Before I launch into this topic, I’d like to start with saying that of course I am not an expert on Breastfeeding nor am I against bottle feeding, this is just my story and hopefully there are other Mums out there that can relate.
This is going to be a long one…
As soon as I told people that I was pregnant I started to get the question ‘So, are you going to be breastfeeding then?’, I actually hadn’t given it much though but my natural instinct was ‘Yes, of course’. I suppose it’s such a natural thing to breastfeed that it hadn’t crossed my mind that I wouldn’t at least give it a try. Since having Darcie, I have met many mums that for many reasons tried to breastfeed but couldn’t continue and I also know mums that have chosen not to try breastfeeding which is of course their own decision to make and not really up for anyone to comment upon. At the end of the day, if your baby is fed then that’s okay!
By the time I was full term I was pretty adamant that I was going to be breastfeeding, and when I decide something like that I can be fairly stubborn and determined to succeed. For this reason I didn’t buy any formula because I knew I was much less likely to give up if there were no other option. I did buy a steam steriliser, bottles and a breast pump which was my plan to share some of the feeding duties with my partner.
The first feed when Darcie was born went smoothly, she latched on perfectly and I felt very happy with the fact that it seemed there would be no issues with breastfeeding. I spent 2 nights in the Birth Centre after her birth which was our choice just to receive their support and also to establish breastfeeding. When I had said to my midwife that I wanted to stay as long as it took to establish the feeding and she recommended 2 days I’ve got to admit I thought she was exaggerating how long it would take but now looking back I would say it probably took me about 6 weeks to actually feel comfortable with breastfeeding and like I knew what I was doing.
The hardest thing for me at first was the pain of having Darcie latch on, on day 2 we found out that she had a moderate tongue tie so decided to have it cut as soon as possible to avoid problems later on and to hopefully make breastfeeding less painful as I would then be more likely to continue. Making the decision to have her tongue tie cut was so difficult, as was watching the midwife do it. She only screamed for a few minutes and was fine again after a feed but it was heartbreaking to see your beautiful new baby in pain after only 2 days on the planet.
Once we got home from the Birth Centre, I struggled so much with breastfeeding. I used to dread every feed which she needed about every 2 hours and would last generally around 45 minutes. The initial latch on was toe-curling agony and the rest of the feed would be pretty painful too. It felt like my nipples were burning and they were so cracked and bleeding from all the latching on and off. I would cry before the night feeds when I was more tired and everything seemed harder at night. I used to say to Dan that I couldn’t do it and I just wanted to give up. I honestly think that if I hadn’t of had his support I would have quit before a week. It was also hard during this time to feel happy feeding in front of visitors and going out and about for longer than an hour was out of the question for me as the last thing you want is an audience when you are in pain and trying to feed your newborn.
I had a lot of support from family, friends and the health visitor and was recommended to go to a breastfeeding support group. I was so lacking in confidence with breastfeeding that I didn’t even feel I had the courage to go to one of these groups. There’s a lot out there that says ‘If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong’ and I think I was scared that if someone even said anything along these lines to me that it would do more harm than good. With hindsight I should have gone to one of these groups as it would have been encouraging to meet other women in a similar situation to myself so I would really recommend anyone feeling that way to try to go along.
Over the nest few weeks my nipples started to heal form the initial ‘trauma’ from the tongue tie (no joke, that is what the midwives call it), and slowly the feeds got better. She then had a couple of growth spurts which meant some days feeding from 3pm until about 10pm which nearly set me right back to wanting to quit again. I also then got a blocked duct and mild mastitis but by that point I had come so far I was more determined than ever to push through. I found the best thing for the blocked duct was basically to hand express as much milk out of that breast as I could and take lots of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. When I looked online for remedies there were lots of suggestions of taking hot baths and long showers which to this day I find remarkable that anyone with a newborn has time to do! By about 4 weeks only the initial latch on was painful and then by 6 weeks I realised that I was feeding with absolutely no pain which just felt like one of the happiest days since she was born.
Now we are at nearly 5 months and still going strong, her feeds are down to about 5-10 minutes every 3 or so hours and she can go about 7 hours at night without a feed so I am a much better rested Mama Bear.
I haven’t written this to put anyone off breastfeeding, that is the last thing I would want to do. There are so many amazing benefits to your baby and also to you. The thing that kept me going in the first few weeks was something that one of the midwives telling me that was ‘every day you give your baby breast milk you are giving her an amazing gift’ so I really just took it one day at a time and every day I told myself to just try to give her one more day. The other thing that of course got me through was the amazing wonderful life-saving Lanolin cream. I’d really recommend splashing out for the Lansinoh one over a cheaper one as it is definitely the most effective once out there, trust me I tried them all! Breast pads have also been pretty essential to me throughout my journey as even though I didn’t seem to leak much during the day, they provided that extra bit of comfort when my nipples were so sore.
I hope that this post has helped anyone who is struggling with breastfeeding at the moment, my advice would just be to persevere. I know it seems like it will never get easier and there are so many other things that you are learning with a newborn and you feel every emotion under the sun in those first few weeks, but to get to 5 months and still be breastfeeding makes it all worth it. If you are in pain when you feed but the latch is fine, it might just be that it takes your body a little longer to get used to being used in that way, please don’t think you are doing something wrong. You are doing an amazing job. One of my favourite moments that I get with Darcie throughout the day is settling down to feed her, now she is older she can get pretty distracted by noises and things going on around her so sometimes she just pauses mid feed, latches off and looks up at me to see if she is missing out on anything exciting and gives me the best smile. It is honestly the most adorable thing and makes my heart melt, I wouldn’t want to miss out on that for the world.