The other day Pug suggested that we should share our breastfeeding stories, in the hope that it will help a new mum or mum-to-be to know what we didn’t know when we began feeding. Breastfeeding isn’t something I tend to shout about, but equally I’m not embarrassed to about that fact that we are ‘still’ feeding at nearly 22 months. (#NormalizeBreastfeeding all the way!) So that’s the purpose of this post. It is pro-breastfeeding, but it’s also pro-choice and it is in no way intended to make anyone feel bad for any feeding decision they have made for their family. So, with that in mind, this is my experience of breastfeeding my son:
I always knew I would breastfeed. I don’t know why but it wasn’t really a decision so much as a given. My mum breastfed me and my brother so I guess I just did the same.
When I was pregnant I researched it and thought I’d be a pro. I knew my milk would come in ok as I had to wear breast pads from week 20 of my pregnancy!! And I’d read that it only hurts to feed of baby isn’t latched on right – so if it hurt I’d just ‘latch him on right’. Yeah, easy!!
What I didn’t realise was that, when that little baby is placed in your arms, and you’re knackered from the marathon that is labour, neither you or your baby actually have a clue what you’re doing! Sure, newborns have the instinct to feed- but if they don’t manage pretty fast they get mightily frustrated (or at least mine did, though to be fair he still doesn’t have a lot of patience!!) and trying to latch an upset baby is a gazillion times trickier!
So for 3 days Pinky Jnr and I stayed in hospital, attempting to feed every time he woke, and attempting to pump colostrum (really fun, in case you wondered!) whenever he was asleep, and at one very weird point even being milked by a nurse. Yep- I really lost all inhibitions after labour!
So finally he latched! I have photographic and video proof! It was a big moment!! We were allowed home! Once home we did much better. Don’t get me wrong, the hospital staff were A-MAZING; patient, encouraging and always there to try to help. But sometimes you just need some time to get to know your baby, to remain calm together and just work out what the heck your both meant to be doing. So, yeah – sofa, baby, husband on hand to bring you snacks and drinks (you’ll be able to impressed him with your new found ability to down a pint (of squash!!) in 3 seconds flat, as a thirst you’ve never before experienced takes over!!), easy TV and time together – that was my winning recipe. Then pretty much stay there for 2-3 months!!!
The other thing I didn’t realise pre-baby, was that for the first couple of weeks breastfeeding hurts! A lot! I remember crying to my husband one night when Pinky Jnr had woken for a feed, I could face feeding him again. I just wanted to cry.
But!!! A couple of weeks later, my hormones settled down a bit, we were starting to get the hang of what we were doing and things were looking up. Now, I look back on those early weeks so fondly now; hours and hours of sofa time and tiny snuggles with my feeding and then milk drunk bubba!
There have been other hard times along the way:
Cluster feeds when I was convinced I wasn’t giving him enough milk to make him happy – actually nature was just telling my boobs he was due a growth spurt so to get cracking on producing extra milk!
Learning to breastfeed in public. Even once we’d just learnt to latch, it still took a bit of time and effort to get it just right, which would have involved a fair amount of flashing the general public. The first time I fed in public I was out with my NCT group- I just put a baby blanket over my head so I could sort us out in privacy! Soon I discovered the trick of wearing a vest under my top – pull down vest and bra cup under tshirt, get baby on position and hoick up your top- boom! No one sees a thing!
Sleepless nights- and there have been MANY!! He slept through for the first time at 21 months after some gentle night weaning at 20 months. (I’d highly recommend ‘Nursies when the sunshines’ by Katherine Havener, if anyone’s looking for a gentle way to explain night weaning to their toddler.) Night feeds have been a blessing and a burden, but I got so used to sleeping and feeding that I slept well in between the requests to switch sides, and getting him to sleep in until 7am or even 8am at the weekends was no problem. Now he’s night weaned we’re up to greet the sun…
But in the end, I’m proud of our beastfeeding journey, and the fact that we are still feeding at 21 months. I have, however, come to view breastfeeding as a bit of a double edged sword. It has become such an integral part of my relationship with my son and has given us an incredibly strong bond. However, breastfeeding has also been a huge commitment and has meant that I have had to be there for bedtime every single night since he was born – not once have I had dinner out with friends and with no family locally my husband and I have only managed one date night in 21 months (and even then we were out at 6pm and back by 8pm for ‘milks’). Constantly breastfeeding through the night has interrupted my sleep every night too. But on the other hand it’s so easy- when he was tiny I never had to plan where I was going or what bottles or formula I would need during our time out. My boobs always came with us and were always ready with milk at exactly the right temperature. If my son hurt himself when we were out, or if he was tired, or having a tantrum, or just bored, I could plug him in and resolve the issue almost instantly. It’s a huge sacrifice in some ways, but one I always wanted to make, and in the end it becomes a way of parenting and it’s one thing I wouldn’t change for the world.
So that’s my story, and coming soon is Pug’s. But in the meantime we just want to say that we believe that the decision to breastfeed or not is personal for each and every couple, but ultimately each mum, to make for themselves. We hope our stories help some mums-to-be to come to that decision and to feel empowered to do what’s best for them and their family.
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