Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's World Breastfeeding Week... so here's my breastfeeding story.

First up I just want to say - I don't care how you feed your babies.

Please don't think that because I breastfed mine and if you didn't, then by default I must be insinuating  I'm awesome and you suck. There is no judgement here.

I simply want to share my story because I come from a family of non-breastfeeders. It wasn't the norm, and growing up I didn't see one baby breastfed, ever. So I'm putting it out there just to show it is normal. Or it can be. I don't know... whatever.

I didn't have an easy time of breastfeeding at the start. We attempted it about 10 minutes after birth, and Abby was off + on. It took less than half a day for breastfeeding to become so painful I likened it second only to that nasty-ass birth I'd just gone through.

Excruciating doesn't even cut it. And this kid fed A LOT. My milk came in halfway through the second day I was there, she had been sucking so much - I had fed for pretty much 24 hours straight. I slept sitting up and ate all my meals over her head, especially after the food lady told me for the third time I had to eat my food more quickly because she couldn't keep coming back all day long to see if my tray was empty, she had other things to do. Eventually the midwives put Abby in a little swing to give my poor boobs a rest.

She lasted about fifteen minutes.

The midwives told me many things about feeding - the number one thing being if I was doing it right, it wouldn't hurt. To be honest, I think that's pretty rare at the start. I had big boobs and the baby had a small mouth. There was literally no way to get all the bits in her mouth that were necessary for painless feeding. I just had to do it the only way we could.

I had no idea what I was doing most of the time, especially at night when I would feed laying down. I'd have to turn on the light and position her properly every time - and keep repeating that every time she pulled off to start again, which was about ten times per feed. A midwife breezily stated 'oh you'll know what you're doing in no time', and I clung to that sentence like a drowning man to a liferaft.

When Abby finally had her first tummy full of milk and fell asleep somewhere toward the end of my stay, I gently put her in the crib and ran as fast as a woman with nine million stitches can run to the shower and stayed there a very, very long time. The light at the end of the tunnel had appeared... feeding might not end up being a 24-hour-a-day thing.

At one point I put the call out on Twitter - how the hell do you get the hang of this breastfeeding gig? I got tons of advice and lovely emails, and one thing stood out the most: Persevere. Tons of people have a rough time at the start, but it gets easier. I believed them... sort of. I wanted to breastfeed, but if I had to yoga-breathe my way through one more toe-curling razor-blade feed I was going to scream. She wasn't latching, I wasn't relaxing, and the first thing I was going to do when I got out of that damn hospital was get a can of formula. I was obviously just not cut out for this.

But to my surprise by the time I got home at the end of the week, I could feed painlessly from one side. How did that happen? The other side, I'm afraid, took another week or so. I found I could get through a feed without losing my mind if I fed lying down with a nipple shield. I was addicted to Lansinoh like crack.

Randomly at one point another tweet flashed into my brain - "aim your nipple at the roof of their mouth", it said. I've no idea from whom. (If it was you, THANK YOU OH MY GOD) I tried it, and bingo - we could get proper attachment faster. I was doing the hamburger-squeezy thing and just trying to shove it in as far back as it would go. Aiming it at the roof of her mouth allowed Abby to roll it back to where it needed to be on her own. Praise Jebus, we were getting somewhere.

I could tell, though, that she wasn't latched correctly most of the time. She was making sucking noises and I knew that wasn't right - but no matter how many times I took her off and re-latched her, she'd pull back to the spot where she was comfortable. Eventually I stopped. It didn't hurt me and she was eating enough - I was going to throw caution and rule-book to the wind and leave it be.

One day when she was three months old, she latched in a perfect textbook latch and that was that. We were feeding normally.

While I didn't overly love breastfeeding, I certainly didn't hate it. It was just something that we did. It was incredibly useful, and I used it for everything - feeding, tiredness, soothing, illness - it was a magic cure-all. I just don't know what I would have done if I had bottle-fed, and I was indeed grateful that I did persevere. It made things a lot easier in my circumstances - especially on planes!

Cat was obsessed.
For some reason though, I had visions of putting her on formula - maybe because it is a relentless task and perhaps my body was crying out for a break. I remember when she went through a growth spurt at 6 weeks and my milk was regulating itself, it felt like she was constantly hungry and I couldn't keep up with her needs. I was just about to put formula on the shopping list when it sorted itself out and we went back to normal. 

I noticed a huge shift when she started solids - I wasn't constantly needed and I felt as though the hardest part was over. I could just get on with the business of feeding and enjoying it. 

It took me a good two months to get Abby to drink from a bottle, as I was going back to work one day a week when she was five months old and I wanted her to be used to it. She was not co-operative and I loathed pouring expressed milk down the sink every time we failed. Which was a lot. I HATED pumping, I had a super-old hand pump and it was like drawing blood from a stone. I tried formula in the bottles, because she needed to get the hang of it, and I just couldn't pump any more. Literally the day before she was due to go to day care, she took a bottle. She has had formula at day care pretty much since she started attending. When I left her to be babysat, she had formula. When her dad took over a feeding occasionally, it was formula. I was 1000% ok with that.

We breastfed until she was about 14 months old. I would have kept going because it was so easy, but I was four months pregnant and it was just about killing me. I had lost all the baby weight plus five kilos after Abby was born and I hadn't gained any back. Every scant resource I had was going to the baby, a little left over for Abby, and absolutely zero for me. Something had to give, and this something was breastfeeding. I just assumed I'd push on and tandem feed unless Abby didn't want to, but my husband gently suggested it might be a good idea to have only one dependent kiddo at a time and it made perfect sense. 

I went away for a weekend and Abby was bottle-fed. When I got back, I continued the bottles. She didn't even notice. I originally wanted to wean straight to a cup, but Abby didn't like it and I went with what she was comfortable with.

"Persevere" really was the best advice I received, as breastfeeding ended up working really well for us. I like to think that when my kids are old enough to feed their own babies, I've destigmatised breastfeeding for them. But if they don't want to follow in my footsteps, that's ok too.

Oh, and just in case you think I always fed fully-clothed and gorgeous in a forest: 

That damn cat!


  1. Haha. Love that last comment and this article. Persevere is definitely the name of the game, my first is four months now. I remember at first hating every time he would wake up cause I would know the pain was about to start. But like you I use breastfeedng for everything. Got a whingy baby throw some food (or a boob) at that problem!

  2. That's a great story, thank you for sharing it !

  3. Thanks for sharing your story.  I agree I don't care how other mums feed their babies as long as they feed them!

  4. Love the last pic and loved your story! The memory of toe curling in the dark in the middle of the night is still way too vivid almost 3 years after the fact. I too took about 3 solid months of perseverance to really feel that we had breastfeeding working properly but since I hated pumping and Skye refused formula and really I was too damn lazy to fiddle around with sterilising and prepping I kept at it. I know what you mean about not loving it but not hating it either, it was certainly convenient during teething and colds etc though. I hope its an easier process for you with the next one, otherwise you may go batty trying to juggle a newborn, Abby and the damn cat!

  5. How good is Lansinoh!
    I still find tubes of it around my house...I even found one in the car!

    And I totally agree that once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding is so easy and so convenient...of course getting the hang of it is easier said then done...but like you said with a little perseverance it comes! 

  6. Oh and PS, my Soup & Co just arrived!  I am so excited!  First up is your smoothie recipe!  And then lots and lots and lots of soups!  
    Thank you!

  7. Thank you for writing this!  My aunt is a lactation consultant and she kept saying, "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong" and it HURT.  For eight weeks it hurt.  My mom said it'd stop hurting at six weeks but my baby always believed in doing above and beyond so we were a full two months before I stopped biting my tongue to keep from crying.  Didn't help that I had an undiscovered allergic reaction to Lansinoh I didn't realize till week five.  Ha!

    But it has been amazingly convenient since then and totally worth it.  

  8. Love that last pic! What an amazing journey you shared together and you get to do it all again soon. Maggie has just weaned @ 14 months and I didn't expect to feel so heartbroken. 

  9. Ugh I know... and they wake up so damn often! I was throwing boobs like elbows.

  10. Haha, which 99.99999999% of us do!

  11. good god, something has to be done about that cat. I love him desperately, but he wakes me more than the baby does! There's only so much of me to go round haha

  12. I hear you can use it as lip balm!

  13. Someone once said to me if you had a hungry little mouth like a clamp on a tender part of your body that had never experienced such a thing, then of course it's going to hurt! The first couple of weeks my boobs were all like WHAT IS THIS TORTURE? DEAR GOD!

  14. I didn't expect to be so OK with it! I wonder how I'll feel with the next one, knowing it is my last. I'm actually scared of how much it's going to hurt again haha xx

  15. I like hearing stories like this :-) It took my daughter and I about a week before she started to even attach properly and then she got sick of it after about 3 months (literally crying when I tried to breastfeed her) so I ended up stopping. I actually really loved feeding Ri myself and I wish I'd gotten photo's of her feeding from me (sometimes being a sole parent sucks!) xx

  16. sar - AccidentallentilAugust 2, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Happy Breastfeeding Week! Thanks for sharing your story.

    I really wish everyone would just say "you know what, for most people, it just effing hurts at first". Even if you and baby are doing it properly it still hurts to have a tiny hungry mouth sucking like crazy on bleeding nipples.

    I shared my story a few days ago too. It was similar to yours, except i didn't have enough milk for the first few weeks, so she had formula from one week old until we sorted it out. it upset me at the time because i'd just assumed i would breastfeed and that it would be easy!

  17. Thanks for sharing that.  I think more 'normal' stories of breastfeeding really help.  It isn't all perfect for everyone.  My son pretty much fed constantly, I didn't get engorged because he was feeding so much, it got easier after a couple of months then at 4 months it got VERY hard but at 6 months it suddenly got REALLY easy and I had a bit more of an F you attitude with people being a bit iffy about me feeding him in public too so it was probably our best time in lots of ways.  I fed my son until he was 13 months and then a breastfeeding strike hit (we'd had another at 8 months) but this time I figured it was pointless trying to fight my way through it and stopped.  

    For all the hard times, I miss it.

  18. I had always thought that if I had children, which I never did, I would have breast fed. Mommas and baby's always seems so at peace when they are feeding.

  19. Hi Stacey, you inspired me to share my breastfeeding story too, which I've now done over on my blog Mavis and Frank. I only wish I could have found a breastfeeding picture of myself as glamorous as yours. By the way, I completely relate to clinging for dear life to the encouraging comments. For me it was "Don't worry, you'll seen feel like breastfeeding whilst hanging from a chandelier"! Thanks again. Ally

  20. I totally made that assumption too! I think a lot of us do, and it's normal to. What I didn't realise was that it's normal to struggle sometimes and not everybody (in fact the minority of people I've talked to) finds it easy straight up. Glad I know now!

  21. Haha yes I was a bit F you about feeding in public too! I never got engorged either, and I was so surprised. But given how much I was feeding, it made perfect sense. I wonder how it will be the second time around.

  22. It is rather peaceful once it stops hurting! Until they get teeth.... oh my GOD.

  23. Yes, someone once told me I'd be feeding and washing the dishes at the same time! I never did, but it definitely became second nature very quickly. Off to read your story now!

  24. Thank you for your breastfeeding story! Turns out I have weaned my son during Breastfeeding Week - I didn't know it had been breastfeeding week- we have only just finished weaning my second child! Although I felt so awesome for having breastfed, for so long and that it was certainly quite a juggle this time around -- with a 3 yr old hyper girl and my husband is on 12 hour shiftwork thus doing the hardyards a lot myself..... I was incredibly proud of getting as far as I did!).....the thing that sucked for me, was that the celebratory ending was overshadowing by judgements and justifying when and why I had decided to finish. (in my case, why I stopped at 10.5 months with my 2nd and relatives pointing out I didn't breastfeed as long as my first child whom I breastfeed until 11.5months). Stupid comments of "oh so close" or "aww mum".

    As far as I'm concerned, they are no rules same for each baby or mother and 'you're doing a good job, mum" should be said first to every mum no matter the journey. [in a perfect world, hey! hehe]

    Congrats Veggie mama - you did a great job!! And all the best and warmest wishes for your impending arrival.