Breastfeeding is natural, so it should come naturally too, right? Wrong! Lots of women and babies struggle to get it right. The support and advice is often hap hazardous. From what I’ve seen, heard and experienced, while having my two Littlins, breastfeeding needs to be learnt and good support is very important. The principles are the same, but as we are all different shapes and sizes the generic advice needs to be adapted. What is true across the board is, if it hurts it’s not right imho.
When I was breastfeeding I faced a “luxury” problem (as the breastfeeding counsellor described it); I struggled with an oversupply of milk coupled with a very intense let down -that’s when the hormones kick in due to some stimulus (mostly the baby starting to suckle, but not necessarily) and the milk starts to flow more freely. Well, mine did start flowing very freely… in fact; it would squirt across the room if there was nothing in its way. Once baby popped off when I was in Costa and the guy at the next table put his hand to his neck…yeap that was my fire hydrant of a boob refreshing his neck with some fresh mother’s milk!
This intense let down also meant that I had to get baby properly latched on first time, otherwise baby’s face got showered (literally) in milk, if they popped off to try to reattach. (They both still hate showers till this day…I wonder why?!) Both my babies also had terrible colic because they were trying to keep up with the flow and gulping it down.
So I had to come up with some strategies to cope.
Clothing– I only found a limited amount of breastfeeding clothing on the high street at reasonable prices. I was going through quite a few initially and had to go out to buy extras. So I layered up: I used a camisole under any t-shirt or blouse. The cami went down and the top went up, creating a discreet gap in between to stick out the feeding apparatus. Cardigans are brilliant, as they give you something extra to shield yourself and baby with. I always had spares in my bag.
Bra– Having very well fitted, breastfeeding bras helps. Try all clips one handed before you buy. If you need 2 hands forget it! I lived in these day and night for 2 and ½ years. So I was lucky that the Marks and Spencer cotton ones fitted perfectly and they didn’t break the bank either.
Breastpads– I soon learnt that not all breastpads are made equal. Before starting breastfeeding I had this notion that washable pads would be perfect. (Appealed to my save the Earth philosophy) …well after lots of trial and error, embarrassing moments and all, I found Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads, and stocked up off eBay on a couple of hundred of them, or was it more like a thousand? They were the only ones that coped with the in-between feeding times and stood up to me hearing random baby cries and other stimuli.
Breast shells– Now, these things are lifesavers! When feeding you pop it onto the alternative breast and, what milk would be soaked up by pad and blouse and everything else, gets collected into a neat little container. There is a but though, actually a couple: These things have holes on them to pour the milk out when you are finished. These holes will tip the collected milk – even when you lean forward to put baby down, drenching you in your own milk. (Yes that did happen a couple of times, especially during the night feeds.) Same thing goes for the backing: make sure it is on securely. I gave up on the silicon backed ones because the backing just kept coming off and I’d find myself soaked despite the shells. My favourites were the Boots ones: small spout, no giant holes, so you wouldn’t tip it over yourself as easily, bottom and top click easily together, which you get right even in the middle of the night.
Now what to do with milk collected? I stored in bottles and froze it in special breast milk freezer bags as soon as I had about 120ml.
With the amount of milk I was producing I could feed 2-3 babies, hence I was so relieved to learn about the opportunity to donate surplus to the local milk bank. I became a regular donor while I fed Little Miss. It felt really good to know that I was helping and it helped me in dealing with the oversupply, as there was a clear benefit.
However, during my second delivery I lost so much blood that I had to have a blood transfusion. Health and safety restrictions meant I could not donate any more of my surplus milk. Initially, I gave some to a friend who was struggling to feed her little girl. After a while I gave up collecting and freezing and just stuffed muslin in the bra. Very depressing! Little Man ended up weaning himself off breast feeding between 6 and 7 months (despite my best efforts to continue). I am convinced that feeling awkward about the feeding (afraid to squirt someone in the back of the neck again) and the thought that part of that effort to produce the milk was going to waste were partly the reasons Little Man stopped feeding so early and the milk dwindled.
To top it all off, these said boobies leaked now and again for quite some time after stopping. I hated them… and to be honest only just began to be ok with them recently.
Despite all this, I loved the nurturing part of breastfeeding, the knowledge that I was giving what was the best start possible to my baby.
Did you have a good breastfeeding experience? Or did you have difficulty like I did?
If you have too much consider please donating it. It is very rewarding! You can find your nearest milk bank through:
UK Association for Milk Banking http://www.ukamb.org/
Human Milk Banking Association of North America http://www.hmbana.org/
This was post inspired by World Breastfeeding Week, which is ending today (more info at http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/index.shtml)