Whilst I was pregnant I made the decision that I wanted to breastfeed, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to put any pressure on myself incase it didn’t work out but was really keen to give it a go from the off. So I attended breastfeeding workshops, discussed options with my midwives and did abit of my own research into it… so much for not putting pressure on myself. 😩
Breastfeeding isn’t popular within the UK and in fact we have the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the world. This is blamed on not enough available support for new mothers, social pressures to get into a feeding routine to encourage babies to sleep through the night and lack of acceptance socially (negative comments when feeding in public.
80% of women start off breastfeeding with the majority of these babies being given formula by the end of the first week. The reasons given by Mums vary from pain, public attitudes, lack of support and embarrassment being just a few.
I personally would encourage any Mum to do what is right for them as a happy Mummy = a happy baby or as i like to say #happytummyhappymummy. Ignore comments and let only you and your baby determine your journey together and do what is right for you both. Formula can’t be exactly the same as breast milk but it is considerably close and i dont know of any babies that have been formula fed and suffered from it.
Here is my experience of breastfeeding
My journey of breastfeeding started almost straight after my bundle of joy dropped into the birthing pool (yes dropped, I ended up standing to get some assistance with gravity with the final pushes, which led to the midwife diving in to catch my baby as he splashed into the water). He was born rooting for food so with the umbilical cord still attached the midwives reduced the water level of the pool and helped to latch my baby onto my boob. (I had previously confirmed that I was planning to breastfeed otherwise that would have been an awkward moment. 🤭)
I was in a complete daze and the adrenaline was in full flow, still taking in what had just happened, I now had a baby attached to my boob and being told to push out my placenta. I recall this moment being very overwhelming at first as I just wanted to cuddle and take in my little boys face but the joy of feeding him so quickly was also adding to my emotions. It all became too much with the pushing and just wanting to take in every bit of my little boys face. Although I had planned delayed cord clamping and no injection I asked for the cord to be cut so that my husband could have a cuddle and I could concentrate and get the final part of the birth over. (I am abit of a control freak and wanted for the last part to be done so that i could get on with enjoying my family). This was good as it meant that when I was ready he was handed back to me having had all of his checks complete and the vitamin K injection.
I was then sitting on my sofa, well on a shower curtain being stitched up with my son back on my boob feeding once again. The feeling of feeding my baby for the first time was amazing and for the first few days it felt like he was constantly on my boobs but as this was a novelty it was great and i loved the bonding and couldnt take my eyes off of our little miracle.
Then my milk came in at about day three 😳 – it was a news to both me and my son as he started to splutter as my let down took him by surprise. for me i was finding out what engorgement felt like, my boobs were rock hard and felt ready to burst, my skin felt itchy with how far it had been stretched and you only had to touch them gently and milk squirted out so if I accidentially banged into a door I was gushing milk everywhere.
I woke up in pools of milk and had to sleep in a bra which meant that many a night i woke thinking i was sweating but it was leaked milk in my clevage. I felt relieved how often he wanted to feed as it reduced the pressure in my boobs. I leaked in the shower, which was funny at first but not fun when you are trying to dry and they are bursting everwhere. I had tingling when i heard a baby cry not just my wee man and didnt want to pump as wanted my supply to settle down ASAP. The plus side of things was for the first time ever I had massive tits – although I couldnt dress to make the most of them as my warddrobe needed to be access only and they were not robust to touch 😉
The first two weeks were hard and i understand why so many mothers dont make it past the first week, I started to doubt myself my let down was so fast that he was spluttering and inturn – queue the restless nights and our first real encounters with wind!
I loved the bonding and emotions connected to breastfeeding but my nipples were sore, he was in pain everynight until about 1am with wind and nothing we did was helping, not infacol, detinox, lots of tummy time or interval winding during feeds. To make it even more difficult he refused to take a dummy which we wouldnt push as I was informed that it would lead to nipple confusion.
My confidence was being severly knocked and I was sure that my latch must be wrong as ‘breastfed babies don’t suffer with wind’. I googled joined lots of facebook groups asked the midwife to check my latch which all assured my latch was ok but I was still taking ages at each feed to get him in the right position and get his nose to nipple and a big wide mouth. This was making my latch worse and I started to get lipstick shaped nipples that were bruised and even more sore. I had a word with myself and realised that the problems were getting worse the more I was doubting myself so i decided to just roll with it and make sure that a few key things were right and stop over thinking it. He was gaining weight getting lots of dirty and wet nappies which were all positive signs.
However the wind and late nights continued which if i am honest without my husband being a very hands on Dad i definately would of given up. The only way that he would settle was on either of us and i was determined not to start co sleeping as i was so nervous that i would roll on him as a result of severe sleep deprivation. Therefore i would feed him and then we would share trying to get the wind up until we caved then my husband would take him downstairs and manage a light ‘sleep’ with alot of pillows and bubba resting on his chest. After the 5 am feed i would take bubba back and we would switch so that my husband could catch up on some zzz’s. This was making me worried as soon as his paternity leave finished i would be pulling all nighters and the thought of being even more tired was terrifying.
I can not fully describe the feeling of failing when you look at your son in so much pain due to your flow, i started to feel guilty and that there was a possibility he wouldnt be going through the pain if we switched to bottle and formula. It became a daily discussion between my husband and i that we should switch, but i would then change my mind as i didnt want to give up – this is still on going at 3 months just not as regular or for the same reasons. At about day 10 i broke down (think it was my baby blue day) and my husband had enough and whilst doing the shopping picked up 2 boxes of the most expensive formula he could find, he said it was here then but up to me if we make the change. That night I agreed lets try it if its just one evening feed it wouldnt be too bad, i then sat and watched my husband feed him for the first time and cried the whole time. So he didnt do much of the bottle before he was back on my boob again.
I then researched what i could do to settle my flow and found that we would both adapt to each other in time and that drinking fennel tea would help. I also discovered that i didnt like formula sick smell and loved the smell of breastfed nappies (wierd i know but they are sweet smelling, the wet ones like honey, sorry i cant think of a comparison for the dirty ones).
Advice to new mums planning their feeding method
- Don’t judge others and choose the method that works best for you.
- Choosing formula doesn’t mean that your baby will go through the night and breastfed babies can sleep well too
- A baby is hard work no matter how you choose to feed them
- How to feed your baby is a personal choice and no mother/ parent should be judged
- A healthy happy baby is the best