When I was pregnant with Imogen, I read all the books, even attended the fancy NCT course and whatnot, and not once was I informed that breastfeeding might not go to plan. I had decided I was going to breastfeed, and so I was going to breastfeed. Simples. Except no, it wasn’t. No one had told me it might be 5 days after my emergency c section before my my milk showed any signs of coming in, and then be nigh on impossible not to smother my kid with my ginormous boobs, to the point it felt like it was a three person job to do it: one to try and position the baby, one to hold my boob away from her face so it wasn’t blocking her nose, and one to pile the cushions underneath us so I could concentrate on actually getting a drop down her. God knows how I was supposed to discreetly pop out a nipple to latch her on in Costa when it felt like a military mission to feed her in the comfort of my own home. She cried. I cried. We made it three weeks and moved onto formula with overwhelming feelings of both guilt and relief that I could finally start to enjoy my baby.
Fast forward to having Theo and this time I was armed with more knowledge and determination. I had had a breast reduction the year before, so the good news was that my boobs were of a much better size and shape to feed a baby. The bad news was that it reduced my supply. I had been warned of this when I had the op but I stand by the decision to have it done as it changed my life. Nevertheless, I bought the maternity tops, breast pump and breast pads (who was I kidding, I never produced enough to stand a chance of leaking) and made the decision to try again.
Another emergency c section. Another 5/6 day wait for milk to come in, and another large hungry baby who did not want to leave my boob. No visitors got to actually see his face for about two weeks as it was always attached to my tit. And this time I had a three year old to look after too. I remember having to have him attached to me literally the entire night, and when I needed to turn over/change sides I had to take him with me and could feel my recently sliced open insides sloshing about as I did so. I got around 20 minutes sleep. I couldn’t pump more than a few drops. I got mastitis. Twice. Aswell as the horrible burning sensation in the breast, mastitis makes you feel like you have the flu. You need antibiotics but are told they’re not safe for breastfeeding. You are told to ‘feed through the pain’. So I had: emergency c section recovery, mastitis, a newborn, and a toddler to cope with. Oh and my old buddy, Postnatal Anxiety. Daddy had to be back at work within two weeks.
You can refer yourself to breastfeeding help on the NHS. That takes time and often is of poor quality due to lack of funding. You can refer yourself to private lactation consultants. That takes money. (Around 200 quid). I could actually hear the first bottle of formula I gave Theo sloshing into his stomach, that’s how empty the poor kid was. Despite this, I still felt guilty. We made it to four months before we went solely to formula. He’s now ten months and still wants to eat all day every day, bless his little chunky self.
Despite all this, I’m still glad I did it. And I’m proud of what I managed throughout the uggles I faced. Although I don’t believe fone second formula is somehow evil, I do believe that breast milk is the best food for a baby, and that ‘giving it a go’ is the right thing to do in most circumstances. If, despite support, it doesn’t go to plan, move on to formula and don’t martyr yourself to the cause. In years to come, whether or not you breastfed will matter less to you and your baby than whether or not you were an absolute wreck because of it.
I’d love to hear your experiences of breastfeeding, good or bad!