Breastfeeding! I’ve touched on this topic before, it’s a subject close to my heart (pun fully intended). Now, I know promoting breastfeeding can be seen as ‘pushy’! and, listing the benefits or mentioning that formula is inferior can raise emotions. There are articles upon articles of the benefits of breast feeding for both mother and child….. This is not one of them, it’s a what to expect guide from my own experiences and my role as a parenting supporter, I feel I need to add a joke or further pun there, to fit my normal style but I’m struggling, sometimes this parenting stuff needs to have a serious side)
In the UK, only 1% of women successfully manage to nurse exclusively for 6 months…. Given that it’s estimated that 95% of women can physically do so. Why is this? I know that I’ve come close to quitting on several occasions with all three of my children. I want to share with you the things no one told me, the things I wish I’d known and the things bizarrely you don’t hear about,
It takes a village to raise a child…. Thats people, not facts and figures… Real emotions are involved. Quoting IQ scores or immunity statistics only enhances the feeling of guilt many bottle feeders experience. Breastfeeding is everything your child needs. If a wonder drug came on the market that provided all the amazing things our milk does, what parent would turn it down? I bet not many, which means mums who don’t breastfeed don’t take this choice lightly, for many it’s not a choice, it’s a decision made through tears, frustration and exhaustion… A decision that feels taken away from them.
So here are some facts from my own experience!
If your baby is latched correctly it shouldnt hurt I was told when big girl H was born! So why did my toes curl, my teeth grind and my boobs sting and ache every time she came to my breast….despite midwives,YouTube and every frikkin book I read, saying she was on correctly?? Seriously!!! I actually used to bite down on a teething ring and cry.
Truth is! When we were in the recovery room she had gone on fine first time, no pain, no desire to run away, no thoughts of I can’t bare this…. but, sometime between then, and a feed down the line, the pain kicked it. Imagine falling off a bike, grazing your knees, then having to get back on repeatedly, not giving them time to heal… Splitting them open with every turn of the spokes! This is why breastfeeding hurts! All it takes is one poor latch… Which in the early days is bound to frikkin happen cos you know, you’ve never had to do it before and your baby is used to an all encompassing life support system which requires no effort…… (More magnified if they are poorly, underweight or prem) Then imagine, that pain is so bad but you have no idea if it’s damage pain, or poor latch pain…. You’re tired, exhausted, youre feeling like a failure cos it’s meant to be natural…. Is it right? Is it thrush? Should you leave baby on, take her off, call someone??
There’s rarely support
Who you gonna call then? Ah your midwife…. Any midwife… What?! every time you baby wants a feed?? (I’ll get on to that in a sec) To breastfeed you will feel as though you need someone there 24/7, someone offering you constant pointers and reassurance, affirmation you’re doing a fab job and its normal! Or,when it’s not normal, and you should seek help.
But then you also feel you should trust your own instincts…. Something which is impossible to do when you’re a hormonal mess, one min you’re crying, then laughing, then you move quickly and your back hurts from the spinal or hours of pushing or your c section scar stings,…. And you can’t take pain killers strong enough cos your frikkin breastfeeding.., and your baby is crying and you know you’re a mother who should be soothing and comforting her… But you feel like your lack of knowledge is the REASON SHE is crying….and there’s no midwife there 24/7. Your partner is trying, but he doesn’t have breasts (bastard) or your mum/sister/aunt is saying the wrong things. So someone says formula and you feel a bit more confident! Yes I can do that, my partner can do that. They can help! I’m not alone in this battle anymore. My baby is crying! And it’s suddenly within your power to make it better… And what mother doesn’t want that??
Your baby will cry more than you expect
The world is a strange and scary place for the newborn. Coupled with a tiny tiny tummy, she cries a lot! You think there is no way she needs more milk? She just fed for an hour on sore nipples. perhaps you’re thinking I’ve had ten mins to get a drink and she’s crying again! Everyone says she hungry…. There is no way you’re producing enough milk, you express: nothing happens save a drop of the white stuff and that took 20mins. You clearly dont have the supply…
Â This is not true, pumping is no match for a child’s latch… In fact I couldn’t even express one drop with nerg… If he had been number one I would have concluded my supply insufficient… But, If your baby is putting on weight, has wet or dirty nappies and otherwise a clean bill of health from your check ups… She is getting enough. (Always see a professional if you’re concerned) maybe she wants to feel close to you, reconnect, breathe in your smell, top up that tiny belly…. Breast satisfies many needs.
Most people don’t care
The media likes to remind us daily that breastfeeding is an issue,that women are harassed and hounded on the streets for providing milk to their offspring. While I’m not denying this happens, I can tell you I’ve never experienced it!! Not once, with any of my children, even when they passed a year. I have, however had compliments and smiles and, in turn, I have offered a knowing nod to other women publically nursing. Many Â new mums, especially if they’re experiencing the issues mentioned, are terrified to leave the house! Worried about the boob police… I’m not saying it won’t happen to you! But I can say there are a lot of people out there who support you and your baby…. And the rest? Well, name and shame then in the daily mail…
Don’t be afraid
Maybe if I had heard these before having a baby I would have been scared, afraid of the pain that was coming… But isn’t that what we do when pregnant? We know labour hurts but we are ready and willing for the rewards? What if no one told you labour hurt? You were walking in blind
I also know that if someone was with me in those early days, perhaps reading the above to me, I would have felt consoled, understood and supported. Big girl h had a few bottles in those first weeks…. But I did persevere (read my other link for my reasons) and, I have successfully nursed all three of my children into toddlerhood.
Perhaps if somone had told me beforehand it wouldnt be natural or easy I may have avoided even those early formula feeds. I don’t beat myself up about them and I don’t tell you to brag. I just want any mums out there gong through those early days to know that, more often than not those problems are NORMAL! And every breastfeeder has experienced them and come out the other side.