To mark the end of world breastfeeding week, I am taking a look back at my breastfeeding journey. Here is my story…
I was very determined to breastfeed but our journey got off to a rough start after my c-section. (You can read my birth story here). I found it really difficult to begin with; I couldn’t get the latch right, she was unsettled and fidgety, and I was recovering from the birth. She was fractious and had to have blood tests to check her sugar levels. I was warned she would have to be topped up with formula if things didn’t improve, which left me feeling stressed and upset. I felt as a new mum that my very first choices as a parent were being undermined. If I remember rightly, during my two day stay in hospital I was told several times that the lactation consultant would see me but I don’t recall they did.
Once home, we continued to have lots of problems with latching on. The midwife was bolshy and grabbed at my breast heavy handedly, trying to get her to latch. I felt… well maybe violated is too strong a word… but uncomfortable would be an understatement. It didn’t help. I was ridiculously sore everytime I fed her and so I was recommended nipple shields. I think they may have been helpful and necessary in our case but they also interferred with the natural dynamics of breastfeeding and were fiddly.
She was also jaundiced so we were advised by the midwife that we had to feed every 2 hours around the clock, which meant we weren’t feeding on demand and she got into bad habits of having little and often, and waking frequently. I got mastitis twice, plus we rushed to hospital with an ‘exploding’ boob! (This is not as bad as it sounds; it was just a burst blood vessel. But when my daughter looked up at me with a mouthful of blood that I thought was hers, it gave me a fright that’s for sure!) All in all, our breastfeeding relationship was off to a pretty rocky start!
I don’t think things really clicked and got easier until after 4 months, which felt like forever at the time! By then, I was also incredibly self conscious about breastfeeding in public because I was finding it so tough to get it right even in the privacy of my own home. My answer to this was to express bottles to use whenever I went out anywhere. This was a good temporary solution for me as it meant I felt confident going out and socialising and I think if I hadn’t have done that I probably would have been more likely to just give up breastfeeding completely, but it probably did prolong the issues in the longer run.
I was close to giving up many times but it did finally get easier. I was glad I perservered, as I eventually got to experience how natural and easy it can be. Looking back, that difficult time seemed such a distant memory and I could see that those few months were such a short period in the scheme of things.
I ended up extended breastfeeding full term. I would call it self-weaning but in reality it wasn’t because my milk dried up after several years. Maybe lactation boosting supplements may have helped with this on reflection, I don’t know. She easily accepted it though so I guess she was ready, even though it technically wasn’t her choice.
The bottom line is I did what I felt best at the time, and right for our family. And that is exactly what I think others should do too, regardless of what decision that is.