I remember taking this photo of my beautiful son in hospital. He looked so perfect and I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all. I was also in agony having had an emergency caesarean and not being able to even pick him up from the cot myself. In all honestly I was in shock after everything that had happened and it took me a long time to recover from it emotionally.
I am not describing anything new. Many mothers will relate to this and to continue along the path of motherhood starting from such a painful and sleep deprived state is really tough. I salute you all.
For me breastfeeding was incredibly hard. We just couldn’t do it. We tried and tried but the first few weeks were agony. In fact, despite being a paediatrician my son lost far too much weight after birth and became dehydrated. I didn’t notice and that is something that still racks me with guilt nearly 5 years down the line. Breastfeeding is wonderful in so many ways- it is natural and practical, helps with bonding and mother’s health, all the amazing immune properties of breast milk are so protective against infection and allergies later in life. However, it is not always easy and many women struggle with it. I thought I would share what saved me and meant that despite our difficult start, I managed to breast feed my son for 9 months:
Get help. Repeatedly. Do not leave hospital until you are confident to latch your baby yourself and know that he/she is actually feeding.
It should not be painful. Although the latch can feel a bit uncomfortable initially this should settle quickly into the feed. Cracked or ‘dented’ nipples are a sign that the latch is not good enough.
Go to breastfeeding cafes and get help from the amazing volunteers out there. I did this and cannot thank them enough. I am not the type to ‘get them out’ in public but I was so desperate for support that I forgot this pretty quickly!
Watch this video: https://globalhealthmedia.org/portfolio-items/attaching-your-baby-at-the-breast
Do not underestimate the power of skin to skin… The first weeks after birth do not be afraid to hide yourself away with your baby and immediate family (partner, other children) and limit visitors. If they come, ask for help. Often it is not ‘taking the baby away so you can rest’ that you need but practical household tasks like laundry and cooking to allow you to concentrate on your new little one.
How do you know your baby is getting enough? I know this as a paediatrician. But in my desperation to succeed at breastfeeding I just didn’t see what was in front of me- a starving hungry, dehydrated baby. However you decide to feed your baby, ultimately what is important is that they get enough milk. Their nappies are the key to knowing this.
As a general rule, the number of wet nappies should roughly follow the day of life- in other words d1 of life, 1 wet nappy, day 3 of life 3 wet nappies and so on. Beyond a week, babies should produce 6-8 wet nappies per day if they are getting enough milk. Try and record this information somewhere- notepad/app as in your sleep-deprived haze you may not remember this information. Poos are bit more variable. It is important for a baby to poo in the first 24h (definitely within first 48h) and colour should change from black sticky meconium to brown/green and then to bright yellow within the first 3-5 days of life. Keeping an eye on the nappies will help you to know your little one is getting enough..
Good luck to all you new mummies out there- it is tough..but you are amazing.