Before becoming a mother, I always knew breastfeeding was something I wanted to try as breastfeeding has so many health benefits, as well as creating an everlasting bond between you and baby. As the days and weeks and months went by I had no idea that stopping breastfeeding would be harder that starting…
After a particularly traumatic birth, Freddie was laid on my chest. Once all of the doctors, midwives and nurses had left the room, I was told I should have a go at feeding Freddie.
A while later, my midwife reappeared and asked how long he had fed for. If I’m honest, I had no idea if he even had a feed, never mind how long he fed for! I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. This was the first time I’d had a baby.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. This was the first time I’d had a baby.
I was overwhelmed with love
Because of the nature of my birth, I had to stay in hospital after giving birth. As I was taken to the ward, my husband, Ryan and mum were told they would have to go home. I was suddenly on my own with this brand-new baby, my baby. I remember spending all night staring at him and cuddling him. I couldn’t believe that my baby boy was finally here and that he was all mine. It was the most overwhelming sense of love I have ever felt.
I offered Freddie a feed at various points during the night, however, he did not latch at all. I expressed my concern to the midwives, but they simply encouraged me to keep trying and told me that he would have some milk if he was hungry.
I offered Freddie a feed at various points during the night, however, he did not latch at all.
We struggled to have a successful feed
About fifteen hours after little Freddie was born, we had still not managing a successful feed. I was relieved when the breastfeeding team came around the ward to support any new breastfeeding mothers.
The breastfeeding consultant explained that because of Freddie’s traumatic birth, he was very tired. She went on to explain that he needed to feed regularly, he was just going to sleep more and more if not, trying to conserve energy in his tiny body. I was shown how to hand express and we continued to work on Freddie’s latch together. We had to set alarms and wake Freddie at intervals to ensure he was feeding regularly.
We had to set alarms and wake Freddie at intervals to ensure he was feeding regularly.
My husband was like an in-house breastfeeding consultant!
When we got home, my husband Ryan had taken on board everything the team had said. He set to work ensuring I had everything I needed to make our breastfeeding journey a success. From porridge to dried apricots, you name it, he provided it! He encouraged me to hold Freddie in different positions and woke up for every night feed, constantly reminding me I was doing a brilliant job. I felt like I had an in-house breastfeeding consultant!
My mum’s support was also much needed during this time. She too, acted as my cheerleader, supporting and guiding me through this unknown territory. Nobody can ever understand how difficult and overwhelming the start of a breastfeeding journey is, unless they be been through it. I remember crying through some of the night feeds in the early days as my nipples were so raw. I was in so much pain, not only from breastfeeding, but also from the birth. I had also never felt exhaustion like this, Freddie woke up lots in the night, as newborn babies do. However, I am so glad I stuck to it, it is honestly the best thing I have ever done, for both Freddie and myself!
I remember crying through some of the night feeds in the early days as my nipples were so raw
11 weeks into our journey we went into lockdown
As the weeks went on, I gained more and more confidence. Myself and my baby were learning together on this magical journey and were smashing it! As someone who is quite reserved, feeding in public was something that filled me with dread. I’d just started to get the hang of discretely feeding when the first lockdown hit, just sort of 11 weeks into our journey. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. My world seemed to crumble around me. I felt so upset that I couldn’t see my mum, we have such a close bond. I couldn’t believe she was now unable to share her first grandchild with me.
I felt completely gutted that Covid had robbed me of the chance to share my baby with family and friends, and completely robbed me of a normal maternity leave. Myself and little Freddie got into our own little routine, while my husband continued to work. As I look back now, I try not to dwell on the negatives of people missing out on my baby, but try to remember the immensely close bond that developed between myself and my baby. We had so much uninterrupted time together, I was able to cherish every single moment.
We had so much uninterrupted time together, I was able to cherish every single moment.
I never really thought about stopping
I never really had a goal, or cut-off point for our breastfeeding journey. Similar to every other aspect of my motherhood journey, it was really important to me that Freddie was happy and that I followed his lead. When I returned to work part-time, I would express each lunchtime to ensure my baby still had milk when I wasn’t there.
Freddie’s first birthday arrived and with it so did some unwanted questions about stopping breastfeeding. This made me question what I was doing, but despite doubting myself, I continued to follow my baby’s lead, with the encouragement of those closest to me.
Freddie’s first birthday arrived and with it so did some unwanted questions about stopping breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding helped us through illness and hospital stays
Not long after Freddie’s first birthday, he became quite poorly with reoccurring tonsillitis (which was finally diagnosed as baby asthma, after nine months of illness). This caused him to either refuse food or be very sick, he went through points of having very little food in his tummy and he continued to drop weight throughout. Despite being very poorly on several occasions, Freddie always continued to breastfeed, much to our relief – we knew he was getting some nourishment!
Through a hospital stay, an ambulance ride, trips to A&E and days and nights of distress, breastfeeding provided such comfort for Freddie and allowed him to settle and rest in my arms. I feel so thankful that I continued feeding Freddie and was able to help him feel secure and comforted in a time that was so difficult for us all.
I feel so thankful that I continued feeding Freddie and was able to help him feel secure and comforted in a time that was so difficult for us all.
Freddie was approaching two and I knew our journey would be over soon
As Freddie’s second birthday approached, my little milk monster was still showing absolutely no sign of stopping. He had reduced his feeding, but would still feed first thing in the morning, before naptime (if we were in the house) and before bed. He would often ask for a feed if we were in the house together too! Not long after this, I knew our journey was drawing to a close. I began to realise Freddie was just feeding for comfort, not necessarily for need. This was something that made me feel particularly anxious. I didn’t want to cause Freddie any distress and take away his comfort source.
I decided I wanted to gradually wean Freddie, following his lead, but with a little bit of guidance from mummy. We slowly limited feeding down to just naptimes (if we were in the house) and just before bed. A month or so later, I noticed Freddie would have a feed at bedtime, cuddle me to sleep, but then just as he was about to close his eyes, he would ask for more milk. I had to tell him there was no milk left at this point, to get him used to the concept.
I decided I wanted to gradually wean Freddie, following his lead, but with a little bit of guidance from mummy.
862 days of breastfeeding my little boy
On 18th May 2022, 862 days into our journey, I felt it was time to stop. I knew I had to try and put Freddie to bed that night without a feed. Before I had a chance to talk myself out of it and change my mind. I offered Freddie a feed, just after dinner. This isn’t something we would usually do, but I wanted to have one last feed, to appreciate every single moment of it.
As Freddie fed for the last time, I could feel the tears rolling down my face. I knew I was going to miss it and as much as the timing felt right, I didn’t want our journey to be over. I was so scared that we would somehow lose our closeness and he would no longer cuddle to sleep, something the both of us have enjoyed for the last two years. After we had read our bedtime story, I took Freddie to bed. He asked for milk twice and I explained it had all gone now. He cuddled into me and went to sleep. I felt so proud of my baby boy but so sad that our journey was over.
As Freddie fed for the last time, I could feel the tears rolling down my face.
I’m sad it’s over, but so proud of us
Now, after having a few days to reflect, I know that I finished breastfeeding at a time that was right for us both. I could have asked for a more beautiful and peaceful end to our journey. I still feel sad that our journey is over, but I’m so proud of my baby and so excited for what is to come. And of course, he still cuddles his mummy to sleep and our closeness is an everlasting bond that could never be broken.
Breastfeeding certainly isn’t easy, but wow, it is so worth it. I am so proud of both myself and Freddie and the wonderful breastfeeding journey we had together. I will always look back on this time and feel so very lucky and grateful.