I struggled to breastfeed my first baby – here’s what I plan to do differently

I’ll admit it, I hated breastfeeding. I’m about to give birth again in a few weeks and I want to make sure I do everything I can to prepare in the hope I’ll have an easier time.

I was determined to breastfeed

As much as I despised being a milk machine, I wanted to try it for as long as possible. My daughter was not the problem, it was me. All me.

First, there were the encouraging midwives in the birthing suite. They cheered me on as I let my five-minute-old newborn suckle for hours (from which my nips never recovered). Note to future self: You are not a human dummy.

Next, my daughter fed so enthusiastically in hospital that she was one of the rare babies to put on weight before being discharged. I feel like this is why they kept telling me I was doing great even though I had a feeling something was wrong with our latch.

Then, I was so tense while feeding that my neck and shoulders were permanently hunched and sore. It didn’t seem natural to bring the baby to chest so I would do the opposite, eventually stiffening into oblivion.

If those physical challenges weren’t enough, it got worse when I arrived home

I called the ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) in tears, because I had white spots on my nipples. The operator told me; ‘All this info is on our website but I’ll read it out to you if you want.’ Ouch. New Mum here, didn’t even know about your website. Milk coming in. Hormones. Fear.

I ended up with a nasty bout of thrush in my milk ducts and let down hurt worse than tattoos or even childbirth.

Sprinkle-in a couple rounds of mastitis in the following weeks and that merely sums up the physical anguish of my feeding experience. Now, let’s not neglect the mental.

My mental health suffered

As a woman struggling with her new identity as a mother, I wrestled with restrictions on my freedom in every sense. Not only was it difficult to get out of the house when I wanted, but I was now a slave to my little person’s hunger. My body still belonged to someone else. I had to wear ugly, nursing clothing. It felt like drowning.

I didn’t know how to feel like me again, which would be impossible anyway because I was forever changed – but still! What could be done? The good news is with therapy and time I’ve healed and now I’m ready to go back into the gauntlet with my next baby.

This time I’ll be armed with experience and low expectations

1. Speak to a Lactation Consultant BEFORE baby arrives

Take some time before the next baby (usually around 30 weeks or so) to meet with an LC and discuss what went wrong last time. She can help troubleshoot and come up with a plan for what to try should the same things go wrong again.

2. Struggle could set you up for success

If you struggled the first time around it probably means you have seriously reduced (realistic) expectations about feeding next time. It might just mean you go easier on yourself when you try again.

3. Take Classes

Did you know they offer breastfeeding classes? Me neither. During my first pregnancy I was obsessed with the changes happening in my body and the birthing process. Somehow I forgot to study-up on what to do with an actual child once they arrive.

4. Be Realistic

Second bub means you have another kiddo to look after at home. You won’t have hours to mess around with feeds or expressing. Make sure that your plans include a realistic schedule that fits your family’s lifestyle.

5. Your body is never the same – for a reason!

Know how your chesticles never look quite the same again after giving birth? Well, I found the single benefit of that! Stronger, more prominent nipples will make it easier for bub to latch. My protruding nips now have a reason to exist (TMI? sorry, but it’s true).

6. Create Space

Set up a serene area in your home where you can sit comfortably while feeding. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be completely free of distractions if you have other young’ns so maybe strategically place some books or toys nearby that you know will keep your oldest quiet and distracted while you nurse.

7. Adapt

It’s all well and good to have a plan but if that plan falters, change it up. Have another sesh with your LC and modify what isn’t working. The good thing about BF is that there are lots of options you can try. Last time I googled a million different holds until I found one that worked.

8. Gear for the girls

You don’t need much to feed, a boob and a baby, but sometimes ‘stuff’ makes life easier. Invest in nursing wear, clothing that allows you to feed easily, feels comfortable and can be washed a million times. Grab some reusable nursing pads and disposables for on-the-go. Also, make sure you have a good pump, soothing ointment and hot/cold packs.

So, if you’re like me and you think breastfeeding totally sucks, remember that things are usually better the second time around (so I hear). You’ve done it before, you have realistic expectations, and you probably have the confidence to ask for help or speak up when something is not working.

You got this, Mama and remember at the end of the day, fed is best.

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