Breast may be best, but breastfeeding is no walk in the park, says mum-of-two Rachel Pearce. Here she shares her five top tips for feeding little ones.
As I looked down at my newborn baby’s face I felt a surge of love so great I thought I might burst into a million pieces. This moment of perfect peace was soon shattered when she put her little lungs to the test and produced the most desperate cry I had ever heard. Aha! She’s hungry, I figured. I had been readying myself for this moment for many months. I mean, how hard could it be?
My suspicion was confirmed when she started crawling her face across my chest towards the milk bar. Like a truffle pig looking for tasty treats, she sniffed out what she’d been searching for. She opened her mouth like a yawning hippo and clamped on like a limpet.
The pain was excruciating, and for some reason she couldn’t cling on. She slid off, then clamped again and again. More crying, more pain. This was the start of a breastfeeding journey that taught me five valuable but rather uncomfortable lessons:
Trust your mum-stincts
I knew straightaway that something wasn’t right, but it took ten weeks of pain and frustration to establish that my beautiful girl had a tongue tie. She wasn’t gaining weight properly and I had gone through the physical agony of feeding and expressing, along the emotional agony of feeling like a failure. Within days of having it snipped the pain was gone and my daughter was feeding well. One day she reached up and stroked my face, and the tears began again… only these were tears of joy. We’d cracked it, but I would have got the problem sorted sooner if I’d trusted my maternal instincts and pushed for something to be done (as I later did with my son). It was an important lesson to learn early on in my parenting journey.
Put your clothes back on
I’ve never been worried about flashing a bit of boob while feeding my babies. I’ve fed them on the beach, in restaurants, answering the door to delivery people and even at church. But I remember one occasion when my daughter was fussing during a prayer meeting, so I took her out and fed her in the car. I got her to sleep and triumphantly headed back towards the school building where we meet, with it’s long dining-hall windows. I sensed people looking up at me, clearly impressed by my mum skills. But when I looked down at my angelic little beaut I noticed one of my biblical gazelles was on the loose, bounding across the car park. Another lesson learned.
Beware the teeth
I remember being deliberately bitten by both babies when their teeth first came in. To add insult to injury, they each looked up at me and laughed after the chomp. Just when you’re starting to feel all smug about breastfeeding, each new tooth offers a painful reminder of those early days!
Listen to your body
With baby two I had three bouts of agonising mastitis. Each time I thought I was going to die as fever raged through my body and every touch of the affected breast almost made me pass out. But it wasn’t until part of my nipple fell off, and an enlarged lymph node in my armpit which required a biopsy appeared, that I realised my body was trying to tell me something! I moved to a one-boob feeding strategy, which means I now go around with one giant mound and one floppy pancake, but it works for us. Sometimes as a mum you can be so fixated on your baby that you forget it’s OK to look after yourself as well. Your kids needs you to be fit and well, so do it for their sake if not for your own.
Haters gonna hate
This final lesson is probably the most important of all. Whether you want it or not, people will constantly give you advice and feedback when it comes to breastfeeding. They will comment on your technique, how often you feed, where you feed and, most irkingly, when you should stop feeding. But you and your baby know best. Listen to her when she tells you she’s hungry. Feed him wherever you feel comfortable. And stop when it’s right for both of you!