It’s national breastfeeding week and to celebrate I thought I would share a little about my two very different experiences with each of the girls.
If you’re currently breastfeeding, or wanting to, I hope this will offer some help and/or reassurance.
Amelia was born via emergency C section and I’m sure this is partly the reason why our breast feeding journey was not successful. I was able to latch her in the hospital with help from the nurses but the moment we got home, it all fell apart.
I was in so much pain from the surgery (it took months to heal the first time round) that I wasn’t able to hold her in her the correct positions for feeding and once we had made a few mistakes my nipples were bleeding and I couldn’t take it anymore.
After about 5 days, I moved onto to exclusively expressing milk for her which I did until she was almost 6 months when we then made the move to formula.
I’m very proud that I was able to express milk for her for such a long time but it really haunted me that I had been unable to feed her from the breast. I felt like this was meant to be the most natural thing in the world but in fact it was so hard.
No one had prepared me for how difficult it would be to latch her, how hard it would be to prevent the pain or how to push through it until it got easier.
Looking back on my experience with Amelia I felt like my body had failed me, it had been unable to birth her naturally and as a result I was left with a terrible recovery that still has some lingering side effects 2 and a half years later and then I had been unable to feed her the way I wanted. I was adamant that if we had another baby, I would feed her myself.
I was going to be this earth mother with a baby attached to the breast whilst cooking dinner or playing at the park. I was going to crush it, next time.
I didn’t know it was possible for two experiences to be so different. When we were scheduled for our planned c section I was made it very clear that I wanted immediate skin to skin with Taya so she could bond, something I didn’t get with Amelia.
I told everyone who would listen how important it was that I got the latching correct whilst in hospital because I had made such a mess of it last time and I was not going to repeat that.
Taya latched on like a dream, I asked a nurse to check her every single time she fed in hospital until I was sure I knew what I was doing and I learnt from my mistakes and applied nipple cream after every feed even if there was no discomfort.
Taya’s birth I’m sure played a role too, it was calm and peaceful. There were only a handful of people in the room and my section recovery after 4 days was the equivalent of 4 months with Amelia. I was in much less pain and was able to hold Taya to my body to feed her without any issues.
Once we were home I had a better understanding of what to expect, I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep for the first few nights before my milk came in so I settled in with snacks and drinks and movies and we fed and cuddled all night whilst everyone else slept (not jealous at all).
Our breast feeding journey was a walk in the park compared to Amelia, I felt more confident in my ability to feed her and in myself as a mother. I fed her in public; at the park, in tesco, in TK Maxx. I didn’t care, if she needed feeding I would do it and that is only something that I think comes with your confidence in yourself as a parent. I wouldn’t have dreamed of feeding in public the first time, even if I had been able to.
The first growth spurt from 4-6 weeks put a lot of pressure on me, being the only one able to feed her (or comfort her it seemed) I found myself locked away in the spare room watching Grey’s Anatomy from 5pm til she fell asleep at midnight. It was relentless but I knew it would end eventually and we did come out the other side.
I fed her successfully for 8 weeks, I would have been able to continue our feeding journey if not for a few key things.
- Feeding with a toddler is beyond hard work. Every time I need to feed Taya, Amelia wants or needs something, she wasn’t old enough or independent enough to do for herself whilst I was occupied.
- Lack of support at home. This is a hard one for me because it’s completely preventable but probably is the main reason I quit feeding. I heard “She’s crying because you breast feed her. If she had a bottle she wouldn’t cry this much” too many times and I felt completely on my own in my choice and desire to breastfeed her. There was little to no assistance with things like getting a drink, or fetching a snack or cutting up my dinner so I could eat it whilst feeding. No, if Taya wanted a feed then I was on my own. One night i remember driving to Asda at 9pm in the hope that the car ride would settle her to sleep and I ate a packaged sandwich in the car because I hadn’t had any dinner.
Moving on from breastfeeding at 8 weeks was the right thing for our family, it allowed me to be available for Amelia, anyone could feed Taya and the controlled amount of milk she was getting meant we knew how long she would be satisfied for.
I am ok with the decision that we made, if I’m honest, I do wish I had ploughed on and ignored the negativity and stuck with it. I know it would have gotten easier as she got older and Amelia would have learnt to be a little more self sufficient and played whilst I was feeding her but I can’t look after on our breast feeding journey negatively because I know I made the right decision in the long run and everyone is much happier.
I’m really proud of my different breast feeding journeys, I know I’ve learnt so much over the course of two babies. All I will say to any new mum is that it is the hardest thing in the world, but stick with it. It will get easier, you will find your rhythm and anyone who tried to discourage you can jog on.