Breastfeeding is a natural process in women - and, yet, many, many women struggle with it, especially in the beginning. I did, too. I breastfed my daughter Lily for sixteen months and am now also breastfeeding my son, Finn. While breastfeeding came without any major issues for me, the start of the experience was completely different for my two kids. Lily and I had a rougher start, including two milk blisters, nipple soreness and an intense surplus of milk. Especially as the start with Finn has been so much smoother, I reflected on what helped me to make it easier for me this time round - although I will say I can only vouch this for myself. Every woman is different, as is every baby and breastfeeding relationship. I can also tell you that my tips are far from inventing-the-wheel-new and you might have heard of them from somewhere else before; however, I share how they helped me and what I did during my two breastfeeding starts.
1. Feed the first time as quickly as possible after birth
I think this was the major difference in the breastfeeding beginnings for Lily and Finn. After Lily was born, the midwife and doctors were too busy trying to stitch me up that they didn't help me latching her on. Suddenly, they said I needed to undergo surgery for my injuries and I was wheeled away. As there were some problems with the intubation, surgery took longer than expected and Lily only fed the first time over two hours after birth. By then, she was already really tired again and I had to permanently motivate her to feed.
With Finn, he was put on my chest immediately after birth and started searching. I guided him gently to my breast and he latched on minutes after he was born. The midwives were astonished he latched on so early and well, and it was the beautiful beginning of a wonderful breastfeeding journey. My milk supply was also much more balanced than with Lily, who almost drowned under the cascades of milk spilling out of my boob.
The arrival of a baby is always a cause for celebration - family and friends often want to see the little munchkins pretty much after they've slid out of mama's vagina - or belly - but we mustn't forget that a birth also takes its toll on new mums. Having experienced two births and postpartum periods, I can definitely say that it's wonderful to share your little bundle of joy with the world - but there are also some no-goes I've experienced and heard from other new mums, which aren't great to experience when you've just popped one out.
Babies are a bundle of joy, definitely. However, bear in mind that giving birth is one of the most life-changing events in the life of a woman. Even if everything goes well and you walk away without any injuries (I wonder what that's like), it is a massive undertaking of our bodies and we don't just flip back to how we were before (and, spoiler alert, we never will). From being sore down-under to aching nipples, to baby blues or sheer exhaustion and worry, postpartum holds a lot of fun stuff for new mums. The fact that many visitors expect a vivacious mummy who just dotes on her baby adds additional pressure on many women, who probably haven't showered in a few days, feel sore, are worried the pain will never ease, or worry their child might die during sleep times. It is a wonderful time, but it is equally terrifying.
A friend of mine recently said everyone fusses about birth when they should be fussing about the postpartum period. Birth can be painful, yes, it can be downright traumatic for some women, but at least it's usually over in a matter of hours. Postpartum takes six intense weeks, and, technically, another ten months/one year to get back to a before status - or something reminiscent of that. Postpartum can be pain, sorrow and fear for many women - I know it was for me, especially the first time round. You wonder if your body will ever function properly again, things like going to the toilet can worry you for hours before, and you have to take care of a baby on top of everything. Your pelvic floor is hanging out somewhere and your boobs are massive bulbs with sore tips (read my 5 Tips for a Good Breastfeeding Start here).
So, in this intense time for new mums, what is good to consider and what is best to avoid? I am sure no one committing the "crimes" listed below does so on purpose, but I am sure that plenty of new mums could do without them, so here are the 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting a New Mum.
Finn Anthony is here! If you've read my previous blog post, you know I'd been eagerly waiting for the little man to arrive - and he did the day after writing that post. At 38+6 at 22:44, our beautiful son made his peaceful entrance into the world, almost 4 kg heavy and 52 cm long. Compared to his sister's birth, he took his sweet time and kept us on our toes for 12 hours, but the birth was such a massively different experience from Lily's. In this post I will share how I prepared for my second birth and how it went in the end.
When I was pregnant with Lily, I read two books on Hypnobirthing and we did a weekend course as well. I was intrigued by the notion of a pain-free birth and the whole theory about the vicious circle of pain and fear. I was convinced I could "breathe my baby out", and, honestly, was completely steamrolled by the actual birth. I vomited, had painful contractions, and felt entirely disassociated from the birth itself.
This time I wanted to prepare even better. I was still convinced that it could be different, but I wanted to change a few parameters. First of all, I chose a birth house rather than a hospital as my place of birth. The most traumatic part of Lily's birth was that were just left alone. The hospital had all delivery rooms full at the time I gave birth and we only had a frazzled midwife looking in intermittently.
At the birth house, I knew I'd have two midwives with me - one staying with us at all times. But I also wanted to prepare mentally. Instead of hypnobirthing, I opted for a course called "Die Friedliche Geburt" (the peaceful birth), designed and taught by Berlin mental trainer Kristin Graf. It's an online course, which was ideal because with Lily around, it would have been hard to visit a course once a week in the evening.
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