Updated: Nov 17, 2020
There is so much pressure out there for mums to breastfeed their babies. I am not disagreeing with the benefits of breastfeeding, and absolutely recommend that everyone tries it. I am just sharing my experiences and opinions – please consult a health care professional, if necessary, regarding the feeding needs of your child. I believe it is wrong to make mothers feel useless if they aren’t successful at breastfeeding. Fed is best.
When I was pregnant with my first, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, for as long as possible. It was a massive shock to me, when my son was born, to find it was not as ‘natural’ as I expected it to be. It was awkward and uncomfortable (as many new experiences often are). The midwives were excellent at showing me the different positions to hold him in, along with the technique of getting him to latch on properly. The first couple of days, every single time I fed, I called the nurse to come and help, as I just couldn’t get him to latch on correctly by myself. Eventually I got the hang of it; I was so thankful.
Something else many people don’t tell you… breastfeeding can be painful! Approximately 3 weeks later, my nipples were, lets just say, worn out. They were cracked, blistering, and would occasionally bleed… they were just, oh so painful. I tried some different nipple creams which did help, but the pain was still excruciating. I would cry every single time I fed, grimacing in discomfort, feeling like a terrible mother. I was then recommended nipple shields by a friend of mine – and oh my goodness – they were a game changer! Although the sucking motion was still semi-painful, at least my skin got a break from the direct contact of his hungry, little mouth. I would rotate between using the shields, and not, as I also didn’t want him to get used to only using the shields. A lot of midwives do not recommend shields, however, for me, I would’ve had to stop breast feeding altogether without them. Even though I felt like the day would never come, eventually my nipples did toughen up, and it was no longer painful (yay!).
Mr I was a shocking sleeper, and woke every 2 hours, for eight weeks. EIGHT WEEKS of having no more than 2 hours of sleep in a row (day and night) – I was beyond exhausted, anxious, emotional, and completely overwhelmed. I felt like I was completely failing at motherhood. This is a topic for another day, but let’s just say I was not having the time of my life. If you’ve read my previous posts, I’m very open about the fact that the newborn phase is not my favourite, and maybe now you can start to see why.
I was so against using formula, because I felt like I should be able to feed my child. I should be enough for him (I know, I know, so ridiculous!). I seemed to have enough supply as I had to wear nipple pads to stop the leaking, so what was the issue?! I remember sobbing and sobbing on the phone to a family member, that I did not want to use formula. It was my own personal battle I was having. After 8 weeks, I eventually gave in. We started by giving two bottles of formula a day, and the rest breastmilk. Low and behold, Mr I started sleeping better! Obviously, the issue was my milk was not filling enough. I still felt sad, but mostly just silly for being so stubborn. Fed is best! Slowly, but surely, Mr I started having more bottles, and less of me. At around 7-8 months he was only having breastmilk through the night, until at 9months he refused and was officially off the breast. Little did I know, that one month later, I would fall pregnant again, so it wouldn’t be long before I would be starting all over again… haha.
Miss C was a completely different experience. I was obviously more confident and knowledgeable about it all now. It did still hurt a bit during the first few weeks; more than I expected, actually. I did still use the nipple shields occasionally, but the whole experience was nowhere near as stressful. At one week old we decided to introduce two bottles of formula a day. I had learnt my lesson, plus I had a toddler to chase after. I was not going to put myself through unnecessary grief again. She only breastfed for about 4months, until she self-weaned. I was a little sad she didn’t feed for longer, but I knew that fed is best!
My point is – everyone’s breastfeeding experience is different. I most certainly recommend that you at least try it… especially those first few days, so that bub gets all that nutritious colostrum. However, if you find it doesn’t work for you, and you do need to switch to formula or do a combo feed like I did – that’s ok. We need to stop putting so much pressure on mothers. Having a new baby is already a huge life-changing experience, without added stress. Australian Breastfeeding Association is an awesome resource if you have any questions or concerns.
It is also helpful to talk to others. Sharing your experiences is healthy. You never know how you could positively help someone else’s motherhood journey. We need to reassure our fellow mothers, that they are not alone. All the emotions and thoughts you have, even those ones deep down - the ones you may have never even told another soul - it is very likely another mum has felt very similar feelings at some point. Support, uplift and love each other. Remember, fed is best!
Feel free to share your feeding adventure!
Keep Smiling Mamas,