When I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter in late 2019, I always said I’d ‘give breastfeeding a go.’ As the months went on and we prepared for her arrival, we attended a couple of antenatal classes (although the pandemic brought this to an abrupt end) and were taught briefly about breastfeeding.
I felt that I was preparing myself adequately, but when Erin arrived in July 2020, I realised just how unprepared for the reality of breastfeeding we were, and by ‘we’ I mean both me and my husband.
I soon realised how unprepared we were as new parents
When we arrived home from the hospital I think it really hit home how unprepared we were. I didn’t have the right clothes, I didn’t realise how often Erin needed feeding or in fact that I should’ve been feeding her on demand, rather than every couple of hours. I’d never even heard the term ‘cluster feeding’ or even knew what it meant. I didn’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public or indeed in front of anyone other than my husband or mum.
Looking back on that time, I don’t think I actually realised that a baby could be exclusively breastfed. I was convinced that I needed to top her up with formula every time I breast fed her. When she was unsettled, my husband’s first reaction was to go and get her one of the ready made formula bottles. I know he was just trying to help, to give me a break, but we both know looking back that it wasn’t the kind of help that I needed.
When she was unsettled, my husband’s first reaction was to go and get her one of the ready made formula bottles.
I received lots of breastfeeding support on the postnatal ward
When I’d been on the postnatal ward after the birth, I’d had lots of breastfeeding support from the staff. Erin had a good latch as a result and I don’t remember experiencing any pain or difficulty in getting her to latch. I’d been offered virtual breastfeeding support from Home Start infant feeding team, as they weren’t doing home visits due to covid restrictions, but I had no desire to do them because I was sick to death of Zoom at that point.
As I was breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding, gradually feeding my baby became more and more stressful, and when something had to give, breastfeeding seemed the obvious choice. At 6 weeks old, I breastfed Erin for the final time.
As I was breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding, gradually feeding my baby became more and more stressful
Giving up breastfeeding was a relief…to begin with
At first, giving up breastfeeding was a massive relief. Feeding became much simpler, I didn’t have to worry about what I was wearing which seemed like such a trivial thing but was a really big deal for me, and Erin was a happy and healthy baby. But as the months went on, and I saw more and more women breastfeeding their babies, I started to feel like I’d given up too easily.
I’d told myself that I’d had to give up breastfeeding because Erin wasn’t getting enough from me, but I know now that really wasn’t the case. With the right knowledge and support, I could’ve had a much more successful breastfeeding experience.
I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my second baby
In April 2022 when I discovered I was pregnant with our second child, I was determined to get breastfeeding right. I told my husband straight away that I was going to exclusively breastfeed this time and what the practical implications of this would be. I bought myself lots of nursing bras and tops, and joined a group on Facebook called ‘Can I breastfeed in it?’ With my new determination came confidence.
When I saw women breastfeeding in public I’d smile at them and look forward to being one of them. All of a sudden my eyes were being opened to the fact that breastfeeding was very normal and there were actually a lot of women who did it.
All of a sudden my eyes were being opened to the fact that breastfeeding was very normal and there were actually a lot of women who did it.
Feeding was painful to begin with
When Robyn was born January 2023, I was excited for my next breastfeeding journey to begin. The first few days were tricky. Although Robyn had latched on to feed pretty much instantly after she was born, it wasn’t quite right. I had an amazing birth experience on the birth centre and left hospital when Robyn was just 6 hours old so didn’t receive any breastfeeding support whilst we were there.
I persevered through the pain, arranged for Home Start infant feeding team to visit us at home and looked online for tips (three cheers for silver nipple cups and Amazon Prime!). When it was too painful to feed on one side, I expressed the milk by hand and fed it to Robyn off a spoon. My determination meant that it never even crossed my mind to give her formula. By the end of the first week I’d seen a huge improvement and the convenience of just being able to feed Robyn instantly, wherever we were, felt like a massive bonus.
My husband knew how better to support me breastfeeding second time around
There was not only a huge difference in me but my husband too. He knew exactly how to support me this time around. He picked up on Robyn’s feeding cues and definitely appreciated not having to wash and sterilise all the bottles! We went on holiday to Turkey when Robyn was just 14 weeks old, and it felt easy knowing all I needed to pack were my boobs! By that point I’d become a pro at feeding her discretely, and my friends and family commented on how they didn’t even realise I was doing it most of the time.
We went on holiday to Turkey when Robyn was just 14 weeks old, and it felt easy knowing all I needed to pack were my boobs!
Robyn is now 7 months old and has started baby led weaning. I’m proud to say that my breastfeeding journey has been 100% more successful as a second time mum and hope that my story can inspire others to breastfeed, even if like me they have formula fed in the past.