I know that breastfeeding is not for everybody, and the reason for this post is not to try to push anyone into doing something that they have no desire to do. I do believe that it is a fantastic thing to do, and if it works out it can be such an easy way to feed your baby with the goods that the big man gave ya!
As it’s me, of course breastfeeding, like everything else, didn’t go exactly according to plan, so I’ve decided to share my story as it might help some of the mammies that read this blog.
All 3 of my babies were breastfed to some extent. When I had Rachael, I was a totally clueless 18 year old, I was at the mercy of the midwives and nurses, and to be honest, I got totally conflicting advice and in turn, my journey was very short-lived because I never learned the actual basics (like the more you feed the more milk you make and that cluster feeding is baby putting in an order!)
When I had Dean I was a totally clueless 32 year old, but I had internet for support this time so I was able to research a bit more.
I fed him morning noon and night. He was crying constantly and just wasn’t gaining weight the way he should. Now to add a bit of trivia here, breast fed babies don’t always gain weight the same way that formula fed babies do. When a baby is born, their stomach is the size of a walnut, if they are controlling how much they take they will eat little and often – where a formula fed baby will keep taking the bottle and stretch their stomach, and will be full for longer. But in this case he was really falling behind.
Anyway, I ended up in hospital with Dean and he was promptly given formula, the plan had been to top up with breast milk, but in hindsight that was never going to work as he was already full as an egg. That was the end of my journey, but because he was was so much more settled (for a while anyway) I had to admit that the formula was a better option.
On Jack, I had an arsenal, this was going to work, come hell or high water I was going to get the use out of these airbags!
I was doing everything by the book, I knew what to expect. I could see though, he still wasn’t gaining weight the way I would have hoped. My first call was to La Leche League, the wonderful Maura was in my house within a few hours, she gave me so much great help and advice, she told me that she thought that Jack had tongue tie, so I arranged to get this confirmed and snipped asap (she was correct, the procedure took approx 5 minutes and he was straight back on the boob) this can often be the difference between breast feeding working or not.
Jack fed away, was a very alert happy baby, he slept better than Dean had (not for long mind you) but still the weight gain was an issue. We ended up back in the same position, he had a little tummy bug, what went in came straight back out! For his 6 week check we ended up back in hospital! I was actually heartbroken, ffs, I was an E cup, how could I not get this right and keep these flipping babies full!
The difference this time was that I was less concerned, he was a much happier baby, he was flying through all his milestones, when they did blood tests everything was perfect – the only issue was the weight. I was determined that this time I was not going to be bullied into a formula routine that would end my breastfeeding journey.
I fed and I pumped, and I pumped and I fed…I will not lie, it was a nightmare! I hated pumping, with every fibre of my being I hated that goddamn pump, and guess what, my boobs hated it too. I’d pump like a loon to be rewarded with a measly few mls! I kept it up, I kept it up for quite a while. I was still being interrogated by the health nurse, but I had enough support and knowledge to know that he was doing good, he was still in the lower end of that (f***in) centile chart, but here’s the thing – someone has to be. He was a long skinny baby (and for those of you that know my husbag you would say it’s in the genes).
This went on for weeks and eventually took its toll on me and I decided that for my sanity (and my poor nips), I would retire that instrument of torture and supplement with formula. One bottle a day and that was it, and you know what, it actually worked…I chose the lunchtime feed as it suited best (I had been forewarned not to do the night one as that’s the one that would have the most effect on your supply, and I couldn’t afford to take chances with that) so we still got our milky snuggles in the morning, I never worried about having enough formula with me when I went somewhere, cos my funbags come everywhere with me! And at night I didn’t have to worry about bottles and cool boiled water at the right temperature, and his weight was creeping up (I think removing the stress of pumping definitely helped).
I ended up feeding Jack until he was one, yes I know many manage for longer but I have
to say I am very proud of my 12 months. People say there is pressure to breast feed, but in all honesty, I found the opposite to be true, when I was feeding I was constantly being asked when I was going to stop. I had formula pushed on me at every opportunity, I had people wrinkle their noses in disgust as I fed, and I heard the words “would you not just give him a bottle?” more times than I care to remember!
If you’re breastfeeding, or planning to, the best advice I can give is to find your village. LLL and Cuidiu are a fantastic support and you get to meet other mums and babies and have coffee and chats. Find your local breastfeeding mammies page on Facebook – there’s always someone at the end of the phone (or computer screen) doing a night feed and only too happy to answer any questions.
If you find yourself in bother, if it’s not working but you want to continue your journey, get a qualified lactation consultant, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t do this, there may have been a simple tweak that would have changed things (and again, maybe there wasn’t, but at least I would have known).
My final piece of advice is, however you decide to feed your baby, “own it”! This is your decision, don’t feel that you should be doing things a different way, don’t think that someone commenting is always an attack, it normally is well meaning (and yes I’m well aware that there are some sanctimommies out there who are convinced that their way is the only way, just ignore those fools).
Here’s the thing, normal mammies just want their babies to be happy and healthy, and are too busy worrying about how their own baby is fed to actually care about how you’re feeding yours, so relax with your babs, and get on with what you’re doing.
Thanks for reading,