Sunday, 13 April 2014

breastfeeding - the colostrum

Just like my desire to have a natural birth, I had a real desire to breastfeed. Formula is a wonderful substitute for those who are unable to breastfeed, but if possible, I wanted to do what nature intended.

I myself have a weird relationship with milk. I have an intolerance to cows milk but do have the occasional goats milk. I'm not convinced we (humans) are designed to drink milk at all after our mothers. The idea of giving my baby something unnatural, unless I had to, was therefore something I didn't want to do when he was so little. 

That is until he starts teething, which is perhaps natures way of saying that he shouldn't be guzzling at my boobs for much longer! 

Although I knew that I wanted to breastfeed, the idea of a baby suckling at my sensitive, big boobs wasn't appealing. I was really unsure if I'd be able to get used to the feeling and was half expecting to give in at the first hurdle. Added to which, the copious amounts of stories about the baby not latching on properly and causing bleeding and bruising petrified me. Formula was always going to be a good alternative if I needed.

Because of these stories, preparing for breastfeeding became my main focus in pregnancy. It was the initial reason for attending NCT classes and my main reading topic. I am pleased to say that my research and determination has paid off (for now!).

I decided not to buy any emergency formula so that I wasn't able to give up easily. I ensured that I had the support of my husband and that we together would set out to try to make it work. In my head, if the baby was hungry and my colostrum had come in, surely there would be a way for him to feed. As a back up there was always a 24hr asda not far away in the worst case scenario!

Latching on:
While in hospital I struggled to latch the baby on, but with the help of the F.A.B. breastfeeding specialists and lots of different positions I managed to successfully feed. The research I did really helped as I knew instantly whether the pain I was feeling was normal or due to him not being latched on properly, because of the positioning of his chin and lower lip. 

As he was so sleepy on the first day, there weren't many issues as he didn't require much, so although I wasn't fully confident, we went home knowing that I had fed him and therefore should be able to feed him again.

The first night was difficult as the positions that had worked in hospital weren't working as well at home. I managed to feed lying on my side with him lying next to me, but then that wouldn't work the next time, I'd try the cross-cradle, but that wouldn't work again, rugby ball hold, same again and so on. 

He was also sicking up lots of mucus, which he would have swallowed during the birth, so over the first 36 hours or so he wasn't taking much down until he'd got rid of that. 

The midwife came the following day and I was really anxious. Although he had taken some colostrum it felt like he wasn't able to take all of the colostrum that he needed. Because you can't tell how much colostrum/milk breastfed babies are taking, the anxieties are heightened. 

The midwife helped position him and reassured me that the positions I was using and the latch were right, but discovered that he had tongue tie which could be restricting him. Because of this we hand expressed some colostrum and fed him with a small spoon to ensure that I knew how to do this if he wouldn't latch when the midwife wasn't around. 

The midwife meanwhile referred him to have the tongue tie snipped, which can take up to 10 days. (More of that in another post).

Later that morning one of the F.A.B. specialists popped round to see how I was getting on. She again reassured me that the positioning was perfect and he fed well. She also reminded me that his stomach was the size of a marble, so it may seem like not much was taken, but he was fine. 

The following day both the midwife and another F.A.B. lady came. I'd had a successful night of feeding and seemed to have cracked it but accepted their support anyway, as I was taking things feed by feed. The F.A.B. lady gave me a great tip to help him breath through his nose, which was to lift his legs high to ensure he was horizontal. The lady in the hospital had said to use a hand on the boob, but that had actually been hindering the latch, without me realising. Each woman has tips on what has worked for them and others they know, so it pays to accept all advice, whether or not it works for you. 

So, thanks to the incredible support of the F.A.B. breastfeeding charity and my midwife and husband, we cracked the first stage - colostrum, which meant that no matter what came next, he'd had the most beneficial first feeds. 

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