It’s World Breastfeeding Week so I thought it a perfect opportunity to share this post about how osteopathy helped me to continue to breastfeed my son.
Fourth time around, breastfeeding would be a cinch, right?
When I found out I was pregnant with Monkey 4, one of the first things I couldn’t wait for was breastfeeding. I just wanted this baby delivered safely in my arms nuzzling into my breast, while I looked down at him in wonder. This isn’t me being totally idealistic, I know breastfeeding isn’t easy. The reason I was so excited was because I’d really enjoyed breastfeeding Monkey 3, six years earlier.
I fed him up until 6 months, by which time he was on night feeds only, but a bad dose of chicken pox made it hard for him to suckle so he had to move to bottles exclusively around week 26. Even so, we had a wonderful six months developing our bond and, having fed both Monkeys 1 and 2 myself for up to three months, I felt proud to have had such a positive experience third time around.
So, when Monkey 4 arrived in February, perfect and pink on my lounge floor, I cuddled him and put him straight to the breast and he suckled well. All seemed to be going swimmingly…
… till the ‘boob bomb’ hit!
Tongue-tied and tense times
My baby had tongue tie (is it just me, but is this more common than ever? Two friends’ babies born this year also had this), so suckling was good but my boobs soon started to get very sore due to the ‘gumming’ that tongue tie babies do. We got his tongue tie snipped quickly, but as he was such an efficient sucker, he brought down lots of milk. I quickly had an oversupply which was very uncomfortable, but as I’d done it before, I knew it would sort itself out in time.
Except it didn’t.
My baby didn’t like feeding on my right side so I had to hold him in a rugby ball position in order to get him to latch on properly. Even so, I got mastitis in that side and had a course of antibiotics. I just couldn’t believe it. Mastitis? Me? This is my fourth breastfed baby!
Then a few weeks later and well past the settling stage, I got mastitis in the other side (because he was feeding so much on the left it got too full), so I had yet another course of antibiotics.
Despite the medicine, I never felt that either my baby was feeding comfortably (he was very squirmy and windy) or that my boobs were better. The mastitis wasn’t classic blocked ducts as such, but I felt the aches around the outer edges of the breast and under my armpits. I tried taking ibuprofen and Manuka Honey to keep the bugs at bay, but it was getting to the point where he was rejecting the right side at most feeds because the milk wasn’t coming through enough.
I’d feel constant aches and shooting pains. It was pretty rubbish and got me down as I was so looking forward to this bit and felt like a failure. I wanted to give up. I was so fed up of feeling ill from feeding, but I felt trapped. The thing is, if you have mastitis, you have to keep feeding so that the milk flow pushes through, otherwise it can get much worse, and my anxiety levels couldn’t take any more illness.
I wrote a separate post at 10 weeks, about my problems with feeding, if you want to read how frustrated I was. I thought I’d turned a corner then. I hadn’t.
When he was about 14 weeks, I booked for both Monkey 4 and me to see Monkey 1’s cranial osteopath (she’s been treating her anxiety, which I will talk about another time). This particular practitioner has years of experience behind her, she also has a very healing way about her. I felt drawn to her, and she’s gained Monkey 2’s trust, which is amazing. Her touch is so gentle, you almost wonder how she can know so much about the body she’s working on. I do believe she has a special gift.
I’d been sat in her waiting room feeling very emotional; I was aching again and had decided to call my GP as soon as I’d had my treatment. I was on the verge of tears and feeling a complete failure. I couldn’t see any way out of it. So when she asked me how I was, I wearily told her about my breast pain and feeding. But she surprised me by offering to treat my boobs!
I’ve had both structural and cranial osteopathy many times before for back and hip niggles, but this was new to me! I was desperate and tired so I agreed – anything was worth a try.
She gave me my usual treatment (working gently on my energy and hormone balance, including my grief) and then for the last ten minutes she placed her hands on each breast. I hadn’t got a bra on, as it was making it worse, but she worked over my clothing so it was very discreet.
She started on the left side (my better side) but as soon as she touched the right she noticed that the tissue was blocked up and tight. She didn’t do much (it seemed), just very gentle manipulation. I could have cried (in fact I did when I got home – the sessions often make me feel emotional after). She worked right at the nipple as well as the surrounding tissue. As soon as she’d finished, Monkey 4 was crying for a feed so I fed him immediately on that side. And unlike every time before, he drank immediately and had the best feed he’d ever had. I couldn’t believe it!
Breastfeeding in harmony with my baby
The osteopath has also worked a lot on my baby. This too has helped his latch which has kept the aches at bay.
He was born in four hours, and then with one contraction. He’d been partly back to back and turned as he crowned which left his neck and shoulder as twisted as they could be (she felt this, I couldn’t tell). He’d had very noisy breathing and reflux. My GP virtually rolled her eyes at me when I took him to get checked out, simply saying he’ll grow out of it, so I’m very glad I sought another method of treatment. I knew osteopathy was brilliant for newborns, so I’m glad I knew where to turn!
The breathing was due to his rib cage squashing him, and he’s now much quieter when he breathes (he was so loud people would comment on it). So she’s put that right and continues to work on his reflux, which all my Monkeys suffered with. I’m convinced her working on both of us has helped us to really get this breastfeeding thing under control, and almost bonded us together.
Now breastfeeding has truly begun!
I have no idea why it was so hard this time around. I have to admit that while I’m proud of myself for getting this far, 23 weeks, I haven’t enjoyed most of it very much at all, simply because I’ve felt so run down. But having had another osteopath treatment (including boobs) and expressing as soon as I feel any discomfort has meant my feeding now feels normal and my energy levels have much improved.
It only took a couple of treatments and I still have a monthly top up, but she’s now focusing on the cricks in my back and neck (joys of co-sleeping) and energy, although it’s good to know I can just ask her for a quick ‘boob job’ (we joke) when I feel things getting tight again… although so far, I haven’t!
As his teeth started coming through at 20 weeks, I was planning to start dropping feeds from August (he was using my boob as a teether! and frankly I was fed up of being pulled around as well as all the problems). But, you know, it’s so much easier now, natural. He’s not biting me anymore and seems to just love his feeds… and I’m loving it too. So much in fact, I think I’ll carry on a bit longer! After all, how can resist this little face…