Lauren has been kind enough to let us re-publish her blog post below on all things boobies. We loved reading it and there are some great pieces of advice in there!
LETS TALK BOOBIES
A little while ago, I posted a poll on Instagram asking whether you guys would read a blog about breastfeeding or not. Well, 78% of you voted yes (the 22% no vote was made up mostly of men, no surprises there), so here is my breastfeeding blog. This is going to be mostly based on my personal experience but I hope it gives just one person some helpful information or the motivation to give breastfeeding a try.
Firstly, I really want to emphasise that I strongly believe in 'fed is best' and I don't think that anyone should be made to feel guilty for not being able to breastfeed. Many of my friends have given it a red hot go and for whatever reason, it just hasn't worked out. Mums already live with 'mum guilt' about every single, little thing we do or don't do, so please don't add any more to the weight already on our shoulders.
However, I have also had so many pre-children friends say to me that they just don't think they will even try breastfeeding because they think it will feel weird and/or they don't want to have to do it in public. I admit that those thoughts had crossed my mind while I was pregnant, but I am really glad that I chose to try breastfeeding because it ended up creating some of my happiest moments with Luka. If you are planning on having a baby or you are currently pregnant, please consider breastfeeding as your first feeding option.
There are so many health benefits, for both baby and mother, that I won't go into because they will probably get drilled into you by every medical professional you cross paths with on your journey to motherhood. If you would like to read more about the benefits, check out this website.
Now for some statistics because I'm a numbers kinda gal. From the Australian Breastfeeding Association:
Statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey3 results indicate that 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding. Thereafter, exclusive breastfeeding rates drop off. Less than half (39%) of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months (less than 4 months) and less than one quarter (15%) to 5 months (less than 6 months).
I have to admit, I was pretty shocked to read this. Those numbers are low. I'd be really interested to know the reasons behind the rapid drops, whether it was caused by supply issues, anxiety, pressure, post-natal depression or even women returning to work.
•Dealing with initial discomfort
I was very fortunate and breastfeeding came easily for both Luka and I. His latch was good (despite a mild tongue tie) and my supply came in strong. He loved breastfeeding and comfort feeding, subsequently deciding that I was the best kind of dummy. On our fourth day in hospital, our pediatrician told me to introduce a dummy because Luka was feeding every 45 minutes (day and night). He said that it would cause issues, including pain and fatigue, and possibly jeopardise our breastfeeding journey.
I tried introducing a few different dummies but Luka didn't want them, he would spit them out within seconds. I personally made the decision to just deal with the cluster feeding. I admit that it was painful and tender for the first two or three weeks but the pain slowly subsided. A good nipple balm is an absolute must to include in your hospital bag if you are planning to breastfeed. Cold and warm compresses will also help, so consider buying gel packs to pop in the freezer at home.
•Dealing with anxiety
Feeding in public is just one of those things that you will probably have to do at some point unless you plan on never leaving the house. Its scary and people will stare. Though since becoming a mum, I've realised that I was probably one of those people that stared. But my stare was never negative or judgemental, it was curious and impressed. I regret staring, I probably didn't really know I was doing it at the time. But the point is that not all stares are negative stares.
My advice would be to try to rationalise it. I am naturally an irrational person, I always jump to worst case scenario in my head. This circle of control diagram has always helped me at work, so I try to apply it to my every day life too. It's about approaching a situation by identifying the things that are within your control, within your influence and outside of your control.
If feeding in public causes you anxiety, have a plan. Control the things you can control, influence then things you can influence and try to minimise the things you can't control.
I always wore layers so that I could feed Luka without having to pull my top right down or pull it up and expose my tummy. Wear clothes that you are confident feeding in. If you are comfortable not covering your baby, you are my bloody idol. Do it mama!
I was never confident with this, not even around close friends or family. I found that a really light muslin wrap was just right for protecting my modesty without suffocating poor Luka during his feed. I also chose to do my shopping at centres which had nice, clean mothers rooms. Sometimes Luka would feed for a long time and I wanted to sit somewhere quiet, comfortable and peaceful. If I was at a cafe or restaurant, I'd pick a seat that was tucked away because I also liked to remove the muslin wrap once Luka was latched, without being front and centre to a crowd of people.
Those are the things that made me feel comfortable. It will be different for everyone but be prepared that it might take a bit of trial and error to find what works for you.
•Dealing with opinions
Everyone has an opinion on breastfeeding and people aren't afraid to share them. If it's your first time breastfeeding, pick and choose the advice you take on board. There is no right and there is no wrong. I adopted a feed on demand approach whereas I know other people who fed by schedule. Do what works for you and don't worry what other people say. As long as your baby is happy and is gaining weight, it's not an issue.
On that topic, weight gain is a contentious issue. I found that there was a huge amount of emphasis placed on how much weight your baby had gained during the first few months. Like it was a competition and only chubby babies were thriving. Luka was a chubby baby, probably because I over fed him with my feed on demand approach. But people, including strangers, praised me for it, like it was my greatest achievement in motherhood. If you have a slim baby, you will probably cop negatively toned comments. It doesn't make you less of a mother. Like adults, babies are different shapes and sizes. If your doctor or midwife are satisfied with your baby's weight and health, then that's all that matters.
•Dealing with supply issues
In the situation where your baby really isn't gaining enough weight, it will probably be suggested to you to introduce formula top ups. Your baby's health comes first so take the advice, but please, also consider seeing a lactation consultant. Your supply could be low, your baby's latch could be poor or your let down might be slow. If you are going to introduce formula top ups, be aware that some babies will prefer a bottle and may wean from breastfeeding. If you want to move back to exclusive breastfeeding, then have a plan on how to achieve that.
When Luka was nine months old, he started refusing to breastfeed and would often bite me when I tried to feed him. I seriously considered stopping at this point because it was becoming really stressful for the both of us. I knew he wasn't getting enough milk and I knew my supply would be dropping from not feeding him. I just couldn't figure out what the problem was. I sought the help of a lactation consultant. Sue first observed us breastfeeding and noted that my let down was taking a long time, hence why Luka was getting frustrated and biting me or pulling off. She then asked me to express and noted that I was only getting 10-20ml from each side, definitely not enough for Luka.
Sue drew up a plan to get us back on track. The first thing I needed to do was to take a fenugreek supplement. She recommended that I take double the dosage until my supply was strong again. I took the Nature's Own capsules, from memory, it was six per day.
She also suggested that I express until letdown before breastfeeding to avoid Luka get frustrated and biting. This made a huge difference as the milk was ready for him and he committed to a full feed rather than pulling away. I also expressed post-feed just to ensure the whole breast was emptied.
I gave Luka Bellamy's Organic Infant Formula top ups throughout the period to ensure that he was getting enough milk. I also expressed two extra times throughout the day in an attempt to boost my supply quicker.
My amazing hairdresser also recommended Doterra fennel oil. I applied this topically to my chest at nights and I added on drop to a glass of water a couple of times a day. I definitely noticed a difference on days where I forgot, so if you're keen on essential oils, add this one to your life.
I was really keen to resolve the struggle, so I also took Milk and Nourish Mummy Milk Boosters and absolutely scoffed Franjos lactation biscuits.Within two weeks, I had gone from 10-20ml per side during expressing, to 80-100ml. Luka was feeding happily again and he never bit me after that, even while getting his molars.
•Dealing with going back to work
I went back to work when Luka was just over nine months old. Admittedly, it was only two days a week, but when you're a breastfeeding mum, nine hours away from your baby is a long time. I was am very fortunate and my work has a room where mums can express. I took advantage of this and expressed whenever I needed to. It is really hard to have these types of conversations with your employer, but it is important (and the law) that they support you. Going back to work shouldn't be the reason your breastfeeding journey ends.
•Dealing with the end of the journey
Some women love when their babies no longer want or need milk, some grieve the end. I was the latter. I stopped at 12 months because Luka really did not want to breastfeed anymore. He was pulling off, disinterested and would only feed for very short periods of time. He hates bottles and drinks his milk out of a cup or through a straw. It seemed unfair to try to force it so even though I found it painful to stop and I still wish he had gone longer, it was the right decision for us.
The breastfeeding relationship between a mother and child is a very personal one. No one else should get an opinion in how it operates or when it finishes. It's also important to take care of yourself throughout the journey. It can be exhausting, straining, emotional, painful but I promise it will all be worth it.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding and need advice or support, the Australian Breastfeeding Association is a wonderful resource. If you would prefer to talk to a lactation consultant in person, you can use this website to find someone local to you. All the best on your feeding journey, whatever it looks like and whatever path it takes.