Tomorrow marks 6 weeks since Vinnie entered the world, and 6 weeks since our breastfeeding journey began. In light of World Breastfeeding Week I thought I would share my experience thus far. This is my second time becoming a mum but I was very much clueless when it came to breastfeeding (and am still learning). Prior to having Vinnie breastfeeding was my main concern as the guilt from my struggles with Myla still lingered. Well, I am pleased to say that my experience this time has been the complete opposite to what it was with Myla. At 6 weeks we are still going strong with no signs of stopping any time soon…a mama milestone I never thought I’d reach.
From that first feed in hospital Vinnie and I just got it. Vinnie’s latch was spot on and I was a lot calmer. We chose to leave hospital ASAP as I wanted to be at home with Myla but before we left, we attended a breastfeeding class. I spoke at length with the lactation consultant about my previous experience and asked for her advice on latching and positions. She checked Vinnie for any tongue/lip ties (he was all clear), and watched us feed. She assured me that our latch looked really good and the techniques I was using (lying down and football method) were the best for me. She was confident that I would succeed going forward. My milk supply was a concern but she advised that it could take a number of days for it to come in, and to book in another consultation (free of charge) if I was at all concerned. My determination to breastfeed made her believe in me, and her confidence in me made all the difference for my mindset in those early days…weird that a complete stranger could do this to me, but I wanted to breastfeed him so badly. My previous experiences with midwives when it came to breastfeeding left me feeling guilty, sad and alone; this was a welcomed change.
When we got home I was already talking about booking in a follow up consultation with the lactation consultants just in case, but after our first week…I didn’t feel the need. I was expecting cracked nipples and/or mastitis to rear its ugly head (as it did with Myla) but they never did. I actually couldn’t believe it as my nipples had cracked on day 2 with Myla. My main struggle with breastfeeding Vinnie has been the time it takes to do so and lack of sleep. Yes, I know lack of sleep is to be expected with a new baby, but breastfeeding is bloody demanding and it’s all on you. It’s not as if hubby can take over for a feed! Those first 3 weeks were the hardest as I felt like all I did was feed Vinnie. This wouldn’t have been as big an issue if Vinnie was an only child, however I had Myla to think about and she needed me. Vinnie was taking 45 minutes to 1 hour per feed. By the time he finished it was time to start all over again. Oh, and those early evening were a write off as Vinnie would cluster feed for 3-4 hours.
Myla and I:
I knew that the transition from one to two kids would take some getting used to, but I underestimated how time consuming a newborn would be. In the first few weeks my husband was home and his main focus was helping with Myla (as there wasn’t much he could do for Vinnie). I assumed that having her father’s undivided attention would be enough but it wasn’t. In the first week of Vinnie being home she regressed with her toilet training and it was a clear sign that she needed some one on one mama time. From that point I made a conscious effort to have alone time with her whether it be playing, feeding her or having our nightly shower together. As soon as I did her toilet training was back on track. I didn’t mean to neglect her and missed our time together, it’s just Vinnie was feeding constantly! 6 weeks down the track feedings have eased off and Myla has adjusted well to having her baby brother around.
As I was struggling in those first few weeks from sleep deprivation, I began to doubt my ability to breastfeed long term. I was not cut out for this! Vinnie was feeding every 2 hours for 1 hour, by the time I went to sleep he was up again and ready for more. I felt like a zombie. I began to get really cranky at night. The sleep deprivation made me angry. It’s hard to explain but at certain feeds I was pissed off at my newborn. I felt guilty after as it’s not his fault, he was hungry and doing exactly what he was meant to! The lack of sleep was getting to me, and I was waiting for that magical breastfeeding moment everyone talks about to come…I started to worry.
The midnight feed:
At 4 weeks, and after advice from friends I decided to introduce a bottle at night so my husband could do it and I could get a solid 4 hours sleep. I attempted to pump during the day to get enough for that midnight feed however, I got no way near enough. Perhaps it’s the pump I was using (Medela), perhaps my breasts don’t respond well to pumping…whatever the reason I made the decision to formula feed Vinnie once a night. If he sleeps through the midnight feed then I breastfeed him as normal, but if he wakes at 12 – hubby gives him a bottle. Making this one change made all the difference. I felt less zombie and those feelings of anger disappeared. I know there are many ‘breast is best’ extremists out there that would look down on me for doing this but I don’t really care. My motto is ‘fed is best’. One bottle of formula is a lot better than one angry mama. My milk supply hasn’t suffered and I’m hoping he will soon sleep through the night anyway (pleaseee).
I finally started to feel comfortable at the beginning of week 5. So many mamas would say ‘hang in there until the 6 week mark’ and I honestly thought it was BS, but here I am and it’s true! He does still feed for 20-30 minutes, and during the day it’s quite frequent, but I finally feel like I am getting the hang of breastfeeding. I personally don’t like breastfeeding in public. I have F cup breasts which means that I have to hold them in place with one hand and hold Vinnie with the other so it’s hard for me to be discreet. I completely support normalising breastfeeding, I just don’t want strangers to see my massive jugs. I am hoping that as Vinnie grows he will be able to find my nipple alone therefore giving me one free hand but until then, its mothers rooms for me!
A day in the life:
During the day, I don’t have set times for Vinnies feeds…I demand feed. This last week I have been trying to implement a feed, play, nap routine. I simply put him to sleep after 1.5 hours of awake time. I did this with Myla and she eventually fell into a regular pattern. At night he seems to already be in a set routine, sometimes doing longer sleep stints; it’s just our days that are still unpredictable. Below is an idea of what a regular day/night looks like, give or take an hour here or there depending on the length of his naps.
7.00-7.30am: Wake up and feed
10.00am: Wake up and feed
1.30pm: Wake up and feed
4.00pm: Wake up and feed
6.30pm: Wake up and feed
8.00-9.00pm: Wake up, bath, feed and bed time
12.00-1.30am: Wake up and feed
3.30-4.00am: Wake up and feed
5.30am: Wake up and feed
7.00-7.30am: Wake up for the day.
I am not an expert, I am still learning and still asking those around me for help going forward. I simply want to share my experience as I know how intimidating breastfeeding can be! My advice would be to get help from a lactation consultant you experience any issues. If you want to formula feed – do it. Myla was formula fed exclusively from 6 weeks and she is perfect. I don’t know how long Vinnie will breastfeed for, I haven’t really thought about it…I’m just taking it day by day at this stage and will adjust accordingly. Teeth might be a game changer LOL.