It’s taken me a while to sit down and write this post because it’s taken this long for us to get to grips with breastfeeding. I feel like we’re still not quite there yet but I wanted to document our journey so far and if it helps just one other mother out there then it is worth it.
The feeding journey between a mother and her baby is precious and personal, how a mother chooses to nourish her child is and should always be just between her and her baby. Carrying a child for 9 months and giving birth are two of the most brutally life changing experiences in a woman’s life but once those processes are over there comes a whole new wave of emotions and obstacles that nobody really talks about. I feel like there is so much information thrown at pregnant women about the do’s and don’ts during pregnancy, signs of labour, birthing options, pain relief. But nobody speaks about what comes after. The complete lack of sleep and the constant feeding. After we’d bought Adam home and got him settled it was the first night at home where reality hit me like a tonne of bricks. All he wanted to do was feed, and when he did fall asleep and settle as soon as I put him in his Moses basket he would just wake up screaming again. I was literally exhausted by the second night and by the third I physically couldn’t function. I’d spent three days in bed just feeding myself and Adam and because I’d had some stitching it was almost impossible to sit down. All I wanted to do was lie down and rest my aching back but he still wouldn’t settle. When he was weighed at day 2 he’d lost a significant amount of weight and although his nappies were very wet, he’d had no dirty nappies since leaving hospital. The midwifes just said to carry on and that this was normal and he was just cluster feeding. But it just didn’t feel right. I remember barely getting through the third night of constant feeding and no sleep and just waiting for the sun to come up so that I could send Hubby out to get some formula..
He guzzled the bottle down and settled down for 6 hours! Now obviously I’m well aware that Formula takes a lot longer to digest which is why he was kept fuller for longer and that’s why he slept for so long but it made me feel even worse. All the mum guilt was hitting me like a tonne of bricks. Had I been starving my baby? Was he so hungry he needed the bottle to settle? Why had I given him the ‘evil’ formula when all I was being told was that ‘breast was best’ for my child and by giving him a bottle I’d cause nipple confusion and he would refuse to breastfeed and I’d be dubbed the worst mother on the planet! Obviously when I look back now all of those feelings and thoughts that seemed so important at the time just feel so trivial. He absolutely didn’t have nipple confusion ( To be honest I think the whole concept of nipple confusion is a load of rubbish anyway!) I’ve had to use nipple shields, had a few days where I was so sore I had to exclusively pump and only give him bottle and as of today we are firmly back on the breast and my beautiful resilient little boy has taken it all in his stride.
We struggled with him gaining weight in the first few weeks and were even told by the GP that he HAD to have at least 2 formula top ups a day which I was not happy about but seeing my baby steadily gaining weight after that and watching him thrive means that I’ve let go of my ‘Breast is Best’ hang ups and am now a firm supporter of the ‘Fed is Best’ approach. As long as my baby is fed, content and happy I have no problem giving him a bottle every now and then but at this present moment we have managed to tackle breastfeeding as best as we possibly can, and in between feeds I am pumping and freezing whatever breast milk I can for those times when he demands a little bit extra.
I could not have gotten this far with breastfeeding without a few lifesavers…
The Medela Symphony breast pump pictured above. I’ve tried quite a few pumps now and this is by far the best and gives me the best results. At certain points in our breastfeeding journey I had to exclusively pump for Adam because I was just too sore to nurse. I was told by a friend to rent the symphony and it was the best decision for us. It is a bit pricey at £47 for the first 14 days and then £47 for every 30 days after so I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to justify keeping it but I can’t recommend it enough!
Nipple shields – There’s a lot of controversy over using nipple shields, how they will cause nipple confusion and that you don’t get as much stimulation from the shield so they can cause a drop in milk supply however I know that if I wasn’t able to take a few days break from direct nursing due to the unbelievable soreness I would have given up on the whole thing a long time ago. I’m a firm advocate for nipple shields now however I wouldn’t recommend long term use and advise weaning off them as soon as your nipples have recovered.
Lanolin – This has been a God send in helping with the soreness. I’ve used this one from Boots but there are many on the market aside from Lansinoh and actually the Asda Nspa nipple cream has some really great reviews.
My greatest piece of advice is, don’t do what I did. Don’t let breastfeeding ruin your first few weeks with your precious new baby. I am well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding which is why I’m still soldiering on with the whole process to this day but if you know in your heart as a mother that you’ve tried and it isn’t working or you’ve made an informed decision to not breastfeed for whatever reason then as long as your child is fed, happy and healthy then know that you’ve done the best for your baby!