Thursday, September 24, 2015

Breastfeeding thoughts part 3

A long essay on breastfeeding and where I am with it.
If you come here for the comics discussion, sorry. I keep meaning to write some comics posts, but a newborn changes your priorities!

I don't like breastfeeding.  I like being able to.hold my baby close, but the act of breastfeeding is not something I enjoy, tho tbf i dont actively hate it either. Most of the time I am ambivalent, with no positive or negative feelings, but sometimes I veer between dislike and hatred. I have no idea what makes it all worthwhile, emotionally speaking.  Breastfeeding is exhausting.So we've started combi feeding (formula) to help me get through it.

I aim to give J no more than 4ozs a day,because I still want him to have majority breast milk, but it varies as to when in the day we give it to him.  We could be out in the afternoon, or it could be the evening feed, or the first morning one. I don't usually express to make up for it. I have had thoughts of going back to exclusively Breastfeeding, but I like the freedom that bottles give you.

We have had problem after problem.  When J was born he was little ,not small enough to be IUGR, not by a long stretch, but a small baby. So his mouth was small which meant he couldn't get a big enough gobful of breast, so his latch was poor, and it hurt, every time he fed. My nipples were misshapen after feeds and both nipples were cracked, although thankfully not bleeding (much).

At around three weeks he started getting better and we had some pain free feeds. Then I got mastitis which made me feverish. The mastitis cleared up with antibiotics, then a week later I got very sore again. I thought it was thrush, had a swab done which was negative for thrush and positive for stapphococlous, which causes mastitis. J was not gaining enough weight, in hindsight I know this was partly because I was scared to feed him because of the pain. Other reasons his weight gain wasn't as large as expected was us confusing hunger and tired cries. It's all very well to say put the baby on the breast whenever they cry, but when you are that pained you do what you can to avoid it.

At this 5 week point I had a meltdown, refused to breastfeed J and expressed for two days until I could cope again. In that time he got a mix of formula and expressed breast milk.

A second dose of antibiotics cleared the mastitis, and another swab showed we were born clear of he stapphococlous bug. Great. But by week seven I was crying during the night feeds and crying as soon as I woke up in the morning. Breastfeeding is really really hard and people had said it got easier by week eight but I didn't feel like we were making enough progress.  I was also getting vasospasms by this point - pain in your nipples and breast after a feed,caused by poor latch.

I'd paid for a lactation consultant to come out twice to help with latch and positioning and that was really really great. I knew I was doing all I could technique wise, but it still wasn't enough.

So when I decided to combi feed I felt far more relaxed and able to cope with things. Knowing I have the option of formula makes me a lot calmer about breastfeeding. I knew it wouldn't be easy but no one said how hard it would be, no one explained why.

The only thing that is instinctive is the baby's suckling. Everything else had to be learnt. It will hurt when you first feed, because you aren't used to having anything quite like that on your nipples, and they are sensitive. If they get damaged the pain increases, a lot. Breastfeeding drains you of milk, obvs, but also you will find yourself suddenly exhausted in the middle of a feed. Or suddenly hungry. Or teary.  It's draining in all senses of the word.

I remember asking, when pregnant, how long babies fed for, and the answer I got was it depends on the baby.  When J was jaundiced he'd feed for just a few minutes at a time, but he'd feed 10 times in the hour.  Then nap, then wake in an hour or two to do the same thing.  As his jaundice reduced to less concerning levels (and it took till he was 4 weeks untill it totally went), he would feed for between 40 minutes to an hour on one breast. Then fall asleep and wake again 1 or 2 hours later for another feed.  Mind you, I didn't let him go for much longer than half an hour, because it hurt.

Gradually he started going 3 or 4 hours between feeds, then the feed length would decrease, so now he can drain a breast in 10 or 15 minutes, but he always feeds on both breasts now.

Those are normal feeds.  Then you have cluster feeds.  Cluster feeds can be 20-30 minute feeds, with half hour breaks inbetween feeds, for 5 or 6 hours.  Or they can be 7 or 9 hour marathons, in which J would prefer not to have any breaks inbetween feeds but I insist on some breaks because I need to go to the toilet or eat my dinner.  I pretty much loathe cluster feeds, they destroy me.  But, they happen because that's just what newborns do.  They might be linked to growth spurts, but not always.  This crazy feeding stimulates your milk production so the day or two after a cluster feed your body will be producing more milk.  The plus side to cluster feeding is after a marathon session J can sleep for between 6 and 9 hours.   Which means I get between 5 and 8 hours sleep. But sometimes he wakes up after 3 hours wantu

The other thing about night feeds is that it's not as simple as waking just for a 30 minute feed. You're up for at least an hour because you have to do the nappy change, the feed, the burping and then get the baby back to sleep again.  Night feeds often take 2 hours.

This is bloody exhausting!  It's best for the baby yes, but it's really hard on me.  One of the reasons I chose to go with formula for some feeds is that at night I find myself dozing off, and that's just not sfae.  Feeding lying down and co-sleeping is not an option for me.  No judgement on those who do it, but I will not.

J is now 9 weeks old and I still have cracked nipples, although they aren't sore and they are nearly healed (until we get a few bad sucks, then they get opened again).  I wish I'd done my research before starting to breastfeed I'd have felt more in control.  Obvs I couldn't have done any research while pregnant with J, but I could have done while pregnant with C.

I would suggest that if you want to breastfeed you should:
Read the La Leche League book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
Get yourself onto some breastfeeding forums - read about everyone's problems and solutions.  Be prepared.  I'm on the Babycentre ones, they are really useful (although often infuriating as several members response to new posts is to not answer the original question and to tell you should fully breastfeed, without knowing your background),
Get lots of different pillows and experiment with setup and support.  Change the pillow arrangement as the baby grows.
Get a Thrupenny Bits portable pillow for breastfeeding in public.  I have the classic one because I am fuve foot three andJ is small. It's the perfect size for us.
Know about the mechanics of breastfeeding and common problems.  Inform yourself, then you can make the right decisions for you and the baby and you will know what questions to ask of midwives and health care assistants to help make it work.
Find a lactation consultant near you and book them in for a 1:1 early on so you can have expert advice to get latch and positioning sorted.  LCGB is the British governing body and you can find a consultant near you.
Get the number and opening times of the National Breastfeeding Helpline stored in your phone.
Know that for some families breastfeeding gets easy in week 2, in others it gets easy in week 6, in others maybe week 12, and in others maybe at 6 months.
Know that you will feel like you've gone one step forward and two steps back.  It's normal, but knowing it's normal doesn't help when you've had a painful stressful week of feeds.
Know that combi feeding or moving to fully formula isn't failing at anything, but is simply a change to the way you feed.
If someone tries to tell you that formula is 'just' food know they are probably smug and full of themselves.  Food is important to babies, there is no 'just' about it.
You can comfort babies through ways other that the boob.  Bottle feeding is for me, a far bigger bonding experience than breastfeeding, and quicker.
There is no shame in not enjoying breastfeeding, or in not wanting to put in 2/3/4/5.6+ months of slog to get the emotional benefits and enjoyment at 7+ months down the line.


Jfcfanatic said...

I love your candidness. I wish I had read this before I started breastfeeding. Thank you for always being amazing.

Saranga said...

You're welcome. I tend to get the hump when people don't talk about honestly about things.