Breastfeeding: the early days.

Hello ladies

So I am nearing my due date now and am starting to do alot of thinking about the early days with a baby.

Despite going to an NHS breastfeeding "workshop" I am still no more enlightened about what to expect breastfeeding wise during those first few weeks. I mean, I know all about the old colostrum and about how the milk proper comes in a few days after the birth, but know nothing in term of how many feeds you do, how long, how your boobies feel, how it differs from formula feeding, the difference between demand feeding and a more structured approach - I could go on!! To be frank the "workshop" was totally rubbish - half an hour of propaganda (yes, I know the benefits of breast feeding, that's why I'm here!!!) followed by the midwife glossing over ANY problems or negative aspects. I know they want to encourage women to breastfeed and fair play you don;t want to come away from something like that feeling doomed to fail, but I just want to have a REALISTIC view of those first few vital weeks, so that I can feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that I will be able to get into a routine and successfully breastfeed anywhere, any time!

So I would love to hear your experiences of those first few weeks, both good and bad, plus any tips you may have to help me succeed!

Thanks a million in advance

Sarax
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  • I think that you have to take it as it comes really, not sure it's something they can teach you although it is handy to know whether they are latching on properly or not but believe me, you'll end up knowing if they're not!

    All i would say is it's a bit hard work to start with, i breastfed on demand which I think is the right way to go, possibly more time consuming than a more structured approach as you basically offer boob every time lo cries until you end up knowing when they are crying for a feed, that's about the jist of it?

    I would just wait until your lo is here and go with the flow, you'll get to know your lo, their different cries, whether they are latching on etc etc but it's one of those things you just have to give it a go! Stick it out though, I loved it and bubba is still having 1/2 breastfeeds a day at 7 months, she's going off it herself to be honest and isn't half as interested in it as she used to be! Buy some lansinoh though, it's a godsend! ;\)
  • moonandstars i put a wee post up in breastfeeding chat for bfing mums to put up hints and tips for new bfing mums xxx check it out x
  • I agree, buy Lansinoh cream, and use it from day one, don't wait until you are sore.

    I also agree that is can be different for everyone and you do need to take it as it comes - but I think it;s good that you're asking the questions. With my first I just believed it was easy and that if it hurt the latch was wrong and you just had to sort it out - so when i had problems it really got to me that I was struggling with something that was meant to come naturally and that everyone else found easy - except everyone else didn;t find it easy, but no-one told me that!! The first few weeks can be hard work - my son wasn't interested at first, then struggled to latch on, and his attempts made me very sore and it took a good few weeks for the soreness to go, and it isn't as easy as 'oh the latch is wrong, we'll put it right', it does take perseverence, but if it's what you want, do ask for help (midwives, health visitors, breastfeeding helplines). It did get easier and I breasfted him til I went back to work at 8 months. My daughter took to breastfeeding much better, so I did find it easier - but I was also more confident having done it before. It could still be exhausting at times with growth spurts (and she's only ten weeks so probably have more to come!), but those phases don't last long, as hard as they are at the time. And my boobs did feel very full for a couple of weeks til they settled down, but they did and then were comfortable.

    I've found that in the early days, if you are struggling, a 'things can only get better' approach helps me - once you've got through the tough parts, why give up and miss out on the good parts?

    In the first couple of weeks expect 8-10 feeds a day, but it could be more or less, and 20 mins to 1 hour per feed, but again good be more or less, it depends on the baby. I recommend following baby's lead in the early days, and feed whenever they cry until you learn what the cries mean and recognise how often they do want feeding. Once I get used to my baby though, I do introduce something of a routine with feeding so we know where we are - not strict, eg three hourly during the day and whatever she wants overnight - but it does help me and I know she's getting what she needs.

    Good luck x
  • I'll offer you my negative experience, not in anyway to put you off but only because if you know what it really can be like you'll know better what to expect and possibly do better and work through the first difficult weeks better than I did!! I was expecting this wonderful experience that all the propaganda will have you believe and didn't for one minute expect it to be so hard.

    The first few weeks LO would be feeding for 45mins to an hour at a time, then it was maybe 1 or 2 hours and I had to feed her again for 45-60 mins, she never seemed to get full and come off the latch by herself so after an hour I would take her off myself having no idea if she'd actually had enough. She didn't want to latch on and would push my breast away with her hands, put her hands in her mouth while I was trying to get her to latch on, I just didn't have enough hands! I was exhaused from the constant feeding then my nipples seemingly went further than just cracked and were all yellow and crusty. Feeding her became hell and I was screaming with pain and stamping my feet for about 10 minutes everytime she eventually latched on. I was crying she was crying and I was getting more and more depressed.

    I decided I couldn't keep fighting with her and putting my awful looking nipples in her tiny little mouth so I tried the nipple shield but it still hurt like glass coming through my nipples. I moved to exclusively expressing for a week and I got some antibiotic cream from the doctors. I tried after this a couple of times feeding but it still hurt as bad as before and I was getting less and less milk from expressing so we switched to formula when she was 3 weeks old. This was the hardest decision and at a time when emotionally I was all over the place, I was so upset and felt like a failure but the minute the decision was made and we got into FF it was like a cloud had lifted and my mood became so much better and my bonding with LO was able to start properly.

    I think maybe if I had expected to have some initial problems or had received more support I would have persisted further but LO is now 8 months and thriving,

    I wish you the absolute best of luck!
  • Spend your hours of freedom putting together a basket that can sit next to you on the sofa. Stock it with drinks and snacks, mags, books. When you get home from hospital put the house cordless and your mobile in it. You WILL probably spend most of your day sitting on the sofa. Having things to occupy you whilst you do so will make it more bearable!
  • Depending on your birth, your baby may not feel like feeding in the first 24-48 hours. I was induced and had every drug going so my dd was very sleepy over the next couple of days. She wasn't feeding often and i think she went about 8 hours at one point! However, once the drugs wore off she was fine and took to bf like a pro. I am very lucky that i have had such a good and not too difficult experience with bf. Yes it is very tiring but just try to get as much sleep as you can to refuel during the first weeks - sod the housework! Remember your baby's tummy is about the size of a marble when they are born so they will be feeding little and often until their tummy grows a bit.

    If there are bf support workers in your hospital - use them! Ask loads of questions and get them or the mw's to check your positioning if you can. Also get as much skin to skin contact as possible with your baby, this will help your milk come in and it feels lovely image

    The first couple of weeks can be quite sore on your nipples. I didn't get cracked nipples but i do remember curling my toes with the initial pain when dd latched on - this soon passed though a couple of minutes into the feed. And it does get better! I am still bf 7 months on and I still love it.

    It isn't for everyone so don't stress if it doesn't work out, it isn't the end of the world. All that matters is that your baby is happy and healthy image x
  • Breastfeeding is generally a really difficult skill to learn and I wasn't prepared for it to be so tough. I found learning how to latch LO on the hardest part. It was made more stressful as he wasn't interested in feeding for nearly 24 hours. Once we's finally cracked the latch things went really well. It's uncomfortable when your milk comes in and your breast feel hot, hard and full, sometimes it helps to hand express a small amount out so your nipple is softer which makes it easier for baby to latch on. Cabbage leaves in your bra are very soothing too.

    Lansinoh is a MUST and loads of breast pads! x
  • The latch is important, but first make sure you are sitting comfortably. Lo is only 4 weeks old and we have more or less sorted the latching on but I got into a bad habit of twisting myself if it started to hurt rather than taking her off and starting again. This is especially true if feeding at night as you are half asleep and don't pay too much attention at how you are sitting. I often end up with my back curved rather than straight and a stiff neck!
  • I actually had an incredibly hard time for the first three months of breastfeeding and being told that it would get better after six weeks really didn't help when I was on my tenth week of agony! But I got through it and ended up breastfeeding for 13 months (after which my milk more or less dried up).

    Things that got me through: a) sheer bloody mindedness. I got it into my head that if my mother could breastfeed three children then I could manage one, dammit!
    b) Knowing I was normal for feeling pain. I was told so many times that, if the latch was correct, it wouldn't hurt but it did, vilely, even though I had had a counselor check and see that we were doing things properly. Then I read Libby Purves's comment about the first few weeks feeling as if you are an early Christian martyr being savaged by a very small and hungry lion, and suddenly it all seemed easier. I wasn't doing anything terribly wrong, it was just a stage to get through (then I got thrush and the pain came back, but that is another story).
    c) A really supportive health visitor team and some good doctors who helped me deal with the thrush and two bouts of mastitis promptly. I know I am very lucky to live somewhere with such good hvs, but if you can find anyone - a breastfeeding counselor, an older relative, a health professional - to lend you support, it can make all the difference.
    d) My beloved husband who put up with my tears, woke with me every night for two months so that he could be my extra pair of hands and hold Peter's fingers away from his mouth, kept me well fed and hydrated and was all in all a complete godsend.
    e) The ladies on here and in the breast feeding forum. When I just needed an existential howl at the universe, they were hugely sympathetic and always ready to lend an ear and a word of advice. Take full advantage!

    As has been said, it does get easier, and if it doesn't then formula isn't poison. Best wishes for both the birth and the breastfeeding.
  • i had a really positive time Breast feeding-despite having had a breast reduction 6 years earlier!

    The best thing i can recommend is attending a breast feeding clinic, we have a funded childrens centre in our town and they hold a clinic once a week with a lactation consultant and she was bloody marvellous!!! I only had to go twice and she filled me with confidence and was just like mary poppins (only less scary!)

    good luck x x x
  • I too didn't have a great experience in the first few days and weeks and we ended up mixed feeding from
    1 week.

    My milk came in after only 24hrs and ds just wasn't ready for it. Plus, no one warned me about how painful it would be when my milk came in. Cabbage didn't really help, but I did get some gel pads from mothercare that go in the fridge and they were fab, a must for me infact. Do apply lasinoh at every feed as the other ladies have said. I would also buy some nipple shields just in case. When ds was 4 days old I had a kind of blister/sore spot, but between a bit of expressing and nipple shields it was fixed for good in 24 hours.

    I think most babies also have a favourite side. Ds and I did not get on with my right and after seeing/speaking to my hv, 3 bf counsellors and my gp at 3 months we dropped to the one side - it is possible.

    Ds also had massive weight gain trouble at the start and it took him four weeks to regain his birth weight. There are two things I would do differently if I had my time again. 1. Always offer them both boobs at every feed, my mw's told me not to and by the time I tried at 4-6 weeks it was too late. 2. Don't try and feed by a schedule, after reading way too many hooks I was adamant that ds could go more than 3 hours between feeds and I don't think he could. (I love Gina Ford, but have no idea how she makes those timings work for a bf baby.)

    After all our trouble we've only just stopped bfing at six months and a lot if it was down to my sheer determination to keep going.

    Good luck and remember it doesn't matter how you feed your baby as long as you're both happy and healthy. Happy Mum = happy baby! X
  • I won't go into our bfing story- it didn't end happily and I'm still a bit sour about it so first and foremost, it is hard work and you do need to persevere with it, but if things aren't going well only you know when enough is enough and it's nothing to feel guilty about if your lo has formula.
    2-lansinoh cream is a must
    3- I'd have shields ready for emergency back up next time
    4- find out now where bfing support is available
    5- if you're struggling keep asking for help until you're happy

    Good luck
    Ps. I will be trying to breastfeed Again next time x
  • Thank you everyone for your brilliant replies. Your stories are exactly what I wanted to hear - a mix of good and bad - a realistic view of what it is like trying to establish breastfeeding. SO much better than the tripe the midwife was spouting. I don't want to go into this thinking it will all be roses and fine and dandy after a couple of weeks (which is what the mw said), but then neither do I want to be all doom and gloom about it, so your stories have really helped give me a realistic view of what may or may not happen!

    I think it's really interesting that quite a few replies mention that even when the latch is right it still hurts. Everything you read says that the ONLY thing that makes it hurt is an incorrect latch, so I will deffo remember that should I find myself in that position.

    On a practical note - yup, fully stocked with booby pads, Lanisoh and nipple sheilds, plus the numbers of all the clinics in my area. And thanks Maenad for the tip on getting everything close to hand - hadn't really thought about that!

    Off to check out Moonbeam's thread. Thanks again xxx
  • Consider the idea that you need no prep for this at all, that it is the easiest most natural thing in the world, that you will pop baby on your boob and off you go. That was my experience, I didn't expect any problems, I felt very simplistic about it and it has remained effortless. This was just my experience.
  • hello

    gosh i cant belive you are nearly due!

    well i wont bore you with my experience its wasnt great and i think if i had been made aware that it might not be so easy and that there was support out there i might have persevered, i was expecting it to just work out and when it didnt i felt so terrible bad, most areas have a support worker that will come out to you as well as some over the phone help x

    my friend found the first 12 weeks incredibly hard just due to the demand and that it was only her that could do it but after that for her its was and still is at 8 months a great experience


    good luck x
  • I can only say, I didnt do it for long enough. I stopped after the first 2months, and now I wish I hadn't. It is as people say, so much eaiser then bottle feeding!!

    Like everyone says, lansinoh is a must.

    Just relax and I am sure it will all go well. Keep an eye out for things like mastitus, I suffered badly from it, but luckily caught the early signs and had cabbage leaves ready for the occasion.
    There is nothing more natural, and I have so much respect for ladies that do it past first couple of months.
    Good luck and enjoy xx
  • Spend your hours of freedom putting together a basket that can sit next to you on the sofa. Stock it with drinks and snacks, mags, books. When you get home from hospital put the house cordless and your mobile in it. You WILL probably spend most of your day sitting on the sofa. Having things to occupy you whilst you do so will make it more bearable!

    thi is exactly what i had. a feeding table. the tv remote, phones (which i mainly ignored anyway), my breastfeeding box (nipple shields, lansinoh, flannal, muslins), water, snacks. breastfeeding guide. my job was feeding my baby and making her grow and thats all i did!!! the housework was done by my hubby and my mum when she visited.

    phone bfing support / the midwives if you are having difficulties. remember no matter how you feel YOU DO HAVE ENOUGH MILK!!! if you didnt you would be told very quickly as your baby's weight would drop like a stone. this happened to a girl i know. baby was 8lb3 at brth and dropped to 6lb and something quickly. she was re-admitted to hospital and baby put to the breast every 2 hours and her supply went right back up.

    so technical bits. i kept putting dd back to the same breast until it felt empty, to make sure she got the hind milk. i found feeding tops were a godsend as makes feeding more discrete. a feeding pillow was amazing support for baby and makes it so much more comfortable. if baby gets wriggly, try winding her. then put her back to make sure she's had enough. eat well!!! bfing is very hungry work. persevere. it gets so much easier and is so rewarding. my dd is 6 months old in a week and i grew her all on my own. image

  • Hi - I haven't time to read all the replies so sorry if I'm repeating what others have said (I'm sure it is all brilliant advice!).

    I had a terrible time BFing and the hardest part was that I was totally unprepared for the fact that it can be hard. Like you I went to a BFing workshop and it was rubbish in that the message was "if it hurts you're doing it wrong". NOT TRUE. It can hurt for lots of reasons - mastitis, thrush, cracked nipples, engorgement. Sometimes it just hurts for no reason in those early days. I don't want to scare you but I didn't BF without pain until LO was 13 weeks old. I was extremely unlucky though and suffered with undiagnosed ductal thrush for weeks, and it took weeks to get rid of it.

    However I am very pleased to say that I am still BFing 2-3 times a day now that Toby is 8.5 months old. Having had to recently introduce FF for daytime feeds as I'm going back to work and I can say it is definitely MUCH easier to BF once you've got feeding established and apart from all the health benefits I am so glad I stuck with it.

    My advice is:

    1. Frequent the BF forum here - they are fab ladies and I would not have got through it without them.

    2. If you decide you want to BF, make a promise to yourself that you will stick with it until X weeks (say 6 weeks?) to give it a chance. Those are the hardest times and if you can get through those you should be fine.

    3. If you are considering giving up for some reason, make yourself stick it out for another 24 hours so you aren't making an emotional decision on the spur of the moment - once you stop BFing you can go back, but it is quite hard.

    4. Buy LOTS of lansinoh cream and use it from the start, before you even get sore!

    5. In the beginning, feed your LO every time they cry. When they get fussy, switch sides. You will probably feel like you are feeding ALL the time, which is really hard, but it is completely normal and your LO will eventually settle down - that is how they establish your milk supply. So make sure you have a comfy spot on the sofa within reach of the tv remote (get some boxed dvd sets if you can!!) the phones and a big glass of water at all times (you need to keep your fluids up).

    6. Include your OH my making him responsible for feeding you while you feed the baby. Eating can easily get overlooked when you are looking after a newborn but you must take care of yourself.

    7. Go to any BFing clinics that run in your area if you are having any trouble. Mine was a godsend. Will also get you out of the house which is a good thing.

    Um that's all I can think of for now, gotta run but good luck!!

    C image
  • I agree with charlotte, i was also completely unprepared for how hard it would be!!

    you have to be determines, its not the sort of things that will work if you just 'try it to see' like others have said it can just hurt, and most people will say that the first 6 weeks do hurt (apart from bloody midwives who say it shouldnt')

    be prepared for a baby that doesn't know what to do either

    lansinoh

    lots of help while in hospital but if you need more bf advisors are amazing people, mine have helped us through a lot

    be prepared for people telling you to give up, ad tell them to shut up

    prepare you oh, mine was amazing and actually helped me learn how to latch on lo, and when it was really hard would say just one more feed and see how it goes, which was amazing

    do have a carton of formula for backup - not nessesarily to use but to give you a crutch, I was adamant I wouldn't have it in the house, but when oh bought some I relaxed and haven't had to use it.

    Its hard, i had a baby that wouldn't latch, double mastitis, thrush, allergic reaction to thrush cream which burned my already cracked nipple, and now mastitis every time my antibiotics finish but I'm still going and feel proud especially when I meet people that think I've done the right thing (2 gp's have told me to give up but luckily my bf advisor has agreed that there is no need!!)

    lastly make sure you are very informed as gp's generally have very little knowledge about bf.

    sorry for the ramble, am tired but wanted to reply xx
  • Some more brill advice - God I love this forum!

    dollywotsit I can totally appreciate what you are saying - I know that I am perhaps fretting more that I need to and for all I know everything may well just slot into place. It's just that the most recent experience I have of bf is from my sil and she hated every minute of it. She is quite anti-bf now and told me I will end up resenting my child and with pnd if I do it (yeah, ta for the support), so I suppose a part of me just wants to cover all my bases so that I don't get the inevitable "I told you so" lecture. Plus I REALLY want it to work so want to be fully armed before I start.

    Thanks for taking the time to share with me.
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