Firstly I just wanted to say a HUGE thank-you to everyone who has emailed or messaged me about my posts on Belle’s birth story and weight-loss journey post baby! It has been amazing to have so much positive feedback from people and I am so grateful you all took the time to read.
So I also want to share my experience of breastfeeding! Firstly, during my pregnancy I was an ‘early leaker’, around twenty weeks (FML). I had to wear breastpads all the time because otherwise my nipple would stick to my bra and I’d have to peel them off at the end of the day because they’d glued themselves together (yup OUCH!). Leading up to Belle’s birth I opted to not do any pre-natal classes, including the breastfeeding class. I figured that my mother-in-law was a midwife and I could just directed all questions to her. I told myself that when it came to breastfeeding I’d just give it a crack and see how we went. I really tried to stay realistic about it all as I had heard so many stories from friends about their disappointment or stress surrounding breastfeeding. However, that was a lot easier said than done!!
When Annabelle was born via Caesarean it meant my milk took a little longer to come in, and for the first few days I was feeding almost every hour because she obviously wasn’t getting enough to fill her. In the end we topped her up with formula once or twice just to tide us over until my milk came in. By the third or fourth day it was starting to stress me out wondering if my milk would ever come in. I started to try things to help it along like pumping, massaging my boobs, feeding constantly, drinking milo you name it I tried it. By the fifth day, HALLELUJAH, it finally came in! Yet it definitely didn’t mean I was out of the woods yet.
I know i’ve heard a lot of people say “oh baby knows what to do“, but trust me sometimes baby DOESN’T know what to do and I spent my first few weeks having to get my husband to awkwardly pinch my nipple in such a way it was easier for Belle to latch. Not to mention, my nipples became tender, dry and even cracked with no time to heal between 3-4 hourly feeds. Thankfully, someone quickly suggested using nipple shields, and god am I glad I got those. I ended up feeding with them for almost three months as it was so much easier for Belle to latch and of course protected my flesh from being mutilated.
Anyway, once I started to get into the swing of things I began pumping breastmilk after feeds and building up a supply in the fridge and freezer. From day dot Belle took a bottle and the boob with absolutely no confusion. It was great because it mean that over night my husband could do the feeds to give me a break. Pumping was also good as it kept my supply up, but bad because if I left them longer than 3 hours I felt physically ill from them being so full. Then, when Belle was about three weeks old, thanks to my overly full boobs, I started to feel REALLY sick one night, I pumped my boobs and it was super painful so I rang my MIL and explained my symptoms, before I could even finish she told me what I really didn’t want to hear, I had Mastitis!
She went on to explained that I would need to get antibiotics as soon as possible as it would only get worse, however, being an absolute IDIOT and because it was really late at night I figured I would leave it until the morning. Well that was stupid, I really should have rushed myself to the hospital demanding like a crazy woman they give me antibiotics because by the morning I was in absolute AGONY! I could hardly move and in an attempt to try and alleviate the pain I tried to feed Belle and pretty much ended up screaming the entire time.
I rang the doctors pleading that they got me in as soon as possible and drove myself down. When I saw the doctor she told me it was pretty bad and that she needed to try to massage the block out. She then viciously started squeezing and pushing on my poor boob, trying to work the blockage out. It was definitely up there on my ‘most painful experiences ever’ list, I almost died (not even joking). Eventually, I started to feel some relief but the damage was done and I was scarred for life. She then gave me my antibiotics and sent me on my way. Amazingly once I started taking the AB’s I felt better almost right away, it was gone within 3-4 days completely. I made sure thought that I had a repeat script so I could be on top of it in case it ever happened again!
Then the next hurdle came around the 8-10 week mark when I noticed a significant drop in my supply. I started to have to make a really conscious effort to eat energy full foods throughout the day and drink plenty of water because if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have enough milk by the end of the day. For the remaining 4-5 months I breastfed it was like this and I was constantly searching for different way to try increase my supply. It started to really consume me and it’s all I ever seemed to think about and I told myself that I had put much effort already that I should keep going. That pressure I had promised not to put onto myself had well and truly taken over and I found myself always asking others “are you still breastfeeding” or “how long did you feed for” while searching the internet all the time for ways to increase supply. I was so worried that if I stopped, it was too early or that it wasn’t fair to Belle or that I would regret not trying harder.
Finally, I realised what that I had done the exact thing I didn’t want to do and that while breastfeeding can be an amazing bonding moment between mother and child, it can also be a really stressful and sometimes even isolating experience. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive network of people helping me throughout, and only was it with their help I feel I got as far as I did. No one close to me ever made me feel like I HAD to keep going, no one put pressure on me that I should keep trying. That was all myself, comparing myself to other mums, listening to the hype that ‘breast was best‘, for some reason fearing i’d be doing a huge disservice to my baby if I put her on formula. I had convinced myself that I was was some kind of a failure if I didn’t keep going. Finally, I came to my senses and told myself that I could only do what physically was possible and ultimately what was most important was that my child was fed, clean, warm & loved.
By the 5 month mark I started to give Belle a bottle of formula at night because I just couldn’t produce enough milk by the end of the day. It was also starting to become clear that Belle was starting to get over it herself and began weaning herself. She literally only saw me as a meal ticket these days and didn’t care if it was boob or bottle. There was no cuddles looking into one another eyes anymore, she just wiggled around and showed very little interest. So at 6 months mark we went entirely to formula and we were both absolutely fine with it. I felt really proud of how far I had gotten and felt that I had let Belle decide when to stop rather than calling it quits myself.
I realise now looking back that while I absolutely do not have regrets about how long I breastfed for, I do wish I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself and enjoyed it a little more since I was lucky enough to have an opportunity some don’t even get. And now for any mums who ask me those same questions I found myself asking all the time, I tell them that exactly! And as long as your baby is happy, healthy and has a full tummy, then what does it matter how you choose to feed them anyway?! It’s your own decision how you choose to feed your baby and don’t let anyone make you feel different!!
Raising tiny people is a tough enough job and we don’t need to make it any harder on ourselves by adding these pressures on ourselves over how our child is fed. I notice sometimes when talking to other mums that often when you talk about it people will give a ‘reason’ or try justify why they didn’t breastfeed or why they stopped, but no one needs to justify anything! They are fed and your doing an amazing job, just enjoy the ride!
The end. <3