away; a clear example of why it’s important to get your latch checked.
- Rest as much as possible – I know it’s a cliché comment, and one that can be a little grating to hear all the time, but it is true. As a mother, I completely understand the need to tidy the house and wash the clothes. But just take these first few weeks to let your baby sink into a natural routine, which works for both of you. Feeding on demand is vital for your milk supply, and rest is paramount for the production of it. Rooting, head bobbing, fist sucking, and/or mouth fluttering are your baby’s first ways of communicating with you – listen to them and follow their lead. Investing the time to get a good routine now will support you with long term breastfeeding.
- Make sure you have the products you need to breastfeed in every situation you find yourself in because let’s be honest you could need to feed at any time. If you are planning on having time away from your baby, and you do want to introduce a bottle ( just like I did), find a breast pump which suits your milk supply ( the MAM 2-in-1 Single Breast Pump offers 9 suction strengths) and a bottle your baby drinks from comfortably ( the anti-colic bottle has a 94% acceptance rate).
- Find a non-judgmental friend you can be honest with. Letting off little amounts of ‘steam’ here and there will help you avoid making any huge rash decisions, such as giving up before you are ready.
But above all the advice, which I could write for you in these early days of motherhood, is to Be Kind to Yourself! This is the hardest job you will ever do, but it will the most rewarding. Have the confidence to trust your own instincts and remember: Happy Mum, Happy Baby!