He didn’t latch on straight away after the birth, ‘just lay him on your chest’ but nope it didn’t work, “it’s ok try again later”,approx 1 hour later: “leave him to sleep and you get some rest, you both need it”. Advice from the midwives at the hospital after Baby Boy was born which resulted in him being hungry, too tired to feed and jaundice. That’s how our breastfeeding journey began, how could something so natural be so hard?! I really believed Baby Boy would just know what to do and we would be breastfeeding with trees blossoming and birds singing around us. This was the beginning of many struggles, but all have been worth it and at 22months with another little one on the way, we are still nursing and I’m so very grateful for many reasons, the benefits have far out weighed the struggles.
That was the beginning of our journey, and I could write an essay on the difficulties we have had and how we, very painfully and slowly, got through each challenge. However I want this to be quick and to the point for all those mums googling at 2am looking for some support, love, hope and answers to specific problems. So here is a list of the issues we went on on to encounter and how we tackled each one…
(Let me just remind readers, I’m not a qualified breastfeeding specialist , I am writing this from our experience as parents to other parents out there, and highly recommend you find your local La Leche League meeting, breastfeeding support group , lactation consultant and/or call the helpline numbers I’ll leave at the bottom of the blog.)
1. BABY CAN’T LATCH AFTER BIRTH AND BECAME TOO SLEEPY – I wish I hadn’t believed the ‘breastfeeding is natural, it will just work’ theory I had, that’s what let me believe the midwives advice.
What did we learn? Get professional help to get baby to latch ASAP after birth. Get help to squeeze out some colostrum and rub it on baby’s lips and under their nose, get them wanting mumma’s colostrum. When they begin to open their mouth, get their nose to your nipple and guide them on holding them securely with your forearm on their back, and hand on their neck and head. Watch the babies sucking and swallowing, learn what a strong suck and swallow looks like, when it slows down as they are falling into a deep sleep, stroke the baby’s cheek to keep them sucking, if that doesn’t work, delatch and hand them to someone else, babies know their Mother’s scent and touch , they will wake when moved away from mum.
2. THE LATCH IS VERY PAINFUL AND THE PAIN DOESNT GO AWAY FOR THE ENTIRE FEED – We had 6 plus midwives and two tongue tie specialists check our baby boy’s mouth as I was in so much pain, but as he was putting on they were all convinced the pain was ‘normal’ for new breastfeeders, however thank goodness for Katherine the breastfeeding Consultant at the NCT Baby Cafe’s, she said that I shouldn’t be in pain for the entire feed and the fact that he was feeding for 1.5 hours at least at a time suggested something else was going on. She suspected a tongue tie , and was correct, he got referred, he was treated, and immediately he could open his mouth so wide, and I was baffled how no one noticed that the fact he couldn’t do that suggested he was having difficulties feeding. So our baby’s signs he was tongue tie were: long feeds, painful feeds for mum, never seemed satisfied at the end of a feed, couldn’t maintain latch , kept popping off.
3. BABY WASN’T PUTTING ON ENOUGH WEIGHT – this problem presented itself after the tongue tie was fixed funnily enough! We were told 3 hours between feeds, so we thought it was from when the baby finishes their feed that you set the timer, turns out its from when they started! We started timing it from the beginning and voila, that problem was solved for us!
4. BABY FEEDS FOR AN HOUR OR LONGER & DONT SEEM TO HAVE MANY LET DOWNS – as discussed in number 2, this was due to a tongue tie, solution was to get him tongue snipped and teach him how to relatch. Also I have to mention that a Lactation Consultant , our saviour, also taught us the nipple flick; get the babies nose to nipple, then using the thumb , flick the nipple in for a deeper latch. Only when we startled doing this did little one start getting let downs, and for the first time ever, after our first nipple flick, little one had a let down and fell off the boob milk drunk. We had never seen this before!!! She also taught us breast compressions, these really really helped to promote the let downs as my milk supple appeared to be low or slow!
5. BABY SCREAMS AND PULLS OFF FREQUENTLY DURING FEEDS, NEVER SEEMS SATISFIED – this was the first sign of thrush for us, he arched his back and screamed in pain, I didn’t have any symptoms of thrush for a long time afterwards, maybe even a month. Our NCT breastfeeding councillor suggested it could be thrush after watching baby boy feed, so we went straight to the doctors, he said stop worrying it’s nothing. So the nursing sessions continues to get worse and worse. Poor little one was quite clearly in pain, and now so was I , nipples were bright red and feeds began to hurt again. We went back to the doctors, and this doctor immediately saw that it was thrush, particularly because by this point little one had cuts down below that had just appeared. So both of us were treated, medicine for his mouth, cream for my nipples. It’s important to say here that if you suspect you have thrush, definitely get advice from your breastfeeding consultant on how to make sure you are getting treated properly. Katherine from NCT told me to ensure we were not getting treated and to wipe the medicine around baby’s mouth not just give it to him.
6. BABY WAKES EVERY HOUR THROUGH THE NIGHT. This was also a big sign of thrush for us, I know it can be an indicator of other things, but this seemed strongly linked to the thrush for us.
7. BABY WONT SLEEP ON BACK, WONT BE PUT DOWN….EVER. Little one lived in his Kari- Me Wrap for the first 6months of his life, I gave up attempting to put him down for naps, or ever pushing him in a pram, or putting him in a bouncer or swing. He was quite clearly uncomfortable and got distressed instantly. The wrap saved us, he fed in there, napped in there, and it gave me back my freedom, or at least ability to move. The Kari Me Wrap was the only ‘sling’ I found didn’t give me back ache, and for me was a newborn essential ( https://www.kari-me.com/ ) . Baby boy ended up using it up to a year old, as it was so easy to get in and out of London in the sling, and when he started feeding himself to sleep (from about 6months) I could easily feed him to sleep in there, then he could finish his nap in there, then come out and play when he was ready and it wrapped up to a pretty small size in my bag…I love this wrap, and will use it again with my next baby boy.
I just thought that not laying down was his quirk, eventually when we would sleep next to me and not on me he would only sleep on his side, which we all know from SIDS guidelines, is not advised. However as time went on , he seemed to develop what looked like a nervous twitch in his neck, we recorded him, took him to the doctors who referred us to the hospital. The specialist at the hospital reviewed his history and suggested he thought he had silent reflux but we all decided not to medicate and just keep an eye to see if any particular foods made it worse, and we eliminated any foods that did. He said he would grow out of it when baby boy started walking and low and behold he did. He started sleeping on his back and could eat more foods from about 12months onwards.
8. BREASTFEEDING AVERSIONS – every time I ovulated or had my period, I experience such bad aversions, I hated feeding little one, I felt like my skin was crawling with ants, and I felt like my stomach was building with rage. It would last for a week and then I would go back to enjoying feeding him. I wish I could give you a miracle solution that I had found, but honestly the only thing I found helped, was cutting down on feeds during the day to help me cope at night and going on my iPad to try and distract my mind. It wasn’t fun, or easy, it was extremely hard and no one seems to have a solution, we very nearly weaned as a result and then I fell pregnant…and that’s a whole other blogpost.
All that is left to say is the biggest advice I can give is to get help straight away, don’t wait to see if the problem sorts itself out, get advice, seek support, we saw someone every week and it kept me sane , we had various issues going on , some layered themselves up at one time and if it wasn’t for the Breastfeeding Councillors and the Lactation Consultant at NCT baby cafe’s and Kent’s Breastfeeding Support groups we wouldn’t have continued to breastfeed , and I’m so glad we did, it has helped us in so many ways, particularly when Baby Boy would get tonsillitis and sickness bugs every 2months!
See my BREASTFEEDING ESSENTIALS blog to see the short list of what I have found invaluable in the last two years of breastfeeding my little one.
We also called these numbers numerous times when we couldn’t make it to a session:
National Breastfeeding helpline and website: http://www.nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk
NCT Breastfeeding Website and Helpline: https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/breastfeeding-concerns
La Leche League Breastfeeding Helpline: https://www.laleche.org.uk/telephone-helpline/