Now before I start on this little blog post I want to make it very clear. I am all for fed is best, be that formula or breast. I really don’t care. A fed baby is a happy baby where ever the milk comes from. There is absolutely no point beating yourself up for using formula if that is what you want to do just because Sheila down the road breastfed all of her children doesn’t mean it is right for everyone.
So now that you know that I am not going to bang on about how amazing I am because I breastfed my babies let me share my journey, my honest (maybe a little too honest) journey.
When I had Charlie almost 7 years ago (gosh where did that time go) I was told that breast is best, give it a go, even if it’s just for a few days to give him the best start. I thought breastfeeding would be easy, after all it’s natural right? surely it can’t be that hard. Oh boy was I naive. Along came this screaming bundle and would he latch on, no of course he wouldn’t. We had to stay in hospital overnight because Charlie wouldn’t feed. I was devastated, how could I not do what was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world? Why could I not feed my baby? I have to say the midwives were amazing and were on hand throughout that night to try to help me. We tried so many different positions but nothing was working, I eventually expressed a tiny amount into a syringe and Charlie was fed. By the time morning came I was exhausted and well and truly fed up. Day one of being a mum and I had failed. I still remember a midwife popping her head in to say good morning, she asked if I was ok and I burst into tears. I wanted to go home, I wanted to be able to feed my baby and be at home with my own stuff and sleep in my own bed. By the time Andy came to visit me I was a mess. After lots of talks with the midwives they let me discharge myself on the condition that if Charlie still didn’t feed at home then I would go back in. As soon as we got home the little monkey latched on and fed. Feeding Charlie was a pain, because of his slow start we had to strip him for every feed so that we were skin to skin. By the time we had stripped him, fed him, changed his nappy, dressed him and settled him to sleep it was time to feed him again. I remember those early days and oh boy were they hard. I was very embarrassed when feeding Charlie, don’t ask me why as I really don’t know. I would never feed him in public, or in front of anyone except Andy for that matter. I didn’t feel comfortable feeding him and honestly didn’t enjoy it one bit. When Charlie was a few months old I was diagnosed with Gallstones. I would get awful attacks, mostly in the evenings and because of this we decided that we would introduce some formula. When the attacks were really bad I was bent over in agony so there was no way I could breastfeed plus if I ended up in hospital I needed to know he could be fed. The formula feeds ended up becoming more and more frequent and the breastfeeding decreased until it eventually stopped altogether, I think Charlie was around 6 months. I was sad when he refused breastfeeding but also relieved that I could stop.
Then 22 months after Charlie was born our second little bundle came into the world. I say little when in reality he was a big 9lb 3ozs. Ollie latched on straight away and fed like a dream, yay go me, I’ve got this. breast feeding pro here. Erm nope. Ollie was a very good feeder don’t get me wrong but Charlie, oh Charlie had other ideas. Charlie was just hitting the terrible twos when Ollie was born and what better time to press all of mummies buttons then when she is trying to feed your little baby brother. Charlie soon realised that if I was feeding Ollie I could not get up to him. Charlie then thought he would practice for a career as a stunt man, I swear that child was trying to kill himself. He would be climbing on the sides, attempting to climb over the sofa, onto the windowsill. You name it and he probably tried it. I was so stressed, I had this baby who actually fed, but my other child was determined to land himself in hospital whenever I sat down to feed. I didn’t know what to do. I remember feeling like a failure for giving up, but I was told that a fed baby is a happy baby and it doesn’t matter how they are fed but if mum is not happy then nobody will be. You have to do what works for you and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I decided to try expressing so that I could time it around sleep times, mainly so Charlie was in his cot and couldn’t harm himself. I still recall the first time the health visitor came out after I started expressing, I was so scared that she would give me the whole breast is best talk. Thankfully she didn’t, she just warned me that my milk may well dry up if I am exclusively expressing. I managed to express for Ollie until he was 12 weeks old, he then went onto formula.
Fast forward four years, yes, yes, I am mad and started all over again. No I was not trying for a girl. No I will not be going for number four and yes he was definitely planned. (just a few of the usual questions, thought I would pre-answer). Along comes my littlest munchkin Albie aka bug or screech (you would understand that one if you could hear this kid scream). After a worrying last few weeks of pregnancy (that’s another story) and a very quick labour Albie arrived to complete our little family. Albie fed straight away, yay. He then fell asleep and would the monkey feed again, of course he wouldn’t. You see the midwives needed to see him feed twice before we were allowed to go home. We sat and we waited, we waited and we sat, yay he is waking up, no he isn’t grrrr. We were all signed off to go home as soon as he fed. I think he finally fed and we were allowed home at about 2.30am. That is the only time this kid has gone that long without a feed. Now something that I haven’t mentioned before is what the first few days of breast feeding are like. To be honest I think I had maybe pushed it to some dark corner of my mind, locked the door and thrown the key into a sinking ship never to be found again. Hahaha it’s not that bad really (whispers, it really is :-)) I am not going to lie to you, breastfeeding at first is painful. Getting your baby to latch properly in my opinion needs a masters degree. Then your milk comes in and well, who blew up the balloons is probably the best way to describe your new found chest area. They get so full it hurts, if you express then they re-fill and well basically you are telling them to make more so they do and you prolong the pain. But and it is quite a big but (not as big as the boobies but still) it does get better. They will settle in a few days and there are things you can do to help. Hot showers help lots. Cold cabbage leaves are meant to be amazing, I never tried this although I did send poor Andy out late one night to get me a cabbage when I was in pain and ready to scream. And feed, feed, feed. So I braved it through the pain. Got through the waking every two hours as only I could feed. Oh yes and the fidgeting on the edge of the bed to make sure you stay awake while feeding. I was so scared of falling asleep and dropping him. Tiredness zzzzz. I must admit I felt pretty good this time, I have even put on my big girl pants and fed Albie in public. I am very discreet and cover myself where possible. I’m not sure what I would say if anyone said anything to me. Well I do have the whole he is a baby and he needs feeding, it’s natural blah blah blah speech but I’m sure if it actually happened I would probably turn into a blubbering mess and cry like, well, Albie. My plan was to feed Albie until he turned 6 months, well that’s what the health people recommend isn’t it. Hmmm they obviously forgot to tell Albie this little bit of information. Albie is now 8 1/2 months old and I am still feeding him. He will not take a bottle, we have tried a few times, both expressed milk and formula. I have pretty much given up trying now and have re-set my goal to one year, then it’s sorry kid but the humble cow will be taking over. I never made it this far with Charlie and Ollie and I am glad that I persevered with Albie. Don’t get me wrong there are still hard times like when he is teething. He bites AHHHHH, yes that is me screaming and picture tears rolling down my face at the same time. You expect labour to be painful, you wait until your wonderful bundle puts his or her new pin sharp teeth into practice right on your… ouch. They say (the experts) don’t make a fuss, just take them off and tell them no. Yeah ok after I have climbed down from the ceiling from the pain. Thankfully after a few times I have got better at realising that he is going to bite me so I can take him off before he turns into a baby version of Hannibal Lecter. And then there lies the reason behind this post, well the reason that I thought about writing it. Mastitis. As I write this post I am on antibiotics to get rid of my second bout of Mastitis. I never had it with Charlie or Ollie, but this time I have had it twice. Oh joy. Mastitis is horrible, not only does it hurt your boobs or boob but you feel awful. My temperature hit a fantastic 40.1 on Wednesday night, woohoo and my little watchy fit bit type thing informed me that my heart rate was 115bpm during the night eeek. It’s like flu x100 with boob pain that you have to feed through with clenched teeth. The lovely doctor has given me my antibiotics, told me to take paracetamol and rest (yeah right I have three children). I do feel much better today thankfully hence this post. If you do think you have mastitis then do go to the doctors, it really is horrible and the sooner you start treatment the better.
So there it is, my breastfeeding journey to date, I am proud of myself for sticking it out. I love the closeness it has given me especially with Albie (8 1/2 months is a looonnng time). I am glad I have found the courage to feed my baby when we are out rather than panicking and hiding away. Would I do it again, yes I would (I will not be doing it again as I am not having any more babies, yes I am sure, oh 100%). But I stick to my first statement. Breast feeding is not for everyone and that is fine. It hurts, it is uncomfortable and it is really hard work. You and only you can feed your baby, that means every night feed is you, every day feed is you. Your baby needs to be with you all the time at first anyway and that is hard. If that is not right for you then so be it. You have to take care of yourself first and if that means feeding with other ways then that is great, hey your baby is fed right. By the time they are two they eat fluff and lick dogs anyway so does it really matter or maybe that’s just my kids (just kidding).
Right I am off to eat chocolate, oh yeah one of the benefits of breastfeeding is it helps you lose weight or in my case eat chocolate without putting on weight. Yay, pass the dairy milk 🙂
Kelly Hermitage is a newborn art and children’s portrait photographer, based in Burton Latimer, Near Kettering, Northamptonshire.
If you would like to find out more about my photography sessions please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org