I thought I’d share my experiences of breastfeeding as since I gave birth a lot of my close family and friends know the struggles I’ve faced. I hope in writing about this that if you or someone you know is facing a tough time with breastfeeding, perhaps this might help.
Going to NCT classes prior to Mayan being born was very helpful but I have to say I had a rosy impression of how beautifully my baby would breastfeed and how naturally it would happen and just how easy it was. Those rose tinted sunglasses came off big time after labour.
I was weak from losing a lot of blood, became severely anaemic etc etc, not to mention baby coming to the world earlier meant my milk hadn’t quite come in. So a bleary eyed me, listened to the first midwife when they said we should give a little formula so I could get some rest, and at the time, being too weak to think of anything else, I said yes.
Lesson number 1: I should have instead just let my son come to me as much as he wanted as even just being on the boob stimulates milk to come in.
Then came the latching. When I was in hospital I was too zonked on painkillers, too tired from labour and too weak to even walk straight that midwives would try and ‘help’ me latch my son on, but I would struggle to do it on my own, I didn’t even know how to carry a new born! When you haven’t had a baby before, holding a doll doesn’t come close to giving you enough practice especially when it’s your own baby in your arms and you are scared to drop them or hold them the wrong way. Every time a midwife tried to help latch my son on, they showed me different positions and it confused me. Each person told me to hold my boob in different ways to try and secure a latch and although he was feeding, I was told the pain I felt was normal.
Lesson number 2: Sensitivity in the early days is normal but excruciating pain is NOT. Little did I know that my poor boy had tongue tie for six weeks that went undetected. It was so severe that the nurse who snipped it said it felt like teeth. Ouch for me.
Going home was a relief, as the warmth and support of my mother had never been more necessary. I was so emotional from the pain that the added pain of breastfeeding had me doubting why I was so adamant to keep going. Other family members were quick to say, oh your baby is hungry, he isn’t getting enough so just give him a bottle. I was quick to say , no I’m breastfeeding, formula top ups are just that, top ups and even that eventually I’d like to stop.
Before I continue, I should make very clear, I don’t and didn’t have anything against giving formula, I just always wanted to give it my very best shot at breastfeeding before giving a bottle, as there is a family history of excema and asthma and I thought I could try and mitigate the likelihood of Mayan getting such conditions. That way even if he did get it, if i had breastfed I would feel like I gave it my best shot of trying to minimise the odds of him getting it.
Lesson number 3: Listen to your instinct. Also get the right support. I know that I wouldn’t have continued breastfeeding if it wasn’t for my mother, my husband and a brilliant breastfeeding counsellor. Breastfeeding drop in clinics are a great way to get out the house, get some help and have a chat with someone other than your own head or your loved ones.
In conclusion, please know whichever way you are feeding, whether its formula or breast, fed is best, and stressing out about it isn’t going to help anyone, least of all those precious fleeting moments with your baby that are there for you to bond, not to antagonise.
Those are the first three lessons I learnt pretty quickly. Leave me a comment or message me if you’d like me to do continue this series of posts.