Breastfeeding pros and woes

Nothing can honestly prepare you for what it entails to breastfeed your child as a first time mother. You can read all the books, articles and magazines in the world, friends, family and health professionals will give you their advice and might I add their horrific experiences of breastfeeding which makes the thought even more daunting. But just like anything else, practice and patience makes perfect.

I breastfeed my little boy for 26 months which may seem like a long time and as I want to be as transparent as possible on my blog I have to admit it wasn’t the easiest 26 months I have ever encountered.  I just want to point out the following ‘woes’ I experienced as a first time mother and we will work our way up to the beauty of breastfeeding and leave this post on a high note. But first the nitty gritty.

Woe number 1.

I have one inverted nipple (transparent). If any of you don’t know what an inverted nipple it is when you nipple is more indent than it protrudes. I would say mine is half and half. This was my first concern when I had made the decision that I was going to go all the way and breast feed my son up until the age of two years. What if he unable to latch on? What if I don’t produce enough milk in my right breast? what if what if what if…? So I read up on other women’s accounts of breastfeeding with an inverted nipple and my worries lessened slightly as many said they had no problems feeding and producing milk.  But just to be on the safe yet slightly anxious side I decided to purchase a latch assist small mechanism which I must say did help but I gave up using literally within seconds while I was at the hospital as my son latched on to my inverted nipple breast within about one minute with no problems (first proud mama moment)

 

Woe number 2.

Cracked nipples. I was just having flashbacks there for a moment. This was quite an agonising experience to say the least. Nothing worse than having to put on a bra when your nipple (or nipples ) are cracked, sore let alone having your mini me suckle on them for short but frequent periods throughout the day.

What causes cracked nipples?

An improper latch can cause cracked nipples. Below is just a a short step by step guide on how to breastfeed

HCP_How_to_breastfeed_en-390x372

 

I researched various nipple creams and the most popular was by the Lansinoh brand.

I was aware of the proper breastfeeding technique but still suffered from cracked nipples occasionally and this was mainly down to breastfeeding throughout the night. Newborns wake on average every 2-3 hours for a feed the night time is no exception of course. In zombie mode as I was so concerned about co-sleeping with my baby (it is recommended that you shouldn’t with a newborn) my son would sleep in his cot next to my bed which meant my body would be on auto pilot; semi sleep for two hours, walk to the cot, breast feed with one eye open, put son back into cot and back to semi-sleeping and repeat… at least 3-4 times a night… for a year. This of course got a bit easier as he would feed less through the night once he started eating some solid foods.

Woe number 3.

Lack of sleep. One thing that I found difficult at times was when I would hear other parents who bottle fed or started giving their babies solids at an early age that their child was sleeping through the night before they were six months.  I believe it was due to these conversations that I started to introduce solids to my son as well as breastfeed because I was just exhausted. But I was still adamant about breastfeeding my son for the first two years.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding your child past 6 months?

Immunoglobulins are antibodies and there are five different types; IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE. These can all be found in human breast milk and the one that is found in abundance in the gut and respiratory system is secretory IgA. Babies that are bottle fed don’t begin making secretory IgA on their own until they are a couple of weeks or even months after birth which gives them fewer means of battling ingested pathogens.

According to the Journal of Paediatrics  there is evidence for better long-term health after breast feeding in disorders such as celiac disease, Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, malignant lymphoma, chronic liver disease, atopic dermatitis, and food allergies.

Woe number 4.

Engorged breasts. Ouch! Another flashback of how uncomfortable this would be not to mention quite surreal it was to have the feeling that you have just undergone some back street boob job. This is usually caused by missing a feed, baby refusing to feed, weaning to early, expressing routinely and so forth. This article on avoiding and treating engorged breast has some useful tips.

Woe number 5.

Saggy breasts. Just to follow on from woe number 4 one thing I have noticed is that I now feel like my breast have not returned to how they was pre-pregnancy. Now this was down to breastfeeding for a long period of time and my weight fluctuating as I can definitely see and feel a difference

What causes breast sagging?

The Cooper’s ligaments are bands that are attached the chest to the muscle and provide support. During pregnancy these are stretched along with the skin. This in turn results in women’s bust size increasing during pregnancy to prepare them for breastfeeding but can cause your breast to droop due to the increased tension on the ligaments. Just like an elastic band over time if stretched will lose its elasticity and no longer taut.

Additional stretching then starts to happen once a mother starts to breastfeed because the milk ducts grow and fill up with milk. Having enlarged breast for a longer period of time will result in stretched ligaments therefore causing that unwanted sagging.

Tips:

These four but simple exercises in Women’s Health magazine I personally do have made such a difference in a short period of time but consistency is key.

 

Woe number 6.

Lack of support/ criticism. After reading a lot of other breastfeeding mothers accounts of breastfeeding their infants at all let alone past 6 months was that many received backlash and no support from families and friends even worse from their own partners. I for one wouldn’t say that my experience was that terrible but I do recall receiving snide comments here and there such as why do I still breast feed my son? Being asked more than once from the same people as to when am I planning to stop breastfeeding.  Not to mention those judgemental looks you would get for breastfeeding your child in public (never understood why this would be offensive). I personally would also use my sling or cloth to cover my self but I don’t and wouldn’t criticise a women who didn’t. We seem to forget what breasts were created for but I wont get into that right now.

Support and networking groups would be the best option for anyone who is seeking help with any issues they may have I following these amazing groups on social media:

Black women do breastfeed

Breast is best

And the National Health service is also very helpful.

Woe number 7.

Expressing milk. I believe I bought about four breast pumps In total and to be honest I found it much easier to express by hand, as I had much more control of my breast and there is a knack to it but it can also be time consuming. One issue I had at times was eating enough calories and keeping hydrated especially when I returned back to work this was also a worry of mine; expressing at work. My first job out of university was in a children’s hospital (might i add i was pregnant in my final year) so expressing at work wouldn’t of been an issue if i chose to however my son was 15 months when I started back at work so i would pump and store and he would eat solids in the day and had milk and i would feed through the night.

Read my post of maintaining milk supply here.


Now we get to the best part. The pro’s of breastfeeding. Now because the list is literally endless i’m going to break them down into bullet points with a short explanation as I could really go on forever.

Beauty in Breast feeding number:

  1. Bonding: Oxytocin or the ‘love hormone’ is released during labour into the blood and floods the mother brain during breastfeeding. The Public Library of Science Computational Biology published a study that was conducted by scientists at Warwick University concluding that when a baby suckles the mothers neurons respond releasing more of the hormone from their dendrites thus creating a stronger link between nerve cells and resulting in a positive feedback loop.
  2.   Strengthens the infants immune system:

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3. Uterus contraction:  The love hormone that we just spoke about is also responsible for uterus contraction while breastfeeding and also reduces the chances of post delivery blood loss. Women who breastfeed their infants, uterus will return back to is normal size at six weeks postpartum compared to mothers who don’t at about 10 weeks.

4. Aids with weight loss: Breastfeeding doesn’t burn calories but it does use them.  See 1 smoothie to aid rapid weigh loss.

5. It’s free: you cant get any better reason than that. Reading up on various parenting posts and asking friends and family about how much they spend on tins of formula; its costs around £10 a week for one tin that will last approximately 6-7 days. That’s £40 a month and £480 a year. There are also follow on milks to add more costs.

6. No periods. Yippee! Breastfeeding will delay ovulation. This is due to the release of prolactin which keeps oestrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered.  Women who bottle feed their babies tend to start their periods within about a month or two postpartum whereas women who breast feed can start in weeks, months or even years.

7. Convenient. Boob on tap. No formula mixing, no heating up bottles, no waiting for bottles to cool down, no washing up. Simple as lifting up your top and your baby latched on and its the perfect temperature.

8. Decreased risk in Sudden Infant Deaths (SIDS). An international study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia suggested that breast feeding for at least two months cuts a babies changes of SIDS by almost half.

The benefits are almost endless so I am a big advocate for breast feeding but by no means am I one to judge another mothers decision if they chose not to breast feed. Once I started to have an understanding for why some women chose not to breast feed I was more open to the idea of formula feeding. Some women can’t breast feed due to a medical condition, they have a low pain threshold, it can be exhausting; mentally and physically and if you don’t have the support it can make it even more difficult to breast feed.

Another alternative would be to use milk banks .This might not be for everyone but there are women who produce milk in abundance and have enough to donate. Take a look at my post on milk banks in the UK.

🙂 x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Isabella says:

    Breastfeeding can be a very stressful thing to do. Your baby is always looking for more and you wonder if they ever get full. But at the end, the result is usually worth the pain. Your baby would be so healthy and smart too.

    Like

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