I always wanted to breast feed. Even before we had Harry I had always hoped things would work out and I would be able to breast feed when I finally fell pregnant.
I knew from friends’ experiences that it doesn’t always come easily and it can be a tough road. In my head, after my baby was born they would be popped on my chest for skin to skin and the baby would naturally gravitate in the right direction. What I didn’t bargain for was an emergency c section under a general anaesthetic (my birth story is definitely one for a separate blog post!)
Instead of meeting my baby straight away I had to be brought round from my surgery and anaesthetic which took several hours. Harry got some lovely bonding with Ben but we didn’t get the chest skin to skin I wanted. To be fair to the amazing midwives, as soon as I was conscious, I was asked if I wanted to breast feed and Harry was placed straight on my chest. I was still woozy and wearing an oxygen mask so they helped to keep positioning him and getting him to latch.
We continued to work at breast feeding for the 5 days I was in hospital. It didn’t come easily at first. Harry was getting frustrated that my milk wasn’t in and he was hungry. One night I really really wanted the midwives to give me formula to help Harry settle but they wouldn’t. I still look back and think that was my choice and they should have respected my decision but in hindsight I’m glad they encouraged me to keep feeding as I was so tired, I could have easily given up on my breast feeding dream before it had even properly begun.
Harry also lost a lot of weight at first and he was really sick which made me feel under intense pressure as he was solely relying on me. After lots of support from our lovely community midwife, we got to grips with why Harry wasn’t gaining weight so well. My let down of milk was so fast that Harry was guzzling it and filling up on the watery fore milk. He would then bring it all back and we would start again. So the midwife suggested expressing the first 30ml or so of every feed and giving that to him from a bottle at the end of his feed as a top up. That way he got the fatty milk he needed to put his weight on – it worked! He was soon gaining his weight and also taking my expressed milk from a bottle really well!
Things progressed from there, I practiced several positions and found the rugby ball position to suit us the best. Harry was putting on weight and I was more comfortable too. I fed in public right from the start, at first using shawls (Seraphine is amazing for breast feeding friendly clothes!) and it became second nature – thankfully I never had any unwanted attention or reactions; I felt like one day it just clicked!
Our breast feeding journey continued to evolve and as the weeks and months went on, our positioning changed, we battled through a 2 week strike (Harry – not me!), I got used to handling teeth (and biting – ouch!) and it was lovely!
The strike was a real low point. For two weeks Harry would fight the breast and it was really upsetting, especially when he took a bottle so beautifully. I did skin to skin, kept expressing to keep my supply up, cross cradle hold instead of rugby ball and did lots of chilling out techniques so me and Harry weren’t getting stressed.
Thankfully things improved and Harry went back to feeding well but we did introduce combination feeding which seemed to help. Harry would have a bottle of formula at bed time. It meant Ben could take turns doing the bedtime routine and that also took a little pressure off me. For us combination feeding was a real happy medium.
On his six month birthday Harry made the decision to stop breastfeeding. He had stopped feeding off one side a week or so previously and this one day he decided to stop all together. I tried every trick in the book and got tonnes of advice from other mothers, health visitors and midwives but I have a headstrong little boy and unfortunately nothing changed and that was that! The end of our breast feeding journey.
I remember crying on and off for days as I just didn’t feel ready to stop, but I took great comfort from the fact it was Harry who made the decision rather than me.
Some of my friends breast feed and some bottle feed and each of them beats themselves up about making sure their baby is getting what he/she needs. My friends who choose to bottle feed question themselves for not breast feeding (they shouldn’t – stand by your choice, it’s your prerogative) and my breast feeding friends don’t know when to stop and are nervous to make that decision. Either way, there’s always a difficult decision to make!
All I can say is Harry was breast fed for 6 months and is now bottle (and food!) fed. He is happy, healthy, smiley, challenging, active and perfect in every way. Whether this is down to breast milk, formula, food or just the love, attention and support we give him, we will never know. But I stand by my choice to breast feed. I enjoyed every single minute of breast feeding my beautiful boy. It was a precious six months which I am grateful for. When I see my friends breast feed now I sometimes feel a pang of jealousy that we aren’t anymore but as Harry cuts a new tooth, there’s a slight sense of relief that I don’t have to feel that bite!!!