Nobody Said It Was Easy, Nobody Said It Would Be So Hard
Before I got pregnant with Pie I was always adamant that breastfeeding wasn’t for me. But then I trained to be a neonatal nurse and learnt all the benefits of breastfeeding. So when I did fall pregnant it just seemed the most natural thing to do. Pie’s birth was not cool, nothing went as I had hoped and we ended up in an emergency c-section after 24 hours of labour. Still breastfeeding was all I had prepared for so despite being tired I had to try. I have to be honest those first couple of days went by in a blur. I was exhausted and I just latched Pie on without even thinking whether it was ok for me. At that stage pretty much everything hurt I certainly didn’t notice any extra discomfort!
When we got home my milk came in at a terrific rate, my breasts were huge and sore. Pie couldn’t latch on so I had to express some milk off before every feed which meant sterilising a breast pump and finding some bottles. The whole feeding thing became a huge fuss every time he needed to feed and with a newborn that is pretty often. Still I perserved, and felt total pride when I took him to be weighed by the midwife at 14 days old and she told me I must have supercharged breast milk because he was growing so well. What I didn’t tell her was that I didn’t like breastfeeding. I didn’t say my nipples hurt and I didn’t say I thought my milk supply was slowing down. I just nodded and smiled and pretended everything was great, but it wasn’t.
You would think that as a neonatal nurse I would have found breastfeeding easy. I mean lets face it teaching mums and supporting them to breastfeed is a huge part of my job. Why then couldn’t I advise myself? Why couldn’t I tweak my own positioning and attachment to improve Pies’ latch and stop my nipples from being shredded? Then there was the overwhelming guilt that at that moment in time I hated breastfeeding my baby. I used to dread him waking up. No mother should feel like that about there new baby surely? I must be a bad mother I thought, feelings of doubt crept in, had I made a terrible mistake having this child?
The turning point came one night when I was sat up in bed, willing myself to attach this screaming baby to my cracked sore nipples, with tears streaming down my face. My husband sat up and said enough is enough. He went out the next morning and came back with some formula and bottles and for the first time since Pie was born I sat down and fed him without feeling anxious or stressed.
I know that switching to formula for Pie was the right decision for me, but that didn’t stop me feeling guilty that I had in some way let him down. That I hadn’t given him the best possible start. Even now I still sometimes wish that it had been different, I wish I had asked for help and been honest with the people that were available to support me, but I didn’t. The most important thing for Pie was that once I stopped feeding him he got his mother not the stressed out, unhappy person I had been. We really bonded together as mother and son. It made me realise that the most important thing is not what or how you feed your baby but that you are happy in the choice you have made.
When we fell pregnant with Pudding, I told my husband that I wanted to try breastfeeding again. He was super supportive despite all the issues we had previously had. When Pudding was born by elective section, I was more prepared. She went straight into skin to skin on the operating table and straight to the breast when we got into recovery. I wasn’t as tired as last time and I knew what to expect this time.
My milk came in again at 3 days but I knew it was just temporary this time. So I although I had to express a bit to get Pudding to latch I didn’t bother to sterilise everything I just expressed it and tossed the milk away. One less thing to worry about. When the engorgement phase ended I knew that just because my breasts didn’t feel mega full and heavy that there was still enough milk in there to satisfy her. I didn’t stress about my milk supply. If the latch didn’t feel right, I took her off and put her back on and I did this as many times as I needed to until we both got it right.
Yes it was still hard some days and yes I had a few days of sore nipples, especially if she cluster fed all night and I couldn’t wake up enough to keep faffing with her attachment, but overall we were succeeding. At 3 months I made the decision to stop feeding Pudding because with Pie around it was harder to be the only one that could feed her. But this time when I stopped feeding, I didn’t feel guilty. I was proud of myself!