It has been a long journey, but I can now officially say that I’ve been breastfeeding E for over a year! (It has actually been over 14 months, this post has taken me a while to write!)
In the past year I’ve had a few friends that have become new Moms, and they’ve all had lots of questions, but mostly about breastfeeding. As much as you read about it and try to prepare yourself, the only way to really understand is to try it. It can be difficult to talk about, it’s so controversial and there are so many strong emotions involved. But I hope that by sharing my journey I may be able to help out some more new Moms who are overwhelmed by it all.
I was unsure about breastfeeding to begin with, it just seemed so difficult to get my head around something that I had no idea what it would be like. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to, I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to and I definitely wasn’t sure about doing it in public (or even in front of people at home).
It turned out that E was born to breastfeed, latched on straight away and just wanted to feed day and night. The early days were not easy by any means. I felt like I was constantly feeding him and I did find it quite painful. I think that’s the worst part, because your nipples don’t get any break, I started feeding on just one side at a time quite early on to give at least one side a bit of a rest.
And as crazy as it may sound, the old wives tale about putting cabbage leaves in your bra when your milk comes in really did work for me! I loved those cabbage leaves! I possibly used them too much in those few days as I constantly had them in. I wouldn’t recommend keeping them in while you sleep though, I had a nap and ended up with cabbage indentations on my boobs!
I was in a lot of pain, I asked all of the midwives and health visitors to check my latch and everything seemed ok, they only thing they could say was that E seemed quite “greedy” and that we should try spreading out the feeds (which doesn’t really work when you’ve decided to demand feed). I tried hand expressing early on to relieve some of the pressure and build up, but nothing really seemed to help with the pain. I can remember sitting there in the middle of the night feeding E with tears streaming down my face and biting on my hand to stop myself screaming out in pain.
It turned out, after lots of doctors, midwives and googling that the antibiotics that I was on for the infection in my stitches had given me thrush which I then transferred to E so it was on my nipples and in his mouth. So it meant giving him medication at quite a young age, but it also meant that we both got better and by the time he was about 6 weeks old breastfeeding stopped being painful and we got into a good rhythm of demand feeding approximately every 2 hours.
I was trying to express milk so that my husband could take part in the feeding, but E never really took to the bottle. We tried many different bottles and E just wasn’t having it. Plus I absolutely hated expressing, I could never find the time to do it and hating having to sit there and do nothing as it pumped. So we gave up on it and when we tried again after E was 4 months old there was no way he would drink from a bottle. For us it wasn’t too bad, as I had a full year off on maternity leave (and am now a stay at home Mom) there was no rush and no real need for him to bottle feed. But for anyone else I would say to be persistent and keep trying if you want your baby to ever drink from a bottle.
When E was about 3 months old the sleep deprivation started really taking it’s toll. I was struggling waking up every 2 hours to feed him and thought I needed some help. I read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and it really helped me. I moved then from demand feeding to a routine (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time – from the book) and fed E every 3 hours. Then as he got older and we started to introduce solids into his diet we moved to a 4 hour routine.
When he was about 10 months old we decided that he probably didn’t need milk through the night and he was eating significantly during the day and it was more of a habit, so we began the process of night weaning. I won’t go into detail here as I wrote another blog post about it here.
Since then we dropped the dream feed at around 11 months, then dropped the afternoon feed at around a year, trying to introduce one cup of cows milk a day. He took a while to get used to cows milk (drinking from a cup) but now he likes drinking it and has 2 cups a day. We still have 2 breastfeeds a day, when he wakes up in the morning and before he goes to sleep at night.
Now we look to the future. I thought that we would definitely stop breastfeeding at a year, but then when the time came there just didn’t seem to be any reason to stop. Now E is starting to feed for shorter and shorter amounts of time, so he may very well be weaning himself, but I won’t make any rush decisions to stop as it may just be a phase he’s going though or due to teething or something else. It’s very emotional for me to think about no longer breastfeeding E, it is a lovely bond that we have and a fantastic cuddle that I get from him twice a day. My husband laughs at me, for someone who was so reluctant to breastfeed to begin with and now I don’t want to stop!
Hope everyone who has decided to breastfeed and is reading this is doing well with it, I know that it can be really difficult in the beginning, but if it’s something that you really want to do then persevere, it really is worth it. And I’m happy to answer any questions or just offer support if you need it :)