For me the choice to breastfeed was an easy one. In fact it didn’t even seem like a choice (in a good way, I didn’t feel pressured). It was just something I always knew I’d do for as long as I’d wanted children. I never questioned it and never considered an alternative. I grew up knowing that I had been breastfed and seeing mums breastfeeding so in my world that was just what you did when you had a baby!
I always had the attitude of “I am going to breastfeed” rather than what I’ve heard some people say: “I’ll try it but it might not work out so I’ve bought some formula and bottles just in case”. I can see why people say that. They’ve heard that breastfeeding can be difficult and they’ve heard many people say that they tried but were unable to do so. I’m very lucky in that for the two and a half years before Tulip was born I had a job working with families who had children under 5. Through this job I was sent on a two day training course about all things breastfeeding! I learned that there are very few women who physically can’t breastfeed (less than 5%). I learned all about latch and positioning and all the different difficulties a woman may come across when breastfeeding and how to help. I learned the importance of having a supportive partner and others around you. Most importantly I learned to seek help if needed, the sooner the better. I really feel all this knowledge teamed with my determination to breastfeed ensured I was successful. You don’t need to go on a two day course to find out all the information you need though, there are plenty of talks for pregnant women covering many of the same things. There’s also a great book called “Saggy Boobs and other Breastfeeding Myths” by Valerie Finigan that I highly recommend. It’s a quick read with funny pictures but gives you a lot of really useful information about breastfeeding.
So for me my breastfeeding journey started long before I was pregnant! When I did get pregnant people would sometimes ask me “are you going to try to breastfeed?” To me this was an odd question, I was either going to breastfeed or I wasn’t. I would say “I am going to breastfeed. For me it’s not about trying, I’m just going to do it.” I felt like their question about me trying was them trying to set me up for difficulties. I was even asked the question by people who didn’t have children and didn’t know much about breastfeeding. They had clearly got the impression that it is extremely difficult. I know some women do have more difficulties than others and I do think it is important to inform women what these are so they don’t come as a surprise if they happen. However I think they also need to be informed how they can get past these difficulties and carry on breastfeeding.
When Tulip was born she was immediately given to me and we had three glorious hours of skin to skin contact. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about it now! It really was amazing. I could have had longer but I desperately wanted a shower and my husband was also eager to get some skin to skin time! I breastfed her for the first time when she was about one hour old (I think. I’d lost track of time at that point!). She pretty much latched on straight away. She only had a little but we had done it and it was such an amazing feeling.
That night we stayed over at the hospital. I was told to wake her after 4 hours for a feed if she didn’t wake on her own. I’m still not sure if this is correct as I’ve heard different things but I did wake her. I struggled a little bit the first few times I fed her. I had always been told that if your latch and positioning was correct then it wouldn’t hurt. I came to realise that although the toe curling pain some speak of is not normal if latch and positioning is correct, it is slightly uncomfortable at first – like a small pinching sensation. I kept taking her off and relatching her as I thought I must be doing something wrong. I was often bothering my friend with questions who had trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter after successfully breastfeeding her second child for over a year (she really struggled with her first and stopped which she said she wouldn’t have done if she’d had the support she had with her second). She really reassured me I was doing well. The thing that really boosted my confidence in Tulip’s first week of life was when she was weighed at five days old. I was told she would have lost weight but not to worry. But not only had she not lost any weight, she had actually gained it! The nursery nurse who weighed her said I must have gold milk! I do put this down to my milk coming in when Tulip was 2 days old though, some women take longer but that’s normal.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all a breeze. I did have very emotional moments in the first few weeks when she was cluster feeding day and night and it was still a bit uncomfortable. But thanks to the knowledge I’d made sure I had, I knew this was normal and we’d get through it. I did feel like it was a journey Tulip and I were taking together and I’d say “we’re learning to breastfeed”.
I’d heard women say how much they loved and enjoyed breastfeeding. I worried sometimes because sometimes I really didn’t like it. But I persevered because Tulip was doing well with it. Even up to the point she was 12 weeks old I’d sometimes say “I’m really not enjoying this” and if I was having a really down day I even preferred to give her a bottle of expressed breastmilk.
But now 16 weeks in I can say I actually enjoy it! I love the fact that her growth is entirely down to the milk I am making for her. I love the closeness we have. I love when she strokes me or grabs on to my top when feeding. I barely remember the hard times, they seem like a lifetime ago. I plan on breastfeeding Tulip until she decides to stop.
Things I want all women to know about breastfeeding:
1. Cluster feeding is normal, your baby has a tiny stomach and can’t fit much in at once
2. If your baby goes from feeding every every four hours to every two, this is normal. It does not mean you don’t have enough milk and need to supplement with formula or introduce solids early. It just means your baby is growing and needs you to make more milk which will happen if they nurse more. It’s a matter of supply and demand!
3. Don’t get caught up in how often and for how long your baby is feeding for. I did for a while and it made me crazy! It was much better when I just relaxed and fed on demand without paying attention to timings.
4. If your baby has plenty of wet and dirty nappies and is gaining weight you ARE making enough milk!
5. Know where you can get professional support and access it as soon as possible if you have difficulties. If you aren’t sure of an answer you get, seek another opinion. Not all health professionals have extensive knowledge about breastfeeding, they can’t know everything! Talk to someone who has specific breastfeeding knowledge.
6. Be determined and get the support of your family and friends. And other breastfeeders!
7. It can be hard at first but it gets easier!
Thanks for reading about the start of my breastfeeding journey. If this helps just one woman to carry on when it gets tough, I will be so happy! Following on from my journey, please hop over to Quite Frankly She Said to see how her journey began and be in with me chances to enter the grand prize draw. Remember, you need to earn 50 points to be eligible full details can be found on the Keep Britain Breastfeeding site.