As part of a blogmarch for National Breastfeeding week from October 1st – October 7th 2013, I decided to write this post on my experiences both positive and negative of breastfeeding. The theme of the week is ‘Every breastfeed makes a difference’. My own experiences are proof that keeping this in your head is a way to get through it if things aren’t going well.
When I was pregnant on my first child, I had almost instinctively decided to breastfeed, my Mom had breastfed us, it was nature’s best food for baby, it almost wasn’t even a consideration not to. I attended a La Leche League meeting locally at about 8 months pregnant and met some lovely people but they were all so into breast feeding, there was a 2 year old running around who was still being breastfed, and a lady with a 5 month old who’s child was nearly jumping out of her arms to grab food off the table and the others kept telling her to wait until the full 6 months before child should have solids. This was my first introduction and I already felt I would never be that into it but still wanted to breastfeed.
I ended up with an emergency section after a difficult labour and was in quite a drugged and confused state the first few times I breastfed my son. Different nurses showed me different ways and I found it very difficult to get him latched on correctly. I was not at all prepared for the huge guilt that came with breastfeeding. My little boy had a tongue tie which made it always uncomfortable at best and painful at worst to feed him. I remember on day 4 or 5 crying and crying and wanting to give up, and my husband and nurses convincing me to keep going. At the time I was so fed up and exhausted and but felt this overwhelming mammy guilt if I were to give up. What I needed at the time was for just one person to say to me: “Well done for what you’ve done so far and if you need to give up don’t worry you’ve given the child a good start.” I feel like if someone had said this that it might’ve helped me to keep going or that I wouldn’t have felt so guilty if I gave up. That sounds contradictory but really I was such an emotional and exhausted mess 5 days after having a baby that that would’ve been the perfect support I needed. I persevered through for 4 months. I had extremely bad baby blues after giving up, coupled with the mammy guilt for giving up and the sleep changes around the 4 months mark, it made for a very dark January and February.
On my second child, I had a much more realistic view of what it would be like having a new baby, how difficult I had found breastfeeding before and that now I would be looking after a 3 year old also. I went into it feeling I would give it a go and that if I did a week that would be better than not doing any, if I made it to a month even better, etc. And that was exactly how it went with my second child. It was always a struggle to the next small goal I set myself. Initially it was great, he was a dream to feed compared to his older brother, I never realised exactly how much difference the tongue tie made until I fed the baby that didn’t have one. It was almost easy. He used to feed every 2 hours, but at about 6 weeks he started arching and screaming after feeding for only a minute or two. He was clearly hungry but was in pain feeding. I suspected silent reflux. At this stage he used to get one bottle of formula a day, it was at night-time and he would have terrible colic every night too. I also suspected a dairy intolerance as his older brother had this. I did limit dairy in my diet but it didn’t seem to make a difference. At 2 months I weaned him to formula so I could feed him in an upright position, hoping this would relieve the silent reflux. It did make a small difference but not huge. At this stage also I was aware that my 3 year old was in dire need of more attention from me. I was spending up to 8 hours out of every 24 breastfeeding his brother. That’s not even including the other newborn care time I spent with him.
So breastfeeding was a mixed bag for me – tongue tie, blocked ducts, reflux baby, dairy intolerance, all these issues but am I glad I did it? Yes. Every breastfeed I gave my children I’m glad I was able to do it. I feel I did my best for them in the circumstances at the time. If I had had to give up earlier I still would feel now that I had done my best. Balancing my own physical and mental health, other siblings’ needs, lack of sleep, baby’s needs etc., all these have to be taken into consideration when deciding to breastfeed and there are so many factors that can make it difficult to continue. The perception that it is easy is a false one. It is hard work even when everything is going right. Would I do it again? Certainly, again going into it with the mantra that I will do it for as long as I can and try not to feel the mammy guilt when it is time to give up. What would I do if I couldn’t breastfeed for some reason. I’d try not to give myself a hard time. It isn’t always what is best for baby and Mum. What would I say to anyone breastfeeding at the moment? “Well done for what you’ve done so far and if you need to give up don’t worry you’ve given the child a good start.”
To celebrate National Breastfeeding Week from 1st-7th October 2013, the Irish Parenting Bloggers group has organised this blog march. Please pop over and have a look at the other posts on Mama.ie. There are also NUK breastfeeding pumps to be won!