The first two weeks of breastfeeding are, I think, the toughest ones. From cracked nipples to trying to get a good latch, it’s a very steep learning curve for both mummy and baby. Here’s how mine and Martha’s first two weeks of breastfeeding have been.
When Martha was born she fed beautifully, it was so natural and easy, but I knew from experience that as perfect as those first feeds were, we had a lot of learning to do. Once the initial birth euphoria wore off, we had to start establishing a good breastfeeding method that worked for us both.
Martha is such a contented baby most of the time and that has been a godsend in these first couple of weeks, especially the first 4 or 5 days. She’s got a very narrow latch though, meaning that she doesn’t open her mouth wide enough to get a good latch and that has resulted in her ‘nibbling’ on my nipple instead of taking proper feeds. It was agony at first! I tried different positions and had some help from the midwife at the unit I went to after the birth, but nothing helped. After Martha scratched my nipple, making it bleed furiously and me cry a lot, I resorted to using nipple shields.
I used shields for a couple of weeks with Toby too and as I mentioned in Martha’s one week update, I’m just not someone who can deal with the searing pain, breathe through it and carry on. Now, I have birthed two babies with nothing more than a TENS machine and entinox so I consider myself reasonably okay with pain, but breastfeeding is just one type I can’t hack!
By lathering Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream on and using shields, I’ve been able to continue breastfeeding with relative ease. Last time, I had different midwives every day with their different opinions about using nipple shields and I was often made to feel I was doing something wrong. I firmly believe that if a mum wants to breastfeed but is struggling and shields can help her to continue then that’s just fine!
I was able to stop using them on my left breast after a few days by latching Martha using a technique described to me as ‘nipple sandwich‘ – sexy, right?! My right side took quite a while to start healing from the scratch, so I am still using a shield at night when it’s harder to coordinate a decent latch, but I’m using them less and less during the day now.
Yes breastfeeding is what we as animals naturally do and it provides baby with fantastic nutrients, but it’s not easy. I breastfed Toby for 4 long, hard months through the absolute worst of his silent reflux days and in the end I chose my sanity over how he was fed. Toby is a healthy, energetic, intelligent toddler and nobody could ever tell me I did anything wrong. This time it is easier – Martha is a chilled out baby and I’m more sure of myself as a mum – so I can imagine getting to the 6 month mark without it being too much of an issue. I fully intend on expressing once Martha is a couple of months old, so that she can have the odd bottle, such as on my 30th birthday when I would like a few hours to celebrate!
So far though, so good. The first two weeks of breastfeeding have been positive overall and Martha is thriving, reaching her birth weigh again by day 10. We’re both learning what works best for us and I think that’s key, all mums and babies are different so don’t expect the first position you try to necessarily work. Martha feeds best when we’re in the Biological Nurturing – or laid back – position, which seems comfortable for us both. We can feed in the standard cradle hold and if we’re feeling clever we can manage in bed, laying side-by-side, so trying different methods is a must.
Where I live, there’s an absolutely brilliant peer support network with a Facebook group, trained supporters who will do home visits to come and help you and even a coffee morning once a week. Knowing that they’re there is invaluable to me and I would really encourage any breastfeeding mums to look for similar support in their area. These types of peer support groups often don’t get much funding and are regularly at risk of being closed down so by going to the coffee mornings, utilising the service and proving its value, you can save really important and valuable help for mums who need it.