As it is National Breastfeeding Week I thought I'd join in and give an account of our breastfeeding journey.
It never occurred to me not to breastfeed, I was breastfed as was my sister and it just seemed the 'norm'. No one criticised bottle feeding to me it was just never mentioned and I guess looking back it never occurred to me as an option ? A secondary consideration is that I am lactose intolerant and it never occurred to me to feed my new born daughter something that caused me such issues. As it turns out this was a great decision as she is also lactose intolerant (discovered during weaning) and I can only cringe at the thought of filling up a newborn lactose intolerant baby with cows milk formula and the issues that would have caused!
She seemed to latch on pretty well at the hospital straight after birth, I didn't have to stay in as labour had been great and we were both fine and she was feeding - so far so good! By the next day though doubt had started to set in and I was worrying that 'it hurt' and 'was she feeding right' so we popped back to the birth centre and had a very reassuring 45 minutes with a lovely midwife who watched Little Q latch on, made a few minor adjustments and basically spent the rest of the time convincing a new, very tired and emotional mum that she was doing great and to just crack on with it.
The next week is honestly a little blurry, my milk came in and we learnt to deal with the initial let down so Little Q didn't get over whelmed and start coughing and spluttering and got into a feeding pattern. Which was great until my nipples cracked and started bleeding, no one tells you how much blood a baby can drink with your milk in this situation until she started throwing up bloody milk and scared the absolute pants off you!
To nipple shield or not to Nipple Shield?
This seemed to be the most contentious thing I came across during our whole journey. A week or two in, bleeding, in pain and with a baby vomiting what looked like vampire worthy feeds (but was probably not that much!) I invested in some nipple shields and was able to breath a huge sigh of relief. I was able to feed her, control the let down and give my poor nipples a bit of time to heal up and toughen up, I felt in control and happy again.
Then our health visitor turned up. Her attitude to these life saving little bits of silicone almost broke me as she immediately told me that
- little Q would never learn to latch properly
- I'd never toughen up and be able to feed without them
- I had to stop using them RIGHT NOW or risk our breastfeeding journey ending
this was hugely unhelpful ! I was left feeling like I'd made a terrible decision, was failing my daughter and myself and that it was all going to go wrong because I was so weak I needed to use these things to get through a feed.
A voice of reason
Luckily, my husband was not hormonal or post natal nor being told to his face that he was failing and so was able to be a bit more objective about it all. After she left he told me in no uncertain terms that I was to keep using them as long as I needed and who cares if I used them for the rest of the time I fed our daughter - she was getting fed and I was (had been) happy. He said if I wanted to stop using them he'd support me but only when I felt ready. (He also said we were never speaking to that HV again as he wasn't seeing me being upset like that - there may have been some swearing about incompetent meddling unprofessionalism too....)
I'll be honest, I can be incredibly bloody minded when I want to be and he gave me the confidence to stop, think and really evaluate our priorities and decide he was right. And he was, a few months later I found myself naturally weaning us both off the shields as I just kept forgetting to use them and ended up breastfeeding my daughter until just after her first birthday when she weaned off me during an episode of chicken pox. None of the HV predictions had turned out true.
I loved breastfeeding, it gave me time and mental headspace to enjoy my daughter with no pressure and to just 'sit' , I loved seeing her grow and knowing it was nutritionally all me, I loved the eventual ease of it. I never had any issues feeding in public, I feel lucky and blessed about that. I anticipated some and mentally geared up with some scientific knockdowns to nay sayers but no one ever gave me strife about it.
Since watching the Dispatches: breastfeeding uncovered show I am so blown away by the scientific facts behind what my milk was able to do for her (pain relief!? that's nuts!) it has confirmed my decision to breastfeed any future children and I think next time around I'll be even more bloody minded about it because whatever our journey and whatever crutches or aids I do or don't use I know it'll become second nature and I'll trust myself a bit more.
I'll still avoid that HV though.
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