During my pregnancy with Freya I had hoped and planned to breastfeed. Although I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, deep down I knew I would love to be able to. After labour I was having blood transfusions and a lot of medical intervention so, for those of who have watched my Birth Story video, you will know I was basically ‘milked’ by the midwife, to then give the colostrum to Freya in a syringe.
Once I was feeling slightly better they passed Freya to me to attempt to latch and she did really well. I was happy and content. Through the next few nights that I was in hospital Freya fed a lot, little and often. Sometimes for a few hours at a time (good old cluster feeding)!
I managed to breast feed Freya until she was five and a half months, for some reason in my head my aim was six months, so I was pretty happy with that. She wasn’t exclusively breast-fed as we incorporated a night time bottle of formula fairly early on, at the 1am feed. This was great as Steve could then do this feed, (and I could get some extra sleep); win win.
For those of you who don’t know what a breastfeeding strike is, it’s basically when your baby refuses to feed from you. She would be hungry and crying for milk but as soon as I put her to me to feed she would physically push away and scream but more in frustration and anger this time. In total, Freya had three breastfeeding strikes. And they were tough! The first one lasted almost exactly 24 hours, the second more like two-three days, and the last one almost seven days!! Through all of these I did persevere, but I know that is not for everyone. If I was doing it again, I don’t know if I would persevere. During these strikes I found the idea of stopping breastfeeding really sad, which made me realise it wasn’t the right time for us to finish. So I did persevere. So, these are my tips for managing a breastfeeding strike:
First of all decide if you want to carry on breastfeeding. This is the first decision. I think you go with your gut here and you will know deep down what you want to do.
If you decide you are going to stop breast-feeding, then don’t beat yourself up about it! I really did when I eventually stopped, mainly because it was an end of an era for me and when I think back to when we started and she was so little to how she was at five and a half months, so much had changed. I loved the bond it gave us, but you can still have that bond in so many other ways. Once I stopped feeding our bond was no different at all.
If you decide you are going to carry on, these are things that helped us:
- Skin to skin. AS much as possible. For us it was during the winter and the last strike that lasted a week was over Christmas time, so skin to skin was a lot more difficult. But the more the better as it helps encourage the babies to feed.
- Stay calm. Naturally I really worked myself up and cried A LOT. I felt so rejected. Which didn’t help. So stay calm and hopefully then they will feed off of this energy.
- Keep pumping. I had an electric pump and I would pump when she was due a feed, so as to keep my milk supply up. I then stored this in bottles, so if she refused a feed I would give it to her in a bottle.
- Bath with your baby. I suppose this carries on from skin to skin. I had a bath with Freya in the evening and whilst she was really relaxed she would often latch on (yes in the bath), which was amazing considering she was refusing to breastfeed otherwise.
- Has your diet changed? There may be something you are eating, that is then in your milk and irritating your baby?
- Try a different position – for us, the laid back approach worked so well, and then when she was bigger and more established with feeding I turned her around to the more standard position.
- Last resort – during the week long strike I resorted to using nipple shields. These are usually used when you start breastfeeding as a guard to stop your nipples becoming so sore and cracked. But because they are latex they mimic the feel and taste of a bottle (which Freya wanted). So I would start the feed with the shields on and then slowly remove them once she was well into the feed. This didn’t always work and a lot of the times I had to feed the whole feed with them on. Which – if any of you have used these before, is so awkward. Maybe I was terrible at putting them on but so many times they would ping off and fly across the room, not great when in public!
So there we go. I know they say it’s s the most natural thing in the world, but in reality, for most of us, it’s a challenge! At the end of the day, bottle or breast you are feeding your baby and that’s s all that matters. It is a personal choice; but if you find yourself in a breastfeeding strike, I hope these tips have helped! Well done Mamas,