On World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I’d share some of my own #breastfeeding experiences in an article which may help you on your own journey.
I have recently finished breastfeeding after doing it for 6 years straight. I let both my kids wean themselves. The natural age of weaning is between 3 and 7 and luckily for me, I knew loads of people who were also following this method.
It makes it much easier if you can find people who have a similar parenting style to what feels natural for you. You are more likely to find these people in breastfeeding groups like La Leche League, sling groups, attachment parenting groups or perhaps alternative education type groups like Steiner or Montessori.
Before I breastfed my first, I had rarely seen breastfeeding in action. I’d seen 1 distant cousin breastfeed once when I was a kid and two friends once each so it’s fair to say I’d hadn’t been around it much.
In primate studies, they found apes who had grown up in captivity with other breastfeeding apes, much more likely to be able to #breastfeed than apes who’s never seen it before. So the odds were perhaps stacked against me!
With #baby no.1, I really struggled to breastfeed at first. It turns out, I actually received poor advice but I didn’t know that at the time. Despite the #birth being relatively straightforward (a planned ‘successful’ home birth), my baby wouldn’t latch on.
In hindsight, it was probably hampered by the midwifes actions who grabbed my boob, sandwiched it flat and tried to shove it in my baby’s mouth. After that my baby would not latch on.
Better training would have taught her that the baby must be given sufficient time to latch on herself, i.e. a hands OFF approach (please google: the ‘breast-crawl’ to find out how to do this)
I was also told by the same #midwife who squeezed my boobs mercilessly, I didn’t have any colostrum or any milk. On day one.
Within 24 hours of her birth, the midwife arrived at my house with a bottle of formula and told me to cup feed my baby every 4 hours and for me to pump every 3 hours. I was told that if my baby was to lose more than 10% of her body weight, this would result in a hospital admission. I was petrified!
If you do the maths, you will see 3hrs and 4hrs do not go in to each other. I spent my first week or so with my baby absolutely run ragged; pumping, waking up baby to feed her, through the day and night, probably overfeeding her with artificial milk it turned out she was intolerant to.
My milk came in on day 5 which I now know is totally normal for many women. Babies have reserves and do not need milk from day 1.
And babies are very efficient and getting out colostrum, far more so than someone squeezing your boob.
It took a couple more days for my baby to latch on properly.
For the first 3 1/2 weeks, the pain was excruciating. I used all my Hypnobirthing techniques from the birth to relax as she latched on and then after a few sucks the pain went away.
I’m sure this was due to poor latch, or positioning or possibly tongue tie.
I didn’t know breastfeeding helplines existed and I wish I would have known and called.
I wish I would have known that Lactation Consultants and Breastfeeding Counsellors existed. Because they would most likely be better trained to help me my baby with latch and positioning.
Here are the helpline numbers for you:
National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 2012
La Leche League GB Helpline: 0345 120 2918
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: 0300 330 5453
NCT Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 330 0771
So it wasn’t easy but I’m really, really glad we stuck it out. Once we got established there was no going back.
It’s an absolutely brilliant way of pacifying them too. When they’re sad, put them on the boob. If they hurt themselves, boob solves everything. When they need comfort, it provides the ultimate comfort. It was magic.
There were times I didn’t want to do it. I had what is commonly known as ‘nursing aversion’ for a couple of years so I was breastfeeding them but didn’t really want to.
But it was SO comforting for them and I couldn’t really figure out a way of how to get them off. Before I had kids, I’d have thought ‘well just say NO’ but it wasn’t that easy.
It was a magic bullet to comfort them. It’s not just for nutrition.
I think people expect breastfeeding to be easy. For some lucky women, it may be easy but for most in the Western world where we’re not surrounded by it, it’s not without its challenges.
I once went to a wedding in the Scottish Highlands and spent much of my time breastfeeding my 2 1/2 year old toddler for comfort because it was where she felt safest. Honestly, I’d rather have been dancing, or chatting but she needed me.
And now they don’t ask for it. Or very very rarely.
And one more thing, I breastfed literally anywhere and everywhere. In the supermarket queue, in the perfume section of Selfridges, on benches in towns, in garden centres. I figured out I could feed in the sling whilst on the move. I’ve breastfed whilst hiking and washing the pots.
And no one said a dicky bird to me. No negative comments or being told to ‘move on’ EVER in 6 years.
People from all walks of life were supportive. Some might say ‘I wish I could’ve done that’ but i was too shy or we couldn’t do it.
If you want to #breastfeed, get all the support you can.
Use the helpline numbers above.
Find someone who can actually help you and work with them.
Do what feels right.