My Breastfeeding Journey

I’ve just read that it’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and I thought I would share my breastfeeding journey with you. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject as for me breastfeeding wasn’t as easy or come as naturally as I had hoped but I think it’s always nice to read different people’s stories and opinions.

Before my daughter was born I was very keen to breastfeed, I knew all the benefits for both the baby and for me some of which I will list on here further on and of course it just seemed like the most natural thing for a mother to want to do.

I was a little naive and assumed that immediately after birth my baby would nuzzle in and suckle away – this does actually happen for some people I’m sure and I really hope it does for me next time. Unfortunately it didn’t happen that way, although we had immediate skin to skin contact and some help ( nipple pinching ) from my midwife my daughter didn’t seem fussed. I assumed she was just worn out from her (probably traumatic) journey into her new world and so I just continued to try but try as I might she would not feed so I hand expressed for day 1 and 2.

Just born:

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On day 3 ( still in hospital) she had lost over 10% of her birth weight and I was told that unless she put on a certain amount of weight and started feeding I couldn’t go home. I felt like such a failure. Here was something that my body does naturally and I couldn’t get it right. Out came the hospital double pump and I spent the next 24 hours without sleep trying to plump up my little un. It worked but as she still wouldn’t feed from me the *horrible ( *totally lovely actually) midwives made me stay in hospital for 5 whole nights until they were satisfied that I could ( and would ) pump regularly and feed my baby using a teeny syringe. This was a really hard time, I was exhausted from labour and having a newborn with no help at night from my partner or family and it would have been easy to just give up but I really wanted to feed

On my last night in hospital I was very weepy and feeling lonely and an older midwife who I hadn’t met before came and sat with me on my bed, she gave me a hug and told me I was doing everything right and then she told me a secret. Before she told me she pointed out that this was not NHS advice and really she shouldn’t say but it had worked for her daughter – what was this magic piece of advice I hear you say? Nipple Shields. I was sceptical but on the way from hospital with my newborn tucked in my babasling I hit Boots and bought an electric breast pump and a pack of nipple shields.

Just before we left to go home ..don’t I look happy?

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On our first night at home at six days old my daughter fed for the very first time from me using these wondrous nipple shields and she pretty much didn’t stop for days and it felt amazing. I remember feeling so lucky and proud to be feeding my child. She was always a fussy feeder and most times would only feed with a nipple shield unless she was super tired – I guess she got used to the feeling. I continued to express and it meant that when she was a little older my partner could give her a bottle of breastmilk at night when I was really tired. I always loved the times we spent feeding especially when she got older and would reach up a hand to touch my chest or hold my hand. Some of my favourite memories are of us feeding.

At about 4 months Izzy had a lot of problems with constipation and some bowel issues ( going 16 days without a movement became the norm) and we had to see a consultant. We were encouraged to try giving some formula each day to see if it made a difference and whilst it did make a difference she began getting harder to breastfeed. I really wish we had tried some other options but at the time with a child who was in horrific pain I just listened to the doctor. It was only 1 formula feed per day but at 6 months she just plain refused to feed from me. I didn’t seek advice at the time and wish I had but I continued to express until there was in milk left at about 8 months so she carried on having a breastfeed by bottle each day for that time which I’m glad about. The time when I was exclusively pumping was the hardest. I was determined to provide milk for my child and would spend hours each day attached to the pump sometimes for a depressingly small amount of milk. I tried lactation teas and fenugreek but it seemed my supply was gone.

Even though our breastfeeding journey was far from simple I am so glad we did it. I know that I provided the best start I could to my childs life. I am not anti formula at all in fact Izzy still has a bedtime bottle of growing up milk but I know that for me (not everyone) breastmilk is what I wanted to give my child and its what I hope to do this time around too. In fact I’m aiming for a year – I am fully aware this may not happen.

Benefits for baby

*less chance of diarrhoea and vomiting and having to go to hospital as a result
*fewer chest and ear infections and having to go to hospital as a result
*less chance of being constipated
*less likelihood of becoming obese and therefore developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses later in life
*less chance of developing eczema

Benefits for mum

*lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer
*naturally uses up to 500 calories a day
*saves money – infant formula, the sterilising equipment and feeding equipment can be costly
*can help to build a strong bond between you and your baby

This time around I am going into this eyes wide open – I know it’s not always easy. I will seek advice and help if I need it straightaway from someone qualified to give it. I’m lucky to have met a wonderful friend and breastfeeding pro ( @midwifetomum on twitter) who I know will be an amazing support to me. I will try my very best and not feel guilty at how long I feed for. I am hoping to not need nipple shields but I will certainly have some ready just in case.

I cannot wait for that first feed. This time I will get photos of this special time.

How was breastfeeding for you?