As I approach my 9 month breastfeeding milestone I’ve been thinking a lot about how different breastfeeding is now compared to feeding a newborn. You can read my My Breastfeeding Journey here, but to summarise – it was hard in the beginning. Cracked nipples, blocked ducts and mastitis were some of the factors that nearly led to me giving up breastfeeding, but I pushed through all of that and after around 6 weeks breastfeeding became pretty much pain free.
A particularly difficult time for me was when Darcie was around 3 or 4 weeks old and she started to really cluster feed. Newborns feed almost constantly anyway but when they are going through growth spurts they cluster feed to get the energy they need to grow and also to build up your supply. I know the reason that a lot of people stop breastfeeding is because they feel their milk supply is low and worry that their baby isn’t getting enough food. These cluster feeds are often what leads a mother to believe she isn’t producing enough milk but 9 times out of 10 that’s not the case. It’s just your clever little newborn knowing they need more milk now or that they will need more tomorrow and feeding more to tell your body to produce it for them. So long as your baby is producing a normal amount of wet and dirty nappies then they are almost certainly getting enough food. If you are every worried about your milk supply just feed your baby as often as possible and your body will respond with more milk, it works on a supply and demand basis. Also remember that pumping is not a good indication of milk supply, a baby is much better at getting milk than your pump so don’t worry if you don’t get much through pumping.
The longest Darcie ever fed for was 9 hours, from 2pm till 11pm, it was at a point when feeding was still painful and she did this for 3 days in a row. I used to dread this time in the day, I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything for 9 hours except sit and feed my baby. I had all the same thoughts every mother does, I worried I didn’t have enough milk, I thought maybe her latch was wrong and she wasn’t feeding efficiently but after a lot of research and speaking to my health visitor I was reassured that this was totally normal. Painful and boring but totally normal. I feel so lucky to have had such an amazing support network around me for those first few weeks of breastfeeding, all the health visitors and midwives I saw were so encouraging and all my family and friends and especially Dan made my life as easy as it could be during this time.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding please find some help and support. It can feel like such a lonely thing when ultimately your breastfeeding success is down to you and your body, but there are so many people out there who can help you and so many women in the exact same situation feeling the same way. If you don’t want to go to a support group you can find help through a breastfeeding page on Facebook or go onto the La Leche League website for advice. I know the cluster feedings are tough but they don’t last forever and you’ll be so proud of yourself when you come out the other side.