I’ve been asked a fair few times if I’d write this post and lemme be honest and say that I thought I probably never would because THE JUDGEMENT.
Ain’t no-one got a strong opinion like a fellow woman who has birthed a child.
And ain’t no-one more sensitive to said strong opinion than a woman who has fairly recently birthed a child.
But I’m going to roll with it and just put my little journey out there and you can make of it what you will and I will try not to be a sensitive soul and have a little cry over any thoughts you might have. Lol, sure.
Anyway, here goes.
I was adamant from the start that I wanted to try breastfeeding, but I also didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself because y’know motherhood is hard enough without trying to reach your own ridiculously high expectations.
If it worked then BINGO and if it didn’t, well then that was cool too.
We stocked up on a couple of bottles of ready-made Aptamil in case of 2am emergency, and I went about asking approximately 83657 questions during our NCT breastfeeding session.
‘How much wine can you drink if you’re breastfeeding?’
‘Is there any foods you can’t eat whilst breastfeeding?’
‘Are there any cafes or restaurants in Ipswich that are particularly breastfeeding-friendly?’
Y’know, the important stuff.
As those of you who have read my birth story will know, I ended up having an emergency c-section in the early hours of the morning, following a v long induced labour, and because of that, there was an immediate delay in our skin-to-skin contact and ability to start our feeding journey.
About forty-five minutes after he was pulled wailing from my abdomen, I was moved into a recovery room and he was placed on my chest.
I had an incredible midwife who got him to latch on straight away, and he stayed there whilst we were both wheeled into a lift and back onto the maternity ward to continue our recovery together.
I can’t vividly remember the hours that followed, but I do know that time had crept from early morning to late morning to afternoon and I hadn’t been able to get him to latch on again.
I asked a couple of different midwives to help me, but they all agreed that I was doing the right thing and he would eventually take to it if I was persistent and kept trying. And so I did.
Eventually I ended up hand-expressing (which is always v v glamorous and makes you feel a lot like a cow) my colostrum into a cup and getting one of the midwives to feed him from it.
And then 6pm (or 7pm? or 8pm?) whirled round again and there was a shift change and the midwife who had been with me when Atti was born popped her head round my curtain to check in on us and I was all ‘YOU! HELP ME HELP ME’.
And sure enough, she did.
(We hand delivered her a box of chocolate biscuits when we were discharged, dontcha worry).
She just ever so slightly tweaked our positioning, so Atti was horizontal across my chest, and well, it worked and we were away. Huzzah!
We went home the following evening and everything was just dandy.
I mean, I wasn’t sleeping because there was a small creature attached to my boob at all times because he’d scream like a banshee whenever I tried to lift him off, but y’know, things were dandy.
(He gained back his birth weight in about three days, so yes, he is greedy, like his mother).
Did it hurt?
But not for long.
As my community midwife (the woman who took all my appointments pre-baby and who did home visits just after he was born) said: ‘It’s like wearing in a new pair of shoes. You’ve never used this part of your body on repeat before, so your skin needs time to get used to it.’
And I mean, having just endured an uncomfortable nine months of growing the baby and then birthing him, plus dealing with a healing surgical wound across my pubes, the sore nips just kinda got lost in a haze of ‘ha constant mild to moderate discomfort’.
I spent a week mostly just squashed onto the sofa with a plethora of duvets and blankets and TV remotes and snacks and muslins, just muddling through.
I struggled with night times the most – for a large part because they were incredibly lonely, but also because of the fear of further sleep deprivation. It sounds silly, but when you’re already hideously sleep deprived, the idea of becoming more sleep deprived is overwhelming. It’s not like lol fuck already tired I will just take this in my stride, it’s like I WILL DIE. THIS IS THE END. I AM OVER.
I think that’s the hardest part of those early breastfeeding days, the fact that you cannot share the night time load.
Atti didn’t sleep for longer than two or three hours at a time until he was a few months old and it played a huge part in us moving over to combination feeding.
I had an idea in my head that he’d sleep willingly in his Snuzpod next to me and that when he’d wake for a feed I’d be able to just effortlessly roll him out and onto my boob and feed him in the dark whilst in a semi-conscious doze.
But the reality was that he’d only sleep in his Sleepyhead, which doesn’t make for quite such an effortless night-time breastfeeding roll. And in the darkness I couldn’t get him to latch on.
I’d try and co-sleep with him next to me but I had such a generous over-supply of milk that we’d both just wake up in a puddle of breast milk, which, lemme tell you was not comfortable for either of us. Plus the fact that it was the middle of winter meant that I was trying to sleep with no covers because y’know, co-sleeping, whilst also not to lose any limbs to frostbite.
I also assumed he’d take quickly to latching on whilst we were side-by-side lying down, and it wasn’t a position that came naturally to us. It worked once or twice where I would be all like WE HAVE PROGRESS, only for him to come off flailing and crying 30 seconds later and we’d be back at the start.
I also tried dim lighting by the way of fairy lights so that it was dark enough to sleep but light enough to help him latch on, but it got to the point where the easiest and most enjoyable way to do the night feeds was to tun on the bedside lamp, get Say Yes To The Dress on the iPad, a snack in my hand and to just properly wake up for them.
I made my boyfriend sleep in another room so that a) at least one of us was actually alert and awake during the day and I could hand the baby over so I could have afternoon naps and b) I could do as I pleased at night without worrying I was being ‘annoying’. (Looking back I am DEAD that I was so hormonal that I was fretting about being annoying whilst FEEDING our child. RIP me).
And y’know what? It did get easier. Probably because I got into my own little routine of bananas and Pump Street bakery chocolate at 2am, whilst frantically checking my Facebook messages from fellow LOL WHY ARE WE UP AT THIS TIME new mums.
I fed in public a fair few times too. The first whilst alone with a ten-day-old baby and my laptop in a Co-Op cafe. Another time whilst opposite two complete strangers on a Greater Anglia train home from London. And it was all completely fine. Absolutely and completely fine.
I remember doing my tax return at the dining room table whilst he was feeding and I thought fuck me I am superwoman, and it was incredibly empowering.
At six weeks we decided to introduce a formula feed before bed in the ridiculous hope that he’d go a little longer at night (spoiler: it made no difference).
I started pumping a fair bit too (both on a manual and an electric pump – and actually, weirdly think I preferred the manual?), so that Chris could take on some night feeds.
And it worked nicely, but maybe gave me too much of a taste of an easier life, where the sole responsibility of keeping our child alive didn’t just rest with me.
I knew I needed to get back to work as I hadn’t been able to properly save for a maternity leave and the idea of doing that combined with breastfeeding was exhausting. And so slowly, week-by-week, we started to reduce the amount of breast milk he was having.
He had breast milk up until the three-month mark and then became a complete formula baby.
He took to it instantly and although he initially had a little weight dip, he continued to follow his percentile curve upwards.
And I can still remember the last time he fed from me curled up on the sofa – I just held him in my arms as he fell asleep and it was just perfect and lovely.
Am I sat here typing this trying not to cry? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT.
Breastfeeding is beautiful but actually quite hard in the fact that you need to be patient because you are both learning a brand new skill and it’s something that your body has never done before. It takes time for it to become effortless and harmonious if ya get what I’m saying.
And with hindsight, I do wish I’d gone for longer. And maybe with baby number two (if I’m so lucky), I’ll try harder.
Perhaps my impatience stood in my way, or perhaps, as with any relationship, I am missing the good parts rather than remembering the hard parts.
I’m not sure I could have returned to work quite so quickly without the help of those little blue bottles, and so I am thankful I live in a world where I have that choice.
But I’m also mourning having this teeny tiny baby attached to my nip, where now I have this big 20lb CHILD who can sit up and play with toys on his own and fucking hell it’s gone quickly.
So if you’ll excuse me, I am off to go and pick him and squeeze him really tightly and smother him in kisses.