I’ve never really talked about my breastfeeding experience on my blog before, probably because I had finished breastfeeding when I started writing my blog and I didn’t really think to.
But actually it’s something that I’m really proud that I did and as it is National Breastfeeding Week, it’s seems the right time to share my story…
I was pregnant with Alice when I was first asked by a friend if I would be breastfeeding my baby when she arrived, up to that moment I hadn’t really discussed it with anyone. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t think anyone would be that interested in how I fed my baby.
How wrong was I!
It seems that is what everyone wants to know and that everyone has an opinion on it.
My approach to it was that I would love to be able to breast feed my baby, but I was also well aware that there were lots of reasons why it might not happen for us and I would do what was right for me and my baby at the time.
I breastfed both my girls and had different experiences with them both.
When my beautiful Alice arrived, it was early in the morning and I was on the phone to my mum and she asked me if Alice was feeding ok, I suddenly thought ‘oh, I probably should feed her’. It wasn’t that I had starved her, but she was sleeping peacefully and I naively thought that a midwife would come and let me know what I should be doing.
I finished the call, picked up Alice and tried to remember everything I had been told in the NCT class. I couldn’t get Alice to latch on, a midwife came to help me and she couldn’t get her to latch on either, so she went to get another midwife. At this point any dignity I had left went out the window. My breast was pulled and squeezed by the midwife to get some colostrum out to try and entice Alice to latch on. It didn’t work and the midwife scooped the colostrum up and popped it into her mouth, so we knew she had at least something to eat.
I was left to carry on trying, at one point I think Alice latched on, how do you actually know? She stayed on my breast for a while and then wriggled herself off. Great, I thought we had cracked it.
Two years later my gorgeous Holly arrived and she was placed on my chest for skin to skin time, a few minutes later she started wriggling around and I realised she was trying to latch herself on to my breast and she latched herself on and we were away.
At home with Alice I wasn’t sure if she was feeding properly and she kept falling asleep on the job! I phoned the Health Visitor’s office to ask a couple of questions. They were brilliant and sent a HV out that specialised in breast feeding the same day.
She gave me some great advice, she advised me of the best positions to hold Alice in, how to latch on and more importantly how to unlatch so it didn’t hurt. She showed me a pressure point at the bottom of her foot and that by pressing it while feeding, it would keep her awake.
Feeding Holly I felt a lot more confident, everything that I learnt from feeding Alice came flooding back to me and it fell into place a lot quicker.
My next challenge was how to feed Alice when we were out and about, I was very uncomfortable about having to breastfeed in public…In fact, I never did it! Shocking really when I look back.
The most public place I fed her was sat in my car in a car park. Why? Partly because to begin I was nervous about doing it anywhere and then with the added pressure of breastfeeding while keeping myself covered up, I just couldn’t relax.
The first eight weeks of Alice’s life were planned around her feeds, she fed every two hours, so I was against the clock ever time I left the house.
At eight weeks old at the weekly weigh in session, Alice was still on the 13th percentile and they were worried about her weight. I asked if I should try formula if my milk wasn’t doing the job. The HV was really unhelpful. All she kept saying was it was my decision, but breastfeeding is what they recommend.
But how can that be the advice when my baby isn’t gaining weight at the correct rate? I went to my mum’s house and was in a right state. Between us we decided that we should do combined feeding.
So at eight weeks old I introduced a bottle and that changed my life.
I would give Alice one bottle a day, when we were out and the rest of the time I breast fed her. Not only did this mean that Alice was starting to put on more weight, which ultimately is the most important thing here. It also gave me the freedom I needed to leave the house and as any mum will tell you, you need to leave the house.
I felt so much more confident feeding Holly and having a toddler as well, I had to go out a lot more. Before Holly arrived I brought myself a breast feeding apron.
It was brilliant, it gave me the confidence to feed Holly anywhere and she was happy to feed whilst I wearing it. It had a hoop at the top, so I could look down and see her and she could see me. But to the rest of world there was nothing to see…
What no one tells you are the days when all you do is feed them, they are just never full up. I would sit for over an hour on the sofa with Alice and when she finished I thought surely that will be it for a least two/three hours, but no an hour later she would be hungry again…how is that even possible! I remember crying to Andy in the early days, saying I couldn’t go on. But I did!
Holly was a really hungry baby and I spent a lot of time with her clamped to my chest. But with a toddler to look after as well, I couldn’t sit for hours watching friends on TV. I learnt how to walk whilst feeding, make Alice’s lunch whilst feeding and just about everything else in between.
I continued to successfully breastfeed Alice until she was six months old and then my milk completely dried up overnight. Which apparently is rare, but does happen and I was thankful that Alice was used to a bottle and I had started weaning. I was sad to stop breastfeeding, but in some ways it was easier for me that the decision was taken out of my hands when to stop.
I stopped breastfeeding Holly once weaning was underway, she was a really hungry baby and my milk was just never enough for her at any time of the day. I also found it harder and harder to sustain breastfeeding whilst running around with a toddler. It felt like the right decision to stop for everyone.
I was thankful that I was able to breastfeed both my girls for the first six/seven months of their lives and it still amazes me that my body was able to give them everything they needed to grow.
I think on reflection of my two breastfeeding experiences, for me it came down to confidence in knowing what I was doing and also determination that I was not going to give up at the first hurdle with Alice.
You also don’t know what your body will be like until you start, some people are milking machines and have so much milk they don’t know what to do with it. I wasn’t one of these people, I had to work hard to keep my milk supply up.
Whatever your breastfeeding journey will be, it will be the right one for you and your baby. Whether you do it for two weeks or two years, do it for the right reasons and stop when its right for you and your baby…
And if you bottle fed your baby, I salute you too, as a fed baby is a happy baby! This post isn’t about judging, it’s just my story.