If every Mum was honest, we’d all confess to the breastfeeding fear. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when your newborn is hungry. You know two things will happen: they won’t open their mouth wide enough and you won’t latch them on quick enough or with a big enough mouth. It will hurt. It will hurt a lot. There might be blisters and bleeding involved.
I have felt this fear more often than I care to admit. So what can you do about it?
My Breastfeeding Success and Failures
I have a chequered history. If you got awards, I would probably get a meaningless you took part certificate, a most improved player award and a congratulations on your podium finish.
My eldest: failed. By three weeks he was on a bottle and formula. He couldn’t get what to do, and I certainly couldn’t manage to follow what few instructions I had been given. I cried over my failure. At the time it seemed like my first example of being a rubbish mother. Crazy talk!
My middle child: lip tied. Those words still bring out the fear in me. She couldn’t drink from me properly, she was even less successful with a bottle. Breastfeeding or starving her were my options. For four months I felt the fear for every single feed. Four months it took to get a pain-free latch. I cried a lot in pain and frustration.
My youngest child: he’s a month old. I still feel the fear on the left hand side feeds most days. He doesn’t like the left hand side. Between us we’re successful enough to have not used a bottle, but I’m not totally irritation free yet.
- No matter how much you read about nose to nipple positioning, it isn’t that easy. Remember, break the latch if it isn’t right, even if you do that a million times a feed. What works on one side might not work on the other. Experiment with latching on in slightly different positions.
- I go by feeling rather than appearance of lip positioning. If it doesn’t hurt chances are your latch is good.
- Have a drink beside you. Breastfeeding is thirsty work. If you’re out, take a drink in your nappy change bag to keep your fluid intake up.
- Keep snacking! Yes breastfeeding uses a lot of calories and yes we all want to lose the baby weight but you still need to eat. Make it healthy if you want to but the odd chocolate session here and there won’t hurt.
- Netflix or Sky Cinema will be your friend on marathon feeding sessions. Sitting for hours with a feeding baby can get annoying but it can pay off if they go longer overnight.
- Do what is right for you! If you can’t get it to work there is no shame in trying and failing! (There is no shame in not trying either).
- Go and see a lactation consultant. 8 years ago, not much advice given to me about practical breastfeeding help. 4 years ago with my daughter a lactation consultant at a local breastfeeding group kept me sane.
- I don’t use a cover when feeding; you can be discrete without one. Several times people have been chatting to him not realising he’s feeding. A cover lets everyone know what’s going on. If you’re shy find a quiet corner or if you’re out the car is always a good option if it’s close enough.
- Dont want to invest in breastfeeding clothing? Wear a vest with long straps under your top (I buy one size too large). Pull the vest down under your bra, pull your top up. Easy access while keeping your stomach covered!
Cardiff Breastfeeding Groups
If you are local to Cardiff use the support network. There is lots of support out there: both breastfeeding clinics and peer support groups. I can drive again soon and I will be getting myself to the Woodville Road group for help with positioning on the left hand side. Get more information by following this link.
I have felt the breastfeeding fear. In the past I have beaten the fear and I have been beaten by it. I have succeeded in feeding my children whether by breast or bottle into active, healthy, cheeky children and made choices that suited my body. Most importantly I am happy with every decision I made.
If you are struggling with the breastfeeding fear of pain at 4am you aren’t alone. Most of all, if you can, get practical help, but nothing works and you formula feed: well done, you gave it your best shot.