I’m not writing this blog post to get anyone’s backs up or to debate which way of feeding is better. Both breastfeeding and formula have their places in society and we are lucky enough that we can make an informed choice on which way we plan to nourish our babies. For me I had planned to breastfeed before I had even got pregnant. My own mother had breastfed me and she always described it such a wonderful thing to do, that I knew I wanted to at least try it and hope that I could do it.
I understand many woman cannot breastfeed through inadequate milk supply, medication, latch problems, lack of support or wrong advice given. Some ladies decide they don’t want to do it and again that is completely your choice to make and not something anyone should ever make you feel guilty about. What upsets me most is so many people I know who have tried to breastfed have not been given the right advice and have been told something different every time they have seen a different midwife. Lots of people fall into the top up trap and find milk supply dwindles further and late diagnosis of tongue and lip tie are stopping ladies from being able to sustain a good breastfeeding relationship that will subsequently end too soon. In the UK we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world and I think us ladies are being let down with support that we need.
Like many other new mums I struggled at first to breastfeed my daughter Miss J, she latched fine but I was in agony with cracked and bleeding nipples and spent a few days pumping on one side and even did the occasional top-up of formula until my milk had properly come in. I spent a lot of time crying and unsure how long our journey would last. I was lucky to have done the NCT antenatal course and had been given great advice on breastfeeding. I phoned up the helpline when I needed support and was lucky enough to be helped out and encouraged.
Mr T had problems with reflux and was forever being sick and choking so I took him to the doctor at six weeks old and because he was gaining weight well they weren’t worried about him and the doctor advised me he was a piggy baby and I needed to limit his feed time and the space between feeds, which is appalling advice to give an exclusively breastfed baby. For one he would have been in distress and screaming, secondly it would have effected my milk supply and thirdly it wouldn’t have fixed the reflux. I had told the doctor I wouldn’t take his advice and was spoken to like a foolish idiot and reluctantly given a prescription of infant gaviscon. If anyone else has tried to give a breastfed baby gaviscon will know what a pain it is to do with each feed as you can’t just slip it into a bottle. I did my best and gave it a go but unfortunately it made things worse as he was now choking on his now thickened sick and I realised we needed to see another doctor quickly. Second time around I got to see a lovely lady doctor who prescribed us something that actually did work. He was still sick a lot, but it was little and often and he was no longer screaming in pain. Mr T’s reflux has only really now gone and he ended up in hospital at 12 months old after going blue from his reflux.
I exclusively breastfed Miss J until she was six months old and then went to combination feeding until she was a year old and I returned to work. I didn’t realise at the time that there were also so many amazing breastfeeding groups on Facebook, with mums who have gone through any kind of issue you can imagine and if I knew then what I know now I would have continued to breastfeed when I went back to work.
I felt insecure about feeding Miss J in public and would often sit in smelly changing rooms feeding her, sitting in my car or even go home so I didn’t have to. When Mr T came along and I already had a three-year old with me, everything had to change and I fed where ever and whenever I needed to. For me it was easier to feed than to make a bottle and I often fed one-handed whilst making Miss J’s lunch and out and about in the baby carrier. I wish I would have had the confidence to do the same with Miss J and not worry about someone else’s opinion. I have only had a couple of comments from people when feeding and have had a fair few stares, but have also had some lovely words of encouragement from strangers.
A few times I have thought my breastfeeding journey would have to come to an end after being prescribed antidepressants and then antipsychotics, but I have luckily been given information to show my doctors to show them that I can still breastfeed and take these drugs. Please check with the Breastfeeding Network if your doctor has told you that you need to stop feeding.
For me I have loved both my breastfeeding journeys and am still continuing to feed Mr T at morning and night at 19 months old. I have loved seeing Mr T’s rolls grow knowing that I had made them myself like some kind of super hero. I’m not a morning person and I don’t do well being woken in the night so for me being able to feed my baby with little interruption has been so perfect for us. I would scoop Mr T out of his cot and lay back on my side and feed him whilst my darling husband would be none the wiser. I didn’t have the worry of disturbing my husbands or daughters sleep and didn’t have to go downstairs to get a bottle in the night. I’ve found it great when they have been sick and wanted extra milk or when they have gone through a growth spurt after previously sleeping through the night. I love the fact I have it on tap whenever and wherever. I have still had nights out drinking and have even gone away overnight on hen parties, so I really haven’t found it constricting. I have pumped my boobs a few times when being a little worse for wear.
One thing I didn’t enjoy with Miss J was finding nursing clothes that I liked, but when Mr T came along I found an amazing Facebook page for breastfeeding mums sharing their high street, breastfeeding friendly clothes ideas, they now have a fantastic website too. It really was a god send and I wish I had known about it earlier. Second time around I’ve also found having a decent breast pump so important. With Miss J I struggled to ever pump much and hated sitting there for up to an hour doing it, but with Mr T I invested in a medela swing pump and was pumping so much that I managed to donate over 100 oz’s of milk to Oxford hospital milk bank.
For me breastfeeding has really been amazing and something I am so thankful I have been able to continue. I cherish mine and Mr T’s time every morning and night where I give him his milkies and he snuggles in close to me. One day he will no longer need me and I’ll accept that and let him go, but for now I still nourish him and he still needs me.