I’ve been pretty fortunate with breastfeeding in terms of physically managing to do it, many times I’ve seen questions in Facebook groups about latches or blog posts mentioning tongue tie and been thankful I haven’t come across those issues. With that being said, even if you manage to get the physical thing sussed you still have so much to contend with – emotions, opinions, your body changing, feeding in public, what to wear, the list goes on. I guess I just want to write a bit about my experiences with breastfeeding and things I’ve found helped or struggled with.
I’m so bad for feeling negative about how short a time I breastfed Abel for, I managed 4 weeks exclusively and combi fed with formula until about 5 months. I think I would have got on better EBF if someone had spoken to me about what to expect but it just never happened. Being a first time mum is scary, it really is, your identity as a person goes to shit and you don’t really know where you stand anymore for a while. You have SO much to deal with. Personally I found the whole “mum” thing really hard to get used to, when I had Abel the instagram mum community was nowhere near where it is today. I didn’t feel like my old self but I didn’t feel “mumsy” either so I was a bit lost.
I found breastfeeding in the house fine mostly, just tiring and time consuming. It started to get really tough when I tried to go out, I didn’t realise how often babies wanted fed, I felt stuck in the house and basically gave up trying to go out sometimes. When it got to about 4 weeks (typically when cluster feeding goes crazy but I didn’t know this at the time) I had a mini meltdown and didn’t know what to do. I had the health visitor coming that day and was terrified to tell her I wanted to stop breastfeeding, I thought I would get a huge lecture after a midwife I had seen previously being very hard on “breast being best”. Thankfully the HV was more than sympathetic and reminded me my mental health had to be a priority too. It was suggested I start giving formula as well which at the time was such a relief to hear. In hindsight I really wish she had just spoke it out with me and worked through the hurdles of breastfeeding but it worked out fine.
The biggest reason I stopped breastfeeding Abel altogether was that I couldn’t stop worrying about what others thought. I was SO self conscious feeding in public or even in front of family. I used to go sit in the bedroom which was just a pain. I remember feeding him in a shopping centre, pram in front of me slightly whilst Lucy and my friend went into a shop and a group of young girls burst out laughing at me… now I realise it was just their immaturity showing and I wish I had said something maybe but at the time I just wanted to hide.
It took me a good while after that to start feeling confident about being a mum and to feel like me again, maybe nearer Abel turning 1? I had already started my little instagram page then named @bramblebites_ which really helped, I met some amazing mums and I’ve only got stronger as a mum and person since. I did get annoyed at myself as I gained confidence and I wished I had done things differently. We always said we would have more kids so I knew I would get the chance to do it over again.
With Freida I have been breastfeeding her for 8 weeks now (wahhh!!). Don’t get me wrong it has been TOUGH, like really tough but its crazy what a little bit of knowledge does. The days where she has wanted boob every 2 seconds weren’t a total shock, the night feeds have been easier, the thought of a bottle isn’t so scary now I know it can work with breastfeeding too. We tried her with a bottle this week, I had been expressing some when I got a chance and she was fussing over taking it which was frustrating because getting those few ounces was so hard between feeding on demand and looking after Abel too.
I’ve since decided to do what we did with Abel and use formula if she is getting a bottle. The stress of trying to express enough for a bottle every day or 2 plus a freezer stash and sterilise (I use a Haakaa pump) was getting too much. As always the mum guilt is strong but I’m trying my best to see the bigger picture and that her getting boob 80-90% of the time is still a huge thing and I should be proud of how far I have got this time as well as last time.
So yeah (I say that far too much…) things are going 100x better this time and I only wish I knew what I did last time as well. The main things I have found helpful this time…
• Babies are hungry, they will want fed every hour or 2 or more often, just go with it and don’t watch the clock – it’s totally normal.
• The first few days will hurt with after pains, second time around these were a lot worse but they only last days, it’s just like having a contraction while feeding. My stomach went in so quick though which was a bonus!
• It can hurt… it gets better though, read up on it and find out what helps you. For me I use Kokoso if my nips are sore and know what to look out for with mastitis etc.
• Have support, you may be the only one physically able to feed baby but you still need help mentally and with other stuff to take the pressure off.
• Get used to doing things with one hand or learn to feed in a sling/carrier (especially if you have a child already!).
• Feeding in public really isn’t too bad, think about what to wear or take a muslin and no one really notices!
• Get to know when leaps happen, chances are you will have one mega clingy boob monster when this happens, we use the wonder weeks app.
• If you have a child already get some books from the library and talk to them about breastfeeding before baby arrives, Abel has been amazing so far and I really think preparing him for it before has made it a normal thing that doesn’t phase him.
• Do what works for you. If you want to just breastfeed, amazing! If you want to combi feed or express then great! Look into different options and don’t let it become something you dread, I still want to go out so a bottle suits us for example.
So we shall see how long I last this time, I don’t see me stopping anytime soon and I am really enjoying it unlike last time so fingers crossed!