So many of you asked for this blog post instalment, but I was VERY reluctant to speak about such a personal and important part of my journey as a new mummy until I felt like I had personally nailed it and could speak from experience. Let me start by saying, i’ve yet to speak to a new mum who has found breastfeeding a walk in the park, so if you are having any difficulty no matter how big or small then please know that you are not alone.
From the time I fell pregnant I instinctively knew that I wanted to exclusively breast feed my baby. I was determined to push past any problems to ensure that me and my baby could have a positive bonding feeding experience. So I think that is a good place to start, I believe having that time during pregnancy to read about breastfeeding from the experts and tapping into real life experiences from other mums online, allowed me to be mentally prepared for the potential problems with breastfeeding before the birth and the baby blues kicked in. Doing my research allowed me to know exactly what I wanted for me and my son and to be firm in my determination to make it happen. I also made a promise to myself to never quit breastfeeding on a bad day.
During my personal breast feeding experience we tackled an undiagnosed double anterior tongue tie 100% which is basically the worst type of tongue tie he could have. We tackled nipple thrush; which is quite simply as painful as child birth, and we continue to tackle reflux. I have to be authentic here and tell you that the first 3 months of breastfeeding were really tough at times. There were moments that my nipples were so painful that I would procrastinate in feeding him even when he was crying for food. It was so I could try to psych myself up for the 20 minutes of complete agony ahead. BUT… I am pleased to share that right now I am having the most wonderful bonding experience with my son, and I am loving every moment of nourishing his little body with my breast milk. I am also pleased to report that I am pain free.
So with that said, I wanted to share my quick guide to breastfeeding having now survived everything that could go wrong… going wrong!
"Do Your Research"
Thanks to lockdown 1.0 I had plenty of time to “read the baby books”. So when it came to breastfeeding I chose a book that has been around since 2009 and continues to receive great reviews. It is written by author and midwife Ina May Gaskin and it is based on decades of her experience in caring for pregnant women, mothers, and babies. The book covers helpful advice, medical facts, and real-life stories that will help you understand how to breastfeed successfully and how you can use it to more deeply connect with your baby and your own body. It also covered subjects such as weaning and breastfeeding challenges along with how to overcome them. This book gave me confidence going into breastfeeding which I believe is half the battle already won.
I also used Instagram and blogs not too dis-similar to this one to tap into other new mums experiences. I didn’t want to go into this believing it was all going to be a fairy tale bonding session, I wanted to be realistic.
"GET A LACTATION CONSULTANT ON SPEED DIAL"
Let me just begin by saying that lactation consultants are worth every single penny spent on them! Now i’ve cleared that up, let me share with you exactly why I make that statement.
Within 24 hours of River being born I spotted what I suspected was a tongue tie. Whilst in hospital I flagged my concerns with the midwife on the ward, the midwife who did his 9 point check and also with the on site breast feeding “expert”. Every single person who checked him said he did not have a tongue tie, he was latching well and appeared to be feeding sufficiently so there were no concerns. My motherly instincts were simply brushed aside. Fast forward one week, at this point my nipples had become sensitive, red, cracked and sore, so when I was back in hospital to deal with some post birth complications I asked one of the midwives to check him, once again I received the exact same response. Fast forward another two weeks… my nipples have turned white in colour, there is a weird flaming pattern on my areola, it is literally painful to wear a bra and to shower and I am wincing every time River latched. To be quite honest, I was dreading every single feed. At this point my partner reminded me that I had actually researched a lactation consultant during pregnancy just in case we needed help, so he insisted that I book an appointment. Katherine Fisher (https://katherinefisher.co.uk/) was an absolute godsend. Within 2 minutes of our arrival she confirmed that not only did River have a tongue tie, he had a double anterior tongue tie that was 100% in its severity. She said it was shameful that so many medical professionals had missed this but that it is sadly a very common story. She said “it is a miracle that either of you are managing to breast feed”. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that someone had diagnosed the problem and could instantly help us. Tongue tie is extremely common and occurs in approximately 11% of newborn babies. The NHS lists all of the signs to look out for and confirms that not only can tongue tie cause problems with breast feeding but it can also cause problems with eating certain foods and speech problems later on in your child’s life. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-tie/)
Depending on who you speak with there may be denial that tongue tie causes speech issues, but it is listed as a concern on the NHS website and plenty of people from our parents generation will claim that a speech problem was eventually linked to an undiagnosed tongue tie.
Katherine snipped Rivers tongue tie on the spot, within seconds I noticed the difference. Previously Rivers average feed time was 45 – 60 minutes long, following the procedure he did a full feed in 15 minutes. He was so much happier in himself and it was so cute watching him discover his tongue being able to move and poke out for the first time. I genuinely would recommend that every parent with even the slightest suspicion that their baby might have a tongue tie get it checked out by a trained lactation consultant, Midwives and post natal healthcare professionals are sadly not trained in tongue tie diagnoses or treatment hence why so many get missed. Trust me going private is worth every penny! The NHS does have a referral system but that can take up to 8 weeks and they will only treat baby if the baby cannot feed because of it, sadly there seems to be less concern for mothers comfort or potential future speech issues within the NHS.
"WHY DOES NOBODY TELL YOU ABOUT NIPPLE THRUSH?"
- Itchy or burning nipples that appear fiery red, shiny, flaky, and/or have a rash with tiny blisters.
- Discolouration of the nipples – turning bright red or completely white.
- Cracked nipples.
- Shooting pains in the breast tissue during or after feedings.
- Intense nipple or deep breast pain that is not improved with better latch-on and positioning.
These are all common symptoms of nipple thrush… firstly breast feeding is NOT supposed to be painful, however if nobody talks about nipple thrush how are we to know to look out for it! It is also worth mentioning that most of the mama’s I have spoken with who’s little ones had a tongue tie, also experienced nipple thrush! Perhaps connected???
Again hooray for my lactation consultant! As soon as she had diagnosed River’s nipple thrush she asked to see my nipples… Instantly she said ” oh you poor thing, you must be in agony, does it hurt to shower?”
“Ermmm yes it bloody hurt to shower, everything hurt my nipples, even the sheets in bed” I said.
Following my diagnosis, I wondered how on earth did I not know about this and it became apparent that it was because non of my mummy friends ever spoke about it. It was not that some of them hadn’t experienced it. I think the word “thrush” just doesn’t sound nice does it? so therefore people don’t speak about it. I mean I get it, before I became pregnant, I had never ever had thrush in my life. Then boom, i’m pregnant and I get vaginal thrush, then I give birth and its oral and nipple thrush! I was horrified at first, but then I though f*#k it! Its not my fault, its a yeast problem not a STI for goodness sake Lol.
Treatment was simple, oral drops for River and Nipple cream for me, however it is HIGHLY contagious so River and I kept passing it back and forth until eventually I returned to the doctor for an an anti fungal tablet ‘Fluconazole’ prescription which cleared the problem in 2 weeks. I will be honest nipple thrush is a ball ache and it hurts like hell so the earlier you get treatment the better. A friend of mine waited and tried the holistic natural remedy approach at first but it sadly didn’t work for her and she resorted to the tablets just like I did.
Here is a little run down of my nipple thrush saviours…
Nipple Shields – These helped when it became far to painful ( however make sure you wash them in boiling water as only hot can kill a fungal infection)
Nipple cream – I used Lansinoh nipple balm, this was great to sooth the nipples during feeds as you must remove the fungal cream during feeds.
Silky PJ’s – At night a silky texture was the least irritating to my nipples .
Support & Encouragement – Don’t underestimate the power of the support of your partner, mum or a friend to keep going. This pain will pass, so whatever you do, don’t quit on a bad day!
"Pumping is a full time job!"
Now that my breastfeeding experience is so much more enjoyable, and now that I am no longer going through the wars so to speak, I can truly say that I love breastfeeding. I enjoy the time bonding with my son, I cherish our connection and I LOVE the way his little eyes look deep into mine when he is feeding. But the problem is when he isn’t near me I need to bloody pump. Pumping is NOT rewarding people! Its boring, it is time consuming, and the set up / clean up is a mission in itself. I write this as I sit in my dressing room at QVC after spending the first night away from my 4 month old baby, I still have 10 hours left at work and i’ve already had to pump 6 times (*Rolls eyes).
Being self employed I needed to be able to pump quite soon after birth so I decided to explore the wonderful world of breast pumps to establish what would work for me and my lifestyle. I think this is definitely the key to choosing a breast pump… when do you need to pump, at home? whilst driving? at work? only when you look at your lifestyle do I truly believe that you can pick the correct pump for you.
After reviewing TONNES of breast pumps, I settled on two different ones….
- The Elvie Double Breast Pump – £449.00
This is a revolutionary new to the market product that allows women to pump discreetly and quietly. Im talking you can pump at your desk or whilst filling your car with petrol and no one would know kind of discreet. Its completely quiet, and fits snuggly into your bra. No wires, no tubes and no bottles hanging from your chest like you belong in a dairy farm. Its all connected to an app on your phone, is USB chargeable as well so thats a super useful feature. I am currently using this now whilst working at QVC, it is perfect to use with a cold water steriliser as well ( I use the Milton one £12.99 from Amazon).
What is included:
- 2 Hubs
- 4 Bottles (5oz/150ml, BPA free)
- 2 Breast Shield (24mm)
- 2 Breast Shield (28mm)
- 4 Valves
- 4 Spouts
- 4 Seals
- 4 Storage Lids
- 4 Bra Adjusters
- 2 USB Charging Cables
- 2 Carry Bags
- Instructions for Use
- Medela Freestyle Flex 2 Phase Double Breast Pump – £349.99
This brand is one of the most highly awarded brands in the market. This electric breast pump is perfect for pumping at home or in a private space. It produces an outstanding 11% more milk than any other pump on the market due to its technology that very closely mimics the suckling of a real baby. Its not as quiet or discreet at the Elvie but in terms of being effective this is your best friend. This is my at home breast pump, when it doesn’t matter how I look (Thank god as I look like I belong in a dairy farm when using this pump Lol), but it is great for getting a lot of milk very quickly (10-15 minutes max).
What is included: 1 x Freestyle Flex™ double electric breast pump
2 x Medela PersonalFit Flex™ breast shield size 21 mm
2 x Medela PersonalFit Flex™ breast shield size 24 mm
2 x Medela PersonalFit Flex™ connector
1 x tubing
4 x 150 ml breast milk bottle
4 x lid
2 x bottle stand
1 x power adaptor with USB cable
1 x carry bag
1 x cooler with cooler element
The reason I opted for both is I wanted the Elvie for work purposes such as pumping in the dressing room at QVC where I would rather use the discreet option, however when at home the Medela was my top choice to ensure my pumping time is the most effective and I am getting the most milk possible for baby.
So there you have it, we have covered, breast feeding prep, tongue tie, nipple thrush, and pumping. Breast feeding is a personal choice, it isn’t easy but no one ever told me it would be. Most women quit within the first 8 weeks of breast feeding and having experienced the worst of it I completely understand why. However, I know that with a little support, lots more open conversations around it and by managing a new mummies expectations a lot more ladies would be likely to stick with it for longer. If I am honest it took 3 months for me to settle into breast feeding and to really begin to actually enjoy it, but trust me it is definitely worth the wait!
Follow me on Instagram @Shanie_Ryan for the latest on my new mummy journey!