Posted on April 21, 2011

Breastfeeding By Antonina

breastfeeding/ Guest post
The lovely Antonina is here with her breastfeeding experience today and some great advice too! You can find Antonina on twitter @antoninam and you can also visit her beautiful photography website here – http://www.antoninaphotography.co.uk/
Antonina’s gorgeous baby boy just 5 days old 🙂
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. There wasn’t even the question in my mind on whether to breastfeed or not. After all, it’s such a natural thing to do, right? I mean, our ancestors managed just fine without breastfeeding consultants and NCT classes so it must be pretty easy.
So when I started my birth preparation class, I listened intently to everything to do with labour and birth, and lost focus when the time came for the breastfeeding councillor to teach us the fundamentals of breastfeeding. I haven’t even touched the hand-outs she’d given us – I thought I still have time to review them.
Boy was I wrong. On all accounts.
When my baby boy arrived slightly ahead of schedule, at 37 weeks, I was fully prepared for the birth (so it was a relatively smooth and easy – as much as it can be! – experience with no drugs or interventions) but not for feeding my baby.
When placed on my breast after the delivery he did not latch on and fell asleep. I had to express those precious few drops of colostrum and give it to him via a syringe. We then stayed at the hospital for the next 4 days as the staff wanted to monitor his weight.
In theory, being in hospital for 4 days really should have meant I’d get all the help establishing breastfeeding. But I didn’t.
The midwifes were no help and the advice I was given changed as they changed shifts. I was frustrated, blamed my large breasts, my small nipples, and didn’t know what to do. Hell, I didn’t even know how much food my baby needed, and no one told me that after day one I should really start giving him more than 10ml I was hand-expressing. After a couple of days I had to start supplementing him with formula – the milk I managed to express just wasn’t enough.
It was after one of the midwifes spent 15 minutes trying to push screaming Alex onto my breast, in desperation I called Anna, the breastfeeding councillor I’d had a class with as part of my birth preparation. Later she told me how frustrated and slightly mental I sounded – but I thought I was calm and collected when I spoke to her!
I told her everything, and she suggested that I drop by her house when I’m discharged from the hospital. In the meantime, she said, I should spend as much time with Alex on my chest, skin-to-skin.
When I was finally discharged (and that’s another story in itself), I headed straight to Anna’s, equipped with nipple shields she suggested we get. And guess what? 20 minutes later, with the right positioning and gentle guidance, my baby – who refused to latch on for 4 days – was happily sucking from my breast (albeit with the help of a nipple shield). I was the happiest mum on the planet.
But of course it didn’t end there.
The next week was filled with trying to get Alex to latch on (still with a nipple shield), expressing milk and feeding him through a bottle when I couldn’t get him on. It was absolutely exhausting. I’d spend 30 minutes trying to get him on (and he’d scream and look for the breast, and try to get it into his mouth, and it wouldn’t work, and he’d scream some more…), then feeding him, and then expressing in case next time he’d refuse to latch on completely. And by that time I’d have to start again – Alex was on a 3 hourly feeding schedule to fight off his jaundice. On more than I few occasions I cried in desperation. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. It was as if my baby was punishing me, refusing the best I could offer him.
We did have an early success – fed up with the shields that constantly peeled off, I tried to feed Alex without them. Incredibly, it worked. But sadly, only for a few days. He then returned to his old self and I had to feed him via bottle.
Of course, I was worried that bottle-feeding would lead to nipple confusion and the longer it goes on, the more are the chances he’d never feed from my breasts again. But cup-feeding just was too messy and exhausting for both of us, so I continued with a bottle.
I turned to alternative methods and booked in with a cranial osteopath. By now  I had about 6 sessions, but I still don’t know what is it that they do exactly. It seems like magic to me. After just 2 sessions, Alex started feeding better and latching on straight away. Of course, he was growing too, meaning his mouth was bigger and he could get more of the breast in.
I still go and see Anna every other week – she runs a free drop-in breastfeeding clinic at Kingston Hill Children’s Centre. I get sore occasionally, but overall I think we are sorted (well, except the fact that Alex just wants to feed all the time now!).
I’m still not as comfortable as I’d like to be – I have to always hold my breast whilst feeding Alex; I envy mums that can literally walk around with the baby happily sucking either in their arms or in a sling. Doesn’t work for me.
And I’m sure I have more challenges ahead – being self-employed means I’ll be returning to work in a few weeks, before Alex is even 3 months old. Yes, I’ll be working from home most of the time, but I don’t know how I’ll manage on the days that I’m away. We’ll have to deal with it as it happens. But I’m really happy I didn’t give up.
My suggestions for those wanting to breastfeed would be…
– Prepare for the worst. Expect that breastfeeding would not be easy and may actually be painful. That way, if things work out beautifully for you, you’d feel great. And if they don’t you won’t feel like a complete and utter failure.
– Ask for help. And if you feel like the advice you’re given is not right for you – it probably isn’t. One nursing nurse that visited me at home kept on about the “angle of dangle” and told me not to hold my breast – completely missing the fact that there was no way I could get Alex to latch on without holding it! Everyone is different, and there’s no one solution to all breastfeeding problems.
– Research breastfeeding consultants in your area in advance, and have their numbers handy for after delivery. There are many free breastfeeding clinics, run but the same consultants that charge for one-to-one consultations, and they are much much better than the standard advice given by health visitors and nursery nurses.
– Consider alternative therapies. Cranial osteopathy really worked for me, but do your research and ask around for recommendations. A breastfeeding consultant will often be able to direct you to a good osteopath that gets results.

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