I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding for 10 weeks now, and I wanted to write my experience so it can help someone else if it could. Please know that I’m by no means saying this would work for everyone, and no way I’m saying anyone should do it, it’s simply what I’ve experienced.
The First Days
So I had my baby through elective csection because he was breech. We were lucky enough for him to have some skin to skin time right after birth, and he was able to suck some, but at that moment, I could see nothing really came out.
I don’t actually think I had much or any colostrum, because of the colour I’ve seen, I barely was able to squeeze out any by force.
By the second day, Lucas was a little lethargic, he didn’t seem hungry at all and I still haven’t really been able to get him to latch properly, the midwives were able to give him a syringe of formula just to help with his blood sugar as he was shaking a little, and it may help get his energy up.
During that time, I also did a lot of massage on my breasts which by then, I could see little droplets of white stuff coming, I was ecstatic as I knew that was my “milk coming in”.
I still struggled to get Lucas to latch, and that is actually a very difficult thing for babies at first. Their mouths don’t know how to attach to the breast properly to drink the milk, and it’s something both of you have to learn. It only works if their tongues are placed under and in a certain position. During the first days, I got a lot of support from the midwives. They would help me get his mouth open and pop it in.
At first, you really need them to open their mouths as far and wide as they could so you can stick them onto the breast as far as you could, so their mouth is covering a pretty big part of your breast. (Stick it in while they yawn, that always works, haha no, it actually doesn’t because they get a bit surprised and pull away.)
It’s something that takes time, and you have to be patient. Try and get the baby while he’s calm to attach, I looked for signals such as rooting, sticking out his tongue, to know that he’s hungry. I think I always fed my baby early enough that he doesn’t really cry out of hunger. That works well because all the websites say if you wait too long until they’re crying, it’s a late sign of hunger and they don’t latch well.
Latching and D-mer
At first, it took about 10-15 tries for him to latch properly once. I would need to pull him off if he wasn’t doing it correctly, and there is a specific feeling on the breast when he does latch correctly. It’s something you will know because you may get a constant feeling. While when he doesn’t latch, it feels like nothing is happening, literally. At first, his latch did hurt the nipples a little and I also had D-mer (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex), which meant I would get this very empty, depressed feeling in the pit of my stomach right before milk letdown and disappear after.
That itself is a story of it’s own. At first, I just thought I was crazy that a long session of nursing would have me feeling really depressed, none of that was because I didn’t like it because I LOVE having my baby close and feeding him. I loved it so much, yet my stomach was on opposite ends. It wasn’t till I read about it that I really understood, when milk releases, it causes the hormone prolactin to rise, which has to decrease dopamine, your feel good hormone, which is why some people get a moment of depression/anxiety and then be fine again when hormones go back to normal. At first, it really felt like the entire nursing session was full of letdown, but now at 10 weeks, I only get it three or four times, and it’s fleeting and I barely even care about it. I use that as a cue that my milk is about to flow out, and get prepared to prevent the other one from leaking and I know my baby’s about to have a big drink of that milk. So in a way, it’s good that I know because I get to be prepared of my milk coming.
Aside from D-mer, Lucas got better and better at latching, except when he went through his growth spurt and realised later he was hungry, he started to unlatch or have his mouth closed because he was frustrated. It’s still sometimes hard for me to know exactly what’s wrong when he sometimes seem to refuse the breast, thrash his arms and feet, and close his mouth. I believe it can be that he’s so hungry he wants it now, because he seem to be fine as soon as he latches on and starts sucking.
At first, it seemed that Lucas was always hungry, because he never really wanted to come off and would fuss at the breast when it’s empty. Each breastfeeding session lasted an hour or two, and cluster feeding sessions lasted 4 hours or so. I enjoyed it because I wanted to hold him close anyway, and I had nothing else to really do, but I do know many other people won’t have that many hours to do this.
Sleeping and Feeding
At first, I didn’t know this, but babies easily fall asleep at the breast if milk is not flowing. You pick up the clues by seeing if their eyes are closed, breathing heavier and when they sleep suck (believe me, it’s a magical ability), they do it like 4-5 times, stop for a few seconds, and do it again. It’s also much slower, so if you see that happen, gently take them off and allow them to wake up before trying. If you spend hours with them sleep-sucking, they’re not really getting much milk out.
During cluster feeding sessions, I often used my phone to just read things and check sites. Also, it’s good to have a big bottle of water close by and a comfy chair to sit in. I also flip my shirt up (almost like I’m topless) around the house. It’s so much easier that way!
If you find that you leak a lot, always have tissues, breast pad and such nearby, but as I got experienced, I noticed when it was going to flow out, I just put pressure on the other breast for a few seconds to a minute and it would not leak until the next letdown.
Growth spurts, oh yes they are extremely tough for the baby because I think they get intense hunger pangs and they get so ravenously hungry. Good thing is, it’s short, about 3 days. For Lucas, it seem to have it’s peak at day 1-2, then last another 2-3 days but he’s much less hungry. Growth spurts is estimated to happen around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months. During that time, your baby grows rapidly overnight. The next day, I swore that he looked so much longer.
It’s completely normal to feel nervous during this time, as I often find that I think I’ve got low supply and it knocks my confidence a little, but after a few days, he returns to normal so I know it’s fine. During the growth spurt, Lucas hardly ever sleeps and can be awake for a very long period of time, so that’s how I usually tell, as well as the intense hunger.
One important thing I’ve learned over time is your breast only pumps out milk rapidly a few times. Other times, milk is much slower. You will know it because your baby will make loud gulping, swallowing sounds and you may get a big leakage on the other side. Sometimes, it takes a while of sucking to get the hormones going to release that milk, and when your breasts are emptier, it takes much longer for it to happen. By then, your baby is likely to be very upset and frustrated, latching and unlatching, looking stressed, crying, etc. This is when it’s better to take him off the breast, put him on your shoulders for a bit if possible, burp him and try to distract him.
He probably would be more upset on your breast, not getting much milk despite trying, than away, as he’ll probably have other things to look at. Even if you wait for 15 minutes, you’ll notice your milk replenishing and able to come out easier. Usually when my baby is especially hungry, he will be so very energetic and able to lift his head for a long time and trying to make his way back to the breast.
When I feed, I always try and empty one breast at one feed, and always do both because when milk builds up, it can hurt!
If you have low supply, try to bake some lactation cookies. You can find lots of recipes online, like this one. For me, the magic ingredients are brewer’s yeast, oats, coconut oil, wheat germ and flaxseed meal.
Though I would advise you to be careful. After I ate them, the milk sprayed out like crazy and often choked my poor baby. I had a bit of a problem with oversupply for a while and often the milk was squirting out like a water gun. I went to read that and found something hilarious, for a baby it’s like drinking out of a fire hose.
Anyway, I really hope this helps in some way, and good luck to you! If you have low supply or simply find it hard, just know that you did your best so try not to feel bad.