My breastfeeding experience

I had always wanted to breastfeed, it’s hard to explain but I had a really strong feeling about breastfeeding.  My mum breastfed me, my sister and my brother, but being the youngest I hadn’t had any experience with babies full stop.

When my brother’s little girl was born, his wife decided to express and bottle feed.  It was nice being able to feed my niece but it was so much work for my sister in law; she had to take time out to express, clean and sterilise the bottles, store the milk and warm it when needed!  I knew I didn’t want to have to go through all that when I had my children as I hate washing up at the best of times!  When I was pregnant with my first little girl though, the thought that something might stop me from being able to breastfeed worried me so much.

My first baby was born in theatre by forceps 37.5 hours after the contractions started and after an hour and half of pushing (she was back to back)!  Because we were in theatre and I had been given an emergency spinal I couldn’t have skin to skin contact with her straight away.  I was begging the staff to put her on my chest as although I was holding her next to me (wrapped in a towel) I couldn’t move due to the anaesthetic.  I was so desperate to have that contact and she looked as though she wanted to feed.

Eventually after asking many times they helped put her on my chest and latch on.  It was the best feeling in the world!  I was in such an awkward position on the bed, unable to move from the waist down and had a very poorly fitted cannula in my arm but I wasn’t going to let it stop me.  I had an extraordinary amount of colostrum, it was going all over the baby’s face!  The midwives joked that we could have filled a bottle with it.  But she was feeding well and I was so happy.

My happiness fell apart when a few hours later, on the ward, my baby was sleeping and the hospital staff came in and said it was very important to wake her and feed straight away as she had been sleeping too long without a feed!

I was so angry that they hadn’t told us this before and now we were panicking.  She was too sleepy to feed and I struggled to get her latched on.  I had the most horrible nurse (who smelt strongly of cigarettes) trying to help me and I was getting very upset.  It had been visiting time too, so my partner took his mum out and my dad went into the corridor.  I wanted my mum to stay but the nurse told her she had to leave as visiting hours were over.

I was then left on an empty ward with this awful nurse.  She told me I needed to express some milk by hand and tried to tell me how to, but then proceeded to hand express me herself before I even had a chance to try!!  It was awful, so awkward and her nails were digging into my boob.  My partner had just got home and called my mobile to check I was okay, she told me to take the call while she carried on!  She was trying to express my milk into a syringe and flicked it to remove an air bubble at one point, flicking milk in my face!  To which she said ‘ah you will get much worse on your face now you’re a mum’!  Eventually she realised that I had quite a lot of milk and it would be a lot easier to express into a cup rather than a syringe.  After she had expressed a decent amount she fed it to my baby from the cup.

The way she handled my baby and talked about how I would soon be breastfeeding with baby in one hand and doing the housework with the other, made me really uncomfortable, my baby had only just been born, she was not a thing for some nurse to show off with!   However, I was just happy that nobody had suggested my baby be given a bottle and after the cup of expressed milk she latched on brilliantly.

The nurses gave me a sheet to record all her feeds on and although my nipples were a little sore it was going well and I was discharged from the hospital.  Once at home I would literally just get my boob out to feed, as establishing feeding and good latch was the most important thing to me.  I did start to worry about how I would ever be able to feed in public, as trying to use a blanket to cover up was so difficult.

Obviously I needn’t have worried as the more I fed the easier it became.  However, I never have felt comfortable using a blanket to cover my baby when feeding and instead wear layers and pull one layer up, one layer down, so nothing is on show.  Having a muslin to hand is always useful too, not only for leakages but if the baby does suddenly pull away you can quickly cover up.

Now my ‘baby’ is 4years old and I breastfed her up until she was just over 1, see my post on ‘when to stop breastfeeding HERE‘.  I am now breastfeeding my second baby and can happily report that nothing like the above happened this time around.

I have breastfed all over the place, including on a packed train.  That’s one of the best things about breastfeeding; you can do it anywhere, anytime, with minimal fuss.  On that train for example, it was very full and my baby was unsettled, there wasn’t enough room for me to get things out my bag, but I could discreetly cuddle her to me and soothe her with a feed.

On the topic of public feeding I think people underestimate how many people they ‘see’ breastfeeding when out and about, as the majority will do it so discreetly that most people will not even notice.  You really can breastfeed your baby, without using a cover, and without anyone seeing your breasts!  I know because I’ve done it! 🙂

The other major positive of breastfeeding that I found with my first baby, was that although both my partner and I were ill with colds etc the baby never caught it!  This can only be because of the immunity she got from breastmilk and it meant she was over 1yr old before she was ill or had to have any medicine! Brilliant!

Breastfeeding my baby has been one of the most enjoyable parts of becoming a mummy and I wouldn’t change anything it for the world.  I know many people struggle with breastfeeding and it’s not for everyone, but I think there is also a serious lack of support, advice and education for new mums in this area; you can read more on my thoughts and experience of this HERE.

Ten Reasons why I love breastfeeding:  1) Special cuddle time with baby.  2) No sterilisation needed.  3) Feed preparation very quick (consists of get boob out).  4) Immunity it gives baby.  5) Helps you get your figure back quicker after birth.  6) Milk is always the right temperature.  7) Milk is tailored for my baby – exactly what she needs.  8) It’s stopping my periods! 🙂  9) No washing bottles etc required.  10) Feeding when out and about is very easy (don’t have to pack milk etc).

Breastfeeding support????

A family member has just had her first baby and the issues she’s facing with breastfeeding have led to my decision to add some breastfeeding posts to my Blog.

First of all to outline my personal position; I always wanted to breastfeed, I was really looking forward to it and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would have really upset me.  You can read more about my experience with breastfeeding HERE as this post is more about how mums in general are supported (or not) with feeding.

Going back to the new mum, she is currently finding breastfeeding quite hard.  Like many mums breastfeeding for the first time, she’s worrying about having enough milk, the baby latching on correctly, the frequency and duration of the feeds and nipple discomfort to name just a few.  After giving birth, a woman’s hormones are all over the place anyway without the pressure to learn a new skill that your baby depends on!

That word there is the key issue with breastfeeding – pressure!  Now even as someone who is a keen breastfeeding advocate determined to breastfeed no matter what, I have felt an extraordinary amount of pressure throughout my breastfeeding experience from a number of sources and each with a different agenda.  When breastfeeding my first child I felt pressure from all of the following people:

My mum – Made many comments in the first few weeks about the noise my baby made when feeding.  She was quite a noisy eater in the early days and it probably was, in hindsight, something you would comment on.  But, she was feeding fine and these comments made me (at first time mum at the time) feel very self conscious about feeding her and paranoid I was doing something wrong.

My partner – Like many dads, my partner felt a bit excluded when it came to breastfeeding and at one point pushed for me to express so that the baby could be fed by other people (mainly him).  This destroyed me at the time, I understood how he felt and wanted to help him but didn’t want to express for a number of reasons.  As it worked out I didn’t have to but the arguments over it broke my heart.

Another person – Oh where do I start!  She used to sit very close to me while I was feeding and even touched my boob once while asking if the baby could breathe!  She used to comment a lot about the duration of my baby’s feeds and how she got distracted by things in the room; my baby has always been a short feeder, which is perfectly normal, every baby feeds for different duration.  At one point she also started saying that my baby was not getting enough from just breast milk and I needed to start giving her formula top ups as well!  Now that couldn’t have been further from the truth.  There were also comments about giving her water in a bottle.  Current advice states that breastfed babies don’t need water until they start solids; when we started weaning our baby she started having water from a sippy cup, she has never had a bottle because she hasn’t needed one.

The public – breastfeeding in public for the first time and during those first few weeks is daunting for even the most adamant breastfeeding supporters like me.  It took me a long time to feel confident enough to feed in public.  That didn’t last long however and now I will feed wherever, whenever my baby needs it! 🙂  But public opinion is a big issue for many breastfeeding mothers and it’s shocking how many stories there are of mothers being told to stop feeding their babies when in public or even being verbally abused while feeding.

Other mums – there seems to be a lot of conflict over feeding between mums themselves, probably fuelled by both sides having their own advantages and disadvantages and mums feeling the need to defend their choice, whether it’s breast or bottle.  I think this is such a shame, why can’t all mums support one another and respect that the decision is a personal one with many factors to consider?

I don’t know what it is about feeding a baby that makes everyone think they need to put their opinion across, or why people get so involved when it’s not their baby, but it needs to stop.

A new mum, especially a first time mum, needs support.  She is tired, anxious, trying to do her best and probably paranoid about whether she is doing things right as it is.

Breastfeeding is an incredible, natural thing, but it is a skill and it does take time to master.  New mums need the space and time to work on it and someone to help them out so they can get a chance to eat, sleep and wash; these things become luxuries when you have a baby!

Furthermore, if a mum decides she wants to express and either combine breast and bottle or do bottle only then that’s fine.  BUT telling a new mum to start expressing just because she’s finding it hard or for some other reason, is not helpful.  Even those that want to combine are advised to wait until the baby is happy with its latch, otherwise baby can get confused and breastfeeding will be even harder to establish.  Breastfeeding is also a very personal thing and mums can often feel useless, or a failure if they are finding it hard, so someone suggesting they switch to bottle can be a real knock to their confidence.

I know breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and I support any decision a mum makes, but I think it’s such a shame that I know so many mums who tried to breastfeed, but weren’t given the correct support and therefore stopped.

Now I am breastfeeding my second baby I truly couldn’t give a toss about anyone else’s opinions and I am first to put a stop to any ‘bressure’ I witness.

When will I stop breastfeeding?

When will I stop breastfeeding?  Before I had my first baby I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn’t really consider how long I would breastfeed for.  I knew that it is recommended for babies to be fed only breast/formula milk until they are 6months old, so I had an aim in mind of breastfeeding for at least 6months.  I had this aim mainly because I knew it was important to try and be relaxed about breastfeeding and I was aware that it might not be as easy as I hoped, but I was a keen breastfeeding supporter and really wanted to do it.

A few days after I had, had my first baby, a friends mum came to visit me and she told me how her youngest child (now a teenager) breastfed for a really long time.  The really long time she was referring to was, a year.  At that time, only days into breastfeeding, I agreed that a year was a very long time.  However, as I got further into breastfeeding and definitely now; having stopped breastfeeding my eldest 2years ago (when she turned 1!) and currently breastfeeding my 6month old,  I don’t agree that one year is a really long time!  In fact I think one year is the perfect amount of time!

Children can’t have cow’s milk as a drink until they are one year old, so stopping breastfeeding before then means you have to give them formula milk.  Don’t get me wrong, this had been my intention if I had stopped at 6 months and if I ever struggled to bf then I would have no issue with formula feeding, but why would I stop bf before my baby is old enough to have cow’s milk? formula is a breastmilk substitute!

Someone also said to me when I was still bf my eldest at 10months, that I would “have difficulty getting my baby to stop breastfeeding as she gets older”.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth; as she got older, started eating solid food and drinking water SHE cut down naturally how many milk feeds she wanted.  Stopping bf was never an issue for me as by 1year she was only having one feed a day and then dropped that easily when having cow’s milk.

Now, there are times when part of me looks forward to stopping breastfeeding; For example, I am only wearing nursing bras (with no underwire) as that is what’s recommended, so sometimes I long to wear a sexy bra that puts my boobs back where they used to be!  It would also be nice not having to plan my outfit based on accessibility for feeding.

But, breastfeeding is also one of the best things I have ever done and I think one of the best gifts I could have given my girls.  It is sad that breastfeeding mums don’t get more support (You can read further information on my experience and thoughts on this HERE).  It is also sad that mothers who choose to continue breastfeeding their children past a certain age are considered strange and heavily judged.

As an experienced, second time around, bf mum I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of my breastfeeding choices, but I am finding every ‘mum friend’ that I tell the ‘story’ about my eldest never having had a bottle, reacts slightly shocked, if not completely surprised or confused.

This is not a formula vs. breastmilk debate; that debate is pointless and irrelevant to me as it can be started and ended with one sentence – What you feed YOUR baby is YOUR choice.

But, the issue of how long women choose to breastfeed is entirely different and I think it is such a shame that society today thinks after a few months every baby should be on the bottle!