World Breastfeeding Week comes to an end today, but I didn’t feel that I could let it pass without sharing my own breastfeeding journey.
My feeding journey with my eldest daughter, M, wasn’t an easy one. I found breastfeeding difficult, had a crisis of confidence and ended up exclusively expressing for her for almost eight months, before switching to formula.
Before B was born, I knew that I wanted to try breastfeeding her ‘properly’. I also knew that it would be impossible to exclusively express for her, the way I had M, as I would have a toddler as well as a newborn to look after.
I tried not to put any pressure on myself, but at the same time, I took steps to give myself the best possible chance of breastfeeding B successfully.
Firstly, my community midwife advised me to hand express and freeze some colostrum in advance of B’s arrival, so that if feeding was tricky, I’d have some extra in reserve to help her along. She also advised me to request breastfeeding help while I was still in hospital after B’s birth, and to ask to stay until I felt I was at least beginning to get the hang of feeding.
In some ways, I was fortunate that I had an elective caesarean. In fact it was more than just a straightforward caesarean, but I won’t go into that here. (If you like, you can read B’s birth story, here.) The short story is that I had a complicated c-section and B spent five days in NICU almost immediately after she was born.
Because my caesarean was rather complex, and I was unable to take anti-inflammatories due to having Polycystic Kidney Disease, I was in a lot of pain and reliant on morphine to manage the pain. This meant that I wasn’t discharged before B left NICU, so once she was discharged from there back to the ward, we had nearly 48 hours together there, before being allowed home.
I basically used our time in hospital to bang my drum as loudly as possible for breastfeeding support. When M was born, I was embarrassed about getting my boobs out and had been conditioned by NCT classes to think that my body and my baby would magically know how to breastfeed. It’s amazing how spending eight months as a slave to the breast pump when you’re exclusively expressing, can make you not give a monkeys about who you get your boobs out in front of, to learn how to breastfeed your second baby successfully.
It really is a case of who shouts the loudest when you’re looking for support in hospital. The Midwives and MCAs are wonderful, but they’re all busy and overworked, so you do need to persist and keep on asking for help. Because if you stop asking, they will stop coming, because they’re busy helping someone else who is asking.
I had some incredible support from a brilliant MSA who came when I rang my buzzer every time B needed a feed. She helped me to check that B had the correct latch, and suggested a couple of different feeding positions that we could try.
I fully credit this lady with giving me the confidence to leave hospital, feeling like I had a good chance of successfully breastfeeding my baby. I am so grateful that she took the time to help me.
We have been very lucky in that B hasn’t had any tongue tie or dairy issues, and I haven’t experienced mastitis (although I have had the joy of blebs and blocked ducts, a couple of times: apologies for the overshare). Overall, our feeding journey has been pretty straightforward.
Of course cluster feeding is hard work in the early days and weeks, but I took advice from a friend and made my sofa into a comfy space for me and B to snuggle down together, and settled down to evenings and nights of extreme breastfeeding in front of the television. I was kind to myself and bought breastfeeding-friendly clothing that was comfortable to wear and comfortable for me to feed in, in public.
Now, we’re 16 months into our breastfeeding journey and while I’m not feeding as often as I was in the early days, B still feeds in the morning when she wakes up, and to sleep at night. Thankfully she’s now sleeping through the night, so I have said goodbye to the night feeds! We’ve only recently weaned off the midday nap feed, largely due to it being the holidays and B napping while we’re out and about in the car, rather than on me, at home.
I’m not sure when our feeding journey will end, but for now, I’m not quite ready and I don’t think B is either. I feel like we’ve got a good balance at the moment. Hopefully, we’ll know when the time is right for us both.