5 Valuable Tips for Nursing in the Wild
“Pahaha! Nursing your baby is natural, why would you need a lesson in it?! We’ve been doing it since the beginning of mankind cavewomen didn’t need breastfeeding lessons…”
This was the beginning of our nursing journey; my Baby, her Dadda and I. It began in 2015 when I moved to Kenya and discovered 2 weeks later I was pregnant. A few months later, once the bump had started to let herself be known I panicked and jumped on any kind of support I could find.
Group breastfeeding class, Nairobi. Perfect!
So one Thursday evening I hoist me and the bump over Wayaki Way to an office shaped apartment filled with a group of keen first and second time mothers to be. Second time mothers go to breastfeeding lessons?! In fact of the 3 classes I went to in Nairobi and the UK, some of the most desperate questions came from the pregnant mothers of at least one, they know first hand how hard it can be!
Yeah but what if my milk dries up?!What if I’m on medication and can’t provide those rich, precious first drops of milk? What if my baby won’t latch?
Ah, yes. ‘The latch it all starts with attachment. From what I gathered that means baby and boob are comfortably fused so that mother’s milk can reach baby’s belly without blocking baby airways or scaring nipples. Luckily we’d covered this in breastfeeding class, but that only helped with my part of the latch; baby girl has to learn too.
What… babies need breastfeeding lessons?! Yep, mind blow number two.
As I left my proud, brave and terrified fiance with our 6 day old baby and shuffled back to the maternity ward at midnight in my pyjamas to be diagnosed with mastitis, I was told: ‘I’m sorry, the only cure for the bleeding nipple is to carry on nursing… (ouch!) Don’t worry, it’ll get easier as she learns how to feed properly. Soon you won’t have to think about the latch, it’ll just happen.’
This comment was an infuriating attempt to make me feel better and impossible to fathom. Luckily it was true, after only a few weeks the agony went away. Dadda and I remember with terror those first days and weeks of obscenity screaming as I managed to successfully shove our baby’s face onto my breast at the split second when her mouth opened to the perfect degree for her to feed like the ‘piranha’ she was (according to the midwife). Aaaaah! Agony.
Now she is obviously bored with 10 months of traditional latch and has created such styles as the funky ‘zebra at the water hole’ (according to the pediatrician). Bum up in the air, face down, feet tapping a complex dance routine. I don’t have to do much anymore in this breastfeeding relationship except lift my shirt. She will latch in whichever style she’s in the mood for, take a few sips and then whip her head around to tell someone familiar to us or not;
Adda! Bvvvvv, oooOOOoo.
I hope I got the spelling right. This brings me to the things I will tell myself when I’m a second time mother:
1. Keep the faith.It will get better, I promise.
2. Relax and take care of yourself. It is probably the hardest part (even harder than the pain). ‘How can I relax? My eyes burn, I stink and my baby needs to feed!’ When I have those ‘how in the [bleep] do I do this?! moments of breastfeeding I turn to reminder number three, which should come first but I usually squeeze it in last minute:
3. Seek support. Wherever… partner, professional breastfeeding support, trashy magazines, friends and family, it doesn’t matter. It’s worth a try and might help you feel less like the only mother struggling to provide for a little person who means more to you than it is possible to describe. On the other hand too many opinions rattling around in your head can drive you even more insane, so;
4. Trust your instinct. You know what’s best, even if you’ve never done this before. There are always multiple ways of doing mamma things, not one correct way. I find it easy to forget to be proud of my achievements as a Mum. At every stage of our nursing journey when it’s felt tiring, time consuming, or like a big mother failure all I need are some quiet little cheers.
5. Encourage yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you are nursing your baby for 2 minutes or even had the intention and didn’t for whatever reason, you are a super mamma. It might sound cheesy but it’s what baby needs a confident mamma who does what she can.
As I’m thinking about how to finish off this article it’s a sunny late Sunday afternoon in Karura Forest and our beautiful trail turns into an annoying maze of hard mud path with no resting spot. Where can I sit and breastfeed without my bum getting attacked by safari ants?! I finally spot a bench but it’s taken up by a couple singing beautiful music along to the man’s guitar.
‘Sorry guys, do you mind if I sit down to breastfeed?’ ‘Of course, but won’t the music disturb her?’ ‘No not at all it’ll soothe her.’ (I don’t think it will but I want them to carry on) Baby girl latches under a giraffey muslin and starts to take her milk. I think ‘Can we please speed up this zebra dance and give the music makers some space? We’re making the singer shy.’
I take a deep breath, look down at my baby’s smiling eyes and my worry is soothed with the gentle rush of pure love for her. Baby whips her face around, droplets of milk around her mouth, sits up suddenly and starts singing along with the Kenyan lady on the bench.
AaaaAaa ararara daaada. aaaaAAaa arrra
The lady giggles, turns her songbook for us to see and praises her new milked backing vocals. I can’t help but join in. The three of us sing and sway to her sweet song with dappled sun on our feet. I am a blessed mamma.
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