I recently said to my friend that breastfeeding has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, both physically and mentally. She seemed surprised. “Even worse that labour itself?” “Yes” I replied. I would happily go through labour every day than endure the pain, agony, anxiety, feelings of failure and upset that I experienced in the first 6 weeks of breastfeeding my little girl. I plan to go into detail about my breastfeeding journey and share with you all the obstacles I had to overcome to get to where I am now but before then, I plan to dedicate this post to a selection of products from Medela that made those rough, first few weeks a little bit smoother and easier to get through.
When I was pregnant I read all the books and surfed all the sites about pregnancy, the birth and beyond but breastfeeding was one area I didn’t really research at all. I just assumed it was simple – just pop them on and off you go! And for many mums it is like that but for many others it is a tricky, painful and emotion-filled gauntlet of blocked milk ducts, bleeding nipples, engorgement and poor latch (all of which I experienced) and can leave mums in despair and not knowing where to turn. I was determined to persevere through the pain but there were some days where my only answer was to express my milk for Florence as the searing, dagger-like pain was all too much and the thought of putting her on my breast left me in tears. So this is where my Medela breast pump and the Calma bottle became a lifesaver for me and gave me the break and relief from feeding I needed, just long enough every day for my sore nips, and my own sanity, to heal a little. Medela products are based on over 20 years of evidence-based research, so I knew my breasts were in good hands, so to speak…!
Expressing itself is another area that I had no knowledge whatsoever on before I gave birth but quickly, thanks to the Medela website, full of tips and information, and the Medela Mums forum-style site, I quickly swotted up on all I needed to know about expressing and felt every question I had was answered somewhere online. I have tried both the Harmony Single Manual Pump and the Swing Single Electric Pump and I have to say that for ease and efficiency of time, the electric pump was definitely the best option for me. They also do it in a double pump so you can optimise your time even more and do both breasts at the same time…but this was a little daunting for me, a mere beginner at this expressing business. The electric swing pump is so easy to use and is small and light enough to move around the house with you, whenever and wherever you need to express. It is battery operated, or can be plugged into the mains, and is tiny enough to pop into your handbag if you needed to take it to work perhaps or away for the weekend. The pump works on a 2-phase expression technology system which mimics the baby’s sucking so helps stimulate the breast and gives you that letdown sensation which gets your milk flowing. The breast shield creates a strong vacuum so you can express more milk in less time and it feels really comfortable which is ideal when you want to avoid any further nipple trauma and let them heal a little. I found this breast pump so easy to use and was a complete lifesaver as I was adamant I still wanted to feed Florence breastmilk but there was a point where expressing was my only option because I was in so much discomfort. It did take a while to get use to expressing and I don’t particularly like doing it, but the more I did it the easy it became and I found I was able to express more and more each time I tried.
As well as the breast pump there are many other breastfeeding essentials you will need if you are thinking of expressing for your little one. Alongside the breast pump is the Medela Calma feeding solution which is an innovative design that lets your baby feed from the bottle the same way they feed from the breast so it doesn’t interfere with the technique they have learnt and makes the transition from breast to bottle and back to breast easy and confusion-free. I have to say I was nervous when I gave Florence her first bottle of expressed milk at around 3 weeks old. I didn’t want her to get nipple confusion and go off breastfeeding altogether but I also knew I wanted to introduce it early enough so she could learn how to take from the bottle, allowing me to actually be away from her for more than an hour. I didn’t need to have worried as she took the Calma bottle absolutely fine first time, after a little bit of coaxing and squeezing a few drops of milk into her mouth, and now she is more than happy to wolf down a bottle or two if Rob has her for a few hours whilst I am at boot camp or enjoying an afternoon with friends, baby-free. This unique design allows the baby to drink, pause and breathe in a natural rhythm, remaining calm and settled just like at the breast. The Calma’s flow, shape and length are designed to suit your baby’s needs as they grow, so no need to keep buying new teats, and the teat helps the baby avoid swallowing air during feeding due to the unique venting system. To begin with Florence was a little bit dribbling when feeding from the bottle but once she had worked out the technique she was absolutely fine and it was reassuring to see that she could pause and breath without being flooded with milk.
Medela literally offer everything you could think of when it comes to expressing and feeding your baby and a couple of other accessories have come in handy recently. The Pump & Save bags are great as you can attached them directly to the pumping system and have a leak-proof zip closure so you can secure your precious milk and pop them in the fridge or freezer if you are hoping to store up some milk for later. The bags also have an area for dating and labelling so it is easy to keep track of your stored ‘liquid gold’. The disposable nursing pads are a must for any breastfeeding mum as well as the trusty PureLan 100 nipple cream which protects and soothes sore and cracked nipples – a staple for me in the early days of breastfeeding! I knew times had changed when my handbag, once riddled with several different lipsticks and lip balms, was now filled with several different tubes of Lanolin! Oh the glamour!
I know this post won’t be particularly useful for everyone but I hope it has helped some of my readers who may be pregnant and are hoping to breastfeeding, or who are currently breastfeeding and may be struggling and were considering expressing. I am going to be sharing my breastfeeding journey with you very soon and hope that it can comfort anyone going through a tricky time of feeding. I promise you, it can and will get better and I will delve into all the ways I overcame the problems I encountered and am here on my blog or twitter (pinkpixiedoll) if I can offer any support to you.
*this post contains samples gifted for review purposes