My breastfeeding story
I wish I could say that breastfeeding worked for me but I can’t.
During my pregnancy breastfeeding was the only option I wanted for my baby, well for the first few months at least. My mum had bought me a steriliser, bottles, the teats, the bottle brush and although I was ever so grateful, in the back of my mind I thought “I want to breastfeed, so these won’t be useful… or at least not for a while.”
Getting ready for breastfeeding
I watched the breastfeeding DVD to prepare myself and I attended a parent event where I spoke to two very lovely ladies who demonstrated with a woollen boob just how the baby would latch on. Shopping trips provided me with some different outfits to wear for breastfeeding and I even spoke to people to find out where I could breastfeed in town. I prepared myself for the odd person I was undoubtedly going to meet who would have a problem with my feeding in public. How did other people deal with it? I read articles to find out everything I could. The research was overwhelming and I knew it might be a bit difficult at first, but this was what I wanted and I was going to keep trying until it worked. I wanted to provide the milk for my baby and everyone I spoke to at that time had told me it was the best option for my baby.
Having my baby
My contractions started at a parent evening class on the Tuesday. I was too embarrassed to say anything because the lady running the group had joked that she’d “never had anyone go into labour at her pre-natal classes before”, and I was the silly sod who left it a week before my due date to attend the first class! I also attended the class on my own because for some reason, despite the fact it was called a ‘parent event’, it didn’t click in my head that my partner could come. Blaming the baby brain for that! I gave birth to my daughter on the Friday.
After giving birth to my daughter, despite feeling exhausted, (as I’m sure is the norm in that situation!), I had a new wave of energy and adrenaline.
This was it, I was going to do it. I was going to provide the food for my daughter.
The rest of that day we had a bit of trouble, but my daughter seemed to be latching on for short times. We were both just learning!
That first night though I must have had my finger permanently on the buzzer for the poor nurses. “I can’t do it.” It just didn’t seem to be working. The nurse would try to help me with the latch on each time. “You’ll get the hang of it.” “You’re tired.” In the end we were all getting a bit frustrated and the nurse thought she would try a premade bottle.
‘Hmmmm ok’, I thought, ‘just this once, just while I get the hang of it, but I don’t want her to get too used to the bottle.’I kept trying that day and as far as I was aware we were getting there.
That afternoon we were able to go home and me and my partner were full of excitement and adrenaline… we were mentally ready for this…
… but our daughter cried and cried and cried and cried.My partner sang to her, rocked her, we fed her, we played music, we even played womb sounds from YouTube.
Nothing was working.
By the early hours of the morning our confidence had been crushed in one foul swoop. The experience from that one night was enough to dampen our spirits for the next few months. We felt like absolute failures and we did the only last thing we could think to do at 2am in the morning and it was to phone for the cavalry. My partner’s mum came over, (I’m sure she was absolutely thrilled at that time of the day), and we were grateful that we weren’t alone because we thought clearly we can’t do this.
“She’s hungry,” she said.She can’t be, I thought. I’ve been feeding her constantly!
“We’re setting up the steriliser.” My partner and his mum proceeded to feed my daughter and I sat in the bedroom and sobbed, for what felt like hours. This isn’t what I wanted!
I’m pretty sure that what I was feeling that night was heart ache.
My partner then confirmed to me that she was feeding quite happily from the bottle. She was feeding from the bottle… but she couldn’t feed from me. This was obviously my fault. All I could think was that I was unable to do something that should have been the most natural thing in the world.
During those early weeks I was expressing milk slowly. I tried the nipple covers too but it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept it in the end that she would be bottle fed.
When my daughter was only a few weeks old we ventured out to some baby groups together. There were mums of course at the groups and they were breastfeeding. I felt embarrassed. I’d get the bottle out for my daughter and hide away somewhere to feed her. If someone saw me I felt I had to explain why I hadn’t been able to breastfeed… “My milk was slow in coming through.”
Looking back I think why on earth did I feel so embarrassed? It wasn’t a sign that I wasn’t looking after my child properly!
Over the next few weeks it came to light that as well as my milk being very slow, my daughter has a tongue tie which had been making it difficult for her to latch on.It wasn’t MY fault at all! It was no one’s fault.
In those early days you are just trying to do what is best for your baby. It’s all new and it’s all daunting, because you have this little person relying on you to understand what they need when they are crying and it can all feel a bit like trial and error.
I have the utmost respect for mums who breastfeed and I have the utmost respect for those who bottle feed. We are each going through our own parenting journey. We are the specialists in our own children’s needs.
Please go easy on yourself. You are doing the best you can and that’s all you can do.