20 Dec Breastfeeding
Bringing your new baby home from the hospital, whether it be your first or your last, is a wild roller coaster ride full of mixed emotions. From joy to fear, relief, to feeling incredibly overwhelmed.
You’ve only just met this little person and now you are responsible for their whole life. Making sure they are warm, and loved. Keeping them clean and safe. And mostly keeping them fed.
What I didn’t realise before I had my first, was just how many times a day, a baby needs to be fed. I also didn’t realise, or wasn’t educated enough to know, that having a baby doesn’t automatically mean your breasts will be full of milk.
For some, I’m sure it does. I’m sure some people could feed the whole neighboured with their breast milk. For others, it takes a while to come in and then it’s like someone opened the flood gates that are your nipples and then you have copious amounts. Some of my friends have managed to exclusively breast feed their babies for months and months, even years. Sometimes it takes work, tiring, exhausting, painful work. Feeding on demand, pumping when your not feeding, and a lot of dedication to the cause.
For others, like me, it didn’t go quite like that.
I left the hospital, without barely a drop of milk leaving my boobs. I was putting my son to the breast at every chance I could. I would leave him on there for as long as I could handle. But for my 4kg baby it wasn’t enough, so we started formula top ups.
I would express throughout the day and my husband would suck up the tiny droplets of milk from my nipples with a syringe, ready to give to my son during his next feed. We would celebrate if I managed to get 0.2ml.
This was our life for the next week or so, then my breasts started filling up. They hurt like hell. Felt like they were filled with gravel stones so tightly packed they couldst move. I would leak all through the night when I wasn’t feeding, but come time to feed, I still didn’t make a dent in what my newborn baby needed.
I would sit alone, in the dark, in the middle of night crying. This was so hard.
I had grown up thinking breastfeeding was a beautiful thing that came so naturally to every woman. I was so wrong.
How has there been such a big misrepresentation of this? Breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint.
My breastfeeding challenges continued. My CHN, family doctor, obgyn; everyone in the medical profession was constantly checking on my progress and kept at me to keep going, all with different suggestions on how to make it improve.
My baby was so unsettled. He was never satisfied. The formula top ups became more frequent, but if I ever mentioned this I was made to feel so guilty, that I began to think it of myself as well.
I lived over 120km from my closest lacatation consultant, but I took my three week old baby to see her anyway. We talked about technique and feeding on demand among other things. And I left feeling more exhausted, upset and overwhelmed then when I walked in.
To add to that, I developed thrush in my nipples (because thrush in one part of the woman’s body isn’t enough?) I had blocked milk ducts, I was tired, so tired and my baby was getting worse and worse. I dreaded every feed time.
When my baby was 10 weeks old, my family doctor organised for me to go and talk to someone. He realised how much I was struggling with everything, not just breastfeeding. And I am so glad he did.
I spoke to the most beautiful midwife. She went through everything with me, asked about my daily routine (if you can call it that) how I was feeling, the lot.
When I finished talking she said to me something along the lines of “it seems breastfeeding is the cause of all your troubles, have you considered changing to just bottle fed” I could have cried with joy. Yes, yes I had. Each and every day, each and every feed. But up until that moment, I had been made to feel like I would be taking the easy option and depriving my baby of the important nutrients that breastmilk offers and robbing both of us of the bond that breastfeeding creates.
But that conversation with that midwife changed my life. Changed the life of my baby. I immediately switched to exclusively formula feeding my baby. He was instantly settled, we had prolonged periods during the day where he wouldn’t cry and he actually started to look happy. None of these things had happened before this point. And the added bonus, he slept!!! During the day, at night. It was great. I had struggled to get 45 minutes sleep out of him prior to this change. It took two weeks of formula feeding and he was sleeping 14 hours over night.
Breastfeeding is an amazing, wonderful, natural thing for so many people. But for the rest, it isn’t. And for those people breast inst best. If you think that breastfeeding isn’t for you, your probably right.
The most important thing about feeding a baby, is just that; that they are fed. Breast or bottle, it doesn’t really matter. Talk to someone, a friend, your doctor, your mum or a stranger. Everything isn’t always as easy for everyone else like you think it might be. Run your own race. You are not alone.