Where do I start?

Breastfeeding is such an emotive topic to many. I’ve written and re written this post so many times in my head, and edited many more on the page. I’ve a lot to say about it because I’ve had both good and bad experience of it, learned a lot, and been able to share a bit of wisdom with other mum friends which I know they were thankful for.

I should probably start by saying that I’m totally pro choice- feed your baby however you feel happy. I was formula fed 30 years ago and I did alright on it!
I always knew I would want to BF my babies. And I naively thought it was going to be easy. I mean, what could be so difficult about something that seemed so instinctive and natural? I had NO idea!
But then again I’d no idea about being a mum either, at that point, and ignorance wasn’t particularly blissful in the end.

Muruthi ended up back in hospital at 4 days old, jaundiced and dehydrated, dry as a crisp was how I thought of him. Talk about Mum guilt!!! I sobbed and sobbed, not helped of course by the onset of the baby blues, and total sleep deprivation that being a new Mum brings. I had support from a local peer to peer support group, though in the end I felt that I conflicted somewhat with their militant approach to breastfeeding and lack of knowledge (at that time) of exclusive pumping, the route I decided upon. When the hospital lent me a double electric pump and I watched that liquid gold drip drop into a bottle, I felt elation, and relief. I could see what baby was having, and know that it was the best he could get.
We left hospital and ventured into what felt like the ‘unknown’ but I managed to find a book that I genuinely treated like my bible for the first couple of months – Exclusively Pumping Breastmilk. It’s American and I think the whole pumping revolution has come over from there.
I pumped for two months, up to 8 times a day and night. It was relentless, and I suffered mastitis 3 times. After the third, I weaned down and stopped as quickly as I could. It was really taking its toll.
However my baby had mummy milk for three whole months. I will be forever grateful to my loyal Medela Swing breastpump, which serves me well almost 4 years later (while I exclusively pumped, I did do a medela double pump rental for two months but used my single for trips out etc).

Second time around things were much easier. I was apprehensive of course that the same would happen again, but was quite determined that it wouldn’t, and insisted I stay a night in hospital after the birth until feeding was established. This time around of course I knew what I was looking for and had all the resources at my fingertips.
I also had experience at being a Mum, so wasn’t as daunted about every little thing as I was with Muruthi.
Don’t get me wrong- despite feeding being easier, I was still crippled by toe curling nipple pain for the first couple of weeks. When my milk came in I only just managed to fend off a full blown mastitis, but the amazing website kellymom was also a godsend with tips and advice.
When the one sided nipple pain didn’t go away by 6 weeks, I went to see the lactation consultant at the hospital, and she couldn’t determine any specific problem except perhaps poor latching at times. I should add here too that I had quite an oversupply of milk, which caused often painful (mostly uncomfortable) let downs, always caused Riri to cough and splutter, and definitely contributed to him being a very sicky baby! That in itself was a challenge. We persevered, used a lot of lansinoh cream, and I fed for 9 months until Riri decided enough was enough and took a few cheeky nibbles at my nipple with his newly cut teeth- mutual decision to stop shall we say! He transitioned to bottles perfectly after protesting at many a previous attempt. Lesson learned there- although I was swayed by the ‘official’ guidance not to introduce a bottle for the first 4 weeks so as to establish BF, I realised that I had totally missed the boat by then.

Baby number 3 really was third time lucky, the rose tinted spectacles of feeding. But actually her first ever feed was a bottle of formula! She didn’t have a problem latching, though as I had come to expect, the first two weeks were horrendous and I do remember texting my bf mummy friends and saying ‘I don’t know if I can do this for much longer’!!
Luckily, Makena took a bottle and mixed fed from day one which meant I got plenty more rest than ever before, time off the boob for it to recover a bit, and despite being busier than ever with 3 kids, we pulled through!
I don’t have quite so much of an oversupply issue this time around, Makena is not a sicky baby, and generally speaking isn’t particularly fussy either. We didn’t get colic type screaming in the evening that we had with the boys. Still, they’ve all been the same when it comes to sleep. We never get more than 4 hours on the trot, often it is 2 hourly or even less, and as a result I have co-slept with my last two babies and kicked daddy into the nursery! I don’t think I’d have it any other way though to be honest. Snuggling my baby makes me feel happy, and I think it makes them feel happy too. Yes, perhaps it means they wake more often for little comfort feeds, but it’s so temporary and they grow up so fast and I’m now soooooo used to having broken sleep that I’m happy with my lot. They can sleep through when they’re ready to- the boys got there eventually and it feels like a lifetime ago that they were so tiny 😢.

So why am I spilling my heart out talking about my breastfeeding journey? Well I wanted to share it because it wasn’t straightforward and I wanted to highlight that i don’t think it ever is, the first days it may feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But there is. And here are some links to good sites that I used and couldn’t have done without
Kellymom – without fail the best breastfeeding site there is
La leche league – I liked this for positioning and attachment help.

Time and time again I would be on these sites at 2/3/4 am reading about latching, watching vids about latching, looking at drawings, etc until I felt I had got it (and baby had got it!)
Kelly Mom was also great for pumping advice too.

And what products do I think any new breastfeeding Mum needs (ie, what do I have that worked for me? Don’t let anyone tell you BF is free by the way!!! If you buy none of this I tell you you’ll still be buying a heap more food for yourself the next few months – my appetite is ridiculous)!

  • Pump- perhaps one of the most expensive bits of baby kit you can buy, but I don’t personally know any BF mamas who don’t have/borrow a pump and I don’t personally know anyone who uses a manual one (mine is sat boxed and unused in the nursery wardrobe gathering cobwebs).
    I was introduced to Medela at the hospital, they lent me the double and I rented the same one for two months but also bought my own swing single which has been a godsend. So efficient, even with batteries for on the go use, it’s lasted me with all three children. I’m on a parents group on Facebook and whenever someone asks for pump recommendations this one seems to get the most votes every time.
  • Bottles – without a doubt Dr Brown bottles have been the best, we tried 3-4 different ones before concluding these helped most with wind and colic and stuck with them ever since. They don’t have the most ‘natural’ shaped teats and some BF mums feel the bottle teat should mimic the breast but my conclusion is nothing mimics the breast and Makena took a Dr Browns from early days, and is always so comfortable and less windy after a bottle than a BF. I think the transition between bottle and breast being easy or difficult depends more on how early you introduce the bottle, rather than what type of bottle, but that’s just from my own experience.
  • Steriliser- for bottles and pump parts- we’ve always had the Tommee Tippee steam steriliser and it’s going strong after 4 years. I also like the Tommee Tippee microwave steriliser for going away- we used it to travel to Kenya, sterilising all the bottles in it that we needed to fly, keeping them in there for the flight, using it abroad safely, it was great. Plus you can use it as a cold water steriliser so when I predicted power cuts in Kenya I took some Milton tablets just in case!
  • Lansinoh therapearl – used these no end during my exclusive pumping journey. Mainly kept them in the freezer but when trying to unplug ducts I would microwave them and place them on my boob pre feed. Love them.
  • Nursing pillow – useful when baby is really small I find. After a couple of months they’re big enough to sort of be supported in your lap.
  • Lansinoh cream – wouldn’t have got through BF without it. It’s a hospital bag must have! A pure lanolin cream that doesn’t need wiping off pre feed.
  • Muslins– really big muslin squares I love, I didn’t have them with the first two but I bought some prior to having Makena and I’ve used them as swaddles, burp cloths, nursing covers and light blanket on sunny days in the pram. Brilliant idea.
  • Breast pads – I’m not a lansonih brand rep but honestly they are the best ones I’ve tried but also the most expensive! When I had a lot of oversupply with the boys, they were all I felt confident using. Boots and Mothercare own brand are also nice, but this time around I have to settle for Home Bargains! I tried bamboo washable pads but especially in the early days, I just ended up with damp pads in no time at all. Not good for the sour milk perfume!
  • Co sleeper crib– not just for BF mums by the way, I wish I even knew about these the first time round. Second time round I just stuck with my Moses basket and ended up basically cosleeping from the word go. In the early days I’d preferred not to have been asleep right next to baby, and so for no3 I decided I needed a co sleeper crib just to be on the safe side. In those early weeks it was a godsend, Ben would bring her up after a late bottle and she’d sleep there for a couple of hours till I did the next night feed, and she slept well in it until a bit later on when she decided that she was the ‘princess and the pea’ and preferred my uber soft and ancient mattress topper to hers!

This has been a long old post. For now, I just needed to get it off my chest, so to speak! I’ll tidy it up later. For anyone who made it to the end, I hope it’s been of some use. Enjoy those lovely cuddly snuggles feeding your baby. Holly x