My own mum had breastfed all five of her children, so for me, breastfeeding was a natural thing to do when I had my own baby. Looking back I was so naive and didn’t really do anything to prepare for breastfeeding. I wasn’t ready for the pain and the setbacks but I had a deep-seated desire to breastfeed and thankfully I had great support from those around me. It was this that keep me going on the hardest of days.
My high-risk job meant I didn’t work for most of my pregnancy
I found out I was pregnant at the end of February 2020 and spent approximately 28 weeks out of the 40 I was pregnant for at home due to working in a high risk area within the NHS. My little boy Harvey was born on his due date, 5th November and while waiting to be discharged from the birth centre we sat and watched the fireworks go off with our new arrival in our arms.
He latched on perfectly after he was born. I managed to feed him twice before we left the hospital and I remember thinking “that wasn’t too bad!” I was very naive when it came to breastfeeding though. I hadn’t read anything about it and went into it with the attitude of “if I can do it then brilliant, if I can’t then there’s always formula.”
I managed to feed him twice before we left the hospital and I remember thinking “that wasn’t too bad!”
Mum to the rescue!
The first night we were home was awful. I couldn’t get him to latch right and didn’t understand why he was only feeding for a few minutes and then falling asleep.
The following morning I rang my mum who breastfed all five of her children and begged her to come and help me. Thankfully she came straight away and was able to latch him on properly. She explained why he was feeding so little and often; that the colostrum he was getting was very concentrated and thick so he didn’t need a lot of it for his tiny stomach, but he would want to feed quite often until my milk came in. She also explained that by feeding so often he would encourage my milk production; supply and demand.
I’d kick the chair, wanting to cry out in pain
My milk came in on day 3 and the cluster feeding began. It was agony! My nipples were cracked and bleeding. He was feeding every 20 – 30 minutes and I just felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d kick the chair with my heels every time he latched on and almost cried with pain. I didn’t want to switch to formula but the thought of that pain was making me question whether to or not.
One of the reasons I carried on was due to the support and encouragement I received from my friend. Her little boy is three months older than Harvey and is breastfed too. She was there day and night to help me and encourage me when I was struggling. I’ve lost count of how many times I messaged her wanting to give up and she’s always told me how good of a job I’m doing and to keep going, it won’t last. She was right.
I didn’t want to let four year old me down
The other reason I continued sounds silly but I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I am the eldest of five children and each one of us was breastfed. Until I was older I didn’t know of any other way to feed a baby. There’s a picture of me with a doll up to my chest pretending to breastfeed when I was four years old. I didn’t want to let that four-year-old down. And so we continued.
There’s a picture of me with a doll up to my chest pretending to breastfeed when I was four years old.
I sent my sister out to buy nipple shields so they wouldn’t bleed every time I fed. I ordered nipple cream by the bucket load and breast pads that wouldn’t stick to my nipples. I bit my lip and kicked the chair every time he latched until one day it didn’t hurt anymore.
I wish I’d done more to prepare for breastfeeding but I had a great support system
We are now four and a half months in. It’s been a struggle with latches, blocked ducts and positioning but we’re getting there eventually.
My advice to anyone wanting to breastfeed would be to read up to prepare yourself for breastfeeding, and seek support from people around you. My mum and friend supported me the most and without them I probably wouldn’t have continued. There are online groups and pages that offer vast amounts of advice and support. The breastfeeding community is amazing and I’m so happy to be part of it!