My breastfeeding journey and 7 things no one told me

Now that I’m 8 months post-partum and it is National Breastfeeding Week I wanted to share a little of my journey. 🤱🏻

Breastfeeding


My breastfeeding journey:

  • It was incredibly painful for the first few weeks. Some feeds would go ok and be manageable pain wise, others I was in tears while trying to hang on and keep feeding her. Sometimes I was crying before she even latched as the pain was still there from the feed before. In the middle of the night when you’re sleep deprived and want to do the best for your hungry baby, it is extremely tough to be in so much pain and it took a lot of will power to push through it and gave me so much respect for how tough breastfeeding is.

  • My baby had a small tongue tie which we left. Given Covid we didn’t get any hands on support after the hospital (I was only there a few hours) but we did do a virtual call with an NCT lactation specialist which helped me adjust my positioning and improve the latch

  • Latch wise we never got the ‘perfect’ one early on, and she has always been a nipple only feeder and it worked perfectly for us (well apart from the pain early on but that passed!)

  • I used nipple shields after a week or so to enable me to reduce the pain and keep feeding and used them for 3 months (they also helped slow my let down which imprinted feeding). Around a month old, most of the pain was gone but we had got used to the nipple shields / they helped letdown so I keep them and would switch them on and off as needed and at 3 months we didn’t need them at all (perhaps due to the change in milk around that mark too). I also found the little bit of extra coverage made feeding around relatives or in public less awkward.

  • Some of my proudest moments included breastfeeding while pumping and having a coffee! Or pulling out a catch to see 60ml just there without even trying. I also loved watching the change in colour and volume throughout the journey. Expressing 200+ml in a 8 minute session felt like such a achievement and I’m very grateful I had a good supply.

  • I religiously tracked all my feeds (and L vs R as I could never remember) in an app and scrolling through all the hours I was feeding is mine-blowing to look back on

  • I expressed from before she was born - I harvested colostrum a few days before. This helped my confidence with the first feed in the hospital and meant I knew I had some colostrum ready should the birth / latch not have gone to plan.

  • I pumped from around day 3 onwards. I always tried to stay ahead of her needs and wanted a back up in the freezer. Once breastfeeding was established (for us this was around 1 month, I waited for the right moment, which was 6 weeks for us, to introduce a bottle for the nighttime feed. This aligned with us introducing a bed time routine and was important for us as we wanted my partner to be able to share in the feeding and bonding time for at least one feed a day plus we wanted to ensure she was happy with a bottle early.

Elvie Pumps

  • Things which helped the pain relief included the hot / cold pads, nipple shields, all the nipple cream before and after each feed

  • I struggled to find the optimum cushion set up to comfortably hold my baby close enough to my boob and it took me a while to nail feeding on the side in bed.

  • I wish I’d bought one of the ugly nursing chairs as my hips have suffered from feeding on sofas.

  • After the 4 month sleep regression, we tried switching the night feed to be formula and breast milk in the hope it might aid sleeping through the night. It didn’t help but by around 5-6 months we would use some formula in the night feed.

  • Our breastfeeding journey seems to be coming to a natural end. It’s taken me a month to start to be ok with that as I feel more confident now that it is driven by her not by my decisions. Around 7 months, as I went back to work and didn’t want to be spending all day pumping, I chose a week to start reducing my feeds down to just two a day. This was also combined with weaning going very well (she loves all food). She started to struggle to concentrate when breastfeeding, would turn away from the breast and always wanted more food a bottle vs the breast (I think as my supply is much lower now she doesn’t get the fast flow/instant thirst gratification vs a bottle). I tried to keep pumping for a bit but it’s hard to fit it in. At 8 months, we still feed at least once a day but I know my milk production is much lower now and she has even started refusing her milk bottles / is drinking much less now than she used to. I still have a freezer full of milk which I mix in to her formula for the evenings but I’ve stopped pumping as the quantity of milk isn’t worth all the time plus all the washing and sterilizing!

Expressed breast milk

 

7 things no one told me:

  • Just HOW thirsty Breastfeeding makes you - it is literally like the Sahara desert in your mouth. I had several bottles by my bed side and at all the spots in the flats I fed from so I didn’t get caught out while sitting feeding.

  • Bras are required 24/7. And not a nice pretty flattering one, oh no - the ugliest (but practical) nursing variety.

  • You need multiple nursing bra sizes - around 3 months when supply is more on demand vs engorged, I was able to drop down a size - and now at 2 feeds a day at 8 months PP I’m back in my pre-pregnancy bras (and my baby’s head is finally bigger than my boob 😭)

  • Once your milk supply is really established (and you’re pumping) your boobs really do leak A LOT and wet patches become very normal. One boob can’t park without the other one needing to at least leave you dripping.

  • Personally I found my boobs far too painful in the first few months (enforcement) for any vigorous exercise (not that my pelvic floor was strong enough either!)

  • While I was pregnant, I was so excited to be able to sleep on my front again, but then post-partum you quickly realize you have a pair of Pamela Anderson style boobs which are rock hard, extremely painful, prone to leaking and far too painful to lie on. And too sore to enjoy.

  • Slowing breastfeeding from 100% down to two feeds a day was a huge hormonal roller coaster and took me weeks (think I’m still in it actually). I’d compare the huge lows and emotional outbursts to day 3 post partum or going on a new pill (which doesn’t work for you). This is also combined with feeling a sense of grief as I loved breastfeeding, you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing and it’s a passage where your little baby is becoming a proper baby.

 

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