This week, 24th – 30th June has been National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.
I have seen a lot of awareness being raised this week in regards to breastfeeding and I’ve read a lot of blog posts about other experiences.
I thought I would add my own experience as a mother who unsuccessfully breastfed her first baby, not allowed to breastfeed her second, and then went on to successfully breastfeed her third for 14.5 months.
When I had J I was 21. I thought I would give breastfeeding a go after hearing about how good it is for baby. Little did I know how hard it is to breastfeed! I thought I’d give birth, baby would take to the breast and voila. Breastfeeding is hard work and does not come easily, to baby or Mother.
Support is essential. This is something I didn’t get. I was not shown how to latch my baby on correctly. Therefore, I became sore rather quickly. We endured a 2 night stay. J had colic from the get go and continuously screamed. Every time he cried, a Midwife would tell me he was hungry, and as they knew best, despite having already spent over an hour trying to feed this baby, I tried again and put him back on the breast.
My mother visited and tried to “help”. Unfortunately this “help” was to pull my breasts out and put J on to them….with my curtains open and my Father-in-Law, Brother-in-Law and his girlfriend looking on in utter disbelief. I was mortified and embarrassed. Needless to say they all made a quick exit.
It wasn’t until our 2nd night, and after I broke down in tears with J crying in his cot at my bedside, did a different Midwife come to my rescue. This is when we discovered his colic. We also discovered he just liked to suck for comfort, and was more than likely using me as his comforter, which would also be whilst I was sore. The Midwife recommended getting him a dummy to settle with.
When we got home we had visitors all turn up at once, and all at feeding time. J was the first baby to be born in our group of friends, so everyone was eager to see him. They were all trying to catch a glimpse of him as he fed. I felt uncomfortable and ended up sitting in my bedroom with the baby.
I continued to feed and battle through the pain and screams for 2 weeks. One night he wouldn’t settle at all. I was tired, sore and J was visibly upset. I made him up a bottle of formula which he guzzled down and quickly settled. I continued giving him formula and he became a much more contented and happy baby.
When J was 4 months old I was put on to anti-depressants to treat Post Natal Depression. Whilst on these, I fell pregnant with K. I continues on my medication throughout the pregnancy. I was told that due to the medication I would not be able to breastfeed. I felt awful about it. Awful that I was inflicting this medication on my child in the womb, and then I couldn’t even feed her myself. She was bottle fed from birth.
When I fell pregnant with A, I was in two minds as to what to do. I was no longer on my medication but having unsuccessfully breastfed before, would it be easier to just give her formula from birth? Then I ended up in hospital with complications and possibility of a premature baby. This changed my mind for me and I decided to give Breastfeeding a go, even if it’s just for a few days. I knew I was being delivered under a General Anaesthetic, so I ordered in some formula and disposable bottles for hospital so she could have a feed whilst I was still unconscious. However, I made sure it was marked that I wanted to try to feed her if I could.
Once I had come round and was alert enough, the Midwife showed me how to latch A on and she took to it like a pro. It felt a lot different to it did when I first attempted breastfeeding all those years ago with J. The first few seconds were sore for a while but that soon settled down. She needed a formula top up in hospital as she couldn’t control her blood sugars, but she was cup fed so as not to confuse her.
I managed to feed her throughout our hospital stay. I was visited by a lactation nurse who made sure she was latching on correctly. I felt a lot more confident third time round, and had the support that I didn’t get first time round.
I set myself mini goals to get to with breastfeeding. To get through those 3 days in hospital, to get to 3 weeks, to get to 6 weeks and so on. I had days where I felt like giving up. Growth spurts take their toll and I felt like she was permanently attached to me. So I turned to my support network of breastfeeding friends who reassured me and told me it would get easier. It did! I fed A for 14.5 months!! I never dreamed I would EVER feed a baby for that long. I had to go in to hospital for throat surgery, which is the reasoning behind us stopping feeding, otherwise I think she would still be feeding now at 20 months old.
I am now more confident about breastfeeding our new addition when he comes along. I know it might be hard, he might not take to it, he might not latch properly, but I’m confident in my own abilities as a mother and I’m not afraid to reach out and ask for support.
Support is VITAL for breastfeeding mothers! It’s hard work and not as easy as it looks….but it’s the most natural and beautiful thing in the world.