Warning: Only read this blog if you want seriously detailed discussion on Breast feeding problems! There are some photos in with the text, though!
So, Isla is 11 days old. Today was her due date and already we have several days' head start on life.
I had always assumed I would breast feed my child. Even when I was a non-maternal non-married and obviously non-pregnant adult, I had still in my naivete assumed that I would breast feed as that seemed the natural and better way to do things. I had, therefore, also assumed that it would be a natural process. However, breastfeeding is clearly not as natural and as trouble free as I thought! With Angus, breastfeeding was difficult from the start. I was given little support or advice on what to do and, despite reading around the issue, ended up in an ever decreasing cycle of feeding, pumping, supplementing, sterilising and re-feeding as he vomitted up most of what he ate and had a poor suck. Eventually we had to give up and just bottle feed. I was determined that this wouldn't happen this time around.
Isla, as I have mentioned previously, has a somewhat strong suck. First issue dealt with. In fact, her suck is so strong that it hurts! This is quite normal as one usually adjusts. However, Isla's suck wasn't normal! After five days of intense pain during feeding and discomfort in between times, I started to dread feeding times. Isla was also taking a very long time to feed and wasn't getting much milk anyway. She was feeding too infrequently, sleeping too much and losing weight. After eight days she was still on the decline and I was frantically trying to find a solution or intending to bottle feed. Was Isla was doing, we think, was sucking with her tongue behind her bottom jaw and therefore "sucking" with my breast between her jaws and not between her tongue and the roof of her mouth! No wonder it hurt. When the feeds finished I had red, swollen alveola.
Jo the midwife was baffled. We checked her latching on, checked her sucking on a finger, checked everything we could think of. I phoned Sister-in-law in America as she has breast fed her four sons and has plenty of experience! As she is also a paediatric dentist who understands small mouths (!) I though she could help. Jo, being a person who likes a challenge, phoned around and came back with the conclusion that it was a tongue placement issue but sadly has no easy solution. Jo the Midwife took this information and emailed her militant breastfeeding friends! Their solution: Biological Nurturing (BN). www.biologicalnurturing.com This is an approach to breastfeeding that takes a baby's natural instincts and doesn't constrain them to the "received wisdom" of horizontal feeding with hands out of the way. Isla's hands were nearly always around her mouth, scrabbling at the breast, and generally preventing her from latching. The only way to get her to latch on was to swaddle her which either stressed her out or sent her to sleep! BN says that these reflexes are normal, shouldn't be surpressed and are a part of helping the letdown reflex. Their solution: breastfeed as topless as acceptable (!) and lay the baby between your breasts. Allow the baby to crawl to a breast and latch herself on. All the Mum has to do is make sure the baby doesn't fall off.
We tried this out. Isla took a while to realise that I wasn't going to place her on a milk source and then she was off. She had clearly read the rule book and duly crawled her way to a breast, pummeled with her hands, got milk flowing everywhere, and then "hen pecked" her way on to her nipple of choice and forgot to bite me in the process. She then nuzzled her way into my breast, sucked to her heart's content and promptly fell asleep. What has interested me, though, is that the more she has fed, the more she wants to feed. Whereas Isla was waking for only one feed in the night, she is now waking for two and is feeding every three to four hours rather than being woken after five sometimes and on one notable occasion, sleeping for seven hours one night! Nice in one way, but seriously not good for her nutrition.
Isla is now a happy and relaxed breast feeder. She feeds vertically with her legs on my lap and latches on in a matter of minutes. Feeds take less time and she is awake more inbetween. I am a happy breast feeding Mum, for now at least, and I am not nearly as tender as I was although there is still some healing that needs to be done.