Breast is Best! (if it came with instructions)

 

You often hear people light-heartedly complaining about how we don’t get an instruction manual with our babies. The fear of bringing your baby home is a very real and tangible thing but, as we settle in to home life, our instincts do kick in and we all get the hang of it…eventually! This is with one exception, in my humble opinion – the wonderful ability we women have to not only sustain life, but to give our babies the best possible nourishment. That’s right! Fantastic, natural, timeless breast-feeding! How can something so natural possibly go wrong?

Long before I was pregnant, or even considering children, I assumed that I would breast-feed any babies I may have. Ready-made milk, fully portable, supply on demand, no bottles, no formula, never mind the unique bonding experience, what’s not to love, right?? When I became pregnant, one of the first things I noticed attending the antenatal clinics was the absolute barrage of posters and leaflets about how breast-feeding was best for your baby. Next I started being asked at the clinics, BEFORE I had had my baby if I would be breast-feeding. What?? How does that affect my ante-natal care? Anyone considering bottle-feeding their baby would be on a serious guilt-trip before even giving birth. As my answer was ‘yes’, I didn’t really think much more about the ‘breast is best’ offensive. Equally, as it was as natural as breathing, nor did I give any thought to ‘how’ I would breast feed..

Three weeks earlier than my due date, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby anyone had ever seen, and it seemed breast-feeding was a doddle – just place her beside the source and she suckles away. Or so I thought. So I rang my husband two days later and said ‘come pick us up, we can go home’. Now all babies lose approximately 5-7 % of their body weight when they are born, but my daughter lost more than she should have because she wasn’t getting any milk. There it was. I was the worst mother ever created! I could not even feed my own child.( Hormones prevented me from hearing the fact that my milk hadn’t come in and she didn’t have a good latch). I was told I would have to ‘top her up’ with formula, and then a not very nice midwife instructed me in the art of breast-feeding by grabbing my baby and grabbing my boob and forcing them both together – really NOT helpful. By the time my husband got to the hospital to pick us up, I was sitting up in bed, bawling my eyes out, bottle-feeding my daughter and we were not able to go home for another 24 hours.

Now I am nothing if not determined, so I kept trying to feed her and there is a ton of support out there; apart from one bad experience, I have found midwives and health nurses to be wonderful. There are also gadgets to ease the pain. So eventually I got the hang of it and after about 6 weeks (after I recovered from mastitis..) it wasn’t even excruciatingly painful anymore! It was the lovely bonding experience I had heard about. I ended up feeding her for seven months which was brilliant in my book. When my son arrived, I had even more difficulty feeding him, but did not even consider giving up as ‘he must have what his big sister had’. The first eight weeks of his life were incredibly tough because of my bull-headedness – I have no idea how many times my husband suggested that we just switch to formula. This was most likely induced by watching me crying silent tears at the serious pain during feeds. This too passed and I fed him for nine months. Even on my third baby, although I really did have all the techniques down pat at that stage, it was still very painful for the first few weeks. However I did feed her for a year, and it was wonderful – she went straight from me to a beaker of milk.

Now before Cuidiú or La Leche League come after me, I am in fact a true believer that breast- feeding is best for your child, although bottle fed babies survive equally well. However, along with the well-documented benefits, there are some potential obstacles that I wish I had known about before I had my first baby :-

  • Getting the latch right is hard – there are some people who ‘get it’ straight away but from my experience the majority of us struggle.
  • The left boob is really awkward to feed with, even when I cracked breast-feeding the left boob always required a bit of management. (Presumably the right is the troublesome one if you are left-handed)
  • It is painful – even if you get it right straight away – when your milk ‘comes in’ it hurts. A lot! Then there are cracked nipples, blocked ducts, mastitis,etc. just all very ouchy in general!
  • You can’t share the load – you are the only one who can feed your child, until you start expressing and belive me that is not a road you want to rush down!
  • You have to wear nursing bras – ugly, ugly, ugly – even the pretty ones .
  • You can’t just throw on any old top to wear – you have to make sure you have easy access to your breasts at all times.
  • Breasts are no longer the epitome of your femininity they are simply, milk machines.
  • It is tiring, not only because you are always on call – just the process of feeding always left me feeling drained.
  • Getting mastitis when you are recovering from labour and coming to terms with a new baby is, in a word, hell.
  • You are hungry all the time – and if, like me, you use that as an excuse to scoff biscuits, scones and cakes then the ‘getting your figure back by breast-feeding’ bonus doesn’t apply.
  • You can’t really go out and party, although in truth I did celebrate my 40th birthday whilst feeding my baby.
  • You feel immensely guilty if you can’t ‘get it’ and switch to formula – bloody ridiculous I know – but in our hormonal, post birth heads we are doing our babies a massive disservice.
  • Trying to feed your baby discreetly in public is stressful, and then when you get it sorted you get ‘looks’ from others who think you have a burning desire to expose yourself in public!!
    WP_000187-1

    Celebrating my 40th!

     

Breast-feeding is natural but it is not necessarily easy or for everyone. So if you decide to feed your child formula milk, enjoy the fact that you are dodging all the aforementioned cons and if you are planning on breast-feeding then take the above as a caveat but please don’t be put off.

Thanks for reading

Aisling

I love feedback , please leave any thoughts or comments below.

 

 

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Clothesline
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 12:18:29

    You found being asked would you breastfeed when pregnant weird but I think thats the key. For many it is a learned skill, myself included. Preparing before birth can help bypass a lot of possible stumbling blocks in my opinion. Sorry you seemed to have such negative feeding experience’s especially after feeding three children.

    Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jun 05, 2014 @ 12:23:54

      I absolutely agree that being prepared is the best possible approach. When I replied ‘yes I would be breast feeding’ I wasn’t given any follow on instructions. If I had been told by anyone that it may be tough to start then I would have been better prepared and possibly not been so hard on myself.I had a wonderful experience breast-feeding after I got over the early weeks. Would recommend it to anyone, would tell them it may be hard at the start but is so worth it!

      Reply

  2. The Clothesline
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 12:29:40

    Its such a shame that it is left to people to go and find out the information, it should absolutely be given to you.
    You didn’t mention any positives in your post, hence my comment 🙂

    Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jun 05, 2014 @ 13:08:10

      I did say it was wonderful and a great bonding experience and that I agree it is best. However the positives of breastfeeding are often mentioned, the difficulties not so much. Thanks for reading and commenting by the way! 🙂

      Reply

  3. mind the baby
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 12:38:11

    So sorry to read you found it so tough Louise! I think one of the things about breastfeeding is that it’s such an individual experience for each woman so everyone will have their own pros and cons. Some of the things that you list as cons I personally didn’t have any problems with but then I would have had my own difficulties with different things. You mention Cuidiu and La Leche League in your post and in my experience I have found the support groups and telephone counsellors from both organisations to be an absolute godsend. Even though I was very reluctant to pick up the phone to a complete stranger, I discovered afterwards all the reluctance was in my head and they were so very helpful and only dying to take my call.

    Reply

    • mind the baby
      Jun 05, 2014 @ 12:59:10

      Apologies Aisling! It’s Aisling! So sorry! I was just reading a previous blog by a Louise! So sorry x

      Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jun 05, 2014 @ 13:02:04

      Thanks for reading. Yep I think they are fantastic support services too,along with midwives and health nurses that is why I linked to them. The point I was trying (and possibly failing) to get access is that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally and in spite of the ‘cons’ all of which I experienced, it is still best. If I had known what to expect I may not have doubted myself so quickly.

      Reply

  4. maja
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 13:18:20

    Just few brief poins

    – was one of the hardest jobs I ever did
    – felt that in prenatal classes they were not realistic with women..if I hear ‘ it’s the most natural process again’ I would scream…it is a skill and requires hard work..there is a whole science behind it
    – didnt have good support ..most of the mums I knew were feeding on the bottle and if you say how hard it is..you get ‘ah just give it up, why do you bother, I use formula and there my baby is perfect’ response from people
    – it is a big sacrifise at the beginning and a choice..
    – it is not always the best and we are not all the same..bottle and combinaton of both works good as well
    – at the end there were some priceless beautiful moments during feeds that I will never forget…worth all the pain

    Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jun 05, 2014 @ 15:55:55

      Thanks for reading and commenting Maja!
      Sounds like you and I had similar experiences. It is so worth all the pain, but it would be good if mothers knew to expect the pain in the first place!

      Reply

  5. Aedin
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 13:58:08

    Yes to all of this-it’s so bloody tough!I have just finished breast feeding my second. I assumed it would all come so natural but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s not wonder a lot of people switch to formula many for the reasons you outline.

    Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jun 05, 2014 @ 15:58:05

      Thanks for reading Aedin! I think that if people knew it was going to be a hard slog but worth it, they would be more inclined to stick with breast-feeding!!

      Reply

  6. tric
    Jun 06, 2014 @ 23:34:45

    It is not for everyone and once those baby days are over people find other things to stress over. For me personally it all went well and I loved it. My family thought there was something wrong with me as this is what cows do!
    For my best friend who had her babies within days and weeks of me it was a nightmare. Hours sitting under a baby while having others to run around after.
    So even though it is called “breast feeding”, It is very different for everyone.

    Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jun 07, 2014 @ 10:09:03

      I was the opposite. One of my closest friends found breastfeeding so easy so I think that is why I was so unprepared for how hard it can be. Thanks for reading. 🙂

      Reply

  7. Trackback: World Breast-Feeding Week | BabySteps
  8. Trackback: Baby Number Two, Will I Love You? | BabySteps
  9. Trackback: Best Post | BabySteps

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