Let me start out by saying that breastfeeding is a choice, there should never be any judgment for those doing it or not doing it. There are a million different scenarios that come along with trying to breastfeeding a baby and a lot of them can be completely out of our control. There should never be a comparison between breastfeeding and bottle feeding babies every woman is different, every child is different and therefore every single feeding experience can be different as well. Be prepared for this last statement, please.
I had two very different breastfeeding experiences with my first two babies. I will go through each experience and share some tips and tricks along the way that helped me start out and continue to feed for as long as I choose to. They are in no way concrete medical advice but sometimes it’s nice to hear that someone has gone through something similar and maybe try something you haven’t already tried out too.
My first breastfeeding experience was smooth in the sense that my son latched properly straight away, he fed on his routine times (yes, I am a routine feed and napper parent). But I won’t lie in the sense that at the beginning it hurt like hell for the first few weeks and I had engorgement and too much milk problems. For engorgements putting white cabbage leaves in the freezer and laying them on top of your breast cold was the best relief ever. Sounds and smells awful but trust me it saved me. I expressed with a medela single pump for my extra milk supply but not too much that I would keep producing more. You want to express just enough to have some for a rainy day or Daddy feeding times or express just enough off the top you don’t drown your poor newborn in it and he choke. After those first few weeks, it got easier. We both got into a routine and it was a healthy and happy experience. When he turned one and went onto cow’s milk directly in a sippy cup, I knew this was the right transition for us as a family. Also because I was soon pregnant with his little sister. Sometimes we don’t get to know when that last feed is and it’s nice to be in the situation and control to choose when you think is best for you, your baby and your family life. It could be a few weeks, few months, or even few years. Never feel guilty about stopping, never feel guilty about going further than others.
My second breastfeeding experience went horribly wrong. So much of it was my fault and arrogance on my part and so much of it was just how it turned out. I didn’t ask for help and when it was offered I snubbed it. Why would I need help breastfeeding my daughter when I had breastfed my son so easily? How wrong was I? It turned out I let her latch improperly for so long at the beginning that even with help I couldn’t break her bad habits. She bit, she pulled, she demolished me while she ate. She wasn’t tough tied as they first thought was the problem. I got mastitis after mastitis for months. I remember biting on a rolled up muslin cloth each time I latched her on even at 4-5 months into breastfeeding. It was heartbreaking and I was so hard on my self my milk supply starting going too. For me, like above it was rare to have this problem but the illness of the mastitis (fevers that sent me to the A&E twice) just was too much for my body to handle. I didn’t stop because of 1) my ego 2) she was growing and gaining weight 3) down right stubborn and selfish reasons. I didn’t want to go buy bottles, formula, and sterlize at this point. But I became depressed about stopping and depressed about breastfeeding and it wasn’t healthy for me. I knew to be a better parent to my one year old son and my new baby, I needed to stop. Sadly, I didn’t come to this conclusion until my last visit in the hospital where I came home and there was bottles and formula already there feeding my baby while I was getting better. I cried for someone else stepping in and helping me pulling myself together and I cried because I wanted to choose that last feed but I couldn’t latch her on after that and so my last feed for me was one I didn’t plan for. Once I got over the initial upset of it. I knew I did my best and that these things happen. We were both healthy and happy and that’s what really matters. This is preparing me for my next breastfeeding experience, if I get the chance.
I hope my third breastfeeding experience with this baby, as it’s my last is a smoother one. I hope I have learned enough from my two very different experiences that I can work through whatever this experience throws at me. I know it still could be completely different than the first two. I also am more prepared to recognize if I need to stop or get to choose when I want to stop. I will still ask for HELP. It may be my three baby but with breastfeeding you can never get enough help.
I have a lot of friends ask me about my routine breastfeeding as they wanted to try it too. I find almost naturally the babies will demand feed at regular intervals anyways. For me, I prefer with having other children in the house, school, sports, and busy life that routine breastfeeding works better for us as a family. I don’t have to worry that baby is starving on the school run or while I am doing the grocery shopping. I thought I would share a little bit about how I did my routines with both my babies just in case you are interested as well. Yes, I might mention the name Gina Ford. She may not have had babies but her books have helped me have good eaters and sleepers with her routine advice. While I don’t follow it strictly, it guided me to come up with my own routines.
Obviously with each milestone your baby hits, you have to alter your feeding routine to accommodate growth spurts, illnesses, teething and more. Those are common ones you can judge by your baby’s behavior when to change it around a bit. For the most part, I routine feed the moment baby is born. I feed baby and burp baby so I am never lying down a sleeping baby from the breast. I always think this helped my babies become good sleepers too. In the beginning I do a three hour feeding intervals starting from when you actually start feeding not end feeding. Usually it goes something like this: 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 10pm, 1am, 4am for the first few weeks. This means I am only getting up twice in the night. Then as baby grows and can handle longer spells I change it to four hour intervals. This also means I can feed baby before the school run, before the school pickup, when the kids are doing story time for bed, and then right before I go to bed. This seems to have a great effect on both my babies getting their days and nights sorted and sleeping through by 8/9 weeks. This is not medical advice or concrete just what I did and worked for me. I hope that baby number three will be a good feeder, eater and sleeper like his siblings.
It’s my last baby, our family number is five. I can’t wait for baby boy’s arrival. Whatever way my breastfeeding journey turns out, I am prepared mentally and physically for what’s to come. I have my list of numbers for supportive groups, friends, and family on hand. I have my Medela Double Swing Pump this time for efficiency and all my creams to help with those early sore days. I will have white cabbage on the grocery list upon delivery. Most importantly I will ask for HELP and I will not make myself sick with GUILT, if it doesn’t happen for me as I planned. I will embrace it if I get one day, few weeks, few months or a few years out of it with my last baby.