When I was pregnant I had a reoccurring nightmare that I couldn’t feed my baby! It was awful. I did everything I could during my waking hours to ensure my nightmare wouldn’t become a reality. In spite of all the information out there on breastfeeding, the reality of it is very different. Here are the 10 things I found.
1 - It’s frustrating
Ever wondered how your body just knows when to start producing milk? That’s after your placenta is delivered following the birth of your child. But before the milk, your body produces colostrum. This is great stuff for the baby, yes, we all know that. But it’s very little, well, in my case anyway. No one told me how frustrating it would be to wait for the milk to actually come in! It took me three days. Three days of crying and wondering why it was taking so long! Three days is actually pretty good. My pediatrician said it could take around 5. It seemed like my nightmare was becoming a reality and I could not feed my baby. A doctor at my hospital here in Abu Dhabi told me I should give him formula (Aptimal) until the milk sets in. All adults with me looked at the doctor in horror. ‘What if the baby gets used to the formula and doesn’t want her milk later?!’ they all said. To be honest, at that moment I really didn’t care. All I wanted to do was feed my tiny 2.7kg baby. And guess what? he didn’t get used to the formula and I later fed him just fine :)
2 - The contractions
So this was a big shock to me. When you start feeding your baby, you start getting contractions, and they’re pretty strong!! I had to actually take pain killers (brufen) to ease the pain. This only lasts a day or two, so no need to worry! Plus, it’s actually a good thing because it means your uterus is shrinking back to its normal size. One of the first benefits of breastfeeding. Still, it was a shocker.
3 - It’s loooong!
I thought babies nurse for like 10 minutes and then are done. Pretty much all I did for the first month or so was breastfeed. I had no idea that so much time would be taken up by breastfeeding!! I actually thought something was wrong with my baby. He seemed to constantly feed and not get bigger. Obviously all babies are different, but my friend Google here tells me a lot of other women go through the same thing. It would have been nice if someone prepared me beforehand.
4 - It hurts
A lot. And for weeks, not just one like they tell you.
They say it shouldn't hurt and if it does then it is a sign that baby is latching on wrong. My question is, how many ways are there for a baby to latch on?! There's nothing wrong with the latch, it just hurts. And be prepared, your nipple will likely crack and possibly bleed.
5 - Make room for nursing bras!
You will literally not need to wear any kind of bra except a nursing one for however long you plan to nurse. I know, it sucks. Especially that good options are limited, I've found. The ones I found here in Abu Dhabi were at Destination Maternity (located in Al Wahda Mall's new extension), but they were pretty pricey!! And uncomfortable. And looked awful. I ended up ordering a few online from boob design
I totally recommend them, and yes, they deliver to the UAE! usually within a week.
6 - Buy some nursing tops
When your baby is screaming for milk, you will want to give him boob access ASAP! Nursing tops are not pretty, I know, and they are expensive!! But you need them. What I did was purchase nursing tank tops from H&M here in Abu Dhabi (Al Wahda Mall). They sold black and while in a set, and grey polka dots in another. I bought the two sets. They were around 200 AED (US$55). They are life savers. You can wear them under any cardigan or jacket and it wont look too dull :)
7 - Engorgement? Mastitis?
Get yourself familiar with these terms. It might save you a lot of trouble in the future and help you avoid them. And if like me, you experience the latter, then get familiar with how to spot it early for quick pain relief, because, yes you guessed it, it's painful.
8 - Get a nursing pillow!
Honestly these things are wonderful, and yes I know many say you can just use any old pillow, but it's not the same! A nursing pillow is defiantly much better, especially when your baby is a fragile little newborn. I didn’t like the one they sold in Mothercare, they were a little too stiff and I didn’t feel it would be so comfy for a bony baby. I ended up getting one from the Babyshop. They are pretty good because they take the baby’s shape.
9 - Losing weight?
Fine, it does help, but very slowly. You actually have to eat a lot more to keep your supply up, and while nursing you cannot diet.
10 - Supplementing with formula
I had to do this because my supply was low. I ate everything doctors told me to eat to boost my milk supply. I even bought ancient remedies and pills and I don’t know what. Nothing worked, my baby wanted more milk. So I would give him formula after nursing him at every feed if he was still hungry. And I was trashed for it. My pediatrician told me that giving a baby formula was "like leaving him in the middle of the road and just praying that no car would hit him". She really did say that. And it scared the hell out of me and made me cry. But, really, it’s no big deal.
And yes, it is a pain that I’m having to breastfeed as well as bottle-feed - which includes bottle washing then sterilising, and all the other stuff that comes with it - and yes it takes longer. But it’s all worth it. It’s worth the pain, the trouble, and the long long hours. And when they tell you breast-milk is better for your baby, they’re not exaggerating in anyway. I had to stop nursing for a week while on antibiotics and had to pump instead. It was a nightmare. My baby had gas, tummy pains, and constipation. And I know he’s just a baby, but I could tell he was not happy. So however little breast-milk he is getting from me, I am thankful for it, and I would not want to stop until he was ready to move on to cow’s milk.
Happy nursing everyone, and let me know if I missed anything :)