It’s National Breastfeeding Week. Now, before becoming a mother, this probably would have passed me by. But now, it has much more significance.
This is not a post in which I’m going to preach to you about the benefits about breastfeeding as I’m sure any mums-to-be know those and have been preached to before. I thought I would just tell you a bit about my own experience as I believe, from what the HVs have told me, it was a bit different. So I hope I can offer those of you in a similar position some advice and words of encouragement.
So. Things went a bit wrong for us at the start. Little Harry was induced. He was, and still is, a bit laid back. When he was born I planned on immediate skin-to-skin and for him to breastfeed. Harry, however, had other plans. He fell asleep. Immediately! And that’s all he did. For 24hrs. Until a Mid-Wife with attitude came along, stripped him naked and literally shoved my boob into his mouth.
I honestly believe this 24hr absence of food led to the issues we later had.
Firstly he really struggled to latch on. He’d then get frustrated. Then cry. Then either give up or fall asleep. So for a long time, he really wasn’t feeling very well and I was in pain, to the point of bleeding!
Here’s a tip that no one tells you. Day 3-4: your baby will cry more or less non-stop unless they are strapped to your boob. I didn’t know this and thought that Harry could not possibly still be hungry and there must be another reason. 3am (Christmas Eve), hubby and I called the hospital desperate for help. The MW helpfully informed me my milk had come in so Harry would be panicking thinking he needed to stockpile in case it runs out, which in turn increases the supply. Therefore, just keep feeding – YOU CANNOT OVERFEED A BABY. Remember that. An invaluable fact!
Anyways, by day 6, which for us was Boxing Day, the MW conducted a home visit. Harry had lost 9% of his birth weight. He really wasn’t getting enough milk. I was so upset. I felt a failure. Breastfeeding was really important to me. And I had felt so preached to, by the hospital and NCT, that to NOT do it was out of the question. I would be a bad mother if I couldn’t breastfeed Harry. I clearly wasn’t maternal or natural. What was wrong with me? But Jo, my midwife was great. At the end of the day, Harry’s weight gain was the most important thing, she set me straight and suggested we topped him up with a little formula and/or expressed milk.
So out the family ran to get formula, sterilising tablets and a hand pump.
As soon as Harry put the bottle to his lips, he more or less vacuumed up the 20oz the MW had suggested we give him. So we gave him another. Boy he was happy then. It was like we had a different baby. He was content. At that moment I was so tempted to drop the breastfeeding. With bottle feeding, you can see exactly how much they’re getting. The MW asked me to keep a log of his feeds and they would return 48hrs later to do another weigh in. If Harry hadn’t put on weight, then we would have to go to hospital. I was determined that wouldn’t happen. BUT. I didn’t want to fail him. I wanted him to have the best. So that’s when the expressing marathon began.
6 times a day
That’s how many times I was expressing. Annoyingly the best time is the middle of the night. So I was expressing in the evening, before bed and then approx 3-4am. Then when I got up, then lunch. And just before dinner. I felt like a cow. It was hideous. At first I was using the squeaky hand pump. Then we invested in a noisy double electric pump. This obviously helped production, but as Harry’s consumption increased, my pumping had to also and it quickly became a hideous bore.
Harry also started to reject the boob all together. So I had no choice but to pump. I kept trying to get him to latch on, but alas, not interested.
I think it was about week 6 when I thought enough was enough. I wanted to get Harry drinking from the source. After much research, especially on American websites as they have lots of issues breastfeeding due to their short maternity leave and love of nannies, I discovered “booby boot camp.”
One Tuesday, Harry and I turned off the phones, tuned into trash telly, and set up camp in my bedroom. We weren’t leaving that bed until Harry fed direct from the source!
And I couldn’t believe it. After a little perseverance with his “favourite” boob, he did it. He latched on and fed and fed. Try as I might he didn’t do it again that day, but baby steps (excuse the pun). Next day he did one feed again. And the next. He was learning again and so was I. Over the course of about 2 weeks we managed to get Harry on about 2/3 breast feeds vs 1/3 formula.
And you know what I found? Breast feeding is handy! And so is Formula. I know ultimately breast is best, but Harry and I got into a lovely routine. Now, 5months in we do 4 formula feeds and breast feeds in between, which includes cluster feeding between 4-6pm, in preparation for bedtime. Breastfeeding is so handy when your little one is under the weather or going through a developmental leap. It can also help to get them to sleep and ease them when they’re really upset. And of course it’s a lovely thing to do.
I will never forget the time Harry was feeding, he was 4 and a half months old. He stopped. Looked up at me. Blew a raspberry. A skill he’d taken weeks to perfect. Smiled. And greedily carried on feeding. He’s cheeky and he wanted me to know it.
So. What’s my point?
First. If you’re already a mum and struggling with the breastfeeding. Don’t put yourself down. Do what you can do. I beat myself up over my “failure” to provide, but ultimately as one MW said to me, the most important thing is that both mum and baby are happy. If it means a formula top up so be it. Second, if I did it all again, I would more or less force feed my baby the second he/she arrived in the world. I would not let them just sleep. I would ask for more help from the professionals earlier on. And I would basically keep feeding non-stop. In turn both mum and baby learn how to feed, it’s comforting for the baby, hopefully any supply issues will be avoided and therefore by the end of week one, you should have a happy mum and baby. Ultimately, if I did it second time around, I’d know what I was doing, so it would be so different.
At the end of the day,breastfeeding is hard,whether part-time or full-time. I went to NCT classes before Harry arrived. There were 5 of us in the class and we’ve all had some sort of trouble. But, it is only for about 6 months. And it’s the best you can give. So if you can manage it, it certainly has it’s benefits. But if you can’t, as long as baby’s happy and gaining wait, that’s all that matters really, eh?
For more information about National Breastfeeding Week, check out the NHS website. There are also a number of useful links to other information sources. For this year’s National Breastfeeding Week, Mothercare has teamed up with the Royal College of Midwives to host informal clinics where parents and parents-to-be can come and find out more about breastfeeding. Mothercare are also running an “ask the expert session” on Thursday via their Facebook page.