"The truth is, I was quite intimidated by breastfeeding. I’d heard a lot of stories about how painful and taxing it can be. I was also doubtful that my A cup boobs could ever produce any milk..."
Breastfeeding a Baby: Hannah’s Journey
"The truth is, I was quite intimidated by breastfeeding. I’d heard a lot of stories about how painful and taxing it can be. I was also doubtful that my A cup boobs could ever produce any milk, especially as they hadn’t grown at all during pregnancy. Turns out size doesn’t always matter! My journey, with my twin boys, has definitely been a slow burner. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, I was diligent in expressing colostrum ready for my boys planned arrival at 37 weeks. Even though I didn’t get masses, I had enough frozen to use for those first few important feeds while I was recovering from the c-section. But... drum roll... the hospital lost it all!
After that, my supply got off to a slow start. The boys (Leo and Xander) were both in intensive care for the first few days, so I didn’t feed them immediately. As a result my boobs didn’t get any action on those first days (sadly I wasn’t told in hospital that I should have pumped) which meant my supply didn’t ramp up quite as much as it may have otherwise. As a result, the boys were mix fed from birth - a combination of breast and formula.
The plan after that was to transition over to just breast milk - where I used pumping, herbal supplements, increasing my water intake, eating more oats than I ever thought possible (a low point was an oat curry) and tonnes of skin on skin contact to increase my supply. As the weeks went on I just felt a lot of pressure and disappointment that my supply wasn’t supporting both of them (I have so much respect for women that exclusively breastfeed twins) and it was tainting my feeding experience with them. And so, I took a moment to ask myself why I was choosing to breastfeed - which was mainly for connection and bonding. It was so wonderful when I would tandem breastfeed them and they would gaze into each other’s eyes across the boobs and then up to me, so considering that, I decided to continue with the mix feeding and use our breastfeeding sessions as just that - a special time with my boys rather than purely to feed them.
I expressed for the first eight weeks to increase my supply - I found it tricky to get the right flange size and ended up with four different sizes! Once I’d found a good fit (Cinderella of breastfeeding) it was relatively pain free and convenient. Overtime this method has worked so well for us as it means I can still feed without the pressure, they get all the calories they need (they were small babies and so weight gain was very important) and my husband can help out too which is wonderful for him and essential for me!
My husband, Matt, was incredibly helpful during those early breastfeeding days. He would help me set up for a tandem feed and would then set the atmosphere for me to maximise milk production (increasing oxytocin). He would make me warm porridge (there are those oats again), turn on my breastfeeding playlist (a collection of beautiful songs that I could sing to my babies and that made me feel good) and light candles. There is an inverse relationship between anxiety levels and milk production, so I always tried to carve out time for myself to relax: lots of yoga and meditation (I’m a teacher), baths, reading, resting, cooking nutritious food, zoom calling my friends and self-care like washing my hair (basic but made me feel normal).
I found the pressure I applied to myself the hardest part of all. Xander had a tongue tie that meant he didn’t feed perfectly, although it was never painful for me, luckily - it just meant he didn’t get much milk from me. He has had it cut since and feeds so much better. For me, the midwives were rather unhelpful at hospital - almost like they didn’t have time for a first-time mum and that I should have just known how to do it. The intensive care team, on the other hand, were so supportive and seemed genuinely really invested in helping us. Being that it was during the height of COVID, Matt wasn’t allowed in at the same time as me, so I really appreciated having that support. I gritted my teeth in preparation for the intense pain I’d read about, trying to get the boys to latch, but there was none! They both latched on immediately and stayed on until I had to head back to my room from being so tired post c-section.
I generally feel comfortable with breastfeeding in public, but appreciate it makes other people uncomfortable sometimes, so I choose to use breastfeeding jumpers (classic people pleaser) which have a clever zip from armpit to just below boob. It’s discrete but also very practical. One of my favourite places to feed is in the forest when walking our dog Arthur. Something very special about the most natural process of feeding in nature.
My tips for Mum’s just starting their breastfeeding journey are:
- Do what is best for you and your babies. Fed is best, not breast is best.
- You don’t need big boobs to breastfeed!
- Trust your instincts - it’s like you get some crazy superpower. Suddenly you have these answers that you never knew you knew!
- Make time for yourself.
- Ask for and accept help - from a partner, hospital staff and GPS.
- Be prepared but not scared. It’s not all doom and gloom - it can hurt, but it can also not."