Breastfeeding: the magical sixth week

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I thought getting through the first week of breastfeeding was challenge enough, but it was getting to the sixth week felt like climbing Mount Everest. I say the sixth week because that is usually the point that breastfeeding becomes established, and it was also the case for us. It is the one thing that I can say hand on heart is true – that breastfeeding really does become easier once you get to that magic six week mark. Its not to say that you become an expert on all things breastfeeding all of a sudden, its more a case of your body just seems to suddenly know what its doing. You can kind of stop thinking about it and just do it.

But getting to this point was not without its trials. We still had latching issues and the soreness and pain had become indescribable. I remember scrunching up my toes every time the little lady tried to latch on. I started dreading each feed, anticipating the pain that I knew I would have to face. Nipple cream became my best friend overnight (Medela do a great version called PureLan cream), the husband was sent out for nipple shields, I went through boxes of breast pads and yet nothing seemed to really help. After only two weeks I developed a quite severely cracked nipple on one side. Cracked to the extent that it would bleed when the little lady tried to latch on. I remember mentioning this to one of the lovely health visitors that came to see us at home during the second week, concerned not so much about me, but about the little lady taking in blood with her milk. She reassured me that it was fine, observed us feeding and left us with some advice which improved things marginally. So we persevered, but started to develop a preference for feeding on the side without the crack in it because it was easier and a lot less painful. So my milk supply also started to develop a preference for the side without the crack in it, because that’s how supply and demand works. So not only did I have a severely cracked nipple on one side, but annoyingly I also now had noticeably uneven breasts. At some point I realised that breastfeeding like this was stupid and not sustainable, so I decided to get myself to a local breastfeeding cafe. That one decision alone was one of the best decisions I have made since becoming a parent. I got the advice and support that I needed, and along with it a prescription for some moist healing pads. They weren’t Medela as they were prescribed, but Medela do sell their own version of Hydrogel pads. They sorted out the quite deep cracks in only a day or two and instantly made breastfeeding a lot more comfortable and pain free. At some point over the course of the six weeks we seemed to gradually figure out the correct latch and breastfeeding wasn’t so painful and arduous anymore. But almost as soon as we had discovered the right breastfeeding position for us, we also discovered a new problem. A suspected let down issue.

Every evening, roughly around the same time each day, the little lady would cry with frustration when I tried to feed her. Sometimes it was almost as if she was hungry and couldn’t get the milk out quickly enough, and other times she would almost seem to choke because there was too much milk coming at her too fast. I was a little worried about using a breast pump so early on because of the possible nipple confusion issue. I was also a little worried about what a pump might do to my nipples having heard some less than glowing stories from friends and family. But it seemed like the only solution to our possible let down dilemma. So I read about a million reviews and got myself a Medela Swing breast pump (also highly recommended) in the hope that I could express milk for those evening feeds, and the husband could give me some respite with the night feeds. My fears turned out to be unfounded. The Medela Swing made it very easy to express, and I found that I could express around 150mls in no more than ten minutes, and completely pain free. But the little lady had become discerning over the course of a few weeks and rejected any bottle feeds we tried to give her. So we had no choice but to persevere with the stressful evenings and hoped that at some point it would stop. Eventually it did, but not before a good few weeks of cluster feeding were thrown in for good measure. There were many dark nights when I wanted to stop, when I wanted to switch to formula because it was so demanding, tiring and painful. Because it felt like it was all on me. Breastfeeding can be a pretty lonely place at 3am. But again my husband was there on the sidelines gently encouraging and willing me on, telling me to take it one day at a time.

Before I knew it we had somehow got to six weeks and all of a sudden breastfeeding got easier, came more naturally to us both and just happened. Looking back on it now im glad I persevered, I just wish I sought help sooner. The best piece of advice I got and would share with anyone considering, starting or having difficulty with breastfeeding is to take it one day at a time. Fine words husband.

Sioned says: You both have worked so hard at getting breastfeeding right for yourselves. It is common to have sore and tender nipples but for nipples to be severely cracked and for feeding to be so painful that you dread it, means you need to explore further.

Using a lanolin based nipple cream is best as many of other brands have perfumes and additives that may aggravate the problem. Medela’s PureLan is another nipple cream mums might like to try. Going to a breastfeeding café where specialist advice is available is really important. Getting help with different feeding positions can be really useful, and it’s also good to ensure that there are no underlying issues such as tongue tie which could be affecting your feeding patterns. Using cream and a nipple shield can help with healing and can keep breastfeeding going in the early stages.

What you did find was that as she and you were feeding from the less tender side (this was comfier and thus getting a better milk supply) you were getting less milk out of the sore breast – this does have an impact upon establishing your milk supply. The fact that you were advised to use a breastpump to ensure you kept milk production going is brilliant, this meant that the affected side was able to maximise milk production until your little girl was ready to feed from both sides. Fab advice.
Nipple confusion doesn’t occur with expressing but may occur when you feed your baby using a conventional teat as they use a different sucking action compared to feeding at the breast. Using the Calma feeding device helps mum and baby to combine feeding expressed breast milk and breastfeeding as the device supports the natural breastfeeding sucking action.
Also – delayed let down occurs when you are stressed and worried and if it hurts – this is probably why you found at times you had a strong ejection and then may be a bit more delayed. I am glad it’s now sorted.

Can you relate to this post? Did you find a difference with breastfeeding once you reached the six week mark?

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2 thoughts on “Breastfeeding: the magical sixth week

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. This is what happened with me and I was always told it was because I was doing it wrong. I have such a negative memory of the whole thing because of that. Yes, the pain is a negative memory too, but being told that I was feeding my own child the wrong way was something that really hurt.

    It was so long ago that I don’t remember what week it was that things begun to change. I did not give up even though the pain was unbearable. It was better for my child, so I was sticking with it. After that point where my breasts started doing things right, everything else changed. It became an amazing experience that I shared with my son until he was about 18mo.

    I didn’t hesitate to breastfeed my second child. I went through the same problems again, much to my horror. I thought it would be easier. But, I stuck with it again knowing that it would only last a couple of months.

    Breast feeding is something that I can look back on and say I did it. I worked through the initial pain and created some wonderful memories. 6 weeks out of 1-2 years is nothing when it is for your children.

    So, thank you. Thank you for making me feel like I wasn’t so wrong during that first 6 weeks. Thank you for removing the doubts that other people made me feel. Thank you for sharing your pain.

    • Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. Its so great to hear that my post resonated for you. Unfortunately it was a painful experience for both of us, but we made it work and came out the other end the better for it. Just as my story has helped you, its great for me to hear that someone else had a very similar experience to me. Its a shame that you dont really hear of, or come across others stories like these until after you’ve experienced it yourself. Its almost like its taboo to talk about the painful or less desirable bits of parenting, but I think we would all be the better for it if more of us talked about our experiences more openly before others went through them. Thank you again for reading!

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