To the person who said breastfeeding doesn’t hurt, if I ever meet you, I will punch you square in the face.
This post is not about making anyone feel guilty about the decisions they have made. If your baby is growing and has food in its belly, then you are doing the right thing. I take my hat off to you.
But if you are a mum who has tried to breastfeed then you can most likely agree with what I’m about to say.
It’s hard, exhausting and it hurts. Unlike most parenting things, breastfeeding does come with a manual. There are pictures of happy mothers and happy babies who make it look simple, but I’d like to see the pictures of the tired mother in tears because the beautiful new baby she has just giving birth too, has ripped a nipple in half.
I thought I was one to believe the mantra, breast is best. Then I had children.
After my first was born, I really wanted to breastfeed. I tried. I had the midwife squeezing my boob, trying to shove it in my baby’s mouth. I was in tears it hurt so much. I was told to deal with it. He just wouldn’t latch on. We tried line feeding, but he just keep taking the milk in one gulp. We were given a huge syringe, but even with my husband holding it back, he managed to suck the milk out too fast! He had one incredible strong suck. It was so disheartening.
Then I got sick. For the next 3 weeks I was shuffled around the hospital, ward to ward. The lactation consultant was there, everyday, with the machine, encouraging me to pump once a day, twice if I could muster the energy. She was wonderful. Sadly, he was put on formula at this stage as I had so many drugs being pumped into my body, we couldn’t risk even the tiniest bit of milk.
When I got home, I decided I wanted to feed him. He was already on a 4 hour routine and I just included a bit of breast milk before the bottle. My supply never really took off, but I mix fed him for 6 months until I had quite exhausted myself. He is now an incredibly healthy 2.5 year old. In no way is he overweight or has had any serious illnesses. Formula did him no harm.
Enter baby number 2. I made it clear I wanted to breastfeed this one. Straight away, he latched on. Within an hour of birth he was feeding. The next few days he really got the hang of it. I had to look up cluster feeding. He fed for 19 hours almost straight, slept for zero minutes, cried the rest of the time. It caused disagreements between me and my husband. I was exhausted. He was exhausted. I was adamant I did not want formula given to this one. I stuck to my guns. There were a lot of tears and a lot of words said. I’m so stubborn.
On discharge of the hospital, the midwife weighed the baby. He’d lost too much weight. She said I must give him formula to build his weight up before taking him home. But again I said no. The only option was to pump. I felt like a cow, both boobs pumping away to get more milk into the baby who had just had a marathon feed. It didn’t add up.
2 days later, I found out someone at the hospital had written his birth weight down wrong. He hadn’t lost the weight. He was perfect. I’m glad I stood my ground.
Over the next few weeks, I thought about giving up many times. Boobs were sore, and feeds just took forever. It felt like it was never going to get easier. Money was tight, and formula is expensive. At 9pm, 1am, 4am and 7am, the last thing I wanted to do was make bottles. I remember when the toddler was bottle fed, standing there at 3am, baby screaming in my arms, trying to make sure the bottle wasn’t too hot, trying to remember if I’d put in 1 scoop or 2, throwing it out and starting again. I wasted a tonne of formula. Breastfeeding was so much easier. Within the same minute that the baby had woken up, he was being fed. No mixing, no waste. So I kept going. 9 months later, it’s still going strong. I’m now In the minority.
If you’re squirmish maybe don’t read the next bit…
It wasn’t all smooth sailing with number 2. Due to his marathon feed in hospital, my nipples were tender to say the least. My milk had come in with gusto, the upside of it all. The health nurse suggested a nipple guard. Sounded great. Maybe some relief. Nope. Upon the first attachment with the guard, he somehow completely tore my nipple. Blood was everywhere! I had never in my life felt pain like that. For some reason, the nurse suggested trying the other side. Not likely! The only way to fix it was to feed through the pain. I cried every feed. Surprisingly breast milk has fantastic healing properties. Within a week, all was fine. But I hesitated with every feed. I sometimes still do…
Then he bit me. He doesn’t have teeth but those gums can hurt. Yet another split nipple. He was 6 months old. I’d thought he had it together already. Since then I’ve been bitten numerous times. I’ve had lumps, engorgement, more lumps. I’ve ruined sheets with milk, been squirted, my shirts have seen better days, and I eat like a teenage boy. It’s insane!
It’s not all bad though. I get to sit in my rocking chair and “bond” with my baby. It’s 20 minutes I get to read. I haven’t read in a long time, but now I’m reading a book every few days. I get to write my posts. Sometimes if it’s the middle of the night and I’m exhausted, I cuddle up with him in bed and we both fall asleep. I love those times. Slobbery little hands, fingers up my nose, waking me up in the morning. It’s portable. Always available. I shimmy and joke about milkshakes. And I know the benefits to him are fantastic. My husband must love it, he doesn’t have to get up at night to feed or settle the baby. The power of the boob!
I know a huge amount of mums who have and haven’t breastfed. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you are doing is wrong or bad for your baby. Everyone has their own special circumstances and reasons behind what they do. Don’t feel guilty, mothers have enough of that already, why add to the worry? Now I’m a big believer in breast is best, but it’s not for everyone. Why struggle and not enjoy it? Why put yourself through the stress if it doesn’t work for you? You can bond with a bottle fed baby. Me and my first son are living proof.
Society needs to change for both types of feeding mums. I feed in public, if you have a problem, look away. I love that in this country it is illegal to ask a feeding mum to stop or cover up. We don’t ask the hairy guy at the beach to put his shirt on! And don’t look down on the formula fed baby and mum. She’s feeding her child instead of starving it.
I do however think that women should be encouraged to breastfeed, if they choose to, by the midwifes and given support to do so, as the first 3 weeks are the hardest. After leaving hospital, it’s hard if you don’t have the support and only visit the health centre for baby’s check ups. But there should be more support for mothers that can’t or choose not too.
I’ve done both types of feeding and frankly, I wouldn’t change anything. My babies had to eat, I made my decision at the time for what was best for them. Now, if men could lactate…I’d get more sleep.
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