As my last post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, I will be talking about my breastfeeding journey and how I came to still be feeding my youngest now at well over a year.
As I mentioned briefly earlier in the week, I had a lot of difficulties establishing breastfeeding with my first child. In the end, I lasted 3 weeks before I ended up running to the supermarket and having to get formula for him because he just wouldn’t feed.
Naively when I was expecting him, I just did not think I would have any problems. Of course I had heard of the difficulties people have, but somehow I failed to connect the likelihood that I could actually have problems myself. I think I thought “I’ve been to the breastfeeding workshop now, so I know about the problems and it will be fine!” but it just didn’t work out like that.
With my first son’s birth, I didn’t have an easy labour and we both became quite ill. After delivery, he was taken straight to the neonatal department for some tests and some treatments before I even held him (I did kiss him on the head quickly though before they rushed him away!) so all the ideas of immediate skin to skin which I had written on my birth plan all went out of the window. They brought him back to me after a few hours once he had his canula inserted for antibiotics and had finished having his tests. No one then was around to help me learn how to feed him. I quickly realised that even though I have been on the breastfeeding class in the antenatal course, it had not really prepared me to know what I was doing in practise. Feeding a real live crying wriggling newborn baby is not quite the same as looking at photos in the class and holding a doll. In addition to that my son had a lot of bruising from his forceps birth and he was quite unhappy about being handled at all in his first couple of days.
The first midwife I asked for help was pretty horrible to me! Her reaction was quite impatient with an attitude like “why are you asking me, you should know?” despite the fact it was my first baby, I was quite a young mum, and I was there with a sick baby! She just shoved him onto me so he was able to feed but didn’t show me at all what she was doing, so thankfully he did get his feed (after hours and hours not being fed at all after birth! poor boy must have been starving!) but I had no idea how to do it myself. That meant when he was hungry next time, I had to ask for help a second time which that particular midwife was not too happy about!! With a “we have showed you already!!! hmf hmf” kind of attitude!
My son lost more weight than he should have after birth, probably because the feeding wasn’t establishing well. Because of this and because we were both still being treated with antibiotics from post birth infections, we were moved over to transitional care and kept in the hospital for another week. Luckily some of the midwives over there were a lot nicer. I can’t remember her name but one of the night shift midwives was so nice to me, a South African midwife, she took the time to explain a lot to me and try to help me out with some techniques.
To help him gain back his weight, my son was also cup fed in hospital but he didn’t take too well to that either. I preserved and got him back to just breastfeeding, but I don’t feel I ever really got to a stage where it was coming naturally and easily and that I knew what I was doing.
So after a week we went back home, still not finding feeding easy but still trying and keeping on with it. I had a great community midwife who came a few times and helped me out with more advice and support, but once she had discharged me I really didn’t know who to contact with problems. I called La Leche League but only so much they can do over the phone. I found for some reason my baby just would not latch on. I still don’t really know why! It would take forever to get him to actually latch on and have a feed, and in the end I just wasn’t able to. Maybe because he didn’t know what he was doing and neither did I?! I do feel that if he had been healthy and able to stay with me after birth it probably would have made a big difference in terms of establishing feeding but he needed medical treatment, and it had to be given so it is what is it.
At that stage I went out and got the formula and never looked back. I will admit, it was a massive relief for me at that stage to stop breastfeeding. It just wasn’t working, it was really stressful, painful and seemed to be making both of us miserable. At that time I don’t think I would have believed if someone told me I will end up going on to feed another baby til almost 2 years!
With my 2nd baby, I have to admit I did not really give breastfeeding its proper chance. There is a small age gap between my children and the disaster of trying to breastfeed my first was fresh in my mind. I did breastfeed him but not for as long as I could have. It actually went much better than the first time round. He was healthy at birth and was able to have skin to skin and a feed soon after, which the midwives in the delivery room helped me with (and were much nicer than the ones who only begrudgingly helped with my first!)
I lasted for about 2 months but during that time I was already starting with the mixed feeding, and slowly just started to move it more and more to the bottles and less to the breastfeeding. I was not confident to feed outside at that time, and with having my 17 month old toddler as well as my newborn 2nd baby, I was going out a lot for toddler groups, so I ended up ruining it for myself by just getting him too used to bottles. But as with my 1st, I felt it was relief really and I had not really wanted to breastfeed because of my first experience, so I felt I could say well I have tried and done my bit while he is small, and now I am moving on to bottles. Looking back, I do think with this baby I should have tried harder. My first son I don’t feel guilty because I honestly tried my best and just couldn’t do it because of the lack of support but with my 2nd child, I could have managed a lot longer if only I really had the commitment to want to do it – but the truth is I didn’t.
When I had my 3rd child, people did keep mentioning to me “are you going to try to breastfeed for longer” “have you thought of trying to stick to it a bit more” – I would be just like yeh yeh… I’ll see. In my mind I really thought of myself as a formula feeding mum, I didn’t expect to last very long considering the other two and I felt that I don’t really like breastfeeding, it’s difficult, I’m not suited to it and bla bla bla.. yet here I am!
My 3rd child actually had blood sugar issues at birth due to diabetes and had to be bottle fed soon after birth, so I thought oh that’s it then, he will be bottle fed, I have an excuse so no need to breast feed.. and that’s all fine.
While I was in the postnatal ward I just started to feed him, thinking I will just do a bit and move onto formula later on, but somehow I just never stopped. Maybe as he was my 3rd, and I had done this a couple of times before although not for long, but still I felt a bit more confident and knew how to feed him without having to ask for help – it just all went much smoother than I had expected and much easier than it had been before. It seemed to be going quite well, and to be honest I was so busy with the 3 of them that I never really had time to think about getting ready to switch over to bottles with him and somehow before I knew it, breastfeeding was just established and going fine and then I realised I didn’t want to stop any more. It’s totally by accident really that I kept going but once I did I realised the benefits, how easy it is, how convenient, how lovely it is for me and my baby and of course I can feel good about the health benefits too.
My youngest is 22 months now and still breastfeeding. I did introduce a bottle for him at night some time over 1 year – about 15/16 months, just because it was taking so long for him to feed himself to sleep and meanwhile the other two children were being left unattended as I was up feeding him in his room in the dark, and I felt it was no longer getting practical but he still breast feeds in the mornings and sometimes during day time. He has cut back a bit and I am intending to wean him off by 2 years, as I don’t see myself as an extended breastfeeding mum past 2 years.
I thought it would be nice to share these experiences during #KBBF week just to show how much my experience changed with the different children and that just because it goes so badly with one child, does not mean it will never go well with a later child. Also there are some mums who have said they feel judged when they see the breastfeeding being promoted a lot, as if by speaking so much about it we are saying that formula feeding is a failure or giving that kind of message. Personally, I wouldn’t say anything like that. I feel in order to support women with breastfeeding, it’s important to understand what it is like when it goes well, and what it’s like when it doesn’t go well! It’s important to talk about the difficulties as well as the benefits and its important to be honest with each other about breastfeeding experiences.
At one stage I really hated breastfeeding! Now I’m going well past a year and will be actually quite sad to stop feeding my little boy as its been so long now that it will feel weird to lose that! It has not been the smoothest of journeys, but that’s life!
#KBBF is slowly drawing to an end and tomorrow is the last day, but for now here is today’s Rafflecopter
a Rafflecopter giveaway
And as usual, I am sharing the links to some other participating blogs for you to go and explore:
The Mummy Adventure
Secret Life of Kate
Visit From the Stork (I did a guest post over there recently, so go and have a look at that too if you like!)
And a company supporting #KBBF its Lactivist.
Don’t forget my giveaways open for BreastVest and one for a baby carrier from Joy and Joe baby, both closing soon!