After two sniggering idiots today who I had clearly pissed off whilst breastfeeding in public I thought Id share with you my breastfeeding journey from number one to three. Breastfeeding is only best if it is right for you. If it is right for you, then its best for your baby. But my goodness it is just as difficult as labour itself and by the time you think you have cracked it (see what I did there ; )), they will have probably moved on from it.
For me personally I hadn’t much exposure to breastfeeding before becoming a mother. My mother nor my grandmother did it, and from what I gather from their generation is that formula feeding was very much the ‘done’ thing in ‘those days’. The only person around me who breastfed was my Auntie, but she was a midwife, turned health visitor, so I assumed those in that profession all did!
I am not sure how I came to the decision to breastfeed my first-born, I probably just soaked up every bit of advice like a sponge being a newbie and just assumed I must do what is ‘BEST’. Lets face it, too many times I’ve heard the slogan ‘BREAST IS BEST’!. But is it? Well no, not for everyone, it is not just as simple as latching a baby on and away you go. I personally experienced Mastitis, a cracked nipple, thrush on the nipple and a low milk supply with number one, but continued despite this. Because for me, it’s just something I wanted to accomplish!
Nothing prepared me for how bloody painful it was first time round. Every time I fed in those first six weeks, my eyes would fill with tears even when she was latched on correctly. But just getting the latch right was difficult, mainly because you’re so sore from labour you can hardly sit on the sofa. It’s also so awkward and unnatural trying to get it ‘right’ so I pretty much nursed in a crouched over position until the pain subsided and that initial latching on pain had lessened.
Despite all the breastfeeding support out there, I was too stubborn to ask for help, I just didn’t understand how hard it could be. I just thought, you fed, and you get on with it, simples! But thank god for having a midwife turned health visitor in the family; 1 because I didn’t swear about her when she left and 2 because she identified my clothing was too tight, hence why my milk ducts were blocking causing mastitis. She also pointed out the lack of nipple cream also meant I had got thrush inside the breast as well as on the nipple! Jeez, it’s any wonder I continued for three months first time around.
I was unlucky and I got Mastitis four times in the first six weeks, I just couldn’t figure out each time what I had done wrong! It was so frustrating and also ridiculously hard to look after a newborn when you feel like you have the man flu (because it was worse than real flu!) and then continue to feed when it feels like razor blades! The actual worse pain in my life…ok well second after labour.
I struggled on despite this and told the health visitor that I had introduced formula feeding for when the pain was too much, and with her writing it down in that little red book I felt like I was failure. It’s like they are saying, that’s another one giving up too soon, BLAH BLAH BLAH, things get better when you get to six weeks etc. You feel inadequate and unable to fulfil what appeared to be such a simple thing, like feed your own child! Those first few weeks centred around pain (not just in the boobie!) all I wanted to do was cry and feed, feed and cry, wince, feed and cry oh and sleep, that would have been lovely.
But I made it to three months and I’m proud, and then it wasn’t me that decided to stop breastfeeding it was Imogen herself as she choose bottle over breast and refused my advances! Not having to wear breastfeeding bras, appropriate tops and dashing to find somewhere appropriate to feed was such a relief! I don’t remember much about feeding her in public, although I do remember once feeding in Mothercare car park in the safety of our car to later find out they have a very nice and clean feeding room!
Determined to give breastfeeding another go second time round and fix all my ‘mistakes’ id made first time round, I decided Id be uber prepared. Stocked up on the very expensive, but literally life saving Lanolin nipple cream, bought bigger than necessary nursing bras as you always start out looking like Pamela Anderson and invested in a nursing bib. Ready I was! But not so ready for Mastitis again! I was so angry with myself for getting it as I just couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong, I was doing everything they said to do and not to do!
This time my saviour was my lovely friend training to be a midwife, as she advised me that some research has indicated that women can be lacking in either Iron or Vit D who are prone to getting Mastitis and I could try taking these. She also just reassured me that I was doing everything right and I could just be darn unlucky. That might not seem like helpful advice but it really was, I just accepted my body wasn’t like every other woman’s. I also had a problem with a low supply and the breastfeeding support line just told me that it is impossible and my body makes what it needs for my baby. Bollocks! I’ve fed before and I know what it should feel like after a feed and before because I had milk, just not a lot. I never got that full feeling. I tried to tell the health visitor but no one seemed to understand or even help!
Looking back I think my son has/had a different degree of tongue tie, as his tongue is still lizard like. He would feed for a short while really fast and perhaps got tired/frustrated and didn’t completely finish or do a good enough job of stimulating more milk! I have only come to this conclusion with looking back and reading more on breastfeeding. I may be wrong, I’m not a professional in this field, however this lady is and her website is great:-
I survived the three rounds of Mastitis second time round and a low supply, and got to a place were feeding was comfortable and therefore so was I in public. But I do remember one time where I felt like my breastfeeding was making another mum feel uncomfortable. I tried baby massage again with number two and all four mums in the room were breastfeeders, and the other mum was a bottle feeder. She appeared to be a new mum and rather shy. I could see she felt uncomfortable getting out her bottle to feed during the session whilst us four were breastfeeding, but I just didn’t know what to say to her, then she never came to another session : (. I’m mindful that bottle feeders can feel inferior to those breastfeeders and this really shouldn’t be so! I dabble in both camps, but Id hate to think that my choice of feeding that day would be a barrier for another perhaps less confident mum.
What I also I hate most of all is those non breastfeeder supporters. Like today, I was feeding number three on a bench inside a shopping mall, I had my eldest sitting next to me and number two in the double buggy. I was and always am discreet, I had my coat on and a long scarf and also a muslin next to number threes head. However this did not stop two women look at me in utter disgust and continue to talk about me, looking over their shoulder as they walked away. WTF?
I was angry, I wanted to shout at them, as they were the only two women who had walked past and clearly had a problem with my choice of feeding. Many other onlookers could figure out what I was doing there on that bench, but clearly were unperturbed. If they were closer, squirting them in the face would have been fun! If it wasn’t for my impressionable seven-year old sat next to me, perhaps a high-five in the face would have gone down a treat? Who am I kidding? I just sat there feeling very angry, but I also felt a bit sorry for their stupidity. Maybe breastfeeding wasn’t the ‘done’ thing in ‘their day’, but ignorance is a really, really ugly trait. Thank the lord I’m not ignorant like them.
There’s so much more I could write on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, but I’ll leave it to you, to share with me on Facebook if you will. What’s your experience like of either?