Breast milk is widely acknowledged as being the healthiest way to feed infants until they reach six months old. It contains everything that a baby needs to thrive during this time.
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it doesn’t seem so for some women. Often women will find breastfeeding difficult at first and seek support from either a lactation consultant, midwife, plunket nurse or female family member. Read Natalia Gasu’s story about her journey of perseverance and knowing that ‘breast is best for baby’.
As a first time parent, there was a lot of anticipation of the birth and going through labour. I went to ante-natal classes and tried to be as prepared as I could for the birth but something that I took for granted, or didn’t really think through, was after the birth in terms of breastfeeding. It was a big shock and didn’t come naturally for me. M y milk didn’t come through as soon as I expected and I found it hard to latch my daughter on. I was also finding it really painful.
It became a real emotional journey and process. I felt so helpless as a mum that I couldn’t feed my baby. “I had a really dedicated nurse at Waitakere Hospital who tried lots of ways to help me through - hand expressing, feeding colostrum using a syringe, and for cracked nipples using nipple shields, lanolin, breast milk and wizard ointment.
I had to learn about the different feeding positions, like lying down on the bed, football hold, cradle hold, on the chair, with or without pillows, using the electric breast pump to stimulate my milk supply, massage and warm showers – we tried everything!
I was in the hospital for four days, and that was the time I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to suck up the courage to work at it at home.
I had the love and support of family and friends and a lactation consultant who would visit me at home. At that stage, I was just persevering with breastfeeding. Every time it came to feeding times, I would get anxious and frustrated, then baby would cry, and we would both end up in tears.
The plan was to try to breastfeed, top up with formula in a bottle, and in-between feeds use the tips I’d learned in hospital to heal my breasts and stimulate my milk supply.
It took two weeks of sheer endurance. Gradually, it became easier and then one day I woke up and it was suddenly a normal, easy thing.
At the end of all this I became a very informed, confident and appreciative mum who loved the bonding that came with breastfeeding.
I’ve had two more babies since and I’ve learned that it’s different with each baby. Just because you’ve got it the first time, doesn’t mean it’ll be like that for the rest of your births. It does take patience and it is a labour of love to get through those hard times.
My eldest child is five now and looking back I can definitely see the benefits. It encouraged me to make a conscious decision to breastfeed all of my children. “Breast really is best.”