My Breastfeeding journey

I wanted to share my story of breastfeeding my daughter, because as I joined the club of breastfeeding mothers the only information I’d really had was what I was taught in antenatal classes and read in books. This didn’t fully prepare me for the roller coaster experience I was about to have.

Books, midwives and antenatal classes will offer you a brief account of what it’s like to breastfeed, one with rose tinted glasses. I was told that it wouldn’t really hurt, just “10 seconds of a toe curl” when I first started at each feed and then I’d be fine. My baby would gaze into my eyes as we bond over this special moment that no one else could share, and of course I’d be boosting her immune system to equate that of superman. (He never gets a cold does he?)

Whilst I enjoyed breastfeeding (so much easier to get out the house than faff with bottles and formula, what do I need? The two Bs – baby and boobs) and I was proud that I made it to 10 months with April, the initial journey wasn’t quite as easy as I had hoped.

The first 48 hours.

Let’s start with the initial doubts. When breastfeeding you haven’t got a bloody clue how much milk your baby is getting. You have to hope that it carries on until its little tummy is full and hopefully a few hours will pass until the next feed. I spent the first afternoon and night in hospital constantly asking the midwives to check if she was feeding okay, doubting myself and panicking that this tiny little baby was going to starve. She didn’t.  If this is you, relax. Your baby will cry if it’s hungry, that’s what they’re good at.

Secondly the pain. Okay it wasn’t equivalent to labour but my God having such a sensitive area in almost constant use for the first few days did some damage. Get some Lansinoh cream and apply after EVERY feed! If you want to know what it’s like, imagine the first few seconds like hundreds of little needles stabbing into your nipple, and when that pain is over think of it being rubbed with sandpaper for the duration of the feed.

Two words: nipple shields.  The NHS and midwives frown upon them but without them I would have given up. I used them for the first few seconds of the feed (the most painful part) and then quickly slipped them off. This avoided the concern of “nipple confusion” (a baby wanting a teat like a bottle instead of the real stuff) and the risk of mastitis, potentially caused by the baby not feeding enough because nipple shields make a feed less efficient apparently.

Night 2

Oh night 2…how I remember you! Top tip: get snacks out and movies ready. You won’t sleep tonight. I’m serious.

(If you get to night 2 and this hasn’t happened, expect it on night 3 or 4. It’s the night your milk comes in).

The milk has arrived

Once your baby pulls through your milk you will wake up in the morning with rock hard boobs probably about four cup sizes bigger than pre pregnancy. Think this sounds good? It’s not. It fucking hurts. They leak everywhere. It’s like someone forgot to turn the tap off. Get breast pads stat!

Friends and family

I was always adamant I wouldn’t be one of those people who hides away whilst feeding their baby. Why should I? It’s a natural thing and I feel that one of the reasons the breastfeeding rate is so low in this country is because we don’t see people doing it often enough. You can buy lots of clothes and scarves that will cover you up and once you and baby have the hang of latching on you won’t have to worry about the odd nip slip. It will be second nature and no one sees anything. Promise.

That said, in the early days you end up so obsessed with trying to make your baby latch properly that every Tom, Dick and Harry gets and eyeful of your boobs. Don’t worry. You’ll get over it, as will they.

Most of my friends and family were fine around me feeding. There were the odd few who felt uncomfortable, my 19 year old nephew was adamant he’d seen my boobs and was scarred for life, I know full well he hadn’t. My sister’s husband also took time to get used to it, whilst on holiday with them I had to feed April at the table when he was sitting opposite me, at the first sign of her needing to be fed he would physically turn sideways and lock his eyes on my sister. Luckily this didn’t bother me. I knew he wasn’t being rude, he just didn’t know what else to do.

Feeding in public

In my 10 months of breastfeeding April I never once had anyone come up to me and make a negative comment. If you don’t look out for it and get paranoid that everyone who looks your way is staring at you in shock and disgust then you’ll be fine. Be paranoid and you’ll misinterpret people’s actions.

Distractions

As April got older and more interested in her surroundings feeding became harder. As a newborn they can barely even see your face, let alone look around the room whilst feeding. Once April started to take an interest in everything around her it became harder and harder to feed on the go. I found myself heading to her nursery to feed in quiet so that she wouldn’t whip her head off every 2 minutes to check what was going on! I think this stage required the most patience for me and was the start of our breastfeeding journey coming to an end.

Going back to work

This was the other factor that contributed to me stopping feeding. When April was 10 months old I went back to work four days a week. I worked in central London, this meant 12 hours away from home. I went to work armed with my breast pump and cool bag to pump my missed feeds and store the milk. However pumping is hard work. It’s not as efficient as feeding directly and sometimes you can sit there for 20 minutes to only get 2oz of milk. My manager was incredibly understanding and let me go off to pump as and when I needed to, but I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that everyone would think I was just skiving off and sitting in the medical room by myself.

Not to mention how boring it was! No mobile phone signal, no one to talk to, just me, my pump and the 4 walls. ZzZzz.

The final goodbye

So after 10 and a half months of breastfeeding we had both come to a natural end. April no longer demanded the feeds she used to have, my supply gradually declined and we made the transition to formula.

I made sure that I knew when our last feed was going to be so I could remember it, and I still do. It wasn’t anything special, just a normal feed time but it gave me closure. 

I won’t lie, I cried the first time we gave her formula. I hated the thought of feeding her something that was designed in a lab somewhere by strangers. Until then she had only ever eaten natural things. This was alien to me and it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.

Of course I know now that formula wasn’t going to poison her, she didn’t seem to know a difference and it was given to thousands of babies in the UK so who am I to say it’s not good enough for my child? It was probably insecurity more than anything, I hated feeling as though I had been replaced.  She had it for two or three months and then made the transition to cows milk. Now I’ve been replaced by a farm animal instead of a lab – awesome.

Oh and if you get told that formula will help your baby sleep it’s a lie. April’s sleep stayed just as shit on formula as it did on breast milk. It’s a myth. So if/when you make that transition don’t expect a miracle!

The end

As a fairly anxious mother who always panics that she’s not doing the best for her daughter and always questions her parenting it’s safe to say that breastfeeding is one of the things I feel really proud of doing. I stuck with it when I felt like giving up and for the first six months of my daughter’s life outside the womb I was the only thing that kept get growing. That’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Mummy fails

When I first thought about writing this post I thought “oh only have a few of those, not enough to write a whole blog post on!” But the more I thought about it, the more I remembered those times I’ve messed up and felt like the worst mum in the world.

In fact whilst writing this I’ve remembered it was only a couple of days ago that I was in floods of tears talking to my husband and remembering a time when I had been trying to get April down for a nap when she was only a few months old.

I’d been rocking her for about 20 minutes whilst she scratched my face, screamed at me and constantly tried to get out of my grip and I just lost it. It was the first time I had ever shouted at her. “WHY WON’T YOU JUST GO TO SLEEP!” I immediately felt awful. She stopped crying and just looked at me in surprise, then I just broke down in tears, hugged her tightly and told her how sorry I was. It was one of my lowest moments of being a mum and something I hate to talk about because of how guilty it makes me feel, but I was sleep deprived and had been having the same battle three times a day for what felt like forever.  When writing it down it doesn’t sound that bad, but the sight of her little face in shock just killed me.

Thanks to a useful website called BabyCentre where I’m part of an online forum for mums who have babies the same age as April, I have realised that a lot of mums go through the same. Without that space to vent and read about the struggles other mums were having I think I would have been even harder on myself every time I made a parenting mistake.

Anyway…let’s get onto the list of mummy fails I’ve made to date.

Number 1
This one happened when April was only a week or so old! When babies are born part of their umbilical cord is still attached to their belly button which the midwives put a clip around. It then just dies and falls off after a couple of weeks (gross right?).

Just before bath time one evening I was giving April a cuddle, she was in just her nappy and I stood up to take her to the bath. Suddenly she screamed! I’d knocked the clip of her tummy button and the cord had come off a bit too early. There was blood, there was pus and there was panic! Her belly button is still weird to this day.

Number 2
Pretty sure this one happens to 99% of parents but it doesn’t make you feel any better at the time. That’s right. The little rascal fell off the bed just after she had learnt how to roll. The whole thing happened in slow motion as I reached over to catch her just before she fell but didn’t quite make it. There were lots of tears, probably more from me than April!

Number 3
I refuse to accept full liability for this one! We were on holiday recently and the cleaner in the hotel room had moved my hair straighteners from my carefully chosen safe, very high up, place, to a much lower location in front of a mirror. I was getting ready for the evening, used my straighteners and put them down where the cleaner had left them. Switched them off and carried on getting ready. Next thing I know there’s a scream. April had stood up, started scouring the sides for something to play with and picked up the hot straighteners! She ended up with a nice beefy blister on her thumb and finger for the next week. My husband was sat next to her when she did it so I’ll force him to share the responsibility with me for this one. And that stupid cleaner.

Number 4
April has recently discovered the joy of climbing. I was filling out a form on the coffee table and April decided to use me as a climbing frame, climb up me and then onto the table. I’d been trying to fill out this form for days so I carried on writing whilst thinking “just 2 seconds and then I’ll get her down”. Well in that 2 seconds there was a thud to the floor. She’s not as careful getting down as she is getting up…

I’m sure there’s more that I just can’t remember right now, and of course the small ones like leaving the house with no nappies, forgetting to take her coat when I go out and leaving her milk behind when we go to stay at friends’ houses. The worst part is, when all these minor accidents have happened I’ve been practically next to her! It’s not a case of me leaving her unattended, more a case of underestimating how fast the little madam moves!

At the end of the day we’re all human and I’m yet to meet a child that has survived the baby/toddler stage without a few scrapes. Whilst I beat myself up at the time I know that accidents happen no matter how careful you are.  We’re hard enough as it is in ourselves as mums, we want to be perfect but giving yourself a hard time when no permanent damage has been done doesn’t help anyone.

Oh God, I’ve started a mummy blog

So I’ve finally done it, the thing I’ve been trying to stop myself from doing for probably the past 9 months. I’ve started one of those awful ‘mummy blogs’ and I sort of hate myself for it. It’s not that I think my adventures with my daughter are any more exciting than anyone else’s days with their children, because they’re probably not. I’m hoping it’s going to act as some sort of therapy for me and the constant nagging feeling I have that maybe I’m just a bit of a shit mum.

I had a horrific pregnancy – sickness all day for about 5 months, acne, acid reflux, painful hips and probably more nasties that I can’t remember. I also had an awful birth. I spent 53 hours feeling as though someone was trying to rip my insides out through rather delicate places, 8 hours of listening to my daughter’s heartbeat drop thinking she was going to die, finishing nicely with a doctor snipping me open and dragging her out of me by her head. It was day one of being a mum and I’d already failed.

I’m sure most pregnant women dream about the type of mum they want to be – patient, kind, singing their precious little bundle to sleep every night with a voice that could make a Disney princess jealous; taking them to fun mummy and baby classes so they can learn through play and develop their social skills that even Kim Kardashian would be envious of. I wanted this too. I’ve dreamed of being a mum since I was in junior school, it was what I wanted to do with my life (other than be a Solicitor which I also managed to cock up – well done me).   Well I’m not that kind of mum. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I feel as though I literally can’t give April enough kisses, she’s so scrummy and gorgeous, she’s a mummy’s girl and she makes me laugh every day with the weird things she does. But I’ve also had times where I could have sold her to a passing circus.

I’m hoping this blog will help me to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay not to have your shit together. It’s okay not to take your child to 5 classes a week so that they can be the next Einstein. And it’s okay that sometimes, after your 9 month old has been screaming at you all day, you call your husband, burst into tears, and tell him to come home immediately because you just don’t think you can cope anymore.

I’m probably going to be writing things that are far too personal and become far more vulnerable than I’m comfortable with, but I think I need to do this for me.

Wish me luck!