As Parents There Is Nothing More Powerful Than The Stories We Share..
Welcome back to the #BreastfeedingStories guest post series, an opportunity to bring together stories from other mums who have breastfeeding experiences that they would like to share.
This weeks guest post features Fi from Beauty Baby and Me who shares her story about the reality breastfeeding and how important it is to remove the rose tinted glasses.
So, breastfeeding. Everyone’s favourite controversial subject! Every one of us mummies that has made the decision to breastfeed has their own experiences, and it certainly isn’t always what we expected. So I wanted to share our experience and story, which I hope provides some reassurance to those of you who might be struggling or frustrated with it all.
I went to NCT classes before Josh was born and one session was entirely dedicated to breastfeeding. Great I thought. Breastfeeding was something really important to me; it was something I knew I wanted to do but was conscious of the difficulties that can occur and I was very paranoid I wouldn’t be able to do it. The class was very helpful but, honestly, it painted a very pretty picture. It made it all sound quite easy… we were shown some videos about the placement of baby and how they should latch and it was all made to sound incredibly natural, like the baby would pop out and crawl up to your breast and you’d be away.
Now, whether they showed us all this to promote the positives of breastfeeding in attempt to diminish any worries we had about it I don’t know. I do know all us girls left thinking “OK, this shouldn’t be too difficult”.
Of course the challenges didn’t start until our babies arrived. Thank God for one of my best friends drumming into me the importance of getting the baby checked for tongue tie as soon as he was born, because this was not something that wasn’t really brought up in the NCT classes which is ridiculous because it is so common. Fortunately I asked for Josh to be checked for it the day after he was born and sure enough he had tongue tie. Confusingly I was told at first it was very mild, but a week when later when it was snipped, the doctor told me it was quite severe. I was so lucky I only had a week of enduring it before having it dealt with, because a lot of women have a far longer wait and the honest truth is, it is absolute agony! We had a good first two days of breastfeeding before the pain started, but by day three, I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was agony. My nipples were cracked, and bloody and I took to either wearing one of my husbands shirts, or rocking the topless look, because I didn’t want anything touching my skin. Thank God for Lanolin cream – if you are a mummy to be buy it! It doesn’t matter how much it costs, you will thank me for it later! I remember Josh latching on and sometimes I’d be yelping in pain, but I was absolutely determined to stick at it. I knew I only had a week to get through before it would be dealt with which I think helped and I was additionally spurred on by the fact that Josh barely lost any of his birth weight. Knowing I was getting the weight on him and the milk in him got me through and sure enough once his tongue tie was fixed things improved.
But as with all babies, they like to change the goal posts at any given moment and we have had other struggles. At about 4 weeks Josh decided he wasn’t going to take off my right boob and refused it and would only take off my left boob (a title for my book maybe ha ha!). I was really struggling around this time with sleep deprivation and feeling a bit low and was in despair the morning he started this. Predictably he picked up on my upset mood and decided to cry all morning, as did I. In my desperation to sooth my ridiculously full right boob I did my first express. I was then saved by my mother in law who came over, calmed me down, tucked me in bed (like I was the baby bless her), so I caught up on sleep and she looked after Josh. When I woke up she told me she’d seen the bottle of expressed milk and given it to Josh who, thank the Lord, happily accepted it! It hadn’t even occurred to me that this could be the answer to some of my problems; the sleep deprivation and Josh being less keen on one side so I was beyond happy to discover he took the bottle with no problems. From then on, I’d express every morning and was very lucky as I could easily express a good 100ml each day. Then in the evening I’d go to bed at 8pm and Sam would stay up and give Josh the bottle at 11pm/midnight. It was officially a god send because I’d then get to sleep from 8pm through to about 2/3am when Josh would be due his next feed. I honestly don’t know how I’d have got through those first few weeks without this routine.
Now that Josh is 3 months we have changed things a bit. I now breastfeed again for a dream feed at 10/11pm and then do a night feed around 4pm and it is fine. My body has adjusted to this sleep pattern and, thankfully, Josh has stopped fussing and will take off the right boob again. Occasionally I express so Sam can give Josh a feed before bed at 6pm just to keep Josh familiar with the bottle (which I need him to be for when someone else baby sits him whilst I escape to the hairdressers, Tesco, or any opportunity for a girls night out) plus it’s nice for Sam to still get to feed him occasionally.
So as you can see we’ve had quite a journey! As has pretty much every other mummy I know. All us girls from our NCT group have endured some sort of difficulties or frustrations along the way, some more distressing than others. But we’ve also all stuck it out and persevered with breastfeeding. Some of us use bottles, or also use formula, but the main thing is we are all happy and have healthy growing babies. We’ve all had to find our own path that suits us. And I think it’s safe to say we’ve all felt a little bit disappointed that our class painted such a pretty picture of breastfeeding because for some of us, the difficulties we’ve endured where an unexpected shock. I think us mummies need to be aware that as amazing as breastfeeding is, especially when established and you’re settled down, it is also bloody hard. It comes with challenges as well as people’s strong opinions (FYI – do what is right for you and your baby. Don’t take any crap from people pressuring you or forcing unnecessary opinions on you!!! This is SO important. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty if you choose to bottle feed; it is no one else’s business other than you and your baby), and the daunting prospect of mastering feeding in public, if this is something you choose to do. I’ve had a couple of occasions of staring, which is annoying as I feed very subtly and dress so that there is nothing on display as well as draping a scarf over me and Josh. Being the feisty little madam I am, I manage to ignore any disapproving looks or I just throw a good glare back if I feel at all intimidated by someone’s opinions! As I say, I’m a feisty gal so I’m not about to put up with people’s unspoken judgements!
It seems anyone and everyone has an opinion on breastfeeding these days and that can cause us Mummies, yep you guessed it, guilt. As if we don’t put enough pressure on ourselves. All I will say is be prepared, it can come with challenges but if it is what you want and you stick at it, it is so worth it Above all, do what is right for you and your baby. One of my favourite times is when I’m feeding Josh before he goes to sleep and as he feeds he looks up at me with those gorgeous big eyes; it’s just me and him and we’ve managed to do the journey together!
Thank for reading – I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences
If you’ve got a breastfeeding story you would like to share as part of the series please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. I’d love to help you share your #BreastfeedingStories.