I feel like quite high standards were set by a couple of close friends and family before I even thought about having children. My sister had breastfed her two girls for 6 months and two of my best friends had fed their children (one until he was over 1year!). I had other friends who had bottle fed from day one of course, but for some reason when I found out I was expecting my first child, I felt like I had to join the breastfeeding group.
The midwife brushed over breastfeeding before the birth and no more really was mentioned about it. I just had the assumption I guess that I would breastfeed and find it easy, natural and just the thing to do when your life changes beyond all recognition and you become a mother. Honestly, possibly it was the hormones or no one dare tell the truth but this was the impression I got from everyone else!
Anyway baby number 1 arrived weighing 6lbs 7 oz after an induction (at 42weeks), speedy labour (5 hrs or so) and forceps delivery. He latched on well to the breast and we had lots of skin to skin time. I got a little guidance on positioning from the midwives in hospital and went home later that day. We called him Ethan James.
The early weeks were a bit of a blur but from quite early on and I don’t think I ever really had him latched on correctly. I had really sore nipples and never really felt confident that I was “doing it right”. I fed him initially in the rugby ball position but tried out lots of different positions to find one that basically didn’t hurt too much! I used a breastfeeding cushion which I carried around everywhere I went and this was just fantastic. I can remember being in so much pain that when he cried I just thought “Oh No!.. not hungry again!”. Whether I was right or not I always assumed when he cried he was hungry and just latched him on. I think sometimes he probably just wanted a cuddle or even had wind but sucking seemed to comfort him so I did it.
From the beginning he was a really sucky baby and it would feel like was feeding for hours. Literally! I can remember him (eyes open) and sucking constantly from 9pm till he dropped off at 2am one night although the health visitor didn’t believe me I am sure! Before his birth I had bought some pre-sterilised bottles and some cartons on formula just in case things didn’t work out. One night, I think it must have been around the 2nd or 3rd day he was up screaming most of the night and I remember going downstairs and looking longingly at the formula but managed to stick to my guns and eventually he locked on tightly and my milk flowed. Hurrah!
Learning to feed him lying down was a complete life changer at the time. However I am convinced this did lead on to me developing mastitis on one side because I feel asleep and probably so did he. A course of antibiotics sorted that out although I did get a reinfection a few weeks later on the same side but a different part. That was really horrible and I don’t think much can come close to how dreadful you feel with that.
My husband, Gary, was really supportive of my decision to breastfeed and in the early weeks before he went back to work after paternity did a sterling job of looking after me and keeping me fed and watered. Even when he went back to work he would make me a little pack up of snacks to keep me going through the day. I think it was the thought of him having to get up in the night to feed him a bottle that made him such a stauch breastfeeding supporter (joke)!
My confidence grew a little, however, even when Ethan got to four weeks old and I went to my first breastfeeding support group I remember feeling really conscious that I was holding him in the right position etc with all these experienced mums around! They were all really reassuring though. Also around the four week mark we decided to start to try and top him up with formula and Gary would give him his last feed at about 11pm with a bottle. This gave me and my sore nipples a break and gave Gary some bonding time with his new born. I also think my breasts were given a rest from the relentless feeding so they could fill up and once he got a bit older and didn’t wake up till around 5am or so I was like Pamela Anderson leaking milk everywhere! I started to express milk in the mornings, feeding him on one side at the same time as expressing on the other. I froze the milk sometimes and had lots of little bags in the fridge and freezer.
I didn’t really set out with any expectations of how long I would feed him for. It was initially; see if I can do two weeks, then a month, then six weeks etc. I think though I had pretty much decided that once teeth were a factor I would be giving up! So when he got to around 7 months and had a couple of teeth I weaned him off the breast. The other reason was that he wasn’t especially interested in the breast in the day time, being content to munch away on food instead, but at night he still like a long breastfeed and was waking up several times for a midnight snack in mummy’s all night café. Mummy wanted to close up by then!
Baby number 2 arrived after a home birth in a pool weighing 8lbs 13 oz. He was perfect and we called him Noah Sidney Lewis. He latched on straight away and seemed to know exactly what he was doing! I delivered the placenta naturally and fed him whilst doing it! I think this time I was more confident with what to do, although he seemed to know as well, certainly more than Ethan did and latched on really well guzzling away. I feel like my milk was also a better quality as he settled into a routine much easier and would sleep for long stretches, feed well and was generally much more settled.
He didn’t have formula on a regular basis like Ethan had as I never felt that he needed topping up. The thing with having two small children was I didn’t get chance to express either. Ethan was just over 2 years old when I had Noah and I think he felt a little jealous with all the attention Noah was getting. He would sometimes hit his head when I was feeding him or try and push him off me. I had to try and distract him with a sticker book or read to keep him happy.
Feeding a baby with a toddler around is quite a different experience. Instead of sitting surrounded with remote control, mobile phone, books, drinks and cushions, like I may have done first time, I would end up carrying Noah under one arm feeding him when walking around doing jobs or sorting out Ethan. I even remember walking around a park with him feeding under my coat! I also co-slept with Noah a lot more that I had with Ethan so he didn’t sleep in his own bed through the night for longer but *most* of the time I didn’t mind.
Even though Noah was a bigger baby and obviously loved his food he wasn’t fussed when it came to weaning onto food. He was definitely more of a milk monster and I almost had to force food into him when he got to the 6 month mark and was starting to drop weight. As he liked his milk in the daytime for longer I didn’t stop feeding him till he was around 14 months and had a mouth full of teeth! Although I could feel them he didn’t bite me luckily!
I am passionate about breastfeeding and am now training as a breastfeeding support worker with Surestart . I have started to regularly volunteer at local a Surestart breastfeeding support group which is really enjoyable and rewarding. It is really interesting to hear other people’s breastfeeding experiences. Some clearly are naturals but, like me, most find it blooming hard work but definitely worth it!