Before I had a baby I wasn’t overly keen on the whole idea of nursing. To me it seemed like a very confronting reminder that I am actually a mammal, like a dog or a bear or a monkey and that for me was weird.
Then there’s the fact that until that time I’d only ever used my boobs for sex stuff so I didn’t really want loads of people seeing them.
My husband and I share our home with his brother, who suffered a stroke several years ago and although he is highly functional after the brain injury he is unable to work meaning he is always home. I didn’t want him to watch me breastfeed and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to see it either.
Then there’s the clothes, I’d already bought a bunch of maternity stuff, I didn’t want to fork out for more stuff that frankly I didn’t much like the look of. But then I went to the antenatal classes and I started to come round.
By the time I’d had Max I was determined to make it work despite knowing that many people can’t. I felt that if I was determined enough eventually it would all just sort itself out.
It’s all very well being determined but breastfeeding involves two people and Max to be honest was less fussed.
When he was born his blood sugar was low for a host of reasons and in order to avoid being sent to neonatal intensive care I was pushed to give him formula and he was also placed onto a glucose regime. I didn’t know then that mixedfeeding was an option. I figured he would be a bottle baby and that was that. In some ways that probably would have been easier.
I went to twitter to try and make sense of it, to mourn the fact that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed and was told by some probreastfeeding friends that I was entirely wrong and that there was still time. He was only two days old.
The main problem was how after the initial skin to skin and first breastfeeding in recovery I’d not attempted to feed him again and my milk hadn’t come in. I asked to see a lactation consultant in the hospital to the shock of my midwife, as my notes said that I was breastfeeding successfully, no one came before I was discharged.
I saw the midwife the following day at home and she told me to start expressing by hand but not to use the electronic pump and to offer Max a feed before each bottle. I did this for two weeks, Max still always wanted the bottle after the boob so I went to the GP about low supply.
The GP referred me to a breastfeeding cafe saying I had a problem with my technique even though she’d never seen me feed Max. She wouldn’t prescribe domperidone. She told me to start reducing the amount of formula Max was being given. You can imagine how a hungry baby might feel about that.
The cafe was honestly horrible. A packed, fluorescently lit room with no privacy where the woman in charge complained about the number of people in attendance and barked instructions patronisingly at the mothers loudly enough for the whole room to hear.
I was told to feed for 30 minutes on one breast at each feed instead of offering both and then expressing with the electronic pump from that breast afterward. I couldn’t do it. Max cried. It was too long. I didn’t go back. We just kept doing what had been sort of working but over time he wouldn’t feed from me without crying. I felt like I was stuffing my boob into his mouth like a gag.
But now I really didn’t want to give up. When it did work it was magic. The huge surge of oxytocin and that deep emotional bond with your child is addictive. And it makes you feel like you’re doing something right at a time when you’re trying to figure everything out.
I spoke twice with a lactation consultant when Max was 7 weeks old and was given a huge amount of advice and support for nothing. She was incredibly kind. If I’d had that support on day one I’m confident we would be exclusively breastfeeding now.
Instead, I still offer before each bottle but Max will only feed for a few minutes first thing in the morning now. And I pump just to try and keep it going.
Unlike the wonderful feeling you get from feeding, pumping is like having a hangover. It makes me want to cry, have sex and drink a gallon of water all at once. But I still can’t quit because what if he changes his mind?
I’ve been really overwhelmed by the unsolicited advice that I’ve received via twitter in regards to this topic. Sometimes it’s been a godsend and other times infuriating because it’s either been painfully obvious or impossible to implement. Both twitter and this blog are primarily places for me to express myself and explore how I feel about things so bearing this in mind on the topic of breastfeeding I’m done. Please don’t @ me.