The topic of breastfeeding can be touchy. It can be so easy to be judgmental of another person’s choices/experiences, but you can’t ever really know what it was like for that one mum and baby. So this is just a post about our experience with breastfeeding for the first time. I support everyone’s right to choose what is best for them and their baby. And it’s no one else’s business.
The struggle was real for us. Looking back on those first few weeks, I can barely remember it all. It was such a blur of overwhelm, no sleep, crying baby, sore nipples and lady bits and did I say no sleep? It is such a shock to the system becoming a new mum, but especially when you have a baby who struggles to latch and is really unsettled. Everything is that much harder than when your baby latches and feeds with ease.
I had a great supply (and excellent equipment – so the midwives told me. Ha!) but a baby who struggled to latch and stay attached. Every feeding session was a struggle, it could take 20-30 mins just to get her to latch and stay on. The pulling on and off meant that I left the hospital with grazed, cracked and bleeding nipples and no confidence.
And it didn’t help that everyone was so concerned that Milla was getting enough food because of her small size (she was 2.53kg, induced at 39 weeks, 2 days).
We saw two lactation consultants, one of whom just said Milla had an uncoordinated suck. And neither mentioned her having a tongue tie. I guess we just had a baby who did not want to boob. And with everyone screaming “breast is best” at you, you can’t help but feel like a failure when it all doesn’t work out. I tried my best but when you are dreading seeing your baby for the next feed and feeling depressed all of the time, breast isn’t best anymore. I’m a firm believer in the mental health of mum being most important.
I’m not sure if it’s also a lack of support? Or maybe it just feels like that. It’s a lonely feeling at 3am by yourself with your baby screaming at your chest (which is bleeding and hurting like razor blades) and try as you might, you just can’t get the tiny little human to attach. It was definitely a tough time for us. Every feed she was in tears at the mere sight of my boobs! Pretty much every midwife in the hospital had tried to squish Milla’s little face onto me and I’m sure this contributed to her breast aversion.
Anyway I decided to stop pressuring Milla to latch and just expressed and bottle fed her. She thrived and continued to steadly put on weight (although I think she will always be little – well, tall and skinny – she’s in the 97th percentile for height!). I intended to keep going for 3 months this way but it was taking its toll on me mentally and I weaned off the pump after 2 months. She’s a healthy little girl, only had a couple of colds in her 19 months and never even had a fever. So I think we’re doing pretty well despite our “failure” to give her the “best”.
Believe me when I tell you, you don’t need breastfeeding to help you bond with your baby. I think we really started to bond when that pressure was gone. And we still have cuddles every night when I give her a bottle of cow’s milk. So if you’re reading this at 3am and struggling with breastfeeding like I did – don’t feel like you’re a failure or that you aren’t doing the best you can. If you are keeping your baby fed, warm and most importantly loved, then you are doing the very best possible. There are so many things that make up mumlife, breastfeeding is not the be all and end all. And you as the mum are just as important as the baby. You have to take care of you first.
I guess the only piece of advice I can give you is to seek help and do it as soon as possible. There are plenty of lactation consultants out there who will be able to help you if you are determined to breastfeed (I will definitely be seeking out help of a new consultant if I need help next time). Looking back, I wonder if I tried hard enough to seek more help the first time. But I can’t go back, I just have to accept I did the best I could at the time.
With baby number two arriving in a 6.5 weeks (eek!) I am hopeful that I’ll be able to get the hang of breastfeeding and stick at it a little longer. A lot of people say that it can take up to 8 weeks to establish. But I’m promising myself that I won’t let it affect my mental health if it doesn’t go to plan. They say every baby is different so it could be a completely different experience – I’ll keep you updated!
Big love xx