What to Expect: The Boob Diaries

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!
Breastfeeding hurts!!!!

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…

 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  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.

One last thing
It gets easier!!!!! I promise!
Mami 2 Five

12 Responses to “What to Expect: The Boob Diaries”

  1. Such a wonderful post. I breastfed my daughter exclusively until 14 months, I saw exclusively but obviously she had food! I always say you have to really really want to breastfeed because there are so many reasons to give up. I had Mastitis twice. It’s truly horrendous but you do get through it. When did you stop breastfeeding your baby. I stopped at 14 months because I felt I should but 4 months later I wish I hadn’t. I think next time round I’ll stop when my baby wants too.

    • There is so much guilt attached to breastfeeding. Even those who perceiver feel guilty for giving up too early or not early enough. H was 14 months also… Roo was 20 months (I gave birth to number 3 a month later) and nerg is 18 months and still going strong,,, I suspect he will be a while longer… I’m glad you liked the post, 14 months is a massive achievement!!! Especially when you can say you’re in that amazing 1%!! Go you!!

  2. I’ve had really different experiences of great feeding my three kids. I struggled so badly with my daughter for a real variety of reasons including pain and lack of support. I thought it would be impossible to breast feed my twins these guys were latching pros! I think between my three kids I’ve done the whole range exclusively breast feeding, pumping and combination feeding!

  3. It is such a shame more women don’t gt the support they need to breastfeed, but I think ultimately its up to the women. I think too much emphasis is put this. I was listening to a podcast yesterday which featured a review of a new book on breastfeeding and the pressures mothers are put under, I’ve added it to my list as it sounded very interesting. It’s called Lactivism by Courtney Lung.

  4. Excellent post and so true about the pain! Those first few weeks are toe curling aren’t they! I fed Jack for 5 months and Phoebe for 12 months and thankfully had positive experiences with them both. Jack stopped himself at 5 months and just refused until I had no choice but to give him a bottle whereas Phoebs never took a bottle! I agree with lack of support though. When I asked for help in the early days, I was told to have a bath with Jack and bring him under the water like he was being reborn and it would set all of his habits back to birth! Surprisingly I ignored her and muddled on! X

  5. Great post. My first couldn’t latch so I expressed for 4 1/2 months and topped up with formula. With baby number 2 I’ll have a couple of pre-made bottles of formula at the ready in case he can’t latch also, but I have every intention of breastfeeding. I won’t let myself feel like a failure if I can’t feed though. x

  6. This is a fantastic post! I had the same expectations that because breastfeeding is natural, my baby would come out knowing exactly what to do and that it would just be me who needed to learn. I also found it really painful in the first few weeks, and the whole ‘if it hurts you’re doing it wrong’ message is just not helpful.

    • It’s really not helpful…. I must say, although I experienced the pain and frustration with all three children, third time was easier, because only Nerg was learning…. The midwife wrote ‘breastfeeding pro’ on my notes, no pressure there…. I still called the health visitors in tears on day 7.

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