It’s supposed to be the most natural and wonderful thing in the world to do for your child and I’ve never ever entertained feeding my baby in any other way.
I’m a huge advocate for the act of breast feeding, it’s what we’re designed to do after all. It’s a wonderful way to bond with your newborn, it helps GREATLY in reducing you post pregnancy bump and the health benefits it holds for your child are second to none.
With this knowledge I made sure I attended the antenatal breast feeding class, read all I could on good latching techniques and different holds. I researched ways to eliminate any negative ‘side effects’ it may have and my OH stocked up on Lansinoh on the say so of other BFing mums he knows in preparation. I knew all the signs to look out for in my baby to ensure he was put to the breast before getting too worked up.
I was happy. I was ready. I was looking forward to this beautiful act. I had every angle covered.
Or so I thought…
Nearly three weeks in and I can understand why some women give up. I’m shattered. No one told me about the cluster feeding. No one told me how difficult it is to attach a wriggling frantic baby to your breast so they are latched on properly. No one warned me how tiredness can make you let your child just latch on anyway they wanted to simply to get some rest after a marathon 3 hour feed that seems to sap you of all your energy. Nowhere did I read how hard it actually is to breastfeed and how incompetent, useless and disappointed it can make you feel if your plans don’t go, well, to plan!
Constant worries over whether your child is getting enough milk, it would be handy to have a gauge on each breast but you don’t. Everyone tells you that your baby will tell you when they’ve had enough as they’ll just ‘come away’. They also tell you your tiny bundle only has a tummy the size of a walnut, so explain to me why he is feeding for up to 3 hours in an evening, vomiting then feeding some more.
Thank god for Twitter and the fabulous MW I follow on there who let me know about the 3rd day feeding frenzy. Why the hell this wasn’t discussed in antenatal nor mentioned by my own MW is a mystery to me. Also the advice and support I’ve received by dozens of people regarding cluster feeding, another phenomenon the ‘professionals’ I turned to whilst pregnant and as a brand new mum failed to explain or warn me about. Without these people and their words of encouragement about it ‘getting better’ and ‘it’s natures way of your baby telling your body the amount of milk he needs’ I would have surely given up and felt a total failure.
Nearly three weeks in and my nipples scream at me every evening when the cluster feeding starts. They’re so sore, it’s like a needle is being inserted into my nipples. I don’t dread each feed yet but I don’t relish the thought of having to feed off my left breast. I’ve sobbed uncontrollably in the bath massaging my swollen breasts in near scolding water to ensure I don’t get blocked ducts and walked around with half a cabbage patch stuffed in my bra all to avoid possible mastitis of which I was convinced this pain was.
Thankfully mastitis it isn’t! Apparently you feel like a bus has hit you with that one, great! It turns out I have either vasospasm/blanched nipples or thrush which I will ask my breast support worker about when I can find her number.
So what am I doing to get through?
I’m forcing myself to ensure baby is latched properly, especially at night, I’m actually getting up to feed instead of lazily feeding laterally. I’m using nipple sandwiching and stuffing techniques to do this. Yogic breathing during latching… Well it got me through childbirth effectively enough. Tilting baby’s head upwards so his chin is extended helps create a deeper latch apparently. Rubbing some expressed milk into each nipple and ensuring they’re dry before dressing. Applying a warm compress to each nipple when they are white and painful and smothering them in a thick slick of lansinoh.
My ideals seem a million miles away.from me. Taking a stroll with baby casually feeding in a sling, that whole Mother Earth, barefoot mama thing I so expected to be offering are replaced every evening with the overwhelming feeling of utter failure. It would be so easy to give up.
I won’t of course, give up that is.
I’m too bloody stubborn for that but I do understand why so many women do and then they’re vilified for their decision. Listening to some smug militant women talk it’s tantamount to child abuse. How about easing up on these poor women who no doubt already feel like they’ve somehow let their child down in some way. Yes, I agree, breast is best but surely formula and a mentally stable and happy mother is better.