If you’ve happened to see me in the past seven months, chances are I was half-undressed and had a baby stuck to me.
I took the decision to breastfeed my (future) children when I was eleven years old and our science teacher extolled the benefits of mothers nursing their babies.
I remember thinking I’d probably be embarrassed to do it in public but I was determined to have my own body feed my children.
The teacher forgot to mention a few minor details, like the excruciating pain you’re bound to experience at some point and how difficult it can be to learn to nurse.
I was very lucky and managed to breastfeed both my girls, not without having my fair share of the said ‘minor details’.
With M, my first-born, I had the hardest time. She latched on immediately and drank to her heart’s content the first three days, while we were still in hospital.
Then we got home and the milk came in. I knew this would happen but I could have never foreseen the overnight growth of my breasts from a B cup to a D.
I was in terrible pain and discomfort and didn’t know what to do with my screaming baby who could not latch on to my rock-hard breasts. Add to that a house full of loud, well-meaning relatives who had come to visit and my stress levels were off the chart.
I clearly remember phoning my gynaecologist in tears, begging him to let me off the hook.
He told me not to stress myself and to stop if I really couldn’t do it, that I had at least tried.
Being stubborn and not one to easily accept defeat, I gritted my teeth and somehow managed to soldier on through a whole month of breathtaking pain and days of dreading the next feed.
At the end of the first month, constantly encouraged by the lovely midwives at our hospital, it finally became easy. There was no pain anymore, no cracked nipples, no biting of the hand until M latched on…it had finally become as natural as we were told it would be back when I was eleven.
I eventually nursed M for eight months but had to stop when she started eating more and my supply dwindled.
A year ago, one of my major concerns was not the impending labour and birth of baby R, but whether or not I’d have the same horrific experience until I got used to nursing her.
Six years had passed since I had last breastfed and I wasn’t sure I could remember what to do. I was not looking forward to a repeat performance but I was still determined to give it my best shot. Then little R was born and this time it was a totally different experience.
To start with, giving birth while being assisted and supported by my husband meant I was a lot more relaxed. Looking back, I was a nervous wreck after M was born.
I lived in the irrational fear that she would be taken away from me and I secretly wanted to stay in hospital where I felt safe and protected. This time, I couldn’t wait to go back home and see my two girls bond.
R is now seven months old and, so far, we have managed to avoid formula. I have nothing against formula, especially because I had supplemented M’s feeds with formula and she switched to it at eight months.
She was as happy drinking formula as she had been drinking my milk and she grew very well. The only thing I would complain about is smellier nappies but that’s hardly a reason for foregoing formula!
There’s no doubt that the fact that I was so relaxed this time helped immensely.
What also helped was knowing that it wouldn’t be pain-free and that any pain or discomfort I would experience wouldn’t last long.
My state of mind and being better informed made all the difference this time and that’s why I strongly feel new mums should have all the support and information possible.
Blog post BREAST IS BEST… OR IS IT? to be continued…