My Breastfeeding Journey - 6 things I've struggled with.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. During my pregnancy I did so much research and planning with everything aside from breastfeeding. I assumed it would be the easiest and most natural thing in the world and no planning would be necessary.
That was until I was around 36 weeks pregnant and I attended a breastfeeding class offered by the hospital. The class opened my eyes to the reality that it actually may not be as easy for me to breastfeed as I thought.
I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself or the baby so I kept an open mind. What ever was meant to be, that would be our journey.
There was a huge emphasis on baby led feeding. That is when, within the first hour to two hours of Bub being born you have skin to skin contact and they instinctively nuzzle to the breast and try to latch. Between baby led feeding and ensuring you get a good latch each time it should be relatively easy.
I didn't think much more on the topic until 3.41pm on the 22nd Jan 2016 when my baby girl and I stepped out of the birthing pool and layed on the bed. She was on my chest and started to bob her little head around and cry so instinctively I offered her the breast and she took it. She was only minutes old and breastfeeding. I was so proud of us!
That night in hospital I'll never forget, aside from being in a love bubble and on a hormonal high I was in shock. Every time she had a feed to sleep, I'd put her down and 10 minutes after she'd cry to be put back on the boob! Hello cluster feeding! (I'll elaborate more below as this is what first broke me).
Alina will be 7 months old this week and she has been exclusively breastfed. That's 7 months of life I've provided my beautiful girl and I'm damn proud of that. I absolutely love breastfeeding her and the connection it's given us. I have been able to successfully breastfeed and believe me, I know how damn lucky I am! But there's also a side to being able to breastfeed that I feel isn't talked about, it's not easy and here's what I've found really bloody hard.
1. Cluster feeding is a shock to the system. You go from being an independent individual to having a mini human permanently attached to you, dictating your every move. They need you and only you. You can't sleep (don't even try for they will cry the second you put your head on that pillow). You can't shower when you need to and you start to smell (eventually it won't bother you anymore, you'll just baby wipe the important places). You will be backed up for weeks as each time you need to number two that little suckling pig of yours is still attached. Why you still hungry baby?! On a serious note though this was a huge shock to my system. I expected my husband would be able to help. Help put her to sleep, take her for a walk, cuddle her, let me get some sleep but no. Alina only settled when she was on my boob and that was literally every 20 minutes for the first 6 weeks of her life.
2. Then comes on the feeling of isolation. Your baby only needs you. There have been countless times and there still are when breastfeeding has made me feel extremely isolated. We've been out at dinner and Alina has been hungry but would only feed if I'm standing up. I've had to walk into a different room while I'm hungry and my dinner is getting cold and everyone is enjoying themselves to feed a baby who's hungry but won't feed. I've spent the entire outing trying to get her to latch and by the time she's fed and settled everyone's done so I've eaten numerous cold meals alone. Because Alina is exclusively breastfed she's extremely attached to me, even if someone was to offer to help me with her she screams when I leave the room. I've tried to express but she HATES bottles and gets so distressed. So I gave up trying. The truth is too that I'm extremely attached to her too and I'm not ready to be away from her. In turn I haven't had anytime to myself by myself, I time 'me time' with her naps. There's been no girls nights, no dinners baby free or date nights! The husband has been out plenty which has caused me huge resentment at times. It's a catch 22.
3. Sleep deprivation. Exclusively breastfeeding means from day one I've done all of the night feeds. Believe me, there's been a fuck tonne of them. Cluster feeding broke me when it came to no sleep. Now Alina only wakes twice a night for a feed. So that's 7 months without a full nights sleep for me! There's a reason why they use sleep deprivation as a torture technique! It's brutal! It's been so hard in those wee hours in the morning where it's pitch black in the room and the whole world is sleeping and you're up after just putting her down 2 hours ago to feed again! When your eyes are burning and watering from being so tired but your baby needs you, no one else can feed her. That is hard.
4. You finally have nice, full, perky breasts! Well this was the case for me after never having boobs previous to being pregnant! These said breasts excite the husband! But you can't use them in that sense without dousing the poor man in a heavy let down resulting in a milk bath, Caution: Slipery when wet. But not in the fun way so it kind of takes away from the romance haha. Don't even get me started on when you forget to wear breastpads and you hear someone else's baby crying!
5. At times I've felt judged for breastfeeding. I feel like when I say I breastfed people think I automatically think I'm better than them if they formula feed. At Alina's checkups I felt judged when the nurse said she's small and asked if had started her on solids yet, when the answer was no I'd get a blank stare. When I'm invited to something and I decline because I don't bottle feed and can't leave her with someone I can hear the opinions bubbling around in people's heads 'gosh, you need a life too.'
6. Lastly, anxiety. Is she getting enough milk. You can't measure the amount you are feeding them. This has caused me so much stress and anxiety at times but she's thriving. Motherhood is a never ending guessing game!
No one told me it would be so hard, perhaps it's not this hard for everyone who breastfeeds but for me it's been a struggle mentally and emotionally at times. In saying all of this I wouldn't change the journey I've had feeding my daughter for anything in the world. She's thriving, she's healthy and most of all she loves me! I wouldn't change any of this for the world, it's been worth it all and I hope our journey continues for as long as it can!
To all of the mamas out there, we do a fucking magnificent job raising our babies! Whether breast, bottle or formula we all want the best for them and that makes us equally good mothers!