A very smart lady once told me that breast feeding is like learning to ride a bike. It’s mid summer and you know you’re getting a bike for Christmas. You’ve never had a bike before so you are so excited. It’s all you think about. You can’t wait to jump on the bike and take it for a spin. The months go by and finally it’s Christmas day. You see your bike and it is amazing so you jump straight on. Within seconds… BAM. You’re on your face. You’ve lost your balance and fallen off. Huh? But loads of people ride bikes all the time! I thought it was supposed to be easy? Oh well I guess riding a bike isn’t for me…
The thing is, when you learn to ride a bike you don’t do that. You don’t just jump straight on and hope for the best. You learn, you are guided, you fall down then get straight back up again and try again and again. You succeed and have the most amazing journey. The same can be said for breast feeding. Especially in the early weeks.
Now let me start off by saying this post is absolutely NOT intended to start any wars. Feed your baby how you wish. All I ask is that you make an informed choice.
This post is to help other mamas like me. Mamas who want to breast feed or those who aren’t sure. Since I’ve had Elijah I’ve learned SO many things that would have helped me at the time if I only knew. Hindsight is brilliant ey?!
I truly wanted to breastfeed Elijah. Breast milk is biologically what babies are meant to drink. The benefits were so amazing why would I choose any other way to feed him?! And the above scenario is, in part, why we never succeeded with our breastfeeding journey. I was naive and arrogant. I thought it was as simple as popping a boob in my babies mouth. And for some mamas it really is. But for a lot of us we need guidance and support.
In brief, we struggled at first due to the latch. Elijah didn’t latch at all in hospital. His first feed of “liquid gold” colostrum was through a syringe. Although I’m glad he had it. It was pretty depressing feeding my newborn with a syringe. Each feed we attempted to latch. Then I had to hand express onto a spoon to feed him. After over 24 hours he hadn’t had any wet nappies so I panicked and gave him formula. We continued our routine of latch, fail, spoon feed ebm / formula for a few days. By this time the baby blues had kicked in. The stress of not being able to feed my baby made me feel useless. I cried constantly and was miserable. I made the tough decision to stop even attempting breastfeeding for the sake of my own mental health. At first I was relieved. But after a few months the regret creeped in and I felt worse for it. I felt so bad that my baby had breast milk for less than a week. I wish I tried harder.
When Elijah was around 4 months old I started heading to baby groups. Where I met lots of different mamas and made some really good friends who breast feed their babies. At first I was terribly jealous and resentful being around it all. But soon I learned that it wasn’t their problem. It was mine. And I could use this opportunity to educate myself for future babes.
With the help of my wonderful support system I’ve put together a bit of information to help new mamas or mamas to be on their breastfeeding journey:
There are lots of groups out there that offer support and guidance specifically for breastfeeding. Mummy groups on Facebook can often be very heated places because us mamas are so passionate about doing the best for our littles. So prior to your little one arriving add a few groups, see which ones you “gel” with and feel comfortable in. If you are local to Teesside I would recommend Breast Buddies Teesside and Mama Mates – APUK Middlesbrough. Although the groups may not necessarily have “experts” in there (some do!), the experience and support of other mamas can really make all the difference. I asked some ladies from Mama Mates and they have recommended the following support organisations:
A peer supporter is often an experienced breastfeeding mother who has completed specific training to allow them to support breastfeeding mothers and head breastfeeding support groups. I was looking for information to describe it a bit better but the website Real Baby Milk explains it to a T. I’m glad I discovered that website because it is a brilliant source of information in other matters on breast feeding so have a browse!
La Leche League
La Leche League have so many different avenues to support breastfeeding mothers including a help line, through social media and face to face meet ups and groups.
Lactation consultants (IBCLC)
As specialised health care professionals, consultants can help with both basic and complex breastfeeding issues. The LCGB Misson Statement summarises it brilliantly:
“Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, the professional voice for breastfeeding, is working to create a society where every mother is comfortable breastfeeding her baby with access to professional help if she needs it.”
The Milk Meg
If you’re not following this page already on Facebook, then do it now! Meg is brilliant. She is a lactation consultant and is always posting amazing supportive and informative messages on her page. She often dispels many myths people find about breastfeeding as well as hosting “boobinars” and private consultations over Skype which can be booked via her website.
This is one that I’d never heard of until I reached out for advice about writing this blog. (See! I’m still learning!) I asked a group of lovely mamas and several mentioned Kelly Mom. I’ve now had a chance to read over it and it is a brilliant resource. It provides evidence based advice and information on lots of weird and wonderful breast feeding topics from tattoos and breastfeeding to safe medications.
Milk Matters is an organisation that many mama friends I know have benefited from. Tongue ties can cause a huge amount of problems when breast feeding. Unfortunately they can often be missed during routine appointments and many health care professionals aren’t fully trained enough to spot them. If you are in the position to seek a private assessment and treatment then this organisation can help.
The Breastfeeding Network Drugs in Breast milk information service.
Many women end their breastfeeding journey when prescribed certain medication because they believe they are not able to take it while breastfeeding. Sometimes it is not always necessary to stop as general practitioners are not always up to date. You are able to get fast accurate advice if you have any concerns whether your medication is compatible with breastfeeding. If you have any concerns about your medication and breastfeeding look here.
These are just a few of the services and organisations available to support breastfeeding mothers but it is all things I was unaware of when Elijah was first born. I also asked some mamas for a few words of advice or myths to dispel on this blog in order to help other ladies. This is what they shared:
- Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. If it does, seek help to address the problem.
- Cluster feeding is normal. If your baby is feeding for hours on end it does not mean they are not getting enough. They are simply preparing for a growth spurt and helping to increase your milk supply. If your baby is otherwise healthy and has plenty of wet nappies and is gaining weight they are getting enough.
- Waking regularly for a feed in the night is completely normal (Even in older babies).
- Breastfeeding beyond age 1 is not only normal but beneficial. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding until 6 months, then continuing until at least age 2 (and beyond). There are still many benefits to breastfeeding older babies and children if you choose to continue for longer.
- If you have stopped breastfeeding it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end! Re-lactation is possible! It requires determination but can be so worthwhile. If you don’t feel like re-lactation is a possibility for you, you can also source donor milk! Amazing stuff, huh?
I hope this post has been interesting and helpful. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments and let us know of any more support services available for breastfeeding women.