The first few weeks of breastfeeding are tough. Even when breastfeeding is going well, it is still an adjustment. It could be having nips so sore that you dread your babies feed, it could be the insanity of being pinned to a sofa for cluster feeds. Whatever it is, its hard work and breastfeeding is a big commitment but once you battle through the first two weeks (most breastfeeding mums say the first two weeks is the hardest) you’re golden. You feel on top of the world, you’re so proud you want to have custom t-shirts made declaring “#nailedit”, all you want to do all day is talk breastfeeding and the feeds become a favourite time of day.
Today marks Medelas #BigBreastfeedingCafe, an amazing celebration of breastfeeding mums supporting one another. For me, breastfeeding has always been a time where support has flocked. Breastfeeding is a challenge and other breastfeeding mums just get it. They want you to succeed and will hold your hand as much as you need it. For me, the first few weeks were the toughest so I’ve compiled my top tips on surviving them!
Breastfeeding is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Here are a few things that got me through those first two weeks:
Its all in the latch: We all know this, its all in the latch. There is a grey area though. We are told if there is pain the latch isn’t good. But breastfeeding, unfortunately, does come with some discomfort. Elins latch has always been good but I did question myself some nights when the pain was bad. I found watching YouTube videos helpful but not ideal. Everything looked okay but obviously, all babies and boobies are different. When you haven’t seen lots of examples of breastfeeding it’s, its hard to know what normal looks like. A few weeks into breastfeeding I met a lactation consultant and she was invaluable. I found her on this website and she worked through my local hospital. It just felt good to speak to someone that knew what they were doing and to have that support. She mentioned that she would happily see people even if there were no issues just to weigh the baby and offer support/motivation. She kept me feeling really driven.
Count to Five: In the first two weeks, I found the pain came from the initial latch on. The best advice I had was to curl your toes and count to five. That way it gives you an end goal. You count down to the pain subsiding. If there is still pain after you’ve counted to five the chances are your latch isn’t right and its best to whip baby off and try again.
Have a Support Network: Now really is a time to watch the company you keep! When breastfeeding problems arrive, sometimes people can be very quick to promote quitting. I get it. Why would you put yourself through something you don’t have to do? (that’s the general logic anyway) but breastfeeding mums hold onto it and we need support. On the flip side, you also need grounded people. Sometimes breastfeeding isn’t working out and very pro-breastfeeders can make you feel guilty for deciding to stop. I hope that makes sense? When you want to cry because the pain is rough, you need someone to get you a cup of tea and tell you how well you’re doing but you also need someone to tell you “if you want to switch to formula, that’s okay!” There is also the Start4Life Facebook page where you can message a ‘chatbot’ for really fab advice and tips 24/7.
Do what you gotta do: CONTROVERSIAL ADVICE ALERT… and maybe this is terrible advice as technically its advised against. Do what you gotta do. If its nipple shields, using a bottle so your boobs get a break, bringing in a dummy when your baby is using you as a comforter. I know there are risks with all of these things, but chances are your baby will continue breastfeeding just fine and these things could be game changers in preventing you from throwing the towel in.
Change up your positions: When things are tender and sore, changing positions is such a help! My right-hand side healed quicker than my left-hand side (I wasn’t holding her tight enough on that side and caused some wear and tear), when this happens it’s really easy to start the habit of feeding on your less painful side which can obviously mess up supply. Changing positions stimulate different parts of the breast so eases up the pain and allows tender areas to heal. The rugby hold was really comfortable for me when things were sore. I would also look into a nursing pillow too as it ensures baby stays in an optimum position in the important early days instead of slipping down as your arms get sore (they also make a great shelf to eat off of too!)
Get your baby weighed: What better motivation hey? Seeing those ounces pile on because of your magic milk. On day 5, breastfeeding was pretty rough for me. It was Elins first weigh in since birth and naturally, I was expecting her to lose some weight like babies normally do. She gained 2oz and that was all the motivation I needed!
LANOLIN, LANOLIN, LANOLIN: Specifically the Lanolin Lansinoh. Its worth its weight in gold. No others cut the mustard like Lansinoh. It is expensive but I’ve only ever needed one tube which I didn’t even finish. I’ve heard rave reviews about allowing your breastmilk to dry on your nipples and work its magic but I didn’t try it so can’t vouch for it. The key is to repair and prevent damage. Pack this in your hospital bag and use it from your first feed.
Avoid Soap: In the first weeks, you want to scrub yourself clean, don’t scrub your boobs though! Soap is drying on the skin and when everything is already dry, its counterproductive. I had a huge scrub one night to “wash away labour” and it made feeding that evening so painful. Even 10 weeks on I still try to avoid that area as much as possible.
*This is a collaborative post.