Breastfeeding: the early days

Breastfeeding is easy, right? Out pops the baby, you given them a cuddle, plenty of skin to skin and then you pop a boob in their mouth and away you go!

Only it’s not always that easy is it?

Eliza was born prematurely, and as such her latch wasn’t very strong. I hand expressed colostrum for her first few feeds and spent plenty of time topless with her on my chest, to encourage bonding, supply and latch. And it seemed to work – by day 2 she was starting to root, and to suckle. I was chuffed to bits – until the doctor cam around that is. Because Eliza was born at 36 weeks she needed to have her blood sugar levels monitored. This involved a heel prick blood test after a feed, then 3 more before her next 3 feeds. Her levels needed to stay above the magic 2.5 mark.

It started well, with readings of 2.6, 2.5 and 2.5. We started to plan going home – until her final blood test came back at 2.1. This didn’t simply mean another blood test before the next feed, but involved the whole process being started again – 4 more blood tests with readings above 2.5.

The next reading was 1.9. There were mentions of SCBU, and talk of formula to ‘top her up’.

Thankfully, this was at midwife handover time, and the next midwife to take over our care was amazing. She sat with me, talked me down from my panic and told me to keep doing what I was doing. She spent a long time with Eliza and I, hand expressing drops of colostrum into her mouth to encourage her to latch, and sitting with us while she fed to make sure she was sucking and swallowing properly.

breastfeeding

Once she had fed, the midwife again helped us express enough for a top up feed – this was given by cup to prevent any interference with breastfeeding. It was a long, slow process but it worked – by the next blood test her sugar levels were back up to 2.6. We continued with the 3 hourly feeding and cup top ups, and her next 2 results were 2.8 and 3.1! 

We went home, and carried on. Feeding seemed to be going well, but when the midwife weighed her she had lost 9% of her birth weight. I was told this was OK, but she couldn’t afford to lose more. 2 days later she had lost 11%. I started to question what I was doing wrong, but chatting with some lovely friends online made me realise I wasn’t failing her – she was just a bit early and a bit small and needed more time. I convinced the midwives to give us another 48 hours and then re-weigh. Lo and behold, she started to put on weight. It just took her a little bit longer. That’s OK.

breastfeeding

I am not going to pretend it’s been easy – but I don’t think the early days ever are. You have so much to contend with – bone crushing tiredness, post birth soreness, older children demanding your attention. On top of that you can really suffer in those first days and nights – cracked, sore nipples can be enough to make your toes curl and question your feeding method. That’s where a hefty dose of Medela Purelan and a cup of tea comes in. It will pass.

Breastfeeding is an amazing thing, but it’s not always easy. It can be hard, emotional and draining. But if you can soldier through those first weeks it does get easier. Make sure you have support – whether that is from your partner, your midwife or a lactation consultant. Be prepared for the first few days to be pretty much nothing but feeding and sleeping – for you and baby. That’s OK – you’re both recovering from the birth. Be prepared for your boobs to rival Dolly Partons once your milk comes in, and try not to poke your husband in the eye when he accidentally brushes against you in bed. The fullness and tenderness will go as your supply regulates. Take paracetamol and try some Medela Hydrogel pads for instant relief. If you find you are ending up with milk marks on your top, consider using breast shells – they work in the same way as breast pads, but they collect your milk instead of absorbing it – you can then tip this into a milk bag and freeze it for future use!

We are now 4 weeks post delivery and every day has its own challenges. At the moment we have some feeding issues which may be related to reflux or a stomach condition – but that’s a whole other post. For now, we are taking it a day at a time, in the knowledge that no matter what happens Eliza has benefitted from those early days of breastfeeding.

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29 Comments

  1. July 10, 2015 / 12:27 pm

    I was induced 2 weeks early and my baby’s blood sugar was low the first day or so as well. We were kept in the hospital an extra day because of it. It was definitely a difficult start to our journey. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • kate
      Author
      July 10, 2015 / 5:34 pm

      It’s not the easiest start, that’s for sure! How’s your little one now?

  2. July 10, 2015 / 3:21 pm

    You’re doing an amazing job, it’s hard enough breastfeeding a full term baby but when you have one that’s technically still supposed to be growing inside you it must be blumming difficult. Well done, and how amazing that the midwife was so good at helping you – it’s amazing how much difference a good midwife can make! #breastfeedingandI
    Natalie / @diaryofuem recently posted…What a Breastfeeder really wants to say to a Formula FeederMy Profile

    • kate
      Author
      July 10, 2015 / 5:34 pm

      Thank you. Having a supportive midwife/health visitor etc can make ALL the difference!

  3. July 12, 2015 / 11:14 am

    Breastfeeding is such hard work in those early days, I was totally unprepared for it and I think more needs to be done to inform people of what it is actually going to be like. I thought I must be doing it wrong because it was so difficult, but now I know that it was all part of what’s normal (and a bit of silent reflux thrown in for good measure!)
    I think this is a great post!
    Jenni – Odd Socks and Lollipops recently posted…My Sunday Photo – 12th July 2015My Profile

  4. EMMA WALTERS
    July 13, 2015 / 12:45 pm

    I do think the support you can get is better now. my youngest was tongue tied but with help i was able to bf successfully x

  5. Tracy Nixon
    July 13, 2015 / 12:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing. All my six babies were premature so I expressed milk for them initially and it was fed to them through tubes.

  6. July 13, 2015 / 3:12 pm

    This story is very similar to mine, which I will post soon. I found breastfeeding to be the hardest thing I have ever done, mentally and physically. My baby was five weeks premature and also found it too hard to latch, I had to work so hard for my milk to come in and even when we sorted all that out the constant feeding sucked the life out of me. I admitted defeat at about six weeks, I just couldn’t do it any more. I hope your breastfeeding journey gets easier – best wishes! x
    Fiona (@adventure_seek) recently posted…Premature and Tiny: Abbey RoseMy Profile

  7. July 13, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    I’ve now got 9 til 5 in my head πŸ˜‰ hehe. The first few weeks are so tough aren’t they? I’m so glad everything is going well now – sounds like a rather stressful start! How is Eliza? I hope her tummy is ok πŸ™ xxx
    Hannah | MakeDo&Push recently posted…The Week That Was: Captured #103My Profile

  8. July 13, 2015 / 7:21 pm

    Tin Box Baby also lost 11% but it wasn’t picked up straight away as the midwife I saw at the time was as good at counting as me! We were put on a feeding plan where I had to feed, express, top up and start again. I did that for four days and was totally exhausted. Luckily TBB had put on enough weight for me to stop but she still had to be weighed every other day for another week. It was quite distressing and there were lots of tears, especially as I was seeing lots of different midwives as mine had changed workplace about the time I gave birth. That was only two months ago but it already seems like another life time as TBB is now putting on loads of weight. We’re still breastfeeding with one bottle to top her up at night. I have broken and given her formula for that one as I have developed a loathing for expressing after the four day feeding frenzy. Breastfeeding is hard in the early days but I am so pleased we were able to continue. Good luck with your journey #maternitymondays
    Claire at Tin Box Traveller recently posted…Eating alfresco with a toddlerMy Profile

    • kate
      Author
      July 13, 2015 / 8:17 pm

      Oh it’s so hard at the beginning isn’t it, especially when they lose weight and you just want to feed them up. The constant feeding, pumping and topping up was exhausting and I nearly gave up so many times. I’m really glad you were able to continue your breastfeeding journey.

  9. July 13, 2015 / 8:28 pm

    What a lovely post. Well done for pushing through and so pleased you got some support. What a beautiful little girl you have too! πŸ™‚ #maternitymondays
    Sophie @ Mum, M & More recently posted…Degustabox; June 2015My Profile

  10. July 13, 2015 / 9:44 pm

    Oh Kate.that really is the difference between a good midwife and not a good one.
    I had one of that. G’s blood sugar dropped and they gave him formula.there was no other option option.
    You did so well to persevere. Thank you for sharing
    Farmerswifeandmummy recently posted…#MaternityMondays Week 28My Profile

  11. Ursula Hunt
    July 14, 2015 / 8:10 am

    Its so hard, I had 3 children and successfully breast fed 2 but the third was a nightmare, sometimes it is not you but your baby. Just do what you are both happy with

  12. July 14, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    Well done with it all. Breastfeeding is sure not a piece of cake; especially in those early days. It’s incredible how the support you get impacts your breastfeeding journey. So pleased you got the right midwife just at the right time. And thanks for sharing about the weight; I wish I knew better with my little one; I would have insisted on waiting before I got sucked in, into the only option I was given.

    Your journey will only get better and better and so lovely that you’re a Medela Mum. #MaternityMatters

    Thanks for linking with #BreastfeedingandI too. πŸ™‚
    Adventures of a Novice Mum recently posted…Support Kids Company’s Colour A Child’s Life ProjectMy Profile

  13. July 15, 2015 / 10:05 pm

    Good reading, I will try my hardest to be a supportive husband thru the pregnancy

  14. Nena
    July 17, 2015 / 5:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Lisa
    July 17, 2015 / 10:01 pm

    I found the early days so hard. There were many tears but we got there in the end πŸ™‚

  16. Megan Kinsey
    July 19, 2015 / 4:21 pm

    what an encouraging post πŸ™‚ thank you!

  17. Pamela
    July 20, 2015 / 11:37 am

    My little one is due any day now, first time Munson lots to take in. I’m going to try my best to breastfeed but not beat myself up if I have to go with formula, so many mum shave to for so many different reasons, we just do the best we can for our bubbas.

  18. Tammy Tudor
    July 21, 2015 / 6:13 pm

    Everyone should do what is best for them, yes breastfeeding is natural but it is also so naturally hard! It doesn’t work for everyone πŸ™‚

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