Too much, too little, on-demand, engorged, painful, sore nipples, forever hungry, mastitis, blocked ducts, embarrassing leakage, breast pads, exhausting, emotional, frantic feeds, expressing, pumping and dumping, scratched necks and chests, pulled hair…any of this sound familiar?
Why would anyone want to breastfeed? This week is world breastfeeding week and I think we should either pat ourselves on the back or take our hats off to those who persevere to feed their babies themselves. It is no easy task and one that is worth recognising.
I was very fortunate in being able to breastfeed my first, Poppi, and am currently mid-journey feeding my newbie, Awena. I am so thankful for the support of those around me who encouraged me to keep going with Poppi. The first eight weeks feeding her were certainly a challenge. Being premature she really struggled to latch on and in the hospital was fed from a little cup. I also ended up with mastitis and a ridiculously abundant amount of milk which not only made me look like Pamela Anderson (no offence) but it was really painful too. The oversupply made it even harder for poor Poppi as she’d choke and splutter as the milk rushed in. We’d both end up soaking and in a tis! It was far from relaxing and made me anxious to leave the house in case she’d want a feed.
Then there was the continuous need to be fed. I’ve blogged about lowering expectations before, but in those early days, it used to frustrate me so much that I’d made plans and all I’d ended up doing was feeding a bottomless pit.
Then there was the sleepiness. As a premie, Poppi was a sleepy baby and so would often fall asleep being fed meaning she didn’t have a full feed. She would, therefore, need feeding so much more regularly. I feel I’m in exactly the same place with Awena now, another premie! But, having been there once, it feels a lot more manageable somehow. You learn it is “just a phase” and it really won’t be like this forever. I am so glad I persevered with Poppi as we definitely got into a groove as with both got better and more comfortable with breastfeeding. However, I stand firmly in the belief that you have to do what is best for you as well as your baby. If it is proving to be so stressful to feed it is likely your baby will pick up on this and make the whole process even more of a challenge. If breastfeeding results in both mummy and baby getting upset every time it may not be the best thing for you both. Awena has some very fussy feeds where she flings herself about everywhere, flaps her arms, grabs at my hair and neck and gulps and cries giving her bad wind. I have had to tell myself to stay calm to help her quieten. Stroking her head and holding her close to my relaxed heartbeat can sometimes (but not always) still her and allow her to feed properly (I acknowledge this is difficult at 2 o’clock in the morning).
One of the most beautiful and incredible things about breastfeeding is that the distance a new-born can focus is pretty much the distance from your chest to your face. I find that amazing. They are made to first see you from the place they feel safe and nurtured. Another remarkable fact is that the milk your body produces changes as your baby gets older and so meets their needs. My premie milk is exactly what Awena needed at 33 weeks and my milk now she is full-term plus four weeks is just what she needs now. Mindblowing.
So whether you chose to boob or bottle let’s take a minute this week to marvel at the intrinsic design of our bodies to supply our babies with their every need. Good work mamas!