I’ve wanted to write an update re: milk making for so long now, but finding the time to sit down at my laptop now that Little Ored is walking unaided (in other words, never sitting down) is almost impossible! This morning I attempted an update on my Instagram stories but my terrible and awkward rambling made me realise 1) I’m slightly more eloquent via the written word and 2) I needed to just sit down and write!
So with Little Ored taking his afternoon nap…
Here we are! 17 months later and we’re still in the midst of our breastfeeding story which both surprises and amazes me every day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve been lucky. I was told the horror stories (especially during my pregnancy. Why do women do that to each other?) and I’d read the brutally honest accounts on Instagram. Subsequently, my story has felt like it never fitted in. Like it didn’t belong. But then I remember how it felt as a Mama-to-be, on the cusp of BF, with no idea how it was going to go and that’s why I feel like it’s important to share my story. Even if it only reassures one expectant Mother that breastfeeding can be a positive, incredible experience. That they can do it.
I still haven’t had painful latches, bleeding or cracked nipples but I can say they’ve felt a little tender at times-especially in those first 6 months pre weaning. I did have one horrible bout of mastitis which feels exactly like the flu (in other words, death), but luckily it cleared up on its own after 24 hours. I get asked a lot about what BF is like as soon as teeth are involved, and all I can say is that if LO is feeding/latching properly I can’t feel a thing. If he’s feeling particularly teethy however, it can be a different story!
As time has gone on I’ve become increasingly confident about breastfeeding in public and one day, when Little Ored is old enough, I’m going to give him one big apology for ever having hid his head underneath a sling whilst he nursed. But we learn and we grow. I’ve breastfed my son whilst carrying him on and off trains, in coffee shops, parks, restaurants, promenades, play groups and more. And every time I do it, I remind those around me of what women’s bodies are capable of. What the real purpose of breasts are. I can count on one hand the times I’ve received disapproving stares/whispers. Is it because I haven’t noticed them or because people just don’t care like I thought they would? Probably a bit of both, but either way I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve had people praise me for BF in public (especially by older people) and if that’s not encouraging/reaffirming then I don’t know what is!
Then of course there’s the bonding. The cuddles before bed. The sleepy snuggles in the morning. When LO first started hugging, Ored went wild. “You forget, I’ve never had this before. But you’ve had it every time you’ve fed him.”
How much longer I will BF for, I can’t say. I want to let LO wean himself so only time will tell. But what I can say is that being able to nourish and feed my baby, whilst simultaneously being able to sooth and comfort him, has been an incredible experience and one that I would recommend to any new Mama’s.
So here are a few tips that I would give to any expectant Mama looking to BF.
1. Go to some classes
Whether they’re NCT, NHS or some other reputable organisation, classes are invaluable and will debunk the many myths surrounding BF, whilst providing you with the best start. It was in our NCT classes that Ored and I learnt the ‘signs’ of a good latch and feed as well as all the incredible health benefits that BF affords both Mama and baby.
2. Get your partner involved
Whether it’s your husband, partner, Mum or best friend, whoever is going to be around the most in those early days is the person you’ll need to help you get BF down- so make sure to take them to the classes!
Ored was great at spotting when I had positioned Little Ored too high or too low and for those first two weeks when he was off on paternity leave, I’d often find myself asking for his help. His patience, guidance and ability to spot what was “off” straight away (which is so hard to do from a Mama’s point of view, i.e looking from above, downwards) stopped either LO or me from becoming frustrated and allowed for a quick latch. Practice does make perfect but with a knowledgeable partner thrown into the mix, you really can’t go wrong!
3. Be positive
I can’t stress this enough. Whilst I approached BF with an open mind and a ‘what will be will’ be attitude I also felt a surge of confidence after my NCT classes. I believed in my body and trusted that it was able to provide my son with what he needed. That positive, relaxed approached is undoubtedly what made those tentative first few weeks, where LO and I were both still learning, much easier. Oh and if you didn’t know already oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘love’ hormone, is what is needed to help produce breast milk making stress, anxiety and pressure completely counterintuitive!
4. Ask for help
Whether it’s your partner, friend, Mum, midwife or GP. If something isn’t working, ask for help and get advice-don’t suffer in silence. Like I said before I was always asking Ored for help and I vowed to exhaust all options before opting for formula.
5. It can be difficult, but not in the way you’d expect…
Everyone told me about the pain I might experience but no one told me about how exhausting BF can be! Little Ored never took to a bottle so I’ve never been able to express milk and let others feed him. That means that for the past 17 months I’ve been the one, especially as he nurses to sleep.
So there’s been moments where I’ve felt frustrated, tired and wanted my boobs to myself for just five minutes, especially when he insists on pinching the other nipple while nursing (FYI, breastfeeding babies gets a lot more interesting the older they get).
But instead of feeling guilty for having those feelings, I’ve embraced them and worked through them in order to continue our BF journey. Sometimes those emotions act as a little indicator that maybe I need a little more ME time and so I make sure Ored knows where I’m at in order to help out a bit more where he can.
6. And lastly…
Breastfeeding is amazing. It reduces your risk of breast cancer whilst giving your baby antibodies. It contains melatonin which helps babies sleep. Breast milk is constantly changing to meet the needs of your baby, responding to illness and even your baby’s age (fat levels increase after your baby’s first year in the world to meet their growing needs). Not to mention the bond it fosters between Mother and child.
So there we have it, finally, my breast feeding update!