Cannot believe how fast it’s already six weeks since baby Z was born! Life is getting a wee bit better now, he still feeds around every two hours but my body has more or less adjusted. There are still days when I am completely exhausted and want to just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling but those are getting fewer and further apart.
Motherhood is hard. Not everything came easy to me. Breastfeeding is still a challenge. No one told me how complicated latching the baby onto the breast can be. The first few weeks I struggled very very hard. I still struggle but baby Z is smart and he picks up the slack where I fail. I remember those early days (and nights) in the hospital- every single time the nurses wheeled him in for a feed I would cringe inwardly (unless I was completely zonked out, then I would just do the zombie) wondering if I would actually manage a latch on my own this time. And chances were that I couldn’t and would have to enlist the help of the husband, the lactation consultant, any random nurse to help push my nipple into his mouth. It was frustrating and tiring.
I lost count of the number of people who grabbed my breast. Somehow I simply could not master the art of the latch. It was usually too shallow, too painful, his tongue was above the nipple, my breast was too hard (engorgement happened early for me) and a host of other reasons that my drug induced post caesarean brain just couldn’t fathom. I really really struggled. Looked up every possible video on YouTube for help, read the breastfeeding book we bought from Mt. Alvernia from cover to cover and asked every single nurse who helped with the latch for tips and hints as to what I’m doing wrong but nothing helped.
I googled tongue ties convinced that my boy had one. To be honest he did have most of the signs. But my gut instinct said to wait before I do anything to fix that.
I met a wonderful lactation consultant called Latha. She helped boost my confidence, reminded me I’m not a failure and told me not to give up and keep at it-it will get easier.
We got discharged from the hospital after 6 days(we stayed an extra day for his jaundice to clear) and the situation did not get any better at home. I pumped constantly. When we returned to the hospital for his jaundice I took an appointment with Ms Kang Phaik Gaik and once again witnessed baby Z latching on spectacularly but I still struggled. But he was now slightly older and I got a wee bit better. Came home and we tried about twice a day (I still pumped regularly to feed him) and somehow it kept getting easier.
Today, six weeks later, I know I can latch him by myself. I may take a few dialed attempts but I get it.
What I’ve learned through this whole frustrating time is this:
1. Getting the latch just right takes time. Give yourself that time. In my case it is still a WIP. I only started to get it slightly easier by the 4th week. So wait. And keep trying.
2. Pump! I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to BF. All I knew is that if I got milk I wanted to BF my child. Well, I did get milk- lots and lots of it. I didn’t know what engorgement was. All I knew is that one day my breasts hurt like hell and were super hard and sore. Latha told me to massage it, request for a breast pump and keep expressing the milk. I did exactly as she said and before long I was expressing about 50-80 ml every two hours. Far more than lil Z was consuming. I believe this helped keep my supply up as he wasn’t latching on correctly those early days. Not that I knew what ‘keeping up the supply’ meant.
3. New born babies have really tiny mouths. To position the breast just right is not easy at all! Pressing it into a V, ensuring that the nipple touches the roof of his mouth, making sure his lower lip is protruding, checking to see if his tongue is below the nipple, bringing his head to the breast instead of the other way around….the list of things to remember is crazy! And all this in the span of like 3 nano seconds while your newborn opens his wee lil mouth and shuts it again. Do not give up. Their mouths will grow and they will learn too. Together as a team it gets easier.
4. Get a breast feeding pillow. It’s not mandatory but it helped me. I would otherwise struggle with the piling of pillows next to me to get the height just right. This just eliminated that guesswork and helped support my back too. Although I know he’s outgrowing the pillow really fast as his tiny body is no longer that tiny any more and he won’t fit on it for much longer, I still am grateful for the consultant who suggested buying it, I think it helped me with positioning him right and it may help you too.
5. Relax. This struggle too shall pass. I realized when I was relaxed I latched faster. The husband learnt to do it too which was a huge help for latching at home ( still is) and remember, if the nipple or the breast hurts then it is not a good latch so detach and try again.
6. Medela’s Purelan works wonders on sore nipples. Use it. Or something like it. Use shells so they don’t rub against fabric. And use nipple shields if you think they will improve your latch. I bought them but had trouble keeping them on the breast. I think they did help with the latch but I don’t use them much as they still keep falling off.
7. There is no shame in pumping. My child is still exclusively breastfed. But I latch him directly for about 2 feeds a day out of 9. The rest of the time is expressed milk in a Tommee Tippee
8. I didn’t know about nipple confusion until recently. Thankfully Z didn’t get it. I don’t know what they used in the hospital to feed him my expressed milk. I believe it was a cup, but either way, when we got him home on day 5, he happily drank from a Tommee Tippee bottle and has continued to do so till today. He has no trouble taking the breast either. I’m just grateful it worked out this way. I’ve heard about how it’s better to use rubber nipples, wait till week 3-4 before using a bottle but I honestly didn’t know this and it thankfully didn’t blow up in my face.
I’m still working on the perfect easy latch but I’m so much more confident that it’s within my reach now. Thinking back to those early days I’m glad I stuck with it and did not let the frustration get to me. Things can only get better!