I was fiercely determined to breastfeed Miss I. Aside from the many wonderful benefits of breastfeeding, I carried extra motivation. She was my rainbow baby. I had three consecutive miscarriages and during that time of grief I felt like my body had failed me. Logically I knew this wasn’t true, but grief interferes with logic. I also knew that she would almost certainly be my last baby. But the “breastfeeding with ease” dream didn’t come true. Not even close.
For the first six months we endured a catalogue of breastfeeding problems including cracked nipples, silent reflux, low supply, undiagnosed tongue-ties, prolonged breast refusal and suspected dairy intolerance. It hasn’t been easy by any stretch of the nipple (and trust me, they’ve been stretched) but my 12-month feeding milestone is within reach. Here are five things that helped me to continue breastfeeding:
5 Breastfeeding Tips
I firmly believe that you will only meet goals if you actually set goals. And preparation is key. During my pregnancy I set a goal of breastfeeding bubba for a year. Knowing that early support and assistance is crucial in establishing successful breastfeeding, I discussed my breastfeeding goals with my midwife. Our mission was to establish a good supply from the get-go. I had struggled with low supply with my third baby, due to a severe post partum haemorrhage, and hadn’t managed to breastfeed for as long as I would have liked. This time my midwife suggested I hand-express colostrum from 36 weeks. That colostrum became liquid gold in the week post-birth.
2. A support crew
The right support is crucial for keeping a breastfeeding mum on track. Every new mum needs a cheer squad, particularly when times get tough and they got really tough for us. Before my baby was born I explained the importance of my breastfeeding goal to the people who could help me achieve it: my husband, my midwife and my children (aged 8, 6 and 5). My husband was proficient at washing and sterilising my breast pump, and supported my many elimination diets, only drawing the line at almond milk in his coffee!
3. A good breast pump
Fact: I would not still be breastfeeding my baby had it not been for my Spectra S2 hospital-grade double electric pump. I have used that pump every day for almost a year. It has been a breastfeeding lifeline. Aside from helping to boost my supply, it enabled me to continue to feed my baby breast milk when we experienced attachment issues and breast refusal. There is nothing quite as upsetting as watching your (hungry) baby wail and flail at the breast. Breast refusal is hell. During this time I pumped several times a day and fed her via the bottle.
4. A helpful IBLC
Not all Lactations Consultants are equal. If you are experiencing breast feeding troubles you need to find an experienced IBLC, preferably one who deals with complex feeding issues. I saw several Lactation Consultants, before I found one who was actually able to help. I was one feed away from giving up when she performed a thorough oral assessment on my baby. This revealed a posterior tongue-tie and upper lip ties (which had been repeatedly missed by previous health professionals) making an effective attachment virtually impossible. My baby had a frenectomy (surgical revision of the frenum) when she was five months old and this helped breastfeeding enormously.
I am determined (read: stubborn) when I set my mind to something. And my mind was firmly set on breastfeeding. While my target was to breastfeed for a year (and beyond), when we experienced troubles it helped to break it down into mini goals. At one point I wasn’t sure I would make it past six weeks, so I tried not to think too far ahead. Often it was one day at a time, one feed at a time. Once I got to three months, I shifted the finishing line to six months, and so on. Also, I channelled my “inner cheerleader” and didn’t berate myself when I had to top up with formula. Some days I managed 100% breast milk, other days it was 75% breastmilk and 25% formula. My mantra was some breast milk is better than none.
My baby is now 11 months and enjoys a mix of breastfeeds, EBM, and occasional formula top ups. I haven’t been able to breastfeed with “ease”, but I have been able to breastfeed with “effort”. I worked hard to bring her into this world, and I’ve worked hard to breastfeed her. Together, we have persevered and I am as proud of her as I am of myself. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, almond milk is quite tasty when you get used to it!
What has been your experience with breastfeeding? Did it come naturally, or did you need extra help?