I was asking for suggestions for new blog topics the other days, and someone suggested breastfeeding, so I thought I’d start with my experience.
I breastfed my son until he self-weaned just before he turned two but it wasn’t an easy start.
I had an emergency c-section and no-one warned me that this can mean your milk is a bit delayed coming in. After a traumatic and exhausting stay in hospital when he was born, I was determined to breastfeed. A day after we got home from hospital I had two midwives turn up who made me feel absolutely dreadful. My son had lost 12% of his weight (he was 9lb 15oz, or 4.5kgs) and I was made to feel like I was starving him. I was immediately advised to start topping up with formula, despite stating that I was breastfeeding. I was not offered any advice or support on breastfeeding at this point. I was also told I had to take him back to hospital to be weighed in a few days – bear in mind I could hardly walk!
In hindsight I wish I’d complained about them, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Sleep deprived, anxious and full of guilt, we duly did as we were told and started trying to bottle feed as well. It was great in that it offered my husband a chance to do feeds, but it didn’t work and my son just threw it all back up again.
The next day, my milk came in and my son was back up to his birth weight in a few days.
I also found feeding incredibly painful, to the point of being in tears. Since all babies are checked for tongue-tie in hospital when they are born, I assumed that wasn’t the problem. Thankfully, I’d attended an NCT class specifically on breastfeeding before my son was born and the amazing lady, Anna, who ran the class offered free drop-in sessions! So, a week after his birth, off I went with my son and promptly burst into tears when I talked about the whole experience.
Anna was amazing. She listened and watched me feed, suggested different positions and checked my son. She said she thought he had a tongue-tie and recommended I ask for a referral. I continued feeding, even though it was painful, and got a referral to the specialist clinic as soon as possible. Less than a week later, they confirmed he had tongue-tie and cut it.
The difference was astounding. Within 24 hours, feeding was so much easier and much less painful. My son continued to be very particular about his milk and never would take a bottle, either of expressed milk or formula, and guzzled milk until he decided to self-wean! But it worked for us.
He is robust and healthy and I loved those moments of peace, just the two of us, knowing that I was providing him with everything he needed. Breastfeeding was my parenting method. It helped him sleep when he was over-tired and calmed him down when he was poorly or upset. It’s not just about food.
I’m a strong advocate of breastfeeding, I think it’s an amazing bonding experience, it’s free and it’s hugely beneficial to both parent and child. But I’m also a huge advocate of being able to make your own choice and being supported. If breastfeeding is not for you, that’s great – you do what you need to do. What really upsets me is emotional, tired and stressed mums who are made to feel like they can’t breastfeed and who end up feeling guilty about bottle-feeding because they weren’t properly supported. No-one should be made to feel bad about their parenting choices.
I had to fight to carry on breastfeeding, through poor advice and lack of support. I don’t blame the midwives at all, they have had funding for training cut beyond belief and do an amazing job with a lack of resources. I eventually had a breastfeeding specialist come to visit me at home, three weeks later! By which point, I would have given up breastfeeding had I not already received advice. My privilege of being able to seek out additional support is what allowed me to continue and it shouldn’t be that way. In my opinion, proper breastfeeding support should be available to everyone, to allow them to feed in the way they want to.
I’d love to hear about your experiences!