Positioning is everything when breastfeeding, and learning to adapt feels like a daily struggle. But actually I found that an initially fussy baby helps you to try new things. I went from having him lay across me to then, with the help of a midwife, using my pillows more effectively, so both he and I were more comfortable.
The midwife also helped me realise that I was hunched over when feeding and by asking for help, my posture and his feeding were also improved. This may sound like a small win, but at the time I felt myself relax into nursing so much more easily. Seek help when you need it, it is 100% worth it.
Friends had told me changing the position of our son at the breast would also benefit my nipples. The rugby ball was one way I did this. Again, with support from a midwife – I was lucky to have a specialist nursing midwife visit (in hospital you can request to be seen by the infant feeding team or ask for a specialist to visit you at home) so between us we were able to set up pillows that brought him up to my boob. The different position helped straight away and eased some of the discomfort I had been feeling around my nipples.
At night I fed lying down – yes we co-slept without necessarily meaning to due to complete exhaustion, but we continue to try to get him to settle into his crib when we can. Lying down means he is fully relaxed and so am I. Again, it also helps to ease pressure on using just one position to feed from and I use it during the day if I am not feeling full of energy.
One challenge I have had with lying down is wind and gassiness, and advice recommends sitting your baby in an upright position and also winding for at least 20 minutes after each feed. I was told wind in breastfed babies is rare. I beg to differ. In fact, constipation can be quite normal too, which was really uncomfortable for our boy and kept him (and us!) up all night.
At this point I sought help in looking to find something that I could maybe give our baby to help him feel better. I found it quite distressing seeing him in discomfort and it became increasingly challenging to settle him by helping him to bring wind up, which can take up to 40 minutes.
My sister used Infacol with her two (now teenage) children and found that didn’t quite do the trick. I tried giving this to him before a feed but I also didn’t feel there was an improvement and another sleepless night ensued. My sister also recommended trying colief, which was then prescribed by a doctor to her, but now can be bought over the counter or on Amazon.
We gave this a whirl and I used a haakaa to express a small amount of milk that I put onto a spoon along with four drops of the colief as instructed. Immediately, this had a great effect! Slightly unnervingly, we could hear the colief go through his small body. It has an enzyme in it that breaks down the lactose in milk.
Our son suddenly was pooing much more easily and passing gas more readily. This doesn’t sound particularly pleasant but we found it reassuring and oddly calming (parenting does strange things to you!) He was so much happier and it was lovely to see him be able to lie down more comfortably. That night, I recall, he also slept better, waking perhaps every 2 – 3 hours. This might not sound great, but I was beyond exhilarated to get some much needed shut eye rather than endure another all-nighter with a very disgruntled newborn.
Fortunately our boy was waking himself for feeds and breastfeeding was definitely feeling easier. I had learnt a variety of ways to care for my nipples, could vary how I fed if he got fussy without worrying that he wasn’t getting enough milk and by his first appointment had learnt that he’d lost only a small amount of weight (as expected).
Fast forward to day 14 and our son has continued to feed in a variety of different ways. Newborns are tough and nothing can prepare you for sleep deprivation and being constantly on high alert to every need they may have. Thankfully, he has continued to regain his birth weight and some, and the community midwives have been able to support us both.
With breastfeeding, unlike bottle feeding, it can be quite nerve wracking when you cannot tell how much milk your baby is getting or if they are even getting enough , especially if they are suddenly desperate to cluster feed out of the blue (day 11 – growth spurt!) But looking out for these signs will help ease your mind:
- Lots of wet nappies and a few pooey ones each day (although breastfed babies can go a few days without pooing so don’t worry if this is the case)
- Gaining weight and length and growing out of their clothes
- Checking they are sucking