Check Ups & Preparation
You were my biggest thoughts during pregnancy, even in front of birth. Breastfeeding can be longer than pregnancy itself and certainly longer than labour, yet we spend more time on those topics by a long shot. With social media, midwives and books all focusing on one thing in particular – the bump, the baby – but not providing the support after when it is so needed.
You have 9 months of appointments and check ups, but once baby is born with the exception of a few midwife visits until 2 weeks (again, focused on baby) you are then left to fend for yourself. No regular check ins, no support, no help with any worries you might have, and coupled with a newborn and trying to keep yourself afloat, is it any wonder that new mamas struggle to establish breastfeeding.
I wanted to so desperately prepare myself mentally for the challenges ahead after my first experience 2.5 years ago which was so difficult and ended so distraughtly.
I wanted to make sure I read things which encouraged it, which were founded on science not schedules, which actually wanted you to succeed and not just conform to what people ‘think’ a baby should drink/eat and be measured by times and mls.
Books written by midwives, online courses by IBCLC’s, real life mama blogs and nutrition tips to give myself the best head start I could.
How It Actually Started
Even with all this prep and forethought, the first 4-6 weeks were so tough. Troubles latching, sore nipples, tongue tie, mastitis, oversupply, fast let down… but my prep in pregnancy was really what helped get me through as I knew where to reach out to for help and had these resources on standby. Throw in at 8 weeks a scare with her being hospitalised for a week where I could no longer breastfeed and had to exclusively pump to tube feed, I was terrified that my journey might end suddenly again.
But, I had/have the most supportive husband and sister who are there to help me through the hard times and wipe away my tears, bake me flapjacks, listen to my worries and know how important making this work means. Without this support and preparation, it is easy to see why so many mamas don’t breastfeed as long as they might want to, and why they feel let down.
I suffered from Postnatal Depression from my first pregnancy and honestly the lack of support, guidance and care with all the difficulties breastfeeding really did play into it (as well as some birth trauma plus chronic sleep deprivation!). And the sudden end to our journey which was not a choice, was the final nail in the coffin and took me months to stop crying and some therapy too.
Why I Am Being Kinder To Myself
This time couldn’t be more different, in fact just the other day when a mama friend asked how breastfeeding was going compared to last time, I actually said it was like chalk and cheese, like night and day, it is just so much ‘easier’ *pinch of salt, as no day has been completely care free or without worry*. Whether that’s because we don’t have reflux and CMPA this time, or the tongue tie was addressed early, or because I was more prepped, it has felt like I have had the time to enjoy it fully – even on the difficult days.
That’s because I know how fleeting these moments are, how long the hours are but the days are short and the weeks even quicker. How with each month that passes by, the seemingly despair-able moments I had in the early weeks now feel like a distant memory and less raw. How I watch my baby grow and develop in awe that my milk and body is the one that is nourishing her still after carrying her for 10 months. How anything can change in a moment and your feeding journey could change drastically whether medically or personally and for this very reason, I want to cherish and celebrate every day that I keep going.
Currently I am grappling with whether to introduce a bottle, even though I know just one a day will help in the long run so that she won’t refuse one later down the line. I also feel under pressure to because I have a wedding to attend and I can’t leave her with grandparents unless I express and she will take a bottle, but is that a good enough reason to do it either? But I also keep thinking, do I really need to introduce one if I want to continue feeding her and I am not going back to work? If she will start weaning in 3 months and then gradually go on to cup feeding and self wean off me anyway? When I was forced to triple feed my first baby and introduced a bottle of expressed milk at 8 weeks with him it was a downhill spiral, where the feeds on me got shorter and he preferred the flow of the bottle, my milk supply started dropping and I had to switch to formula to keep him happy and healthy. So this is why maybe I am so hesitant to introduce a bottle at all again and why even now, as I have had a better experience feeding so far, I still have a million worries about feeding every day.
To the Mama reading this, know that you are strong and capable. Your feeding journey is yours and no one else’s, you could feed for one hour, one day, one week, one month or one year and that is an achievement. Just one drop provides nourishment and goodness, so don’t ever feel like you have failed.
You’ve got this Mama!