As you walked these internet streets the past few weeks you may have come across the hashtag #WBW2017 and may have been wondering what that is all about. Well, the first week of August (1st to 7th) was World Breastfeeding Week. Now, breastfeeding is one of the many magical but tough things that come with motherhood. As a new mum, I have been immensely blessed because I have a great support system. For starters, Ciiru who was my doula (she has a YouTube channel called Nurturing Mums)is a lactation specialist and so I’ve called her every time I am facing a challenge. I want to say right off the bat that information is power. If you are pregnant or have a newborn there is so much you can learn online and among other mums. YouTube and Pinterest are very good resources. I remember when I was on bed rest during my pregnancy I watched videos on how to bath a baby, swaddling, breastfeeding tips and many more. I also attended a child birth class which was extremely helpful. In this information age, if you don’t know something it’s because you choose not to. So ask around, read online, speak to the doctor..keep learning!
That being said, I hope this post is part of your learning experience. Now, I am not a lactation specialist or expert but I am a mum of a 2 month old boy and so this post is me sharing my breastfeeding journey; struggles, lessons and hacks. Here we go.
Getting a good latch: Everyone I encountered kept talking about getting a good latch and how important it is. And they were right – when I got a good latch the baby fed well and I’ve not suffered painful nipples because baby is nursing with a big chunk of boob in his mouth and not just pulling on my nipple.
Hack: Get a good nursing pillow. It helps raise the baby to a higher level than your bare lap. This makes it easier to now bring the baby to your breast. I was especially grateful for this because I stopped bending towards baby which was aggravating my CS wound and causing me back pain.
Inverted nipple: One of nipples was inverted and the first day baby struggled to feed from that side.
Solution: The “football hold” style of breastfeeding worked wonders for me. Every time I fed the baby from my left side, I did the football hold. Over time because of the baby’s constant pulling the nipple stops being inverted.
Low milk supply: This right here could be a post on its own! When I was pregnant and shopping for the baby I remember being told how crucial breast pads are. Mums around me shared stories of leaking boobs especially at night and when in public. Let’s just say that’s not a problem I’ve had. The packet of breast pads I bought is not even halfway used. I have had to “fight” for my milk. I have tried many things and on most days I have just enough.
- Perception – it’s OK not to have so much milk it leaks. If your friends are talking about how they have so much they don’t know what to do well that’s good for them. This is not a contest on who has the most milk. This is about making sure your baby is full and healthy. You may have to feed from both breasts and even keep switching but as long as baby is eventually full that’s alright. Settle that in your head and move on.
- Diet – eat a balanced diet and take lots of fluids especially water. People will tell you to eat this and drink that. Trust me I have tried everything even rumored to enhance milk production. I have even eaten njahi! Anyone who knows me and how much I could not stand njahi will understand the place I was for me to try them. The things that have worked for me are porridge, oatmeal, fenugreek, brewer’s yeast and dill seeds. Different things work for different people. Keep trying until you find something that works. Make water your best friend. I have this water bottle and every time I sit down to breastfeed I try to empty it.
- Rest – this is extremely important. Since the baby keeps waking up try and sleep when he does. Of course you can’t sleep all night and all day (you need to shower, eat and maybe you have a guest that day) but try get one nap a day. Watch your mental health. Try to stay positive and happy. This is hard. You feel so overwhelmed sometimes. However, constantly look for positivity. Watch something nice, treat yourself to a good meal…do what you have to. The baby can pick up on your mood plus milk production is affected by your mental state. Get help and allow people to help you. Don’t be a superwoman. It’s OK if the house is not super tidy. Focus on baby and you.
- Pumping – expressing milk helps increase production. Try power pumping. Develop a schedule that allows you to pump especially after baby has fed. I pump after the 2am feed – I have more milk at night. It’s tiring and I’d rather be sleeping but I have to do it.
- Sometimes the problem is not lack of milk – at first every time baby cried and struggled to feed I assumed it was because the boob was empty and he was getting frustrated. About 2 weeks ago I watched this video on different types of baby cries and what they mean and I identified that my son was constantly crying because of gas. That explained why sometimes he’ll cry mid-feed. Now when it happens I just lift him up, put him on my shoulder and walk around a bit and he almost always burps. And then I proceed with feeding. And he goes on to nurse well. So step back and really identify what the issue is – don’t quickly conclude that baby is not having enough like I had. Then find a solution to the specific issue and you will then breastfeed with confidence.
- Supplementing – My milk supply dwindles towards evening so I have found a solution. I bottle feed the baby from 5pm. That way after bath time which is 7pm my boobs have enough milk for him to feed on before bedtime. This is why I keep expressing – because I need milk to bottle feed at some point in the day. If you have tried everything and feel you need to supplement with formula go ahead. A healthy baby is the goal here.
The final hack to make breastfeeding manageable is to set up a breastfeeding station in the house – preferably somewhere near your bed and where baby sleeps because of night feeds. Get a good comfortable chair with a steady back rest. You can put a foot stool to raise your feet too. Have the nursing pillow there with a blanket or cover for baby and you. If space allows have a small table next to the chair to put your water and/or food on and even your phone. The point is to be as comfortable as possible – after all, you spend almost half the day there!
I am still fighting to exclusively breastfeed until six months. I will not give up and neither should you. If you however need to supplement there is no judgment either. I hope this post has helped you in some way and remember the goal is a happy and healthy baby!
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.