Before I had Henry, I had zero anxieties about breastfeeding. I grew up in a large family with many female relatives and I have seen more breastfeeding going on than the average bear. And well, women have a tendency to make things look easier than they actually are I’ve discovered. My husband says that’s why people don’t have enough sympathy about birth and pregnancy.
I was reluctant to breastfeed him at first, because I needed rest and felt traumatised about the birth. I felt like he was someone else’s baby and not mine (although this wasn’t a huge problem to me because I love all babies). On the third day, my milk came in and oh.my.goodness nothing could have prepared me for the sheer horror of what was to come. I am writing this partly to vent and partly to warn new mothers of what can actually happen, that I was not warned about and was totally clueless to.
My husband was bottle feeding baby over night so I could catch up on some sleep – biggest mistake of my life. I woke up looking like I had gone to a dodgy plastic surgeon in Thailand and asked for ‘practical joke’ style boobs. They were enormous, with tight shiny skin and were very angry looking. The pain was immense! Because me and baby hadn’t had a chance to get into the swing of breastfeeding I had an ‘over supply’ problem and a baby that didn’t fully know their way around a tit. It doesn’t come as naturally to babies as one would hope. They simply open their gob wide, raise their eyebrows, shake their head from side to side and just hope for the best that a boob falls in their mouth. When they’re hungry they do this anywhere and then get a surge of panic when it’s actually their dads boob or their own fist that’s in there and not some tasty milk. Luckily, Henry was taking enough milk in and has a good latch once he works out where the nipple is, he was back to his birth weight within 5 days and is now way above it at 2 weeks. But every feed so far has been excruciating, like getting stabbed in the boob every time. It’s insane how strong mothering instincts are, that you will push through that pain for your baby. I wouldn’t do it for anybody else. So far I’ve had a round of anti biotics and the mastitis, which is a breast infection that makes your boob look like an angry red zombie boob, has not gone away just yet. So I’ve been given a different kind after a lot of pestering my GP.
It’s made me extremely poorly, weak and feverish. So I hope other mothers do not run into the same problem. Here are some tips for avoiding/helping mastitis:
- Make sure your baby is drinking for as long as he wants.
- Use cabbage leaves on the boob to help cool it down.
- Fresh sage leaf tea if you have milk over supply.
- Massage your boobs in a hot bath and hand extract to help clogged milk ducts and improve the flow.
- Change breast pads regularly.
- If one boob is too painful to feed from, push through it because reluctance to feed from it can cause more clogging.
- Make sure baby has proper latch technique & no tongue or lip tie.
- Make sure baby is gaining weight
- Don’t use dummies or bottles until your milk comes in, if you can at all help it. It’s best to know how much milk your body naturally produces before you use the bottle.
- Don’t hand pump if you have over supply to relieve pressure because it can increase supply. Do it by hand in a bath or shower.
I really wish I’d had more advice before I started breastfeeding but my Midwife says most women struggle to produce enough milk not the other way around. Every boob is different and every baby is different so it can be such a minefield to work out but it does get better, I’m still in pain at 2 weeks post partum but it is subsiding and at least I’m getting treatment. I think there should be more information about what can go wrong before you start breast feeding! It’s a bit icky and embarrassing, but I think it’s important to share stories about the negative side since all I heard before birth was how wonderful and magical breast feeding is. It can be wonderful, but it’s almost a dark art, not something that comes naturally to mum OR baby.