In aid of International Breast Feeding Awareness Week August 2016, Anna Lee, our Resident Reflexologist has written us an honest account of her own experiences.
The challenge of choice and the reality in practice.
Until I was pregnant with my first child I hadn’t given much thought to breastfeeding. My Mum and my Sister had both bottle-fed and yet I was determined to give breastfeeding a go. I couldn’t imagine anything more natural than a baby feeding from its Mother and I wanted to experience the closeness and bonding that it would afford, not to mention it was free!
I attended a breastfeeding workshop and watched a beautiful video of a new baby instinctively moving up his Mother’s body in search for her breast, latching on for the first time. It seemed obvious that breast milk was the elixir of life and the feeding bit would surely happen naturally.
My labour didn’t go according to plan. After a forceps delivery my son was born and I found myself exhausted, lying in a packed recovery ward. I was encouraged to start feeding right away. ‘If it hurts, you’re not doing it right’, one of the Midwives said. Well, it hurt a lot and I hadn’t been expecting it.
I remembered ‘nipple to nose’ so that my baby would get into the right position to feed but it didn’t seem to be working. It was really hard and far removed from the video I’d watched. I also recalled that a baby’s stomach is the size of a walnut and for the first few days they only need a small amount of the thick oozy colostrum (first milk secretion) to keep them going until the milk supply comes in. I tried to focus on that but knowing that you are the sole provider of nourishment for a newborn baby can feel scary.
Before I left the hospital I met a breast-feeding consultant who looked at my baby’s latch and reassured me. It still hurt – nothing had prepared me for the strength of my son’s suck.
Back at home following a seven-hour return to hospital for feeding monitoring (he had dropped more than 10% of his birth weight), things gradually became easier. My nipples seemed to toughen up and as my son gained weight, my confidence grew with him.
Four weeks in and feeding was well established. Unfortunately I had been so busy concentrating on being a confident breast-feeder in front of our many visitors, I had been blasé with ensuring a good latch. Now it was hurting again and it wasn’t until I inspected my nipples that I realised they were raw and cracking. I lathered on Lansinoh cream at every opportunity but even that was too sticky and hurt the delicate area around the areola. This was a major set back and by now I was suffering from sleep deprivation to boot.
I had been putting off using the breast pump because my sleep-starved brain couldn’t cope with instructions but now I needed a break. Here I was, walking around the house bare-chested to allow air to get to my scabbing nipples, facing either a painful feed or forty minutes of milk collection with a machine that sounded like a mooing cow.
I was desperate, tearful and spoke to my sister-in-law who had breast fed her children and was calm and kind. She uttered the magic words, ‘It’s OK to stop’. I realised just what pressure I had been putting myself under. The thought of carrying on for six days, never mind six months was purgatory.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to give up. Something was driving me from the inside and I didn’t want it to be the end. I started applying oil from Vitamin E capsules (safe for the baby to ingest) rather than the thicker Lansinoh cream and the breast pumping allowed me to have some time to recover, giving my husband the opportunity to feed our son and feel involved.
I went on to breastfeed my son for 8 months and my younger daughter for a year. It was arduous for a while but I’m so pleased I did it.
The benefits of breast milk are undeniable but what is most important is that a Mother feels comfortable and supported in any decision she makes with regard to feeding her child. It is crucial not to judge what someone chooses to do, as nobody knows how agonising a choice it may have been.
If your baby has a gooey eye, place a few drops of breast milk directly into the eye or apply with a clean cotton wool ball.
To help prevent Mastitis comb your breasts gently from the outside towards the nipple. As the teeth of the comb go over the skin of the breast it helps to break down any blockage in the milk ducts. Try this daily in the shower.