Breastfeeding was something I felt really strongly about. I was adamant it was what I was going to do and if you asked me a year ago I had strong views on why anyone would do anything differently. It’s so easy to have views on parenting choices when your not a parent! Anyway, back to my reasons for breastfeeding, the facts speak for themselves..( read up on the benefits here).. plus it felt like the most natural thing to do. But, I now know, I was lucky with my breastfeeding journey, very lucky..
My baby latched on straight away after birth (skin to skin deffo helped). Yes the first 4-6 weeks were HARD. It was painful, I had sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. Me and my baby struggled to find the right latch, and I felt uncomfortable even feeding at home with so many people around. We had just moved house and only had one living room set up, if I wanted privacy (which I did), I had to leave the room. Which wasn’t easy initially with my stitches. In the end I gave in and fed in front of everyone, making me more anxious and uncomfortable in the early days.
But, we had no real issues. Cracked nipples and soreness is completely normal, and because I was adamant I didn’t let this stop me. But I can easily see how this would be hard for some people to deal with. Especially with lack of knowledge and the wrong advice. And as a new mum, the advice keeps flowing, and you start to question whether the baby is getting enough milk, are they hungry, are they jaundice, is your milk sufficient? Like I said I was lucky, we had no major feeding issues so my only challenge was dealing with the pain and getting the hang of it which took around 6 weeks. Had I not been so determined and desperate to make it work, and had not done my research, I could have easily given up. And if I had given up, there would have been nothing wrong with that, a happy baby and mum is more important than anything.
And this is where my views have changed. Prior to being a mother, and even as a new mum, I couldn’t understand why a women wouldn’t breastfeed or atleast attempt to. I was so naïve. I’ve since witnessed my cousin and best friend become mums and have totally different experiences to me. Both wanting to breastfeed, but both being separated from their babies after birth, and consequently having to face even more difficulties in their breastfeeding journeys than normal. I’ve also witnessed lack of support from health professionals in the first few days, at the detriment of establishing breastfeeding altogether. I now know, that for some people, no matter how adamant they are, the circumstances take the choice away from them. Again, I was lucky, and am thankful for how things turned out for me.
As I said before, breastfeeding is hard. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done..I can easily see why so many people do not stick it out. Your baby relies on you 100%, which means everything you do, everything you wear, down to everywhere you go, is centred around feeding your baby. And, if like me, you have a bottle refuser (my monkey had no interest in expressed milk), you literally feel like you never get a break from being ‘mummy’. And the night wake ups and lack of sleep can really catch up on you. When your a breastfeeding mummy, you can’t just have a night off, or even a few hours off. Your always there, on call incase your baby needs you, 24 hours a day.
As well as being a bottle refuser, what made breastfeeding harder for me, was the fact that he was not interested in food until he was 13 months old. Which meant he was exclusively fed by me until then. Finally at 13 months he started to eat a meal a day, then within days this turned into three meals! I nearly cried the first time he ate a meal as I literally thought the day would never come and it meant so much to me.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time as I was 4 months pregnant, and was getting kicked in the tummy and breastfeeding was becoming uncomfortable. Being pregnant, my milk supply had dwindled drastically and the soreness and pain from breastfeeding in the early days came flooding back. But I persevered for two more months. I had always hoped to feed until a minimum of 2 years, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, but the realities of feeding when pregnant, the pain, the tiredness, and my monkeys frustration from getting very little milk from me, which in turn added to the soreness, had become too much.
So at 15 months we called it a day, it took three days for my monkey to stop asking and I offered lots of snacks and lots of cuddles. I felt so sad and so bad for my monkey for refusing him of the one thing he wanted. But if he hadn’t have taken to it so well, I probably would have continued. I really think the fact I was pregnant and my supply had reduced so much, made the whole thing so much easier, for us both. He’s never asked again and the last two months have resulted in a toddler who eats so much, is less clingy and sleeps all night (an added bonus).
I am so proud of our breastfeeding journey, and proud of us both for making it to 15 months, especially since recent research suggests that only 0.5% of people are still breastfeeding at 12 months in the U.K. (BBC article, 2016). A statistic that shocks me, but also fills me with pride. I’m proud that I could feed my baby, and give him the best start I could, and I’m also grateful as I know, it’s not so simple for everyone, and mothers do the best they can in the choices they make. I’m not going to lie, it’s been nice to have a break from feeding this last two months, but I am looking forward to hopefully doing it again..only 9 weeks to go 😍