So my breastfeeding journey ended a few weeks ago. I am both sad and glad – it is a closeness I’ll miss, but I’m looking forward to being able to wear normal bras, getting my body back, not being so tired and having a little boy a bit less dependent on me – maybe I can even sneak a night away soon.
For me, like most people I know, breastfeeding wasn’t easy. I had a long 72 hour labour ending in an emergency c-section for my first baby. I was in shock. It wasn’t the birth I wanted and I hadn’t a clue about how to look after the baby. I told the midwives I wanted to breastfeed. They were both pushy and useful. He didn’t want to feed as he was tired- who would after such a long birth? A minute here and there, which apparently wasn’t enough. I am now much more geared with knowledge – lots of babies, especially with long births, don’t feed much at first. He just wanted to sleep. The midwife said I had an inverted nipple & gave me a weird thing to make my nipple larger. It kind of worked, though I think my nipple was squashed or something as it never had been or has been, inverted since. She made me use my manuel breastpump and try to express – I was knackered and hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was almost in tears – just walking to the room to sterilise was a feat in itself – not easy with stitches in your abdomen, soreness just about everywhere and no sleep for 3 nights. The reason they were worried was because he wasn’t wee-ing. Eventually he did to my joy – he had been snacking doing lots of short feeds instead of long ones & it all paid off and his insides worked – phew. Never have I been so pleased to see a wee in my life. I am pretty sure they don’t put this pressure on everyone – some friends seem to have been in hospital literally hours, or not at all.
I took up the offer of help again at 6 days. My milk came in late – it often does with c-sections. This basically means you get an instant boob job. You get large, and the baby often can’t feed as they can’t latch on. A miracle breastfeeding councillor came and helped me or else I would probably have given up. Hot showers, massage and patience and he fed again – phew. Another reason for making sure you stop the engorgement is to help prevent mastitis – if you don’t know what it is it’s flu like symptoms and you can get seriously ill with it very quickly. I was lucky to never get it- friends have been hospitalised & very poorly.
The next hurdle was how to position him. I could only feed lying down due to my sore stomach & so I rarely got out of the house. He fed well though and put on loads of weight. The main problem was I had to express in order to go out anywhere – I couldn’t exactly lie down willy nilly could I. So at around 6 weeks I started expressing. Then I got nipple confusion. For those who say it doesn’t exist – it bloody does. And it bloody hurts. A lot. To the point where I was in tears every single feed. It was so sore and painful. As I could only feed lying down, I only plucked up enough courage to go out at around 8 weeks to a breast feeding support group a few minutes from my house, when I felt I was able to feed sitting up if I had to. They helped a lot – I made friends through the group and I missed being able to go to one with my second baby (it was miles away and I couldn’t drive and had a good feeder so no point really).
Another painful experience was blocked ducts. Another thing which if left can lead to mastitis. A needle, hot shower & massage and that was dealt with. A few times. Ouch.
I fed for 13.5 months – in the end only for night feeds and water in the night soon made him sleep through. For me, this was long enough – my aim had been to avoid formula* and I had done it, I felt proud that I had with so many obstacles.
I went into motherhood second time round geared with loads of knowledge. A similar birth later and my second boy was feeding within the hour. He was a shorter, quicker feeder within a few days – a snacker. I was also able to feed sitting up – I think just from experience I could hold him more confidently. The feeding did hurt though for the first few days – I remember crying every time he latched on, and that was while being on painkillers. The after pains were pretty fierce too – I had luckily been warned that second time they are like mild contractions and they were – but it did, of course, mean it was doing my uterus some good as it was popping back in to shape. No 1 (nearly 2 years by this point) quickly got the hang of No 2 having mummy milk & nothing else & wasn’t jealous, which some kids can be.
I had no nipple confusion either, only a couple of blocked ducts, no mastitis and by expressing occasionally, he took a bottle to let me get a teeny bit of freedom again – just to Zumba but it was a start. The main problem I had was his frequency of feeding. No 1 had always gone around 4-5 hours in the night in between feds, if not longer. No 2 started off ok but at the 4 month sleep regression, he was up every 2 hours. We ended up co-sleeping, something which I never did first time around but made my life bearable for months on end. We managed slowly to get to point where he sleeps in his own room and the frequency of feeding decreased to every 4, not 2 hours in a row, and now at 15.5 months old he has slept through for a handful of times -yipee! A lot of patience has gone in to him being able to self settle, and I’ve had to stay awake to put him back in his cot instead of dozing off with him suckling. We didn’t do controlled crying – for me this seems unnatural & slightly cruel – I know it works for some people but not for me. I’m glad I didn’t – No 1 sleeps well now (unless ill or has a nightmare like most kids) & No 2 has slept 12 hours once which is a small miracle. It was a one off I think, but I now know it’s possible.
I will miss the closeness and the feeling of feeding my baby. I won’t miss the night feeds. And I look forward to wearing normal clothes again. I was glad that it sort of filtered out this time – he just slept through the time he’d normally feed – such a shock. I will miss being bitten, clawed at, smiled at and even the uncontrollable spraying of milk everywhere.
For me, I have achieved what I set out to do – yes I could have fed for longer but I’ve finished my journey. Almost 28 months is enough feeding for me. It’s helped me lose weight, save money & hopefully put some goodness in to my boys. My mum, grandparents and mother in law & other members of my family all breastfed. I think it helps if you have the support and I’m glad they gave me it. I hope, if I have daughters in law, they will be able to, and want to breastfeed too – it just felt right and I’m very glad I was able to succeed & give help & advice & encouragement to some friends who have needed it.
I have fed in Disneyland, Ikea, cafes, shoe shops, planes, museums and more. I have never had a negative comment though I’ve always been pretty discreet. It takes confidence to feed in public. A baby deserves to eat just as much as anyone else. I always smile when I see a nursing baby as I’m glad their mother isn’t hiding at home or in a toilet – they deserve to get out and about & feed their baby as they wish.
Thanks for listening & thanks to my boys for eating their mummy milk.
* I was surprised to learn, after having my baby, that you can’t give a baby cow’s milk until they are 12 months old. I had presumed, that when they weaned at around 6 months you could introduce it then but you aren’t able to. Therefore, my first aim of 6 months soon became 12 months and both boys had cows milk on their first birthdays, mixed in with some expressed. I won’t mention formula advertising now – but there is no need to give formula if you are breastfeeding and certainly no need after 12 months (unless your baby has a milk allergy or other medical need) – something i was clueless about despite having done a bit of research pre-baby.