Tuesday, 5 August 2014

My Breast Feeding Journey

Every baby is different. Every mum is different, every time she has a child. Sometimes the body and the baby work together with not much effort, sometimes hard work helps to get it to work, sometimes, it just doesn't work. That is no one's fault. 

In my opinion, breast feeding is a skill. It's a skill for baby (one that we are told that they're all born with) and it's a skill that mothers can learn and develop into a fine art. However, if we think of another skill that humans have: running. Some of us are amazing at it (not me) and some of us really aren't built for it (me) and some of us just don't fancy it. Different strokes for different folks and there is no right and no wrong. I don't feel like a failure because I don't enjoy running and I don't judge anyone else for their running decisions. 

Ok, I'll quit it with the metaphor now. 

E was delivered by section at bob-on 42 weeks at 6pm. In recovery, the midwife tried - at length - to latch him on. He wouldn't. He wasn't bothered. It was hard, I was laid down after 'major surgery'. We went up to the ward, each time E cried, a midwife would declare that he was 'hungry' and put him on me, then walked away. Then he came off and did newborn stuff (you know, precious cuddles that I wasn't taking notice of, I was making him work, instead if just holding him close). My breasts have never been so man-handled in all my life. Anyway, I was taken away from him at 2am due to a bad thing happening (another story for another day). 

When he was brought up to the delivery room where I had been cared for in the wee hours, I was informed that he had been given formula at 6am. I was happy with that. My son was hungry and was fed. 

So, the rest of E's first full day in the world was spent trying to latch E on, him rooting like he was starving but then coming off. He was hungry and there was not enough colostrum for him. Poor chap. I cried, and cried. After all, the Breastfeeding Specialist Midwife had said (at an antenatal class) that there is, 'no such thing as a baby who cannot breast feed'. I felt like a failure. 

A midwife gave me a pot and showed me how to hand express. Now, no offence but that was ridiculous... Seriously... Less than 12 hours after a major trauma and surgery, I squeezed my breasts for a couple of drops. I cried again. The lady next to me had been loaned a pump, so I asked for one. Then I pumped regularly in hospital. Giving E a mix of colostrum and formula. Job done!

We went home, I desperately called around for help breast feeding, there was no one who could help. I was desperate, and I started to use the electric breast pump I'd bought prior to the birth. My breasts were amazing at making milk, they filled up on time (4days?) and I could pump enough milk to keep E going all day and night. HURRAH! 

I pumped 6 times a day for 6 weeks and then began to tail off because I was tired, it was a lot of work once MrB returned to work fully at 6 weeks (pumping with a crying baby was not going to happen). I loved pumping, I loved having my milk in rotation in the fridge, it felt so special. But E was a HARD baby, so it was right. 

Once I stopped I felt guilty, but 6 weeks of my milk was amazing work. 

N was born by section also, similar procedure to with E and that was as I wanted. However, he kind of knew how to root, latch on and suck. Clever little sausage. The day after he was born, a charity volunteer from the Little Angels showed me how to get him to latch on properly and away we went. It was amazing. I could see why women do it. Amazing. 

I asked for a pump this time as well, he wasn't very alert and I was keen to get my supply started like last time. So, although they didn't want to, they loaned me a pump whilst on the ward. 

Anyway, after 4 nights of him feeding constantly for 2+ hours, I asked MrB to get a bottle of formula. I couldn't do it. Perhaps that's selfish, but we all need to be selfish sometimes. I nourished N for 9 months, and I knew that I couldn't function on the scant sleep that I was getting. Also, I had a sneaky suspicion that N was allergic to milk because I had developed a mystery dairy allergy in pregnancy. So I figured, exclusive FF would help show that early - it did. He started Neocate LCP at 6 weeks old. 

With N, I felt guilty bringing out a bottle to feed him in public. Each time I poured the powder into the water, my heart sank, I felt judged, I hated my perception of what other people were 'thinking'. I was my own worst enemy, I felt like I had deprived N of something that he was clearly built to do. 

I don't mean this in a mean or controversial way, but I secretly resented successful breast feeding. I didn't resent the mums or the babies, I just resented the fact that I couldn't perform the process. Please take this in context, I know the satisfaction of nourishing your own child, the way that nature intended and I am now at peace with the world on the matter. (Please don't tell me off, I have tried to be balanced on a very emotive topic).

The lack of support and empathy for first time mums in my local hospital was awful. I actually wrote in my birth plan second time around that I wanted to put my breast in N's mouth. That I was only to be assisted if I asked for it. I did ask... I'm just a control freak. 

As for bonding, and breast is best: yes, scientifically, on paper it is best for everyone. In the real world, there are variables that may be physical or psychological, medical or irrational. A happy mum makes for a happy baby. I have 2 sons who are so cuddly and affectionate - this means the world to me and I attribute some of it to our lovely bottle-cuddles where we could chatter and play with one another's faces (remembering that almost makes me want another... Nah).

We have to be sisterly, we can feed our babies as we choose (within reason) breast or formula, who cares. No woman should be judged based upon her feeding choices. 

Women deserve to choose, women deserve support, women deserve not to be bullied and guilt tripped and made to feel inferior. Women deserve the right to feed however they wish to in public (this right is protected by law, and rightly so). 

We're all in this together, don't judge others and please, don't judge yourself (or assume that others are judging you). 

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