A couple of months ago I wrote a post called “my breastfeeding story”, based on my personal experience of breastfeeding my two older daughters. Having gone through all the pitfalls and pain before, I thought I knew what to expect this time and hoped I’d be more prepared to deal with any eventuality. The main thing I knew is that I wanted to breastfeed my new baby. I wanted to offer her the same start in life and wanted that special bond that breastfeeding can offer.
It’s now been a full month since Iris was born and if I’m honest breastfeeding has been my biggest hurdle. Everything else has been pretty prefect, Iris is healthy, beautiful and sleeps well at night but nursing her has not gone smoothly.
In all fairness she has fed well from the moment she was born. Just like her big sister Lili, she seemed to instantly know what to do. This gave me a false sense of security, so when I was offered help with breastfeeding in the hospital, I simply said “no I’m fine, she’s feeding well”. How wrong was I!? Within a few days things had gone very wrong and the pain of breastfeeding was almost unbearable. Every feed was toe curlingly painful, sometimes bringing tears to my eyes. What was I doing wrong? I went through all the usual tips for a good latch…
- Nose to nipple
- Big wide mouth
- Baby’s body across the tummy
- Big puffed out cheeks when feeding
- Listen for swallowing sounds
Even though I was following all these tips, the pain continued and my nipples started to crack and show visible signs of bruising.
Another issue was that my milk took around five days to ‘come in’ (this normally takes 3 days), which meant Iris was not getting enough milk in the first few days and as a result her weight plummeted. She lost 9.5% of her body weight and although up to 8% is common, it was a worry. My midwife advised lots of skin to skin, to help with bonding and encourage my milk supply. This did help my milk ‘come in’ but the pain continued to get worse.
This is when I started to express, so that I could give myself a rest from the pain and give my nipples time to recover. Thankfully, I already had a Medela Swing Maxi Double (which is a fantastic electrical breast pump), so I could get going instantly. I was able to express around 3 to 4oz each side by this point, so I knew I was supplying enough milk – and Iris quickly started to put on the weight she’d lost.
Expressing had many benefits; yes it gave my breasts time to recover but it also gave Dom a chance to feed Iris, it also got her used to taking milk from the bottle (as well as from me) and it meant we could viably see how much she was taking. While Iris was still getting all the benefits of breastmilk.
It turns out that our little flower is a fast and pretty aggressive eater, which goes some way to explaining the pain. She can drink between 3-4oz from a bottle in around 5 to 7 minutes and only breastfeeds for around 10 – 15mins before she’s done.
So how did things get better?
I’m now finally feeding with only a little pain. This is after a good few days of exclusively expressing and lathering my nipples in Lansinoh cream and using Multi-Mam compress pads.
I also went to a breastfeeding clinic, where I was showed new and different ways to hold Iris when feeding. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done this before, there’s still things you can learn. The lactation consultant at the clinic was so kind and reassuring, she told me that expressing was the best thing to do until my nipples had recovered and that it would not be advisable to feed through the pain, as it could make things worse. She explained that lots of mothers are forced to give up because of the pain – which I can understand! However, I was determined I would not be beaten and I’m now so glad I persevered. Iris and I made it through the dark painful days and are now breastfeeding easily, which means I can start to enjoy the bonding experience and get the euphoric feeling you get from feeding.
If you’re a first time mother or a new mother going through the breastfeeding pain I experienced, I fully recommend you get yourself a breast pump, a tube of Lansinoh cream and the amazing Multi-Mam compress pads. They really were my breastfeeding recovery kit, which helped me through the difficult days and got me to where I am today.