Whilst pregnant with my first baby I remember reading and hearing all this advice about all the benefits of breastfeeding, but I don’t remember hearing all the struggles that can occur along the way and how to overcome them. I had either heard how people had breastfed and been successful with it, or how people had problems and gave up.
Due to pre-eclampsia I was induced 20 days before due date and ended up having an emergency C-Section, many people can find themselves in the same position as I did (needing a section). So, it’s important that you are prepared for all eventualities just in case you had your heart set on breastfeeding (like I did). So here are some of the struggles I went through, that is quite common and how to overcome them.
- Induction of Labour
When you are induced it means that the labour is started artificially using a pessary or even a hormone drip, which brings on the symptoms a lot quicker than if it was natural. What you don’t get told is that this could very well affect breastfeeding and definitely affect the time that it takes for your milk to come through. To overcome this issue, I recommend that in your nesting time at home leading up to the labour, you bake a batch of lactation cookies, The cookies contain ingredients such as Brewer’s yeast, Oats, Fenugreek and Flaxseed all of which are supposed to stimulate the bodies milk supply and supply the milk that your baby needs in a faster time. There are lots of recipes online, this is a good option even if you are not induced, just to ensure you have a good milk supply.
- Early Labour/ Low Birth Weight
The body naturally produces milk to feed the baby once born, but if baby is born early this can affect the body’s natural milk supply and the amount of time that it takes for the milk to actually come through. Also, if your labour is earlier than expected, it may be that your baby’s birth weight is smaller than expected. Which means your baby needs fatty milk to help gain weight, although colostrum contains lots of essential vitamins and nutrients which are really helpful for your baby’s health, it is not enough to help your baby gain weight.
After being released from the hospital, we found that my little boy had lost more than ten percent of his birth weight which meant he had to be re-admitted to hospital and go on a feeding plan to get the weight on him. I was completely unaware that my boy was literally starving, this resulted in him having to be fed with formula to keep him alive. I recommend that you always have a backup supply of formula (no matter how much you have your heart of breastfeeding) as the harsh reality is, it may be a matter of life or death.
- A ‘Stressful’ Birth
I know what you are probably thinking…. that all births are stressful right?! But by this I mean if it is something out of the ordinary and your body has undergone stress then this can affect your ability to produce milk straight away. When the body is stressed it is a lot harder to produce milk, so try to use relaxation techniques during labour to keep stress to a minimum. A huge help to minimise stress during labour for me was the ‘Cool it Mama’ spray, it contains essential oils that help relieve anxiety and stress and help calm and relax the body and definitely helped keep me nice and cool in the process. I would also advise the use of an ‘Oil Diffuser’ to release natural oils into the room which can help with pain and stress. The oils I would recommend are Lavender to keep you relaxed and calm. Frankincense to help relieve pain and Bergamot which is a natural anti-bacterial and sedative.
- Latching Issues
After my boy’s birthweight dropped to an all-time low of 4lb 11oz we had no choice but to offer him infant formula to help him stay alive and gain weight. Little did I know that this would then lead to latching issues with going back to the breast when the milk had eventually come through! But that is exactly what happened after he got used to drinking his milk from the bottle at the ‘speed of light’ he no longer had the patience to wait for my very slow milk supply to satisfy his hunger! This resulted in having to express milk every two hours and offer him (my milk) in a bottle to ensure that he was still feeling satisfied.
Regardless of the issues, I persisted to get him back on the breast by offering him the breast as a first resort for each and EVERY feed. Yes, it was difficult but in the end, he did give in and accepted the milk from the breast with the use of Nipple Shields to trick him into thinking it was a bottle.
My little boy was also born with a partial tongue-tie which also affected the way that he latched and fed from the breast. This made it difficult for him to get his full mouth around the nipple and when sucking it made a clicking noise. This had a knock-on effect and led to my milk supply decreasing slowly over time (which I was unaware of). Again, expressing was a huge life-saver here for me, as this method still allowed me to give him the nutrients he required from my body to have the best start in life. But it did also result in having to combination feed with breastmilk and formula to ensure he was receiving sufficient amount of milk and nutrients to keep him satisfied.
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