When I found out I was pregnant with my 1st son 10 years ago, I was adamant that I would breastfeed.
I found the early days of breastfeeding were hard, really hard. I had a terrible time – Kayleigh had a tongue tie which made feeding her very painful. I also ended up in hospital with an abscess after a very bad bout of mastitis which didn’t respond to antibiotics. Somehow (sheer stubbornness I think!) I managed to keep going through it all. You can read more about what happened in my previous post on this site.
After 6 months things were much better, but there were a whole new set of challenges to contend with. The feeds became much quicker so I was no longer chained to the sofa, but distractable, inquisitive babies are very difficult to feed in public, without exposing yourself! I used to try and feed Kayleigh before going out, or else I would try to find somewhere quiet to feed her like in the car or in the bedroom if we were at someone’s house. Weaning was another new factor after 6 months. We followed a baby-led weaning approach but I suddenly realised at 9 months that I was still breastfeeding Kayleigh just as much as ever, and so I tried ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ which worked really well for us (i.e. I only fed Kayleigh when she actually asked for it), and we soon started to drop down on milk feeds.
Now Kayleigh has just turned 1 and I am still breastfeeding her, first thing in the morning and at night. People say “well done” when they hear I have breastfed her to a year but I don’t really understand why, as it seems like the easy option to me – no bottles to wash and sterilise, no boiling kettles, no having to buy formula, it’s just there whenever you need it!
I suppose I am now officially breastfeeding a toddler, and I am starting to feel like we have double standards in this country. Throughout pregnancy and when your baby arrives you are bombarded by the ‘breast is best’ message and encouraged to breastfeed, but as soon as they hit 12 months everyone wants to know when you are going to stop. For me personally, I haven’t decided yet, it will probably be whenever I feel the time is right. I am slowly introducing cow’s milk as a drink just so that she can get used to the taste, and hopefully this will make the transition easier. The WHO recommends breastfeeding up to the age of 2 (at least) so I am in no hurry and I intend to continue breastfeeding my toddler for as long as it works for both of us.
Thanks toZoe, mummy to Kayleigh, for writing this. First published November 2011 by support4women
Sarah is a Mum who kindly
offered had her arm twisted to write something for us a while ago. We hope it will, again, offer massive support to other women who’ve had some form of breast surgery (breast enlargement & mastectomy can have similar issues, but it’s not always clear cut whether breastfeeding will be affected). First published June 2010.
I had only a 50/50 chance of being able to breastfeed as I had a breast reduction operation in 1996. When I was first being referred to a consultant, at the age of 21, I met with an extremely unsympathetic male doctor who suggested I had a baby and breastfed so that my breasts could be put to their real use This was extremely unhelpful as I was in the middle of a teacher training course at the time. And, to be honest, having children, let alone breastfeeding, was the last thing on my mind at the time.
A few years later, I found myself married and pregnant. We attended NCT antenatal classes where I had the opportunity to talk to a breastfeeding counsellor. She was empathetic but admitted not knowing much about my unusual situation. She referred me to a website but I found the tone of the site patronising and not very helpful – the only real bit of advice it gave was to supplement feeding using a tube going over one shoulder and attached to the nipple with tape!
So, we went into parenthood not knowing if I was going to be able to feed our child. I thought I was quite pragmatic about it but the pride I have felt in successfully breastfeeding my children has made me realise that I would have been disappointed if it had been impossible.
That is not to say it wasn’t without problems. My first child, despite feeding for an hour each time, did not put enough weight on to keep to his line on the magic chart. I received a great deal of conflicting advice – feed on both sides; only on one side; express to increase milk production; don’t express as that would deny my child the milk when he wanted it…the contradictions went on. I also had blocked milk ducts twice – I have never known pain like it, trying to breastfeed a baby when it feels like he is sucking razor blades. Luckily they cleared up quickly. In the end we did what was right for our family – we did alternate breast and bottle feeds until he was 7 months old, when he decided formula was the way for him.
My second child was totally different and was a professional breastfeeder. I’m not sure why or how. It could be that having fed one child semi-successfully, the tissues and ducts that had been damaged during surgery rejoined themselves, or maybe I knew what I was doing second time round and had more confidence, or it could have been second child syndrome – with an older brother demanding attention, he had to learn to feed in 10 minutes or he would go hungry!
I learned quickly how to breastfeed discreetly, wearing loose tops and having the ever-present baby muslin to hand to drape over us. This meant that I could be much more spontaneous and able to travel so much easier than having to make sure I had boiled water and sterilized bottles with us. I became an expert at feeding on the move, even during a Cancer Research Race for Life! (walking, not running!) Other people thought he was just sleeping or having a cuddle.
So why am I writing this? I think my main aim is that if someone is unsure about breastfeeding, or how to face any problems or difficulties they may encounter, they will read this and get some hope, help, or just the realisation that they are not alone. Although not always easy, breastfeeding is a wonderful, free, hormonally beneficial method of feeding a baby.
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After I volunteered to write a guest post for Breastfeeding Awareness Week (2010), I developed mastitis, so the last thing I wanted to do was write a post about breastfeeding and how I’d recommend it.
However, I realised this is exactly when I should be writing it, because even when it’s successful breastfeeding has its’ challenges and if we were more honest about these, perhaps many women wouldn’t feel they were failing and would carry on longer.
Before I had MM I was desperate to breastfeed until he was at least a year old, but no-one I knew had successfully fed for more than a few weeks. As a result I armed myself with as much knowledge as possible and was prepared for the experience to be more complicated than I originally expected.
He was exclusively breastfed for six months and since then I’ve continued to feed him on demand, now just feeding morning, evening and once during the night.
Many friends have commented how lucky I’ve been to have breastfed so successfully and in many ways I do feel luck played a part. He picked it up quickly and was always an efficient feeder, never taking more than 20 minutes, even in the early days.
Nonetheless we’ve had to come through some difficult times, which I like to refer to as my ‘breastfeeding walls’ and it has taken more than luck to persevere.
He was always a snacker, so frequent feeds were required. In the first few weeks I had a blocked duct, which I cleared by holding him upside down to feed, after calling the NCT helpline. We spent many evenings, with him alternating between feeding and sleeping. At six, nine and twelve months, after some nasty bouts of teething, feeding was so painful I would hum the theme to ‘The A-Team’ to stop me crying out. Finally, I have mastitis to add to the list.
So, it was a lot more than luck that prevented us from giving up, such as great support from some friends and my partner, great advice from breastfeeding forums, websites and helplines, the information that I had armed myself with before I even started and my sheer determination to make it work.
It’s hard to know how honest to be with women that expresses a desire to breastfeed. The last thing I would want to do is put them off, but my instinct and dreadful habit of being a bit too honest, tells me that the more reality they can be exposed to the more prepared they can be and the more likely they will carry on when they hit a problem.
Would more women stick with it if they knew that spending the evening feeding doesn’t mean their milk isn’t up to the job, but simply baby’s way of putting in their order? Or that blocked ducts and mastitis don’t mean you have to stop and will usually go away if you just feed, feed and feed some more?
There are so many benefits to breastfeeding that I wish more women could feed for longer. It is a great way for both of you to relax, a chance to sit down for a few minutes, a good excuse to eat cake and it is a great tool to have in your pocket when all else fails. MM has had lots of nasty tooth pains this week and I have been so relieved that a few extra feeds have given him comfort.
So, do you agree that forewarned is forearmed or do you think it’s possible to be too honest about the ups and downs of breastfeeding?
Post written June 2010 by Emily is a Stay-at-Home Mum to Mini Mck (MM) who was 14 months at the time. She blogs at Mummy Limited.
When TJ asked me if I would write a post for breastfeeding awareness week, I wasn’t sure it was appropriate. You see, I didn’t breastfeed Moo. Well, not for more than 2 weeks.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought there was a place for it. I’m not anti-breastfeeding. I’m very pro-breastfeeding, for all the reasons given in the other posts. But from my perspective, the important thing is to be prepared.
Moo was born bang on her due date. She was a big girl, 8lb6oz. She was perfect.
But her delivery wasn’t. You can read more about it here [http://bumblingalong.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/a-birth-story-for-a-birth-day/], but in essence we ended up with an emergency c-section, and 2 hours in surgery, a blood transfusion, and a return to labour ward for one on one mdiwife care…
But as soon as I was out of surgery, Moo was at my breast, skin to skin. She nuzzled up. She tried to latch on. She succeeded. She tried to feed. She gave it a good go. She failed, she succeeding, but she was trying and doing really well. We were all really pleased!
If I remember rightly, and I can’t remember why, the midwives helped me to express some colostrum, which we gave to Moo in a syringe. We definitely knew she was getting something.
The midwives were great, helping me to feed, showing me different positions, checking Moo’s latch. By this time she’d got the hang of it, and was latching on really well. 3 days later we were out of hospital and settling in back home.
Moo fed regularly, and was a contented little thing. But when the midwife came to check on us, she was losing weight. Quickly. In the first 5 days she lost a pound. The midwife checked Moo’s latch. It was good. But she wasn’t swallowing. Because there was nothing there.
We got a breast pump. I expressed. The pump is still pristine, because never a drop of breastmilk sullied it. We did skin to skin. We relaxed, as much as we could, but hanging over us was the promise from the midwife that if Moo didn’t start putting on weight, she would need to go back to hospital. So we supplemented. We started on formula. And she loved it.
Hubbie was happy with that. Let’s move to formula. But no, I wanted to keep trying. So when Moo needed a feed, I breastfed, and then bottlefed, and then expressed, in the hope that my milk would arrive. It wasn’t surprising it was late. I had a traumatic birth. I spoke to my NCT breastfeeding counseller, friends who had struggled with feeding. I read all I could. I ate well, I drank well.
But you know, after 2 weeks? It was enough. Moo was thriving on the formula, and my breast pump had still seen no milk.
I don’t know whether I’m within that 2% who have a medical reason why they can’t breastfeed. I do know that Moo needed food, and my breasts didn’t provide. I don’t know whether it would all have worked out had I persevered, and I don’t know if I will be able to breastfeed if I have another child. But I’d like to.
Breast is normal, and breast is best. But some kind of nourishment and a happy mother are essential.
Please, give breastfeeding a go. But please don’t beat yourself up, as I did, if it doesn’t work out. I told myself that before I had Moo. But when the hormones kicked in, I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t able to give Moo the best, as she deserved.
In retrospect, I know she had the best that I could give. Me. 100%
Personally I had to suddenly stop feeding no.2 when my Mum was really poorly. He was 8 months old, but it wasn’t planned, it just had to be like that. I felt guilty that I’d let him down as he wasn’t ready to finish, but my Mum and Dad needed me and I couldn’t look after an 8month old full time as well as my parents 250 miles away from my husband.
Two children, two very different stories.
I have two children. My son was bottle fed from 3 days old and my daughter was breastfed until she was eight and a half months old. As you can imagine, I have had two very different experiences of feeding my children. But I would not have it any other way.
My son is three now. He was my first child and while I was pregnant I went to NCT classes and their breastfeeding workshop. The thought that I might not be able to breastfeed my baby never once crossed my mind. He was born by caesarean and for various reasons I didn’t see him properly for a couple of hours after his birth.
When it came to feeding, he just wasn’t interested. He did not get it. Three days, no milk and no sleep later, I gave him a bottle of formula. He drank it perfectly and that was that. Never looked back. Of course, I was left feeling horrendously guilty but my son developed into a lovely, clever, healthy little boy.
Two and a half years later, my daughter was born. She also came into the world by caesarean but I found it a much calmer and more positive experience than the first time. I was able to hold her as soon as my operation was over and she wanted to feed at the first opportunity. When I saw how naturally she took to it, I realised how different babies could be and that it hadn’t been anything I was doing wrong first time around.
Having said that… the first month was extremely hard going. Feeding was very painful and it got to the stage when I dreading hearing my husband bringing her up to me at night because I knew the pain I was going to experience. I was ready to give up after a fortnight. I tried all the helplines but nothing helped. Then one desperate day I gave her a bottle of formula. It upset me so much (strange after having formula fed my son!) that I rang the hospital where she was born and they paged the midwife to come and see me. She was amazing with her calm, no nonsense approach and I can honestly say she turned it around and without her I would have given up.
It didn’t take long for things to settle down and I soon realised how easy breastfeeding can be. But for a long time, I didn’t really enjoy it. Then one night, several months down the line, I was doing the dream feed and I realised how much I loved feeding her myself.
She only ever had that one bottle. I never even expressed milk, I fed her myself every single feed until she was eight and a half months old when I slowly transferred her to formula. I was really, really sad to stop feeding her and I felt like I almost went through a grieving process for it, but it was definitely the right time to stop.
Two months later, I am very happy giving her formula, in fact I love the smell because it reminds me of when my son was tiny. I am really glad to have had these two experiences and count myself as very lucky.
If you’re not able to breastfeed your baby for some reason, try not to blame yourself or feel too guilty. I have the same bond with both my children and they are both just as healthy and happy as each other!
Fiona Kyle owns Words by Fiona Kyle, a copywriting, sub-editing and proofreading business specialising in marketing communications including websites, brochures, newsletters, press releases and social media.
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