My first impression of breastfeeding from my mother was that it was a ‘delicious’ feeling where you bonded with your child and spent precious moments together, connected on an incredibly deep and spiritual level. My drive to breastfeed was further enhanced through my studies where I learned the benefits of the mother's breast milk for the baby in relation to the immunological and bacterial factors. I trust deeply in scientific research and having studied further, was drawn into the world of breast milk providing immunity for the child’s immature immune system, defence against basic infections and seeding the gut microbiome to allow them to digest food and protect their body as they grow older.
When I fell pregnant I set the benchmark of a year that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I started leaking colostrum from 18 weeks pregnant and felt that my body would be able to provide exactly what my baby needed. When I gave birth at 41+2 weeks, we had skin to skin for about an hour post birth, during which my daughter was able to latch and start feeding. It was the most incredible feeling, something greater and bigger, yet softer and more intimate than the birth that I had just experienced. Who would have thought that something so simple as feeding your child could shake your world and make the stars realign for you, more so than I thought it could.
I had a rocky period for the first two weeks of breastfeeding where I thought it was meant to hurt, and persevered through the pain while waiting for my nipples to adjust. I had read somewhere that it could be painful in the beginning and as such took it as par for the course. I ended up with blistered and bleeding nipples where I had to psych myself up for, and flinched, with every latch from my daughter. I called the NCT helpline where they suggested wet wound healing with lansinoh, breast milk or salt water to try heal my nipples, however this is tricky with a newborn who feeds so regularly. In the end, the best way for my nipples to heal was to get nipple shields which allowed my daughter to latch without any issues or pain from my side and which I could then slowly phase out after they had healed.
Part of my struggle in the adaptation to breastfeeding was my milk supply. I have an oversupply of milk, which meant that when it came to breastfeeding my daughter, I would usually only have to feed her on one side while I tried to collect the let down with a hakaa cup on the other. I ended up using the Medela Collection Shell which saved my life in terms of being able to breastfeed literally anywhere. From months 3-6 of my breastfeeding journey I was donating 4-5 L of breast milk per week to the Milk Bank at St Thomas' Hospital which was a truly satisfying part of my journey as a new mother.
In hindsight, my discomfort started when my milk came in round day 4 or 5 post birth, with such full and hard boobs my baby could not get a deep enough latch. This resulted in her hard palate rubbing the nipple every feed and causing the blisters. I would have done well to express some milk before a feed when they were so full to try and help her to form a deeper latch. Despite the discomfort of the feeds in the beginning, I never once considered stopping and always felt an incredible connection with my child and stopped breastfeeding her at 16 months old.