I’m going to start by saying breastfeeding is tough. I will never understand why more isn’t said about the issues you may encounter with breastfeeding. We are sold this ideal that it’s all natural and will happen with ease when in reality that is rarely the case.
I know so many women who have had their breastfeeding journey cut short. And whilst there may be many reasons one of the biggest I feel is a lack of understanding and often support. Breastfeeding can be really tough, I certainly found it that way. And whilst I chose to push on and try to continue I have nothing against formula. Emilia has some formula and I’m so thankful we have that option. But I’m a little lazy & love how easy (and cheap) breastfeeding is.
Breastfeeding actually started well for me.
Emilia latched immediately and generally fed well during her first day. I had some help from the midwives with her latch as Emilia was so small but overall it felt good. That was until the middle of the night. I was alone, feeling vulnerable and Emilia wouldn’t latch. I was messaging my Mum and Sister but as time went on and Emilia had gone hours without a feed I had to buzz for help from the staff. A midwifery assistant came up but I still struggled. After a few failed attempts to get her latched it was suggested that I try formula. However I didn’t have any with me – I was so determined to carry on.
I do feel that the suggestion to try formula was thrust upon me too quickly and at a vulnerable time. Luckily one of the other midwives came in to help and I was so grateful for her support. We changed Emilia’s nappy, stripped her off for skin to skin and luckily she fed. It still wasn’t plain sailing but I did feel confident when it was time to leave hospital that I could handle breastfeeding.
However over the next few days it got harder and harder. I was in pain and my nipples were both cracked and sore. Both my midwife and health visitor watched me feeding and as my latch looked fine I was told lots of nipple cream and just carry on. And as Emilia was thriving there was no real cause for concern. She never lost any weight after birth and has always gained well.
Breastfeeding caused some very down days for me.
I wanted it to work so much, I wasn’t ready to give up but I was miserable. It was really painful and I had many meltdowns. I felt like a failure, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do it. I put so much pressure on myself and crying during feeding sessions was common. It caused me such heartache. I was traumatised to see Emilia with blood in her mouth from my cracked nipples. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t getting any easier, in fact my nipples seemed to be getting worse.
In a last ditch attempt to make it work I chose to seek help from a private lactation consultant. It really was last chance saloon for me and breastfeeding. I don’t blame the NHS for not noticing the issues, they are not specialists. And to all on the outside my latch looked fine. It was this consultant though who identified that Emilia had a shallow latch. I was shown more effective ways to get her to latch, and again I felt confident. But back on my own I struggled to get it right and the pain was unbearable at times. Again this caused me more stress as I genuinely didn’t want to give up, and felt I’d tried everything.
Each feed was a battle for me.
In paticular I struggled with my right side. Looking back it was obvious Emilia struggled more on that side. It always hurt more, it was more cracked than the left and I suffered with blocked ducts and mastitis. Emilia never fed efficiently from that side. And after struggling to see any improvement I slowly started missing feeds on my right as I felt so much more comfortable feeding from my healed left nipple. This kept me sane and is probably the only reason I still breastfeed now.
Slowly I was feeding less and less on my right and I am now a one sided feeder. My milk has all but dried up on my right side and Emilia has all her feeds on my left. I’ve heard many people tell me stories about babies having a preference or only been able to efficiently latch on one side and that’s what happened to me. It’s not ideal but single sided feeding works for me. I very quickly became more relaxed around feeding and began to enjoy it. And almost 6 months on I’m still feeding my little milk monster just on that one boob. And I hope we can carry on for many more months.
Once you feel you’ve got a handle on breastfeeding the cluster feeding starts. The non stop night feeds and the constant need for you. It is relentless, you feel like you never get a break. And you can become a human dummy. Again I feel if you are not armed with information, you may be led to believe that all of this means your baby is not getting enough milk or there is an issue. But mostly there’s not. It is tough and often you can’t see a way through it but it does get easier. Yes there are growth spurts, development leaps and sometimes illnesses that can cause havoc with your routine but generally the length of time spent feeding reduces and the time between feeds increases.
It’s been a really emotional journey to get to where I am with breastfeeding.
I have been extremely lucky to have great support around me to help me through. Not only my husband who just wanted me to be happy but my family and friends. My Mum breastfed myself and my sister, and my sister breastfed both of her children. Most of my friends also breastfed their babies so there was always someone on hand to pick me up on the really bad days.
I’m not a breast is best campaigner, fed is most definitely best. And as mentioned I do give Emilia formula. But I am proud of myself for battling on & still breastfeeding. I also hope that by sharing my journey it helps others understand the issues they may be encountering, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel if they want it.
Please give me a shout if you any need to talk breastfeeding xx