I always knew I wanted to breastfeed but was a bit naive about how difficult it would be and how much there is to learn. It wasn’t until I started breastfeeding that I began to understand it was a skill my baby and I had to learn together. After struggling with a poor latch, cluster feeding and a lack of face-to-face support, my next challenge was to breastfeed in public on my own.
Covid restrictions mean little face-to-face support
My son Freddie was born in July and I had an elective section. To begin with, I really struggled with finding a breastfeeding position that was comfortable. I was supported in the hospital after giving birth but only stayed in for 24 hours. Once I was discharged and at home, we were completely on our own.
I found there is little face-to-face support from midwives and health visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions. In hindsight, I wish I had done an online course and some more research to prepare for breastfeeding. Luckily there are so many groups and accounts available for free with lots of information and support. Being able to talk to other mums online really helped.
Getting the latch right and cluster feeding challenges
My first obstacle was that Freddie had a really bad latch. I would dread him crying because I knew I had to feed him and it was so painful. I had many a night crying feeding him with curled toes. Now I know this isn’t normal but just assumed it was part of breastfeeding.
It was only after nipple trauma and sending a picture of my bleeding nipples to a friend that I needed to correct his latch. For one week I used nipple shields to allow my nipples to heal whilst we worked on ways to get a good latch. I read that it should be like taking a big bite from an apple not slurping spaghetti. We used the flipple technique which I discovered through ‘Breastfeeding Guidance and Support UK‘ on Facebook. I found Facebook and Instagram really helped me learn about good positioning for myself and my baby.
“Instagram and Facebook really helped me learn about good positioning for myself and baby.”Grace
Cluster feeding came as a shock!
Our second obstacle was cluster feeding. I had no idea what cluster feeding was and that it was completely normal. To begin with I always just thought Freddie wasn’t getting enough. It is hard work at first as it’s constant and you feel like you don’t get a break from being attached to baby.
My best tip for new mums is to find a comfortable position in front of the TV, have water and snacks to hand, and keep at it because it does get easier. I have been so close to giving up but was lucky to be well supported and encouraged by my Husband.
Praise from a stranger helped me breastfeed in public
Most of my friends either don’t have children or didn’t breastfeed so for me breastfeeding in public was really scary. I would only breastfeed in public with my Husband’s help. We would tactfully position the pram to cover us and I was always thinking about what clothing I could wear. I was lucky he had six weeks off work with me so we had a good system on days out. It was really daunting when he went back to work and I was alone so I never really went anywhere by myself. I wasn’t brave enough to breastfeed alone.
“I knew I had to feed him but was alone and had never done it without someone else there to make sure I was covered…I felt really on edge.”Grace
About seven weeks into my breastfeeding journey I met my friend in a park, she was running late and Freddie needed feeding. I knew I had to feed him but was alone and had never done it without someone else there to make sure I was covered. No one to help with a muslin cloth or pram positioning. I did it but was shaking the whole time and I felt really on edge.
Once my friend had arrived we were approached by another Mum with a small baby in a sling. She told me what a great job I was doing with a big friendly smile. This lovely stranger told me to keep up the good work. She was so kind it made me cry that she felt the need to praise me. This really gave me the boost I needed and left me feeling really empowered. Since then I’ve had so much more confidence to feed my baby when he is hungry no matter where we are.
Until I became a Mum I never really noticed how little you see breastfeeding in public. I follow a Facebook page called ‘Can I breast feed in it? UK‘ which is amazing and really helped with my confidence about suitable clothing without just having to wear boring nursing or maternity clothes.
I keep setting new breastfeeding goals
I’m still feeding my son Freddie three months in and I keep setting new goals for myself. At first, it was to do two weeks, then a month, and then three months. My next goal is to get to six months. I never thought I’d get this far so I’m really proud. My advice to others would be to do your research (there is lots of information available if you look) and ask for help when you need it.
“I’m still feeding my son Freddie three months in and I keep setting new goals for myself.”Grace
What is the flipple technique?
The flipple technique refers to a specific ‘breast shaping’ latch technique whereby the mother shapes her breast in a way to help baby get a deep latch. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘breast sandwich’ technique. You can watch this video for a demonstration of the breast shaping/flipple technique.
Would you like to inspire and empower other mamas by sharing your own breastfeeding story? Sign up toady to add your story! We’d love to hear from you.