Warning: This article contains information about breastfeeding and is not for shy people.
We’ve successfully achieved Robert’s 6-months milestone. Speaking in general terms, the baby’s first six-months period seems to me to be quite important in his development, bringing with it major changes. You can read everywhere that „breastfeeding the baby for the first six months is essential to your baby’s health.” That’s what I’ve tried to do and I made it. Phew!
For many, breastfeeding is a taboo subject. I’d say that’s a primitive approach, but everyone is entitled to a personal opinion. I support breastfeeding in public. Rather than letting your child be hungry and create an unbearable environment for others (a concert at the Opera is much more enjoyable than the baby’s hunger cry), you better nurse him and everyone is happy. I do not speak, however, about the exaggerated breast exposure with the pretext that you are feeding your baby – breastfeeding can be discreet, the world has evolved and all sorts of clothes have come up to give you comfort in such situations – but about the prompt response when baby is hungry, especially in the first few months when his stomach is so small, in the first days it barely reaches the size of a cherry and feeds very often also because breast milk is easily digestible.
Our start wasn’t easy. It’s quite difficult to have a good start in breastfeeding when your baby does not open his mouth more than 1 cm, no matter what you do. The fact that I went to breastfeeding class just a few weeks before birth helped me gather a lot of information and seemed at first glance the simplest and most natural thing in the world, giving the impression that all will happen on its own. I mean: „I took it for granted!” And what really happened? It was not like I expected. We all know theory, practice kills us.
First of all, I had to go through a C-section. Although it wasn’t among my preferences for an ideal birth when I was asked if I agree as a last solution, obviously my answer was YES. I did not feel it as a failure. The only thing I didn’t want to skip and wasn’t possible in my situation was skin-to-skin contact right after the birth. I knew it could help a lot for a good start in breastfeeding, babies are born with a fantastic instinct to search for food, and oh, we would have been on the right track.
He was probably hungry enough when we met after 3 hours. He didn’t cope. Then it was fatigue, for both of us was a long day. Robert slept a lot after birth, he could sleep for 6-7 hours at a time. I hated myself for waking him up, but I had to feed him every 3-4 hours to avoid dehydration. I couldn’t latch him on. And after the first 2 days one of the midwives brought me a set of nipple shields, she quickly showed me how to use them, I used the pump provided in the breastfeeding room so I had the chance to practice with them. Just before discharge he accepted them and we went like this for another 5 months. It has been an extra work, both sterilizing and maintaining them, as well as attaching at night. There were days when he just refused to latch, I tried not to force him, and I was glad to find that the hairdryer had extraordinary effects in calming him. I read a lot about breastfeeding, while the baby was quietly sleeping on my tummy.
Nipple shields aren’t recommended, they are some kind of bugaboo, beware of them. You also need to monitor your baby to see if he is gaining weight. We did not have any problems, around the age of 3 months we needed some more monitoring, but nothing serious. They have become his main attraction during the feeds. I had to wean him from the shields. I’m not happy I had to use them, but with their help I was able to feed my baby and have him to the breast for the time that there was no other solution. The shields helped us to make sure that the proximity between us did not go away and led to a happy ending.
Today I was able to see the difference, I would not choose to use them so easily. A baby works extremely hard to extract the milk when you use them, I think I would have preferred to realize that earlier. I recently read in an article by Dr Jack Newman, a breastfeeding guru, that babies may not suckle for up to 2-3 days, if they do not latch on you can give them expressed colostrum, do not despair. It’s okay, they’ll cooperate better after the first few days.
We’re 185 days away from his birth. We started weaning (taking solids) a week ago. Our opinion: We are screaming, we have better and worse days, I wait for the mouth to open again (I feel like we are going back to the beginning), the milk is still essential and will be there for him for as long as he wants. Soon I will go back to work, it is mandatory in Ireland after 6 months if you do not want to lose your job, you can extend with a further 16 weeks without payment but this is not for us. I hope the transition will be smooth.
Breastfeed your babies when your condition allows you to do so! There is no „My milk is not enough” unless there is a health problem. I’ve been through such moments but have turned out to be nothing. Listen to your baby if he swallows and stop there. You can not estimate how much milk he extracted, it’s not like feeding him with a bottle. Stress does not help. Sleep at night if baby sleeps, the hormones that support lactation are at maximum.
And you, Daddy, encourage and support this connection between mother and baby. Stay available when you can and bring your help when it’s needed, be it a glass of water, some food or a little cleaning around the house, there’s no one to drop your rank if you do that. Your role is important too and the sooner you realize this, the more you will take advantage of this situation!
Disclaimer: I’m not a breastfeeding consultant, nor a doctor. This article is based on my experience and contains various information collected and adapted to my own condition. It is always good to seek specialist help.