This week is World Breastfeeding Week, which got me thinking about my breastfeeding journey. Before having my daughter I was keen to give it a try, but I wasn’t too concerned at the thought that it might not work out. That was partly because I had no idea how hard it would be to get started and partly because I genuinely didn’t think breastfeeding mattered to me that much. Then she arrived and it was so hard and I was panicked by everything to do with being a first time mum and suddenly it really mattered that we succeeded with this one thing at least.
In the beginning we fought through issues with latching, we needed to top up with formula because she was jaundiced and too sleepy to even try to breastfeed and I had to manage that feeling of guilt I had that I was failing her. We were lucky that within a couple of weeks we were up and running, and a year on, we’re still going strong. But there have been some pretty big highs and lows along the way.
The Highs of Breastfeeding
1. For me, that closeness in the early days was so special and by far the biggest high.
I loved the fact that we shared something between us that no one else had or could have with her. It sounds selfish but it didn’t feel that way. Her total dependence on me was amazing and it just helped build the bond we already had. It was intense and overwhelming but I loved it and to be honest, I still love it.
2. Each time we went to get her weighed was a little high.
She was putting on weight, thriving really, and all because my body was giving her everything she needed. It’s amazing to think what our bodies are capable of , especially in the tough times, through the sleep deprivation and the hormonal rollercoaster. It gave me a much needed sense of accomplishment.
3. Being able to stop a screaming public meltdown in an instant by shoving a nipple in their mouth was always a pretty big high for me.
It means that there’s probably a large portion of the population in our area who I’ve inadvertently flashed while trying to get a flailing baby to latch but I’m okay with that if it meant less of the hysterical crying. The general ease of breastfeeding (once we got the hang of it) was something I always appreciated. Not having to sterilise bottles, cool water, buy formula, plan ahead for feeds? That was one level or organisation I was so glad we didn’t need to worry about.
The Lows of Breastfeeding
1. Getting established
It’s no wonder breastfeeding is so hard to crack when you’re both shell-shocked from labour. Neither of you have any idea what you’re doing and let’s be honest, there’s a fairly big design flaw too: Tiny mouth versus massive nipple = disaster in a making and definitely made those first few days a mega low.
2. Sore nipples
Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was the pain in the early weeks. I mean, people mentioned cracked nipples and how it can be a bit sore but dear god, it’s something else. I had one nipple that was cracked, bleeding and sore for weeks and every time she latched i had to grit my teeth and steel myself against it. I’m not actually sure how I didn’t just give up. That wasn’t the low though. That came when i had my 6 week GP check and mentioned it to the doctor who said, ‘oh yes, that does look painful. Maybe you give that one a break’. Erm, have you ever met a 6 week old? They’re not keen on breaks from feeding. The worst advice ever is up there on the list of lows.
3. Having sole responsibility for feeding
There’s a flipside to how amazing it is to be the only one able to breastfeed your baby and that’s how frustrating it can be being the only one that can breastfeed your baby. If yours is like mine and doesn’t take a bottle, it means a lot of long and lonely night feeds. Mine was also not a sleeper – not a good combo. As well as the lonely nights, there is the general lack of freedom. It’s not that I wanted to spend time apart in the first few months but knowing I couldn’t be away for more than a couple of hours without worrying she’d get hungry was pretty stressful. It’s such a short period of time relatively but it doesn’t feel like that when you’re in it.
4. Pinching and biting
It turns out little fingers can make pretty big marks on boobs. Little teeth chomping down are even worse. It was a short phase for us thank goodness and one I hope we never return to.
My daughter is now just over a year old and I never expected to still be breastfeeding at this stage. It’s not frequent and only happens when she comes and asks for it but I’m still grateful for it. And if I’m lucky enough to have any more, I’m hoping the lows may be fewer next time round now I know just what I’d be getting myself into.
You can find more from Sarah on her blog, Raising Skye.