In honour of World Breastfeeding Week I want to share a diagram I did one week into my breastfeeding journey, to explain how I was feeling to my Community Midwife.
At that point I was experiencing pain, but I didn’t have any physical symptoms (liked cracked nipples). I was very emotional because I was dreading every feed in case I couldn’t feed my baby. My husband was worried it was impacting on me bonding with our baby, but I really wanted to carry on.
Luckily I had great support from the Community Midwife team who came to visit me at home every day for 2 weeks, and they weighed the baby so I could see she was thriving. Paradoxically in Ireland if you have pregnancy complications or opt to go private your antenatal care is in the hospital and you miss out on this great support service after. I’m not sure I could have continued without it.
After about 3 to 4 weeks the pain subsided. I think this was partially because my baby’s mouth was a little larger and she was more alert during feeding. I also spent a few days stroking her tongue forwards before a feed. There was nothing physically stopping her extending it (like a tongue tie) but I suspected she wasn’t engaging it, and certainly it seemed to help.
A few things that helped me get through those initial painful weeks were:
- A wet cloth stored in the freezer and wrapped in a muslin cloth as a cold compress
- Multi-mam compresses stored in the fridge
- Lanolin cream
- Tea and biscuits (they didn’t really help with pain but made me feel better)
Now I feel very proud and lucky I have been able to feed her for 6 months. I love the contented look on her face when she is feeding.
All the literature says if breastfeeding is done right it shouldn’t hurt, but for me it did hurt and that narrative made me feel like I was doing something wrong. If I was preparing to feed again I would expect a bit of pain initially, but it’s worth it to get feeding established and know you are giving your baby a good start. I would also have a lot of empathy for mother’s that can’t continue if it hurts too much, they are not doing anything wrong, it can be very tough, especially if you don’t have as good support services available.