With my first baby I did not breastfeed so I was determined this time round I was going to give it a whirl. So I set out to arm myself with as much information as I could and also attend an ante-natal class specifically for breastfeeding at the hospital. Here the midwife talked about how it was the most natural thing in the world. It is simple and painless and your baby will latch perfectly with skin to skin contact. It will be blissful and amazing and the most serene experience ever. I left the class thinking about how excited I was about breastfeeding and how I would tap into my inner natural mothering ability. I imagined snuggling with my new baby feeding with my little girl curled up beside me watching a movie and being in a blissful state just how the midwife described it. Everything would be fluffy and fabulous. Bollocks!!!!!! What the bloody hell was I thinking listening to this mad woman (it’s those maniacs again, the ones I warned you about to avoid at all costs).
Let me tell you exactly how it really is. Why they don’t tell you the horror stories I will never know. In my opinion if they where honest from the beginning you wouldn’t feel a complete failure at 3am in the morning when your baby has been howling for several hours in the most high pitched octave that even your cats hairs are standing on end, your lovable little bundle has took on the form of a sumo wrestler (where did they get that strength from) thrashing about your boob and not latching on perfectly like they tell you they will.
It is a complete shock to the system. Babies do not latch on by magic, it is a skill that takes practice (a lot of practice). The first time you try to feed your baby at home may be painful and stressful, you will already be sleep deprived, soooo hormonal, I literally sat howling and crying with my baby. I was hysterical at everything and don’t even get me started on those ads on TV talking about third world counties or children being abused. God I was literally a wreck by the next morning when my community midwife landed at my door. How she didn’t call for the men in white coats and have me admitted into some mental institution I will never know. But instead she had a big smile on her face, gave me a hug whilst congratulating me on my beautiful little bundle of joy and saying how fantastic it was that I have been able to feed my little baby my colostrum the past 24 hours. Was she mad, my baby has been in a war zone battling me for about the last 20 how can he possibly have got anything into his little tummy, but you know what, he had. I was doing a victory dance when I heard he had been having enough wet and dirty nappies (which literally go through every colour of the rainbow, – but that’s another story). He maybe hadn’t been getting quite enough as we would like but he still had got something. She spent the morning going through different positions and by the end of her visit I had one very happy little baby suckling away. I knew now that you had to be taught how to latch properly and with the right amount of support we would get there. But would we get there that night, or even in the coming days or weeks. HELL NO!!!!!!!
A baby nurses 24/7, did you hear me 24/7!!! (they also forget to tell you that in booby school) they say how you will burn so many calories and lose weight. Translation ladies – you will lose weight because you don’t have any friggin time to eat! If I can give you at least one piece of advice, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE FOR AT LEAST A FORTNIGHT! Honestly its true, I wish I could have followed my own advice, you do need that time to get to bond with your baby, get feeding established, so have your partner, friends or family members bring you food and drinks and just literally have a babymoon in bed. Get someone to help with your other children if you have them. If you don’t make the effort to get feeding established in the beginning you will set yourself up inevitably for failure and struggle to continue no matter how strong willed you think you are.
If you find yourself in the company of any other mums who tell you that their baby latched on perfectly the minute it was placed on their chest after birth, or how they have never experienced any pain, or maybe bleeding or even cracked nipples they are lying, either that or they are extremely rare and special people, they should receive some kind of honour from the Queen or something, or an OBE. In a nutshell these people are in the maniac category and will only make you feel even more inadequate. They will probably even go on to say about how many gazillion ounces of breastmilk they can pump every day, and have such an extensive stock pile of it they could probably feed a small country for a week. Don’t take any notice, and don’t even think about attempting to start pumping whilst getting feeding established unless advised to do so by a health professional as it is a whole other level of stress you do not need to put yourself under at this time.
Instead contact your La Leche League (they are your life saviours) also try and attend your local breastfeeding support group where you can surround yourself with lots of other mummies going through or have been exactly what you are now. You do need to have such a strong support group around you. I am very blessed to have the most AMAZING Sister in Law who is a breastfeeding mama and has been able to give me her worldly advice and support even at all sorts of insane hours of the night. Not everyone will be as fortunate to have a relative or friend who has breastfed and depending on where you live or your circumstances you may not be able to get out to any groups but you will find plenty online and you can also contact La Leche by phone anytime. Just look them up on google for your relevant countries website.
Now by this stage if your still with me and not running for the hills or currently standing in your local Tesco baby food aisle stocking up on formula lets get to the good side of breastfeeding (yes I promise it does exist). Breastmilk has at least 400 nutrients which contain disease fighting compounds and your baby will be less likely to become ill in the first year of life. Your milk adjusts to your baby’s needs as it grows (how’s that for genius), breastmilk also helps fend off gastroenteritis, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, ear infections to name a few and there have been studies to show that adults who where breastfed have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, less likely to become obese and less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It literally is the best food on earth. Now you still with me……Fabulous, it gets better, it lowers your risk of developing breast cancer, protects against ovarian cancer and helps reduce osteoporosis. Can I just add that you will not see this benefit until later in life, you will be achy and sore at times and feel like an old woman. Yes, I know what your thinking, your sitting staring at this post asking yourself why in gods name would I want to put myself through this……
My simple answer is, it builds a special bond with your baby that is so incredible. It is amazing that your body can provide for this little human being and keep it alive, not to mention it is convenient, you always have your boobs with you! no trying to sterilise bottles and remember to bring formula with you wherever you go. When your sitting in the middle of the witching hours with this little baby snuggled up to you suckling away your heart will beam with joy and pride even with tears streaming down your face thinking your the worlds worst mother for not being able to do it all right from the beginning.
But sometimes though it just doesn’t work out, its not for everybody, and no-one should feel guilty or inadequate. The fact you have breastfed at all, even for one feed is an accomplishment and your baby will have benefited greatly.
One last piece of advice, if you are having a complete meltdown and in complete despair take a minute, never give up on a bad day, tomorrow will be better.
Love Sharonn (one proud milk mama)