This post was originally written for Pickle & Poppet
Before I get started, I can assure you that there is no “Breast is Best” pushing here!
I am 100% behind “Feeding your Baby is Best”, I am writing this post to put my experience of breastfeeding into words.
I’m one of the fortunate ones, as I have been able to breastfeed both of our babies.
I am also honest enough to say that it has been one of the hardest things that I have done; other than give birth! I have loved it and I have hated it; and I have had two completely different experiences.
Breastfeeding has definitely been a learning curve for me.
I naively believed that it would be easy, and even easier the second time round but I was wrong. Breastfeeding is hard. In the beginning it hurts – if you’re told it shouldn’t hurt then they’re wrong. Until you get used to it, it hurts a little, after all you are feeding maybe ten times a day.
There there is the loneliness; I have had some of my loneliest times breastfeeding. After all my baby is dependant on me and only me for milk. No one else can do it, unless you express which I didn’t get on with.
So that meant a lack of social life as a couple. On the rare occasion of going out we would need to be home by the next feed so normally within three hours.
That said, breastfeeding has also given me some of my most favourite memories. The closeness of skin on skin, the feeds that send them to sleep and the night-time feeds where it is just us, no noise. Just us enjoying a quiet cuddle.
Here’s my breastfeeding journey;
Deciding to Breastfeed.
When I was pregnant with Reuben, Sam and I had discussed feeding, I had said that I would like to try to breastfeed and Sam agreed.
Obviously there are the benefits to breastfeeding (this is the only “benefits” mention in the post, I promise) but I wanted to do it for the closeness you get (not that you wouldn’t get that bottle feeding) and in all honesty, the convenience of it; no bottle carrying, making formula, warming formula, sterilising etc.
I hadn’t considered how hard it would be being the only person who could feed, which was at times very hard, especially when tired.
The First Breastfeeds
When putting together my birth plan, I had decided I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible after delivery. The midwife helped me to get the latch correct.
The feed went on for what seemed like ages.
They would stop and start for pretty much every hour, there wasn’t much sleeping for me, not that I can sleep in a hospital anyway.
It was exhausting but I enjoyed it, each feed was making the bond stronger with my babies.
The First Few Days
The constant feeding carried on and the feeds were long.
On average about forty minutes each feed.
With Reuben, my concern was that he wasn’t getting the milk that he needed. After all if he was, why was he feeding so much? The midwife reassured me that this is completely normal and once my milk came in it would calm down a bit and she was right to some degree, but he did still feed every two hours. (normal, I know for a breastfed baby)
So when Jessica came along I knew what to expect I was ready and she went every three hours which was great. The only issue I had this time was that I was no longer getting the latch right and that was causing me pain. Which leads me onto…..
With Reuben he seemed like a natural. He would latch with ease each and every feed.
But with Jessica I had a completely different story.
In the hospital I thought we had been OK, it was only after a couple of days when the pain started that I realised that she couldn’t be latching correctly.
When the midwife came out I asked her to check, she confirmed that the latch wasn’t right and tried to help me. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem very confident about how to help and couldn’t get her to latch either.
In the end she gave up and said “keep trying and if she doesn’t latch right take her off and start again”. Great very helpful, I can see why women give up if that’s the support they get, I nearly did.
In the end I resorted to YouTube videos on breastfeeding and with a bit of perseverance we finally got it right.
Oh, and another thing, if your baby doesn’t latch properly, DO NOT try to break the latch and get them to re-latch, this WILL make your nipple extremely painful.
Tip; Try to readjust the latch whilst your nipple is in their mouth, it will save you tears!Probably the best piece of advice I had read.
No one had mentioned this to me at all! Reuben only did this when he was having a growth spurt, but Jessica, she did it from the start between the hours of 7pm and 10pm and went on for the first ten weeks. She was permanently attached. PERMANENTLY! She switched from one side to the other – talk about becoming sensitive!
Night feeds are hard for all parents, but as I was breastfeeding it was only me that could do the feeds.
Reuben fed every two hours through the night and sometimes those feeds would last thirty minutes, so by the time I got back to bed I would have about an hour sleep before the next feed.
I had bought formula “just in case” he couldn’t feed from me. This was the biggest mistake that I had made (Tip; don’t do it). So many times I nearly made a bottle in the hope that he would sleep for longer, how I didn’t is beyond me. But I didn’t, we carried on and I’m glad we did.
It has been different with Jessica. With her cluster feeding she would only wake once or twice in the night.
I also think that my attitude is different this time as I know this is the last time that I will be having this experience.
The Let Down
Is exactly as it sounds.
During a breastfeed, once the baby has started suckling you will have a let down.
Sometimes you will feel it and other times you don’t. I have experienced both.
With Reuben I rarely felt it but I feel it every time with Jessica, and I can feel it on both sides each feed. She can feed from one side and I can experience the let down on the other side too.It feels really odd! (Tip; Pressing on the breast that isn’t being fed on usually stops it.)
I have had a few instances when I have had engorgement and it is so painful.
I can only describe it as your boobs feel like they are made of rocks with how hard they become, similar to day five when your milk comes in.
On the worst instances I haven’t been able to lean forward as it hurts so much.
Luckily it hasn’t happened often, and the worst being around the times I have weaned to the bottle. I have managed to get through it without getting mastitis which I am thankful of.
Weaning; Breast to Bottle
For both babies, I decided I would breastfeed until four months and then wean onto the bottle gradually. This also meant weaning to formula as I just couldn’t get on with expressing at all.
This was the hardest part; although I was ready, they did not get the memo! And this is something that you cannot force.
Issue one; bottle type.
Reuben hated every bottle that we tried other than Breastflow. This mimics the latch sensation. We only found this bottle after loads of research into how to successfully wean to the bottle. Definitely a bottle that I would recommend if you others have failed. (Tip; Buy one bottle to try rather than several as the cost soon mounts up and the breastfeeding bottles can be slightly more money.)
Issue two; formula.
Reuben didn’t like the SMA formula that we had bought; he would only have the Aptamil formula. (Tip; Buy the pre-made small bottles to try to see which one your baby gets on with.)
This time with Jessica, we knew to buy one bottle and try it before we bought several so that we didn’t spend more money than we had to.
I had seen really good reviews on the Munchkin Latch bottles and so we tried those.
She got on well with the bottle but the first stage teat was to slow for her so we had to buy the next one up. (Tip; Breastfed babies are used to a faster flow so may need the next teat size then recommended)
It took a long time and a lot of patience to wean to the bottle.
Dropping one feed every few days so that they could get used to the bottle and to make sure I didn’t end up with too much engorgement.
The bedtime feed was the last feed to go, and the most difficult.
When I stopped that with Reuben I cried, a lot. I was sad that part of our journey had finished. I’m not quite there with Jessica, but I know I will feel sad again.
How was your breastfeeding journey?
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