With Milo I did not try to breastfeed. I was 20 years of age when I gave birth and to be honest I had little experience with babies and I didn’t know what to expect. I was the first out of my friends to have a baby so all of my advice was mainly from my Mum. When Milo was born he was taken to the neonatal unit due to breathing difficulties and when I arrived up at his incubator I felt very nervous. The midwives were so good in there; they kindly asked, “are you breastfeeding or bottle feeding” I was immediately thrown by all of the doctors and midwives around me I automatically said bottle. I felt intimidated and embarrassed even though I did not need to . So from then bottle it was for Milo and that was that.
Before falling pregnant with Oscar and even when I did fall, I was more open to breastfeeding. I feel that social networking has done a world of good trying to normalise what should already be normal. There is a lot more accessible information about positions to use and what to expect now. Nevertheless, I was still a little apprehensive about breastfeeding Oscar (before he was born) just because I had heard of so many stories from friends and family about babies who are breastfed. They want more cuddles, they don’t sleep as well, it is a nightmare weaning them onto the bottle etc and this information frightened me a little.
However, my best friend had a gorgeous little boy just seven months before Oscar was born and she was then my go to for questions. She had an amazing experience with breastfeeding over all. She of course had her painful period initially but she did so well. She managed to get her little one taking both bottle and breast to give her a break and to ensure she knew how much he was drinking. She really was my inspiration and always told me not to worry and to let nature take its course.
Leading up to Oscar’s birth and as the arrival day got closer and closer, I began to panic and told everyone my breastfeeding plans were over. I only said this because I did not want to seem like a failure!!
When Oscar was born, he was fit and healthy. No one had to intervene (unlike with Milo) and it felt so natural to just put him to my breast. And that was what I did. But not for long. Now nearly 12 months later some of the next parts become hazy and the story is quite long so beware.
I arrived home, very quickly after giving birth. I had told the doctors I was short of breath at the hospital and they said this was normal. We were very happy at home, I was breastfeeding, my nipples were sore but I was coping. The midwives had come round and made me feel like shit because apparently nipples aren’t meant to be sore. Then I went to the doctors and asked what I was doing wrong and she told me that she had three children and initially her nipples were sore too. I asked my best friend and she said the initial latch was the more painful part and this was what I was experiencing too so I carried on.
I introduced Oscar to the bottle once a day, as he just never seemed to be satisfied even though he was on each boob for about 20/30 minutes at a time. As soon as I touched him my boobs would pour, I would hear him cry and they would pour, so I knew that my milk supply was good. The struggle was real, trying to keep Milo involved with Oscar, feeding a baby non-stop, and trying to breath normally (was much harder than it sounds).
I struggled to eat, as I could not breathe, I struggled to walk round to Oscar’s crib to pick him up to feed him. I struggled to walk to the toilet, I struggled to do anything because of shortness of breath. I was taken back to hospital with a suspected blood clot that can quite often happen after giving birth that can make you short of breath. When I arrived at hospital they told me I also had mastitis and the best way to clear it was to continue breast-feeding whilst massaging the hot red spots whilst taking medicine. So this is what I did. Mastitis is when your breasts become really engorged, red, hard and very hot. It can happen because the milk ducks become blocked and the milk cannot come out as easily (If you think you have this, go to the doctors).
Whilst the doctors were taking to find out why my breathing was so bad, I had to have a few scans that meant that I could not breastfeed Oscar for 3 days due to the radiation and any breast milk I pumped during those three days could not be used either.
So after persevering with breastfeeding whilst at home. I was told I could not breastfeed whilst the radiation left my body. Actually, I was quite happy and I felt quite guilty for this. I could not breastfeed so that meant that my engorged red-hot breasts with sore cracked nipples could take a break. I was still expressing as I wanted my milk to keep producing but I was enjoying having a break. Also Oscar slept a lot better so that meant I got a better night sleep.
After returning home after four days in hospital, I started to breastfeed again. I started to stress, I started to have pain, Oscar was clung to me, he did not want to sleep and I was tired. After experiencing the three days of not breastfeeding, I reluctantly made the decision to call it a day. I tried my best and that was all I could do. Nevertheless, now looking back I forget all of those feelings and wish I could of breastfed for longer as I really enjoyed feeding Oscar. Once he was latched on correctly, it was really enjoyable and I loved that I could do it.
As women, I feel that we are sometimes put under immense pressure. Although social media has helped to normalise breastfeeding, I feel as though it can also make women feel somewhat insignificant for not breastfeeding. There were times for me shortly after finishing my breastfeeding journey whereby I felt ashamed to feed Oscar in public with a bottle. Eventually it was normal for me and all I kept reminding myself was that Fed is best!