“We started off breastfeeding but my milk didn’t come in”
“We tried breastfeeding but I just didn’t produce enough milk and baby was never satisfied”
The above are the most common reasons I hear from Mums for not establishing breastfeeding. Usually when I delve a little deeper, the primary reason for not feeding longer than a few days or a week was that it was too painful. I speak to so many pregnant ladies who are really worried that when they breastfeed, they won’t produce enough milk to satisfy and nurture their little one. This is because of the myth which is being banded around by not only Mums but also the media.
It is VERY RARE for women to physically not be able to produce enough milk to satisfy their baby.
The reason milk supply may be short is mostly due to incorrect position and attachment. There are lots of reasons position and attachment might not be perfect, but the outcome will be the same.
Incorrect latch = Inadequate Milk Transfer = Insufficient Milk Supply
In addition to getting the position and attachment right, free access to the breast is vitally important for newborns. Feeding on demand is the only way to ensure you produce enough milk for baby in the long term. You CANNOT overfeed a breastfed baby and a newborn who feeds every 2 hours IS being satisfied. Their stomachs are only the size of a marble and colostrum and breast milk is easy to digest.
Correct Latch = Pain FREE feeding = Happy Mum and Happy Baby
If your baby is not latched on properly, you are more likely to suffer from blocked milk ducts and mastitis and baby will obviously not be getting enough milk and will lose weight.
Like the majority of women and most probably men too, when I gave birth to Spud, I too expected that breastfeeding would be painful and sore at first until you get through that initial week or so. That cracked nipples, dreading the next feed and feeding with gritted teeth until your nipples harden up is a right of passage.
In the majority of cases, with the right support, it can literally take a few minutes to have a mum feeding effectively and without pain.
That’s the problem though isn’t it. Getting the RIGHT support.
If you’d have asked me 3 years ago where the best place was to get breastfeeding support, I would have said go to your midwife.
In most cases this would be a great place to start but not always. Midwives do not necessarily specialise in breastfeeding. A better guess would have been a Breastfeeding Support Worker of which we have a brilliant one in our PCT. You are referred by your midwife when she discharges you from home visits and she can support you by phone, in person at home and at local support groups. Her sole job is to help women to breastfeed and so has much better knowledge in her field than a Midwife who has a million other skills and abilities.
Your local support group is another great source of advice and support. Usually run by NHS Health Professionals who have an interest and experience in breastfeeding, Peer Supporters and sometimes Charities like the NCT.
The people who run these groups attend every week and see hundreds of women every year meaning that the advice and support they provide invaluable. You all learn from each others knowledge and experience. Also, you meet other Mums who have probably had similar experiences to you. This is exactly what you need when you are beginning to think you are the only Mum in the world who has a baby who won’t stop feeding or who sleeps too much (yes, babies CAN be too sleepy!).
The great thing about the support groups is that you can keep coming back. Earlier in this post I said it could ‘literally take a few minutes to have a mum feeding effectively and without pain’ and that is entirely achievable but like most things in life, breastfeeding takes a bit of practice from both Mum and Baby so returning to a support group each week or attending one each day of the week (if you are lucky enough to live in Chester like me) is highly recommended. You can guarantee, that you can get the latch right with the help of someone else looking at you from a different angle but it can be more tricky getting it right yourself at first.
Online Support Groups are cropping up all over the place and a current favourite of mine is Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths on Facebook. The admins are Peer Supporters and are great at answering your queries at all times of day and night. The online groups are brilliant for asking questions you might think are too insignificant to bother your GP or Midwife with and you can receive an answer quickly. You might be really struggling in the middle of a dark, lonely night and a quick post on the page will see fellow Mums offering support when you most need it. The only drawback is that anyone can answer your query and although 99% of the women who reply to the posts are also peer supporters, breastfeeding advocates, fellow breastfeeding Mums, lactation consultants etc there is always the small risk you might get the odd incorrect or slightly iffy answer back. I have to say though that the Admins on Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths are always on the ball with regulating the answers as are other ‘likers’ so bad advice doesn’t go unnoticed.
There are also some really helpful phonelines you can ring all times of the day and night for advice:
The National Breastfeeding Helpline number is : 0300 100 0212
La Leche League GB
NCT – number at bottom of homepage
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM)
The Breastfeeding Network
Unicef has a wealth of information and factsheets with brilliant photos of babies latching on.
The natural Breastfeeding stories which used to be passed down from mother to daughter, are now being passed on in blog form. As with the support groups, reading the heart-felt story of a fellow Mum at four in the morning can keep a mum going until she can seek physical support the next day.
Family and friends can offer invaluable support to breastfeeding mums. I know ladies who didn’t even consider breastfeeding until their partners suggested it and now they can’t understand why it didn’t occur to them in the first place. Feeding in public can be vital in order for you to get out and about and lead a normal life and family and friends are brilliant when it comes to supporting you in public. Without support from nearest and dearest, breastfeeding can be difficult. To be questioned when you know you are doing your best for you and baby is demoralising and it’s the last thing you need. A sympathetic and understanding ear can be lovely when it seems the whole world is against you and sadly, breastfeeding has a habit of provoking negative comments in this day and age.
All of this support is brilliant if you know how to access it but what happens if you think you are seeking the right advice but you are faced with the worst advice and you don’t know any better?
When Spud was 7 months old, I contracted the Norovirus. It was horrendous and after a morning of vomiting (and the rest) I phoned my midwife as I was worried about whether I should continue to breastfeed him.
The conversation went a little like this…
Me: “Hi, I’ve got some sort of vomiting bug and I wanted to check whether I should keep breastfeeding my 7 month old.”
MW: “Do you think it was something you ate or an illness?”
Me: “I don’t have a clue, it’s only me who is ill at the moment and my partner has eaten the same as me”
MW: “OK, to be on the safe side, DON’T feed him.”
Me: “Oh, OK. Thanks”
That was it. No other advice given. You would think that she might have asked if I knew how to sterilise bottles correctly since formula isn’t sterile and as I was ill this would be doubly important. But no, all I got was not to feed him.
The abrupt nature of the conversation had me feeling a little uneasy so as I wasn’t exactly bed-ridden yet, I washed my hands thoroughly and decided to I give him one last feed and pick up breastfeeding properly again when I was better.
That was sadly not to be. What I didn’t know was that the ‘advice’ given couldn’t have been more wrong.
That I SHOULD have continued to feed my baby.
That, by stopping feeding him so abruptly had not only put him AT RISK of contracting the Norovirus but had also put me AT RISK of contracting Mastitis on top of the Norovirus I already had.
That by not protecting my milk supply and expressing when Spud wasn’t feeding, my milk supply dwindled so much so that when I tried to resume feeding five days later, he was frustrated at the lack of milk and it actually upset him to feed.
I also didn’t realise that, I probably could have build my supply back up by expressing and encouraging Spud to feed as much as possible in addition to supplementing him with formula which I could hopefully have weaned him off shortly.
My point is, we can seek advice from others but if we ourselves aren’t in possession of the facts, then how can we know that the advice we are given is correct?
We need to make breastfeeding the norm. To see breastfeeding daily on TV and in public.
To educate our youngsters, both boys and girls, with the basics of breastfeeding then encourage them to educate themselves further when the time comes. The breastfeeding rates in theUKare pitifully low as most think nothing of picking up a bottle without even looking in to the benefits of breastfeeding and this needs to change.
I would love more women to think about breastfeeding as an option and educate themselves on what to expect and where to get the right advice and support.
I would love every Mum who gives it a go to be given the support they deserve and hopefully get off to a better start.
This would mean less guilt trips for Mums who really did expect they would breastfeed but didn’t.
There wouldn’t be this politically correctness hanging over breastfeeding advocacy. In an ideal world, you would be able to preach about the brilliance of breastfeeding and breast milk without offending anyone since everyone who wanted to breastfeed would be.
I feel guilty that I was ignorant first time round. I actually thought Mastitis was something pigs got!!!! Think I’d seen it on tv at some point :D
If I could have my time over,
I would want to know that I shouldn’t have waited five weeks until I ventured to my local support group – That instead of waiting for my nipples to heal, I should have gone at the first sign of discomfort and saved myself the agony and ensured Spud was feeding effectively from the start.
I would want to know that I should have fed him through illness and could still be feeding him now.
I would be happy that we stopped feeding because Spud was ready and not because of inadequate support and my own ignorance.
I wouldn’t still be angry that our journey was cut short.
I would love if my boys were tandem feeding now but when I see women tandem feeding with their little ones holding hands, I feel only happiness for them. I don’t feel angry with them for sharing it with the world because I couldn’t.
Women need to stop feeling guilty and start being pro-active. That could be making damn sure that next time you have a baby, you do a little bit of reading, go to support groups when you are expecting and get all the relevant info before baby arrives. It could also be spreading the word that education and support are key and help other mums-to-be in that way. There will always be a very small number of Mums who will have a more unusual problem meaning that getting the right support will seem impossible but in an ideal world, with the right support, 99% of Mums are physically able to breastfeed.
You have found a Keep Britain Breastfeeding Logo!!!
To collect further points towards the Grand Prize, leave a comment below telling me whether you were ready to stop breastfeeding when you did and if you are pregnant, what support are you already aware of in your area?
Hop over to the following blogs who are also taking part in the Scavenger Hunt…
Mummy Is A Gadget Geek – Blogging about baby gadgets, mummy gadgets, breastfeeding and bringing up two kids from a baby wearing, baby le weaning, co-sleeping, trainee breastfeeding counsellor mum-of-two.
Life, Love & Lollipops – My name is Roz. I am a Midlands based wife, mum of two gorgeous boys (3 & a newborn), friend, sister, serial Facebooker and Tweeter! Oh, and I kicked cancer. Twice. Before I was 30. This is my story moving on from cancer and getting back to living again.
Mummy Constant - The little adventure of Noah and the Bump.
Radical Ramblings – a document of my family’s journey through attachment parenting, radical unschooling and living an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. I blog about breastfeeding, positive discipline, politics, feminism, education and anything else I care to ramble on about.
Breast 4 Babies – I do not have a magic wand that I can wave and every mum can breastfeed with ease, but I have been there, through the milk coming in, the cluster feeding, mastitis, thrush – you name it I have probably been there and bought the t-shirt, so I do understand what you are going through.
Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths – Mums not Myths ~ DBM is a personal blog and an online breastfeeding peer support group which helps mums to find their way through a maze of misinformation and discrimination.
Blooming Lovely Jewellery Are donating a Bola necklace to the Grand Prize - The Mexican Bola is a fabulous chiming pendant traditionally worn by pregnant women to bond with their unborn babies