On Saturday 9th March we welcomed our new addition – another precious little girl. After so much planning and imagining, it still felt like her arrival took us by surprise, partly because, having woken up with contractions at 1am, she was with us by 3am and we were home in time to have breakfast with our first born by 9am!! I’ll offer my apologies to those of you expecting your first babies but I feel I have earned my stripes when it comes to hard work during labour. My first experience was fairly long-drawn out and I struggled a little towards the end but this time was oh-so-different. To be honest we only just made it to the hospital, I was already fully dilated and was needing to push almost before they’d had time to examine me.
I’m delighted to say that the simplicity of the delivery this time round meant we had our precious quiet family time with lots of skin to skin contact and I was able to watch my baby search for her first feed – an amazing and humbling experience. Nature is indeed a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Having been placed on my tummy, she worked her way up to my chest and bobbed her head around until she happened to bounce down on a nipple. I then watched as she mouthed around and it was clear that she didn’t yet know how to suck. It’s incredible to watch pure instinct develop in this way although I did get involved in guiding her and helping her to latch after that to see whether she would actually feed. We did this a few times and eventually she took her first mouthfuls of colostrum.
And so it seems my feeding experience will be all the smoother for having that oh-so-important skin to skin time. She seems to be a good feeder, it is still early days and there are still plenty of occasions where she latches on, goes crazy with the excitement of food and feeding and then falls asleep having had no more than a couple of mouthfuls. But with her tiny little tummy not really needing huge amounts, I’m not worried, it’ll soon get to the time where she’s exhausting several boob loads at each sitting.
My milk arrived towards the end of day three. I had spent most of the day relaxing on the sofa having more skin-to-skin time under a lovely warm blanket. I think this is my number one tip and it’s very relaxing for both you and the baby and really does encourage feeding. I think it can also encourage your milk to arrive. My ‘milk delivery’ wasn’t such a dramatic experience this time – last time round it arrived along with lots of emotion and a very confused baby who basically stopped feeding in protest at the enormous footballs she was expected to attached herself to. This time, my milk seemed to arrive more gradually and kindly coincided with bedtime, meaning we actually got two stints of three hours’ sleep after a couple of completely sleepless first nights with a nocturnal baby!
My boobs have been a little sore with the first few days of feeding; not quite as sore as last time so I guess I have remembered how to get a good latch. But I did have a little blister on one which meant lots of puffing and blowing and deep breaths when she latched on to that one – the good news is, even with that blister, once she was in the right position, the discomfort faded and she could feed freely.
I guess I would liken the discomfort at this stage to having your bikini line waxed. It’s not particularly pleasant, a bit toe-curling, but it doesn’t last long and you kind of know once you’ve got past it, it’ll really be worth it. I’ve made sure I’m equipped with some good lanolin cream – make sure you use this every time you feed, the discipline of keeping your boobs protected will really pay off – and am being very strict with taking her off if the latch isn’t right. Basically, if you feel uncomfortable for any longer than a minute, something’s not right so remove baby and try again. This is why support groups are so important: there’s nothing more useful than an expert watching you latch the baby and giving you some pointers about where to position your boob and how best to hold baby to ensure the right latch. It really is the secret to successful feeding.
There’s also the slight discomfort that can come with the full feeling, especially when your milk first arrives. Some gently massage around your boob followed by stroking gently downwards towards the nipple and then latching baby. This helps to break down any lumpy feelings and starts the milk flowing which can ease attaching baby to a very full breast.
I’ve also dug out an old bracelet to wear to remind me which side I need to feed next. Memory is not usually a strong point for new mums and although some people say their boobs make it very clear which side is fuller and therefore needs to be used next time round, I have never really felt this was clear in my body so I need a physical reminder of which side to feed from. Admittedly, you do need to remember to switch the bracelet over at each feed (potentially a fatal flaw in my plan, given my lack of memory I do frequently forget to do this, in fact I think at times I forget I have wrists).
Really, the only other important ‘tools’ are a large glass of water and plenty of good wholesome food. Happily, breastfeeding uses up huge amounts of energy and calories so you really can indulge yourself in full fat versions of foods to make sure you and your baby are getting a really healthy diet.
I’m heading off to my local breastfeeding support group this afternoon. I’m pretty happy with how she’s feeding but it always helps to get a second opinion and it’s a great environment which I always think really encourages lovely relaxed feeds. I’ll spend a couple of hours showing off my wonderful new addition and hopefully remind myself of some handy hints and tips to make feeding easier.
I hope some of my guidance helps those of you who are feeding or preparing to do so once your little bundles arrive. More soon…….