My journey with breastfeeding started in 2015 with my firstborn daughter.
I had been breastfed and brought up around siblings who were breastfed and naively hadn't given it a second thought that I would do otherwise. I had a quick birth with my daughter & she was handed to me for some skin to skin and almost instantly and very instinctively found her way to my breast and latched on. It was a very beautiful and memorable moment.
Even though her latch was great my milk didn't come through until day 5 which saw her weight drop by 13%, which was fairly significant. We were sent to the hospital and told to give her bottles of formula milk as a top up until her weight was back to normal and my milk was fully established.
This only took one week and then I was back to exclusively breastfeeding. Because she had taken a bottle of formula so well I started expressing and giving her bottles of express breast milk as well as breastfeeding which I found helpful as she didn't sleep well and it meant I could have some help with feeding her.
Our breastfeeding journey continued until she was around 9 months old when one day she started to refuse my breast and turn her face away. And when she did go on she clamped her gums down on my nipple in protest. I continued to offer her my breast for 3 weeks but she kept refusing. I expressed and she took my milk from a bottle but I found this very difficult (to exclusively express) as I found I didn't get the volumes she needed so reluctantly and on the advice and encouragement of those around me started to give her formula from a bottle.
I remember vividly, standing in the shower with milk pouring from my breast, sobbing and grieving our breastfeeding journey and the closeness that I felt to her during the time. When I write this I still get a lump in my throat thinking back to that time. My wonderful husband encouraged me that I had done so well to breastfeed for as long as I did but I felt in my heart I hadn't felt ready to stop. It took a further 3 weeks for my breasts to stop producing milk.
At this time I didn't know about breastfeeding strike and that she may have come back to me had I given her a little more time.
In 2017, 2 years later my son was born.
His birth story was very different and nearly 6 months on still a bit raw to put into words.
He was born via emergency c-section due to foetal distress and following this I lost 60% of my blood volume due to a major haemorrhage during surgery. I only got to look at him for a moment before they had to look after me, so we didn't get the skin to skin and I didn't see him for another 3 hours.
After theatre, I was told I may not be able to breastfeed as I had lost so much blood that my breastmilk might not come through. Everything had been so out of control during and after the labour and birth. There were moments where I thought that we were both going to die.
I felt so determined to breastfeed him so after some much needed skin to skin I put him to my breast where he latched perfectly. The rush of emotions are too much to think about. From that moment he stayed attached to me and we both worked hard to beat the odds. I realised we both shared the same determination and by day 3 my milk had come through and doctors and nurses alike were astonished.
My son hasn't taken a bottle so I am exclusively breastfeeding him going on 6 months. It's tough going sometimes as I get no 'time to myself' but I wouldn't change it for the world. I love the closeness I feel to him when breastfeeding (that gulping sound ) and knowing I'm nourishing him with my breastmilk, as I did with my daughter.
I'm often asked when I will stop breastfeeding. I don't have a 'stop date' for breastfeeding my son- he will let me know! What I do know is that I feel more informed this time.
I would like to offer some notes of encouragement to other breastfeeding mums or anyone thinking about breastfeeding.
As with motherhood, breast feeding doesn't come without its challenges. While I am aware I have had a fairly smooth sailing journey in terms of babies who latch properly I would like to encourage you to look at your breastfeeding journey as your own. Don't compare - after all comparison is the thief of joy! Focus on the postives and be proud that you are doing such a great job nourishing your babe no matter what your journey looks like.
I had sore and cracked nipples with both of my babies for the first 2-3 weeks. This can be really sore (toe curling) but I promise with some good nipple care, good latch technique and perseverance it does get easier.
There is always support out there.
Lots of love X