A seriously down to earth account of breastfeeding from Tanya including some insights at the end that every mum needs to hear!
– What did you know about breastfeeding before got pregnant? Not very much. I knew it was best for baby but felt very much like it was a choice you had to make…and that you probably decided beforehand how long you were going to do it for! Like you pencilled in 6 weeks or so and then moved on to formula ! Really didn’t know very much at all, which i find quite strange looking back, as most of my friends have babies and the majority of them breastfed. I feel pretty ignorant about all of that, now.
– What did you learn whilst you were pregnant? That it doesn’t work for everyone, even if they want it to. I’d heard from people who said their milk never came in. I honestly felt petrified that mine wouldn’t! I remember waking up one morning and one of my breasts has leaked a little something during the night and I felt elated (even though I knew it didn’t guarantee anything, I was just excited that my body was working!).
In one of the NHS antenatal classes, the session was focussed on breastfeeding. We held a doll for around 10 seconds and practised a latch position and that was it!!! I find it crazy that from that, we were all meant to know what to do. There is so, so much more to know.
– What sort of start did you have? A tricky start. Pretty soon after Lara was born, they put her on the breast. She latched immediately, which honestly felt incredible. It was short lived though as she came off pretty quickly and we struggled to get her back on. The struggle went on for a few days…which felt like a lifetime. I so wanted breastfeeding to work but I could feel the likelihood of it working slipping away and it was soul destroying. I remember the midwives telling me my baby was starving and that we had to do something. They gave her formula out of a cup and I felt like the biggest failure. They ended up literally milking me by hand for colustrom every 3 hours and feeding that to Lara via a syringe…which felt pretty glamorous! 😉 I remember cringing during one milking session when I thought I was stroking Lara while they milked me but it was actually the midwife’s arm I was stroking. I felt like a total perve !! After a day or so, I managed to get her to latch on but i could only do it in the laying down position and it would take a very long time for it to work. She was so hungry and frustrated, I had to really focus to stay calm and just keep trying. It could take a couple of hours of repeated attempts. Eventually, we got ourselves into a rhythm and we’ve not looked back. My darkest time was when I came down with Mastitis a few days later. I felt so ill and my nipples hurt quite a bit but I was still grateful that things were working so I definitely wasn’t giving up.
– Were you well supported by… midwives partner family etc? When my husband was on paternity leave, he looked after me so well. He bought loads of stodge and would bring me mini buffets of food up the bedroom or wherever we were so I was never hungry or thirsty. It rocked!
The midwives helped a lot with latching. During the early days when we were struggling, I wish they’d told me it was normal to struggle at the beginning but that with perseverance it can work out. I was so close to giving in, I think hearing this would have motivated me more.
– Did you worry about feeding in public? How did you overcome any issue with that? Hated, hated, hated feeding in public until I had my feeding cover up (bebe chic). I know that I shouldn’t and that it’s natural but so is going to the toilet and I like to do that alone! I think that without the cover up I would have either stopped breastfeeding by now or become a total hermit. I don’t judge others for feeding in public, I think ‘good on them’. It’s just not for me.
– What was the best / worst piece of advice you got about breastfeeding? Best: use nipple cream from the beginning, don’t wait until you need it!
Worst: Don’t use a bottle for the first 6 weeks…I think this is why Lara refuses one now.
– How did you find the experience emotionally? It’s a rollercoaster. I was so happy to be feeding her and doing the best I could for her, but there were some times at the beginning when I felt like I’d lost myself a little bit. More so when other people were around as I felt so undignified keep whacking my boobs out…especially when you’re already unlikely to be feeling your best. I felt so unattractive. I remember saying this to my husband and he told me not to worry and that seeing me feed our baby is one of the most beautiful and womanly things he had ever seen. He made me feel amazing. He is a legend.
– How did you know it was time to stop? Lara is almost 7 months and I’m still going. I thought I’d do it for 6 months but I can’t see any benefit in stopping right now (other than a break for me). So far, there hasn’t been anything the boob can’t solve. She’s not been ill, and I suspect that’s thanks to the antibodies I’m passing on, it’s free and it’s readily available! Seems like a no brainer to me.
– What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the very beginning? I wish I’d really known about cluster feeding. There were so many times when Lara literally drank me dry but would just keep going and going, for hours and hours. I spent so long looking at google because I was so worried I didn’t have enough milk or that I was over feeding. I wish I’d known that you need to put your faith in your baby, they know what they’re doing and one day it will pass. If I could turn back time, I’d never ever stress with the hours/days spent breastfeeding and I’d enjoy watching so much tv and eat more chocolate. One day you suddenly wake up out of the early baby haze and you wish you’d appreciated the sleepy/feeding baby and not being able to do stuff!
– Would you do anything differently if you were to have another baby? I’d get my husband to do one feed from a bottle every day. We didn’t with Lara and she’s been refusing bottles for months which has been a real pain. We’re weaning now so I think she’d take milk a different way during the day now but nights are still tricky…she only wants boob. I’d love a night off . It will pass, of course. I just wish I knew when.
Other stuff I want to say:
Mother in laws
If you’re fortunate enough to get on well with your mother in law, be prepared for them to start pissing you off once the baby’s here, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It’s a generation thing so it’s not their fault but they will not be able to get their head around breastfeeding on demand and will annoy the shit out of you every time they make another snide comment about ‘feeding them again’. It can make you feel pretty paranoid. Fact: you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby! Take a deep breath and rise above it. You know what you’re doing and you know your baby better than anyone.
The three questions you will be asked…A LOT. Are you going to breastfeed? If yes, how long are you planning on doing it for? How are we supposed to know the answer to this?? Once breastfeeding is nicely established and you’re feeling in the swing of things, the third question will rear it’s head…when are you going to stop? Surely it’s about time to stop now? Please ignore this nonsense. Ignore it all. You’ll know when you want to stop. If it’s 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years. It’s your call and trust that you will know when the time is right for you and your baby.
Boob solves everything
Literally everything! Sick, tired, teething, bored, hungry…you name it, there hasn’t been a single thing it can’t solve. When we flew recently I fed her on the way up and the way down and she didn’t make a peep. People commented on how good that was. It scares me to think of a life without boob!
I’ve drank quite a bit of wine while breastfeeding. It hasn’t harmed my baby. If I didn’t drink, I think there’s a chance I’d have given up breastfeeding or I’d at least be resenting it a great deal. There’s a lot of conflicting info out there but I’ve read that as long as you’re sober enough to look after your baby, then you can drink as much as you like…so have a big bloody glass of wine and give yourself a pat on the back for being a breastfeeding legend.
Thanks to Tanya for sharing – if you’d like to have your story shared just drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you.