Rewind ten years and I was a 20 year old girl desperate to do what was expected of me and prove that despite my youth I could be a good mum to my beautiful daughter. Part of that of course was breastfeeding my baby. After having cuddled this bruised, pink little bundle for a while I was asked how I wanted to feed her and the midwife helped her to latch on, or so I thought – 20 minutes later I had a huge black love bite on the outside of my nipple, no wonder it felt so painful!
Back on the ward we were visited by various midwives, all offering their own brand of advice on positioning, milk supply etc and it was only on the day we were going home that I finally managed to crack a feeding position that worked for us. Back at home we settled into feeding ok, I fed her when she was hungry, which seemed like all the time and although my nipples were sore I got through it as she did seem to have mastered latching on quite well. As for milk supply I appeared to have plenty, I soaked every top I ever put on, my breasts were swollen and full of painful hard lumps if I didn’t feed her every hour or so and I had to put protective covers on the bed at night as it was guaranteed that I’d soak the bed with milk. Despite this my daughter didn’t seem to be getting enough milk, or at least she was constantly hungry and was feeding all the time and utterly exhausting me. No one told me it could be like that, my mum had never breastfed, the health visitor just made me feel like I was a stupid little girl every time she turned up to interrogate me and I became very depressed very quickly because I felt that I was doing it wrong and of course not doing what was best for my baby. Gradually I introduced formula milk, until she was completely formula fed and she was satisfied for longer, making my life a lot easier even if I did find myself even more depressed for “letting her down” and “failing” to feed her myself like I thought I should. That depression lasted for two years thanks to the problems I had breastfeeding coupled with the fact that I was on my own looking after a baby at such a young age.
Ten years later and I was determined to do things my way, I would try breastfeeding again and if it didn’t work for me then I’d give the baby a bottle and I certainly wouldn’t let myself feel bad about it. There was so much during my pregnancy that stressed me out, yet another house move and inadequate health care to name a few, so I should have been a ball of worry by the time the baby was born. But in the end I almost adopted the mantra of “what will be will be”, if I couldn’t have control over things as I may have liked to, why not just go with the flow instead and see how things turned out. This proved to be a decision that has worked from that day until this.
My 15 day late (non induced) little (is 9lb 9oz little?) boy arrived on Christmas morning, he could hardly have picked a more inconvenient time, yet despite his rather painful (no pain relief, I must be mad!) entrance into the world he could not have been more chilled out or more clued up on what to do with Mummy’s boobies! I’ve always said he must have had some kind of instruction manual holed up in my uterus with him because from the moment he was handed to me and we’d had a cuddle and all of his checks were complete he just seemed to know what to do. I was laid on my side with him in my arms and he just latched on, like he’d always been doing it and from that day until he stopped feeding he never had any problems. That first feed was amazing, not fraught with anxiety, I didn’t feel a pressure to feed him myself and there was no fussing about trying to get him latched on. I just looked down at his beautiful little face and fell in love, it was everything that you imagine when you think of the dream breastfeeding scenario.
He carried on in the same vein, feeding whenever he wanted to, without any problems until he was 4 months old when he decided to stop. At a few days old I’d introduced a formula feed at night so my partner and daughter could join in with feeding him and it worked well, enabling me to cook dinner or grab a well deserved ten minutes to myself.
If I needed to feed him while we were out I’d take a bottle with me if I was with my partner, he wasn’t comfortable with me getting my boobs out infront of other people and that didn’t bother me, although I had no problem doing it when I was on my own. I fed him at the school bus stop on a busy main road which gave drivers quite an eye full when they drove past and I remember giving him a quick feed in my car when my friends husband walked over for a chat and didn’t even notice I was feeding. The only time I ever covered up was infront of my father in law when he came to visit two weeks after the baby was born incase I made him uncomfortable. Breastfeeding doesn’t make me uncomfortable, either in being in someone’s presence who is feeding her child or in doing it infront of other people, but I don’t think that people should be made to feel like ogres if they aren’t keen on seeing other people do it, like anything it’s a personal preference and what one person is comfortable with another might not be. Having said that there is no need for people to be rude to a breastfeeding mother or expect her to cover up or hide away like she is doing something wrong. Maybe that’s another thing to chalk up to my chilled out attitude this time around, you can’t please everyone after all!
At around 4 months he decided that he no longer fancied breastmilk, he started pulling away from my breast and refusing to feed when he was hungry and instead wanted formula milk. I continued to offer him breastmilk at every feed for two weeks until it was perfectly clear that he wasn’t going to take it. So I stopped, without feeling an ounce of guilt or worry. Feeding this time around has been a wonderful experience for both of us and I’m glad I attempted it again and found a way of incorporating it into our family that not only suited my little boy but that suited all of us too.