Now I’ve been umming and ahing whether to write this post. However, I then went on to think if I was told what to really expect, perhaps I wouldn’t have felt the need to write about what I’ve been battling with over the past month and that I might be feeding little Jack differently. I hope this post doesn’t come across negative in any way as I must stress this was my experience, and my experience has shown me it really is different for everyone.
So, let’s talk breastfeeding.
Breast is best, right? And with the slogan drummed into us new mummies, we all start out hoping to give our babies the very best from day one and get them feeding from us.
When learning about breastfeeding I did everything most new mums would do and read all of the information I could find and spoke to my midwife and health visitor. But where I stand at the moment, what’s really bugging me is I don’t feel any of these sources have been completely honest about all of the hurdles you might come across. Don’t get me wrong you’re not told it’s easy, but the only hurdles really discussed are:
- The pain you may feel when you get the ‘initial let down’ of the milk
- Cracked and sore nipples
- Baby not latching on
Mentally prepared for these issues, when I completed all of the above challenges I thought I’d cracked it…boy was I wrong. I came across a whole bundle of other challenges that perhaps if were discussed before I would’ve had the confidence to carry on.
Before I go any further I’ll quickly tell you that my feeding journey over the past six weeks has gone from exclusively breastfeeding, to breastfeeding and giving Jack my expressed milk from a bottle, to just expressed breast milk from a bottle, to mixed feeding with expressed milk and formula, and finally I’ve decided to only give Jack formula milk. Have you kept up? Because I haven’t!
Now I’m not going to bore you with too many of the ins and outs and I’ll try and cut a very long story short. My biggest issue was/is, I have a very hungry little boy. For example, some feeds he’d be on me for two hours solid. I honestly think at these moments the only way I’d satisfy him up is with a big, fat, juicy steak (hence the picture, which I feel I need to add is not Jack!).
“He’s comforting”, lots of people would advise. But as he was gulping most of the time, I knew it wasn’t just comfort, I knew he was hungry and needed filling up.
The biggest thing frustrating me in these two hour feeding marathons is that my boobs weren’t see-through, so I could see how much he was taking. Why, oh why someone has not yet invented a milk measure that sits on your boobs so breastfeeding mums can see how much their baby is drinking. I think I might try and design one as I’m sure it would make me a millionaire. Who wants in?
After a few weeks of breastfeeding, with a bit of expressing so my husband could help share the feeds (which by the way was a god send and helped combat the exhaustion), it was the growth spurt night that tipped me over the edge. If you haven’t read my earlier post, then do have a quick read of ‘that night’. It still haunts Pete and me to this day. I’m obviously joking, we do laugh about it now, but it’s one of the long nights that stick with us.
On ‘that night’ Jack was feeding from me nearly every hour, on the hour. I couldn’t keep up. What made it worse (sorry for the detail), was he’d be sucking while throwing his head back in anger that he couldn’t get more milk with my nipple still in his mouth. Did you just say “ouch” out loud? Because I did.
It was at that point I knew I couldn’t face another moment of Jack feeding from me. In just one short second I’d made the decision to exclusively express my milk and feed him from a bottle.
I will say that since feeding Jack from a bottle, I’m a much happier mummy, and Jack’s a much happier little boy. Why? Because, I can finally see how much he’s getting and what he needs to be satisfied. He also now finishes most feeds within half an hour – a massive improvement on our previous two hour stints.
Expressing worked for a good amount of time. If you’re thinking about doing it I’d thoroughly recommend the Ameda Lactaline Dual Electric Pump. So why stop, if it worked? Well, I got to the stage where to keep up with Jack’s mammoth feeding schedule I had to express an awful lot. I’d spend most of my day and night panicking about how and when I’d find time to express for the next feed. I’d even be up most of the night expressing just to get on top of it. Also, what used to upset me is when Jack would be playing contently on the floor I’d be using this time to express. So instead of enjoying him and helping him with his development, I’d be sat on sofa watching.
This is where my final breast milk hurdle came crashing down. I battled for a long time weighing up whether Jack would benefit more from my milk, or from a less tired mummy who had time to play and interact to help his development. It was a very tough call. However, looking back at pictures of Jack just days old I realised my time with him would go quickly and before I knew it I’d be back at work with even less time to enjoy him. The decision was made. Love and attention won.
Looking back at the whole experience I wish health professionals discussed a wider range of challenges that might come with breastfeeding and explained that not all babies will be ‘perfect’ feeders so you might need to teach and train them. I honestly think if I knew a hungry baby meant I might be sat in front of the TV for two hours solid feeding I would have stuck at it a bit longer. Why? Because, I would have mentally prepared myself for the situation, as I did with the other hurdles discussed before.
Every baby and every experience really is different though. I’ve got friends around me who have successfully continued to breast feed and are enjoying the experience. Likewise, I’ve got friends around me who are struggling because there are issues (which have certainly never been discussed by health professionals) that are difficult to overcome. Looking back, I believe confidence is key to persevering. If I had another baby (eek!) then I would try breastfeeding again, because if I ended up with another hungry baby I’d have the confidence to try and train them to be more efficient. As a first-time mum I wasn’t confident to go down this road. When your baby’s crying and crying from hunger you will do anything to satisfy them no matter where the milk is coming from!
Finally, for anyone reading this who is beating themselves up for not being able to master breastfeeding, I had a good response from a doctor yesterday at Jack’s and my six week check. When asked by the doctor how I was feeding Jack, I of course went into my rambles you’ve just read. The doctor’s reply?
“Don’t get yourself screwed up about it. Formula milk is honestly fine. You mums are pressured so much these days to breast feed. Just ignore it. The main thing is Jack is happy and healthy.”
*Big sigh*. Suddenly a big tonne weight was lifted from my shoulders.
Love me xxx