Breastfeeding. Oh my gosh what a topic for mummas. For those reading this about to embark on this mission for the next however long, let me give you the best advice you will hear. Everyone is different in their experience. Just like labour, which I will save for another blog. Some will tell you it's easy and bubs pop straight on. Some will tell you it sucks (in the emotional sense). Some will tell you it hurts like hell. Some will tell you it is no big deal. And this is all true! You may experience all of these, a few of these or other things, but the best thing you can do is take it as it happens and role with it. You can't copy how another mum breastfeeds. Why? Because you have different babies and a different set of tits. Imagine me, a size E cup bra (yes, I know the nemesis of my body shape) trying to learn how to breastfeed from a friend who can barely fill a triple A cup! I remember watching my sisters and friends feed before I had my first and they would hold their bubba in one hand and feed them whilst vacuuming or reading a book or baking a cake (last one a slight exaggeration). For them, it was a one handed job. I remember going to do that in hospital with Jack and realised that my entire boob was bigger than his face so he had one of two choices, to feed or breathe. For me, breastfeeding was always going to take up the use of both hands. One to hold him and the other to press down so his nose could get some room for air.
There is sooooo much pressure to breastfeed these days to the point that opinions fly at you from all corners with media, the hospital, your family and your friends. It doesn't matter if your baby isn't getting much milk or it's depressing you, you have to keep going right? Do some of you feel like that? I did big time and it traumatised my experience for all three of my kids. I know there are so many going through this so I wanted to share with you my experience so you can actually see, like with all my other blog articles, that you are completely normal for feeling this way and going through the challenges that come with feeding your baby whatever way you do it. Because while every corner is screaming at you that you have to breastfeed, I am going to encourage you by supporting your journey and take the pressure off you, your bubba and your boobs.
So lets start with Jack, my first bubba. if you read my three c-section articles you would remember we had a traumatising and rocky start with Jack. So after all that exhausting experience, we go and shove a giant boob in his face and I have someone that I have never seen before squeezing my nipple as hard as they can, telling me this is normal and it shouldn't hurt. Lady apart from the fact, my husband hasn't got a look in in months, this is hurting so much I am picturing myself hurling you across the room, so give me back my damn boob!
An hour and a half later, Jack's marble sized stomach is now filled up and the nurse walks out with a happy smile that we just did something amazing and she will see me in two hours for the next feed. What the frig? I have to go through that again? Get me the hell out of here!
Jack took 6 weeks to latch on properly. It never hurt but because he was such a sleepy baby, he took an hour and a half to feed every time. Breastfeeding sucked and was not what I pictured. I recommend you stop watching movies of labour and breastfeeding now. A movie goes for 90 minutes so of course the baby in the scene is going to latch on straight away and feed for two seconds. Doesn't happen people!
I sat in public toilet cubicles, in the car, on friends beds and anywhere else I could privately feed. My boobs were enormous and I didn't want my friends watching me do this so uncoordinated. Skipping ahead quickly, for those that feed in public, that is great and I did it many times with Eva but for Jack, I was so new and uncomfortable with my body shape, that I didn't want anyone to see me. I honestly wasn't even thinking about how others felt around me, I just wanted the privacy.
So six weeks in, I had reached my limit. If one more person had held Jack and said 'I think he's hungry' I was honestly going to stab them with the closest sharp object in reach. When I saw Jack open his mouth looking for milk or bobbing his head on someone's shoulder, I wanted to cry. See you in 90 minutes, if you are still here. They usually weren't. If Jack ever vomited up his milk, I felt so deflated and annoyed. What a bloody waste and after all that time sitting to feed. There he was making angel wings with excited arms in a pool of milk with the biggest and cutest smile on his face. I just cried.
One night during a feed, Jack latched on and stayed on. He didn't fall asleep after five sucks or come off and start crying, he just drank and drank. Twenty minutes later he was off and I couldn't get him back on. He burped and I put him on again but he was done. He fell asleep so I put him in his bassinet and just waited for him to wake up and cry but nothing. He just got it! And for the next ten months, he was a little pro and got faster and made our feeding experience easy. He weened himself off at ten months and although I was planning a full year, I decided to just role with it and put him on cows milk. We had reached the goal and I was satisfied overall that for my first bubba I did alright.
Then I got pregnant three weeks later!
Now Eva ha, what a completely different experience that was. If we had a breastfeeding spectrum, my kids would be on the opposite ends of each other! I could hear Eva screaming being wheeled up to my room from recovery where she was clearly unimpressed with having to wait an hour to be fed. Sorry madam! She was straight on and sucked so hard I thought all my organs would be caught up in the drainage as well. I imagined the inside of my boobs were like when you pull the plug out of the bath and everything gets drawn towards the hole. And there I was again, wishing those next four hours would be the slowest. Not in Eva's mind though because two hours later, she was ready to go again. And then two hourly after that for the next five months.
After holes in my nipples bled into my milk so much, she would vomit, I had to start expressing in between feeds so they could get a rest to heal. This kid was killing me with pain! It was like when someone I guess is about to jump out of a plane and they need to just gear themselves into going for it and talk away their nerves. That was me and my boob and her mouth slowly connecting. My toes curled, I grit my teeth and closed my eyes tight as my let down came and my scab reopened. Once again the words 'I think she is hungry' made me eye off the closest sharp object ready to pounce. Cam only said it once because my response and expression scared him so much he decided to make me a cup of tea instead of giving me Eva.
The pain became less but so did Eva's weight. Eva is generally petite anyway but I went from having a 9 pound boy that continued to thrive to a girl that when she was five months old, a couple in a lift at the shops asked how many weeks she was. I explained to my GP, I had no idea why she was so little as I was constantly feeding this child until she pointed out that it was likely her fierce sucking and constant need to feed was due to her not getting much milk at all. She was right, I just didn't have much milk but how was I to know? You can't see what goes in and I got so used to Eva crying all the time, I thought she was just a cryer, as what I was told happens with some babies. Jack never cried and Eva never stopped so I had no idea what the middle ground was.
We put her on formula and because she was so happy to have that, she was no longer interested in me feeding her. Deep down I was jumping for joy but felt I constantly had to defend myself for making only 5 months and not the year. I felt judged and a complete failure. I was a great mum to my kids but why did I suck so badly with breastfeeding? I wanted so much to be that perfect mum that babies just fall on their boobs and drink their perfect milk along with all the pregnancy weight they would put on so they could say things like 'wow, I am so skinny, my GP is telling me to eat more carbs!' I felt so free of the burden of breastfeeding that I honestly hated doing, but so bad that I couldn't provide a natural source of food for my kids. I was self conscious and determined that for my next baby I was going to nail it.
So Franklin was born. Then he was taken off me and wheeled to the ICU where he stayed for two weeks. Tube fed and I was lucky to touch him for more than one minute. This was not the plan I had in my head to feed him. My milk was exactly the type of milk I wished for Jack and Eva to have. It pretty much looked like butter and I ended up with my own fridge in the ICU because I filled up three to four small bottles every time I expressed. I sprayed all over the place and even stood in the shower holding bottles over my spurting nipples because after going through that with Eva, I was not losing a drop for anything! I tried so many times to feed Franklin because I was so determined to get my last baby right. One afternoon, Jack asked if he could feed him his bottle. I put a pillow on Jack's lap so he could hold him comfortably and feed at the same time and watched them. I suddenly had a peace and happiness I can't put into words come over me. This was such a special time that our little family could share in bonding with Franklin. For two weeks, Jack and Eva waited to hold their little brother and for Cam to bond with his son after looking after the older two so much while we were in hospital. It was this moment that I was grateful that I could spend the next few weeks until my milk dried up feeding Franklin but sharing that moment amongst our little family. We each took turns, which also meant I had more time to rest and recover from my c-section and time to spend with Jack and Eva.
I had come to accept that in a perfect world EVERY mum would feed with ease and would love the experience but we aren't perfect and we aren't the same. Some lose weight, others will put weight on. Some babies will latch straight away and others will take weeks or never. Some mothers lay down to feed and others sit propping their baby on a pillow. Some feed in front of others and some pull the curtain across a feeding room cubicle. Some love it, some hate it and some just do it to get the job done. Some don't do it at all. And you know what? All of this is so ok! I had three completely different experiences but so wish I felt differently at the time, so I am encouraging you to do that for me. Be ok for what it is and how it happens because you can only do your best and what is best for your baby. I am grateful for formula and that DOESN'T make your child have more sickness than a breastfed baby. I am grateful for feeding rooms so mums don't have to sit in toilet cubicles to feed. I am grateful for all the cool gadgets that aid feeding and make you more comfortable while you do it. I am grateful for community centres and hospitals that hold lessons on breastfeeding so you know what a let down is and what a three hourly routine means. I am grateful for friends that tell you its ok and bring you a cup of coffee and a giant piece of cake. I am grateful for TV shows and Netflix so an hour and a half can actually be enjoyed in the middle of the night!
SO get around your friends and ask for help or support. Support them and don't judge if they are struggling to feed their bubs. We can't do this alone and we don't have to. You have got this feeding mummas!
If you want encouragement or want to ask any questions about this article or what you are going through with feeding them please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
© The Realistic Mum
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