Breastfeeding - my experience

Almost 18 years ago now I had a baby. As all mums will tell you, it feels like it was yesterday, they grow so fast. What is it they say? 'The days are long but the years are short' ? Yes that sums up parenthood. Tiring, exhausting, but ultimately amazing and it's all gone in a blink and they are adults themselves.

When I became pregnant I decided I wanted to do everything naturally, or as natural as possible, though I didn't want a home birth. I felt that if everything went well then hospital would be OK and they could do the clean up, and if things went badly, I'd have the support I needed.

I also decided that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. At the time the advice was exclusive for 4 months and then introduce solids but keep breastfeeding alongside for as long as possible. (current World Health Oganisation advice can be found here) That all sounded fine to me and so I didn't buy and bottles, no formula, no sterilising kits. Nothing. I had boobs and I didn't need anything more.

The birth (a water birth) was easy and fairly swift, less than 12 hours. And DD (darling daughter)  was born with a shock of dark hair, eyes to fall into, like deep pools and a gaze with the knowledge of centuries, as babies tend to have. I was instantly in love and started feeding withing minutes of birth. Text book stuff, I stayed in hospital overnight and the midwives checked on my (and her) latch positioning regularly, they asked how things were, checked I was feeding on demand and were just lovely. The midwife that helped deliver her showed me the 'rugby ball hold' as DD preferred to feed on one side and Dave (the midwife) worried I'd get lopsided!

After 48 hours or so I went home and everything was fine, DD slept and ate and was as cute as the cutest button. Life was dreamy.

On day 5 after the birth I woke to discover my milk had 'come in'. What a misleading phrase, it conjures flowing rivers of creamy goodness when in reality it means your tits, whilst looking like a porn stars are suddenly rock hard and tender, engorged and not in a good way! Baby DD found her latch was no longer easy, she looked at me accusingly, suddenly she couldn't feed, and so she wailed. I wailed too. Hearing her wail my body cheerfully created more milk! I hurt! I wailed more, DD wailed. My poor husband looked on helplessly. After 12 hours things had got worse, not better and I was terrified that DD would die of thirst (I had no idea how resilient babies are!) I was hysterical, she was purple in the face from screaming and my husband said he was going to buy bottles and formula right away.

I broke down, felt like a failure, torn between not wanting to give up and feeding my child! Luckily I'm really stubborn. So instead of letting him go for formula I said we should phone the labour ward, they had said we could phone for any reason, at any time (it was now 10pm) I rang, they said to come straight in. And so we did.

The loveliest nurses and midwives in the world took DD for a walk around the ward to calm her (and, looking back on it maybe to give her a sly drink!) while another midwife made me tea and calmed me down. Then they brought a now calmer DD back in and helped her get a grip, it felt like they just held her head against my boob until she had no choice but to suck! But maybe it was more subtle than that.

Whatever they did it worked, she glugged (you could hear her glugging!) and emptied both breasts. Poor hungry baby - she then slept for about 8 hours. We went home and after that we didn't look back. DD continued breastfeeding as and when until she was 4 months when she was keen to eat! She raced up the centiles chart (chubster!) and then gradually settled when she started eating food. She continued to breastfeed until she was 10 months old, when she self weaned having discovered cups and food easier that the work needed to breastfeed! Such a cute and lazy baby.

The things I loved about breastfeeding were; the lack of preparation, you want milk, it's there (and no extras to carry when you go out) ; the snuggles, tiny pudgy hands massaging you as baby drinks, like a little kitten; the cheapness, I didn't buy bottles, or sterilisers; the supposed health benefits were just a bonus if I'm honest

My experience of breastfeeding was fabulous. I want other mums to know it can be great, and support can be great too - never be afraid to ask. If I hadn't had help I might have given up on day 5! I felt like a failure but mum's shouldn't, there is no reason you should be good at it! It's a skill and both you and baby have to learn. Take your time, get help, enjoy.

And if you don't breastfeed? That time is gone in a blink anyway - enjoy every precious second with your child.

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