If you haven’t been going around with your eyes closed this week you will have noticed that it’s world breastfeeding week. People have been sharing their experiences of breastfeeding on their blogs and across their social media channels. Dispatches aired a full program about the benefits of breastfeeding. And lots of boobs feeding babies have been appearing on my Facebook and Instagram channels. As a breastfeeding mum to both of my children I thought it was only right to share my experiences and what I learnt with my first child that I’m now doing with my second.
For me breastfeeding my first child, my daughter, was a no brainer. At the time it was all that was drummed into me from midwives and our NCT counsellor during the course. It kind of felt that there was no other option, and it was also made out to be incredibly easy, and there would be no problems at all.
What I didn’t realise at the time was how bloody difficult it would be. I expected baby to pop out and latch on, just like it did to the knitted boob as part of our NCT course. Hell no. Cue 60 hour failed induction and emergency c-section later of course breastfeeding was the first thing I wanted to do when my body was crying out to sleep.
We spent two days in hospital hand expressing colostrum into syringes for my daughter, and then having to attend daily weigh-ins because she had lost more than 10% of her birth weight. It was far from the reality I had of having a baby and enjoying the newborn bubble. Instead I was full of worry, feeding constantly, pumping constantly, and we were giving formula top ups to get her birth weight back up. It felt very much like I was on the hamster wheel of feeding and it never stopped.
Once she did regain her birthweight and after a few weeks we stopped the bottle. Bad idea, as she never went back to it. So I spent 10 months exclusively breastfeeding her which I neither loved or hated, and which drove me crazy during the 4 month sleep regression as only a feed would settle her back for the 15th time every single night.
I sound like an awful parent for saying these things. However I found breastfeeding my daughter totally exhausting and I want to be honest with you about that. She fed constantly and I found the whole experience all consuming and overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong I fully understand the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby and that is why we did it.
But I am really proud to say that we breastfed until she was 10.5 months old. When only 1% of mums breastfeed beyond 6 months I feel like giving myself a huge pat on the back for achieving that.
To be honest I was pretty glad when we stopped as it was never my intention to continue feeding once I returned to work. I also lucky that didn’t have to go through the weaning process as she decided one night, enough was enough.
Breastfeeding round two has been a totally different experience so far. I had another c-section, but no traumatic labour beforehand. This made it so much easier and my son decided to latch on instantly which was a huge relief.
I still had huge concerns over weight loss and not wanting my boy to loose over 10% of his birth, so we have been giving bottles of formula from the word go. He has two bottles a day wich can vary from anything between 60ml to 120ml. I’m persisting with the bottle, even though I know that he doesn’t need it everyday, so that he continues to take it and that feeding our baby is not my sole responsibility. Also come further down the line when I do need to leave him with my husband for more than an hour I can do so and have the piece of mind that he will not go hungry, or be left with a screaming baby.
This time round I’m also so much relaxed about it all, I’m now very much of the view that if the baby is fed I’m happy. Whereas with my first I felt a little guilty that I was having to give formula top-ups, and beat myself up over that. It’s a fine balance and something that is different for every mother.
Bizarrely I’m a lot more self-conscious about feeding in public with my second. I do wonder if this has anything to do with the media whirlwind that is surrounding breastfeeding at the moment, which completely goes against how the media is trying to change people’s perceptions of breastfeeding mums. Or perhaps it’s because I haven’t got my Mummy wolf pack with me all the time, taking over the local coffee shops, and feeling like it’s ok to breastfed as everyone in the group is doing it.
But what I will say is that we are happy, our combi-feeding approach is working for us and that is what is important.
Comparing the two experiences, my first breastfeeding experience felt very forced upon me, leaving me feeling very anxious and worried. Whereas I was determined not to go down the same path with my son which has resulted in us combi-feeding, and for us it’s the right decision.
Everyone has a different breastfeeding experience, and I love reading your stories. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter how a baby is fed, so let’s support all mums whether they breastfeed, combi-feed or formula feed.
I would love to hear about your feeding journey as part of World Breastfeeding Week.