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Getting started - tips (and encouragement) for the first week of breastfeeding

(39 Posts)
Carriel Wed 09-Jul-03 15:25:23

Ok final few requests for stuff for the next mumsnet book on pregnancy - I promise! Although it's essentially a pregnancy book we've decided to include a few threads on feeding - breast and bottle - and although I'm sure the advice I need is buried in the site somewhere, there's just so much I thought it might be easier to start again!
So if you can cast your minds back to those first fearful days (and remember most folks reading the book will still be pregnant) - what tips/advice/hints would have helped you most when you were starting out breastfeeding?
I'm also putting requests for advice from those who chose not to breastfeed and for those who had particular breastfeeding problems, so please look out for those.
FWIW I wish someone had said to me:
get a counsellor to visit as soon as possible to check positioning
it will hurt like hell, but it will get better..

Thanks in advance

Manfwood Wed 09-Jul-03 15:30:58

i would definitely echo those comments - dont give up! Also the HVs are completely obsessed about not giving the baby a bottle while you are trying and you get really paranoid about this whereas next time i wouldnt worry too much about that side of it. Not sure how you could put that but hope YKNIM!

Definitely take advantage of any breast feeing counsellors or local networks that are available.

Bobsmum Wed 09-Jul-03 15:33:27

Loads of cushions and drink a huge glass of water for every feed.

butterflymum Wed 09-Jul-03 15:33:41

How about.....

- if at first you don't succeed, it's worth trying again!

- if one midwife says 'you'll never manage'....ask another for help instead!

Will post later, if more comes to mind.

SoupDragon Wed 09-Jul-03 15:35:52

I'd change your last quote to "it MAY hurt like hell, but it will get better.." It won't necessarily hurt and you don't want someone to think they have to grin and bear it when something simple may sort it out.

tinyfeet Wed 09-Jul-03 15:36:19

If you make it through the first week, you've done it! What helped me through the pain the first week was the nipple creams - Lansinoh or Mustela make a good one. I also used Mustela plastic disks which kept anything from touching sore nipples. They weren't shields for feeding, but rather they simply let your nipples "air out" while you were not feeding. I rely heavily on these types of products but they did help!

kaz33 Wed 09-Jul-03 16:01:41

Gosh - most important get the latch right. Demand that a midwife sits down with you and watches you putting baby on and off, showing you different positions etc...
Its a lot easier to stomach the endless feeds if you know at least that you are doing it right.

Get DP/DH onside - that you will needs lots of nourishing food, glasses of wine, the TV remote control, comfy cushions, cuddles and chocolate. Whilst getting established you will need lots of support.

Bron Wed 09-Jul-03 16:05:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Carriel Wed 09-Jul-03 16:09:13

You guys are scarily quick! Will definitely change will to may - thanks for that

Please keep the advice coming - it's all great!

prufrock Wed 09-Jul-03 16:11:38

it's not easy, but it's worth it.
get as many different midwives to show you how to do it - it was the fourth one I saw at 3am when dd was 4 days old who finally showed us a position that really worked for us

eefs Wed 09-Jul-03 16:29:21

I'd like to echo the comments already stated.

* even if you are planning to bottlefeed give B/F a try (although I do understand there are situations when it's just no possible) - it can be quite enjoyable and really does help pull everything back into the right position.

* the first week of B/F you may feel slight contractions - this it totally normal and a good sign that your body is starting to recover after being pregnant for so long (no-one warned me these might be quite strong and I was convinced something was wrong when I first got them)

* get consistant help from a b/f counsellor - you may be doing it right for the first few days but it helps to have your positioning checked when feeding after your milk comes in as your breasts will change shape (again)

* if your b/f feeding counsellor seems to be full of negative comments smile politely and ring another later - you can do without the doomsayers at this time.

* your breasts will appear to have been swapped for rock hard footballs when your milk comes in - don't panic this is prefectly normal and it won't take long for them to settle back into a more normal shape. You will not smother your baby

* Don't underestimate how thirsty you will get when you b/f - remember to have a big glass of water beside you every b/f or better still, an obliging partner to fetch one for you.

* It did hurt like hell for me as I did not have my latch right - I was so tempted to give up but found that by bottle feeding expressed breast milk for a few days that my nipples had the chance to heal and when I started b/f again it was a new painfree pleasant experience.

* a cushion that fits around your body (not sure of the name but most maternity hospitals have them) will be invaluable.

* expressing breast milk is a very time consuming process in the first few weeks - it will get easier when your supply is established.

* you will probably leak frequently - make sure you have a ready supply of breast pads. I found the washable ones best. It might help to sleep on a towel or care-mat for a while to save your mattress.

* remember it's a great way to get rid of unwanted visitors and get out of housework - use it wisely

* It will turn into a lovely experience so perservere. It's also a lot less hassle once established - cheap, convenient and always the right temperature. Remember too that you can express milk so you'll be able to take break's - hand the baby over and catch up on sleep or your social life.

hmm, i seem to remember more than I'd thought - let's hope I can put it all into action this time

zebra Wed 09-Jul-03 16:31:30

The main things that scares women often are knowing if the baby has had "enough". I think the secrets here are

Let the baby feed as long as they seem to like, Don't expect to get anything else "done" (which means when you do get something done, it's quite the achievement!).
Understand that it's a learning process, and confused as you are at the beginning, you'll be a daft expert on babies (at least your own baby) by 6-10 weeks old.

There's a big myth that "It never hurts" if you're doing right. I ran around trying to get help, trying to get the perfect latch, worrying all the time about why it felt like someone had stuck a TENS machine turned up high to my chest every time the baby fed -- It badly did my head in.

I'm sure it's worth checking if things are painful because most women can feed with no discomfort. But in my case there wasn't anything wrong with the latch. I just didn't very much like the feeling of "letdown" (when the milk starts flowing). It was extremely tingly!!! But it wasn't agony either, and I got used to it once I learnt to relax. It went away after 5 weeks or so, and never happened at all with my second baby.

tinyfeet Wed 09-Jul-03 16:33:40

One other thing which I mention every time I see one of these threads: Ask to have your baby immediately after you've delivered him or her so that you can attempt to breastfeed immediately. For some reason, the immediacy helps in latching on properly.

sprout Wed 09-Jul-03 16:36:39

I agree with the other posts, too. Most has already been said.
I also found it helpful in the first few days when I had really painful nipples to try out different positions. Feeding lying down was a real relief at night, but I needed a midwife to show me how, as the pictures & descriptions in books just didn't make sense. Feeding with the baby tucked under my arm was also great when I had a blocked duct in the first week - put the pressure on the right place.
I would also have found it helpful for someone to have told me how often I was meant to be feeding, and for how long each time. I was just told "as often as possible" to establish milk supply, and would have appreciated something more specific. Still don't know the answer to that one, though.

DebL Wed 09-Jul-03 16:53:28

You may find your boobs are sore watermelons first thing in the morning - I always expressed some to make them 'softer' and more comfortable - this helps baby get a good latch and not bounce off!

The mysterious 'let down' feels like a tingling sensation in your boobs, and if B/f from one, the other may leak milk. Use a sterilised breast shield to collect the drips - after a morning feed I could collect enough to fill a 4 oz bottle for the next freed without expressing.

You could leak milk any time, any place, prepared with breast shields, a muslin in your bag, spare top and washable pads (more absorbant than disposable ones - I needed to double up on disposables)

I personally had no discomfort starting breastfeeding, and consider myself very lucky. The one thing that got me down is that you feel like a prize dairy cow for the first few weeks until baby and your body have established a routine. As your baby gets older s/he gets better at feeding and you will find what used to take an hour reduces to 5 - 15 minutes.

Beware teeth! Many women stop breastfeeding around the time the first teeth appear. I persevered and now my daughter is still breastfeeding at 13 months and has learned not to bite.

tinyfeet Wed 09-Jul-03 17:04:48

Oh -here's another bit: Don't listen to non-experts who do not know what they are talking about. It took a while - I'm not sure exactly how long, but possibly 5 or 6 days for my milk to come in. I know that I was producing collostrum, as the doctor had confirmed that when I was in hospital. Also, I had no latch problems. My mother kept saying, "I don't think you're producing anything" despite the fact that DD was feeding for half an hour on each side every other hour, it seemed. I almost gave up then because I was concerned that DD wasn't getting any nutrition, and also I was in so much pain - cracked sore nipples. In addition, I had a blocked duct on one side, which gave me flu-like symptoms. I did perservere, and it turned out my mother was wrong. So stick with it and stay confident. Also, for blocked ducts, the best thing is a warm, wet compress - also get your little one to feed on that side as much as possible - cleared it up within a few hours. I do agree with Sprout regarding not knowing how much or how often, but I think the reason why precise advice is not given is because it really does vary from baby to baby and from mum to mum.

tamum Wed 09-Jul-03 17:08:51

I would echo what Mafwood said about not worrying about the odd bottle if it is unavoidable. I had read that giving a baby a bottle in the first few days would make it very difficult to breastfeed because the baby's stomach swells; my baby had bottle feeds for the first 24 hours because nothing I or the midwives could do would make him latch on for a breastfeed (his head was badly hurt). I worried myself sick that this would mean I would never be able to breastfeed, but after 27 hours he managed to latch on and I kpet breastfeeding him for 17 months. So, whilst it would be better not to give a bottle at first, don't give up all thought of breastfeeding just because they have had one!
The other thing I would recommend is that even if you are intending to breastfeed exclusively, make sure you get a couple of bottles and have some idea about sterilising. It never crossed my mind until I was in hospital, but if your baby needs cooled boiled water, or even antibiotics, you may need some kind of equipment. I ended up having to stagger on Mothercare on my first day out of hospital and buying a ridiculously expensive steriliser just because I hadn't had time to find out about cheap stuff like sterilising tablets. Dumb, I know

tamum Wed 09-Jul-03 17:09:56

Oh, and for expressed milk, I meant to say- both pump and bottles need sterilising.

Bron Wed 09-Jul-03 17:10:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tinyfeet Wed 09-Jul-03 17:19:03

Bron! You can probably provide the best advice of all since you are going thru it now. For the older mums out there, also, beware painful joints and back pain from breastfeeding - initially. My friend who was 37 years old when she had her first got carpel tunnel syndrome in her wrists from breastfeeding. I also had wrist and hand pain in the beginning, but learned to always change positions in my hands, etc. to minimize the joint aches. I'm sure this sounds worse than it is. I just wish someone had told me it was a possibility that this would happen, so I could've tried to minimize pain from the start. I also had some back pain from straining in an uncomfortable position at first. This went away as I became more comfortable and relaxed a bit with DD.

morocco Wed 09-Jul-03 19:08:26

agree wholeheartedly about the occasional bottle comment _ i was devastated when my ds had a bottle in hospital but it all worked out Ok and I bf til 9 months.

don't worry if it takes a couple of days for your baby to get the hang of things - mine didn't really seem to latch on at all for the first three days

if you're in hospital after a c section it might take longer for bf to get established (just going by myself and friends here). for me the turning point was going home where I could just relax without hundreds of people sticking their noses in to check my 'latch'. I snuggled up in bed with a hot drink and loads of cushions and tried to relax before starting the feed and it worked!

prufrock Wed 09-Jul-03 22:00:24

Not sure whather you will want to put this in as I'm aware it contradicts standard advice, but I mixed fed from day one (using ebm) and it meant my dh could do the middle of the night feed fro me. dd never got nipple confusion (but apparently she should have done) and getting a 6 hour stretch of sleep for those first two weeks when dh was at home made me so much more able to cope with everything.

And if - like me, you must sleep naked, lie on a towel. Otherwise your mattress will never dry out.

Zerub Wed 09-Jul-03 22:56:21

On the "nipple confusion / no bottles" front - a friend's baby had a cleft palate and couldn't suck well; she had one b/f a day and all the rest were EBM in a bottle. After her mouth was fixed at 8 months or so, my friend stopped the bottles and went back to all b/f. 14 months now, still breastfeeding.

I didn't give dd bottles for fear it would mess up the b/feeding, and then when I did dd refused - never did take a bottle - so I never got a break. Next baby, I'm going to give a bottle a day from about week 2!

Zerub Wed 09-Jul-03 23:05:53

My tips - don't worry if you can't feel a change when your milk comes in. Don't worry if you never feel the letdown. Don't worry if you don't leak much. The milk is in there, honest!

Eat lots and lots. But try to make sure its not all chocolate. The thing about losing weight cos you breastfeed is a myth!

Really really work at making sure your baby has a full feed and doesn't just have a snack and fall asleep; I ended up with a baby that fed every 90 minutes for 5 months and its hard work! I think my breasts got used to only producing a snack for every feed so it was a vicious circle. DD didn't eat much, got hungry again soon after, breasts didn't produce much so dd didn't eat much...

Washable cloth breastpads.

When you're still learning and not ready to feed in front of visitors, don't leave them on the comfy sofa while you hide upstairs to feed. Tell your visitors to go stand in the kitchen / garden / bathroom cos you require the living room!

jasper Wed 09-Jul-03 23:10:32

Some women don't EVER leak breastmilk.
Some women don't EVER feel a letdown.
Some women don't EVER feel engorged.....but will still be producing milk sufficient for their baby.As my wise and wonderful midwife said "You have a baby, your breasts produce milk, like night follows day, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT BREASTS ARE FOR!"

The more the baby sucks, the more milk you produce, but you don't need to sit for hours upon hours with baby at the breast if you don't want to.

In the early days if you get fed up get someone to take your baby away for a few hours and don't even worry about providing expressed milk. Your baby will be fine for a few hours and it will do you the world of good.

Finally, be prepared to go from Reluctant Breastfeeder to Crazy Breastfeeding Lady With a Mission once you get the hang of it.

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