For months I have been looking forward to and wondering how my breastfeeding journey would go the second time around with a bit more knowledge. All babies are different… but after a number of challenges with my little boy (Baby #1, read about that journey here), I couldn’t help feelings of anxiety, mixed with a hope things would be a touch easier, or different this time around!
A good start, exhausted, emotional, but sweet relief.
Hallelujah… our little girls is finally born, after 2 days of induction & labour. We are clear of any complications, safe, and we get to enjoy skin to skin time and our very first feed. An hour of bliss feeding, toast, Kygo playing and relief riding the oxytocin wave. I didn’t notice the abuse she was doing to my nipples though…. Argh for later.
“I can’t believe it’s happening again, I’m failing!”
After an exhausting delivery, Lana was clearly done in after 2 days in and out of labour, and so was I having not slept for over 48hrs. It was late that night struggling to get her out of her stupor and midwives stepping up the pressure that I started to panic that I’m failing…after spending all day expressing colostrum into a teeny, tiny syringe (so slow!) and I was determined that night to get her to latch on, and we did it! We finally fed reliably overnight every 2hours and I felt like we’d won the night; we were rocking! Minus the pain which was causing trauma to my nipples with every feed. It was then the day after she was diagnosed with a tongue tie and referred, so it felt like maybe we might have some tough days to come but eventually there was light at the end of the tunnel.
For the next couple of days we had to dig deep to keep going through the excruciating pain of nipple trauma hell, cluster feeding, and frustration as we tried to get the right latch/positioning while incredibly uncomfortable with postpartum pain (if you have stitches you know what I mean!) and a baby who was struggling to open her mouth wide enough too.
On night 2 I just cried and cried from the excruciating pain and thought “how can I continue?” I sobbed through the feeds to my husband wanting it all to end, to give up but at the same time wanting to feed my daughter. We kept going; in that moment my mantra was to just take one step and count the win “put on the nipple shield, breathe through the pain” and let the next steps follow. That and my trusty Elvie showing me how much milk I’m producing helped to give me a little bit of confidence that I’ve got this!
Unfortunately, the combination of nipple trauma on my right breast, and Lana’s shallow latch led to Mastitis which wiped us out – it felt like the start of flu and the sensation of putting a savoy cabbage on was a tad unusual but a funny moment! I was desperate not to start antibiotics (a bout of thrush can be common; the last thing we need!) and tried every home remedy for the next 24-48hrs as well as regular feeds to try and beat this.
“Wow, this actually feels good/almost normal”
Whisper it quietly and touch wood… but by day 7 and the various treatments and cures were working. I could finally feed without too much pain, and Lana and I quickly found a latch and relaxed into it (with a posterior tongue tie still challenging, but due to be removed). After overcoming each of the individual challenges, it felt amazing to have peace and an almost pain-free feed.
Each step through it, drawing on my experiences knowing I’d done this before with way more difficult times feeding my first born and I had gone through child birth, so I knew I could keep going.
Our Big Moment –Fixing Tongue Tie on Day 12
We finally had our referral for the tongue tie, and with some reluctancy I went thinking this could be the end or start of our feeding journey having been told from others that sometimes it can mean they stop latching too. I had to attend alone because of covid, and that in itself was difficult when I have never even took my little boy to his injections as I just sob. The infant feeding team were so welcoming, calm and reassuring about everything talking through the procedure (which takes less than 5 seconds FYI), the benefits and reconfirming that the reasons we had been having the difficulties we had so far, were indeed due to her tongue tie after assessing her.
So I closed my eyes, plugged my ears and she barely made a peep – less than her heel prick actually – as they carried out the small procedure and within a minute she was on me and feeding again. I had amazing support after to help improve the position and latch, to make sure all was going well and I couldn’t believe that I had barely no pain now – and the movement of her tongue was crazy. I didn’t quite appreciate how restricted it was beforehand! My advice would be, if you suspect a tongue tie, get someone to check it as soon as possible and go and get it sorted ASAP. I never did get ours seen to with my first baby and I know looking back that hindered our feeding journey massively, and wish that we had been referred properly when in hospital instead of being palmed off to get on with it.
My Postpartum Survival Kit
While Amazon is an absolute godsend for late night purchases, I wish I had a few items at my fingertips for in the dead of night when you’re at rock bottom and just need it now! Things which I had planned to buy when my Mat leave started, but as we were induced 2 weeks early unexpectedly the prep wasn’t quite finished.
Hopefully this list helps you either (a) buy ahead, (b) know they’re there and ready to order when you need them, or (c) persevere (not recommended!).
All available at Boots and with 8 points per £1 on your advantage card, you can bank the points and treat yourself to something nice when you are feeling more human.
For easing the pains:
- Lansinoh – if you experience nipple trauma (very likely during that first feed when you have no idea what’s going on!), Lansinoh is your go-to. Using it feels like it protects your nipples; it is thick and soothing where others just moisturise.
- Multi-Mam Breastfeeding Compress – Wear it for an hour, take it off, and feel the heal! I felt it instantly cooled and soothed my nipples, taking the sharp pain away.
- Nipple Shields – While you shouldn’t use unless you’re advised to, having them at the ready immediately in the right size for if you need it is helpful. We were advised to use them because of nipple trauma preventing feeding on that side, which would cause more problems like engorgement or mastitis). It gave me a break to recover and now can use without again.
- Cooling maxi-pads – For postpartum I found this to make everything less swollen and sore. Yes it is a weird sensation and you question if it’ll make things worse, but go for it, you won’t regret it!
For taking the pressure off:
- Elvie Curve – it’s just a no-brainer; catching your express milk while you feed baby on the other. It caught 2-4oz’s on my non-feeding breast and we built up a stash of expressed milk with no effort that took no effort at all. It was a massive mood-booster! There is also the Hakaa but this doesn’t fit inside your bra.
- Comfort Cushion – designed to take pressure off down below… it looks a little odd and uncomfortable and I wouldn’t have bought one! But as a gift, I gave it a go and wow it took the edge off the pain. At last I didn’t have to lie down! It was still sore but way better.
- Water bottle with a spout – Hydration is King, it is essential to recovery and breastfeeding, so keeping refilling a water bottle that your partner can help you with when your hands are out of action came in really handy! Especially in labour too.
With a little help from my survival kit and some positive vibes, I am in a nice place where I feel more than hopeful for a happy and enjoyable breastfeeding journey from here on out.
Thanks to all your support and kind words that helped me through my first 2 weeks.
Read more: What To Eat When Breastfeeding