I’ve had three babies and I’ve experienced very different breastfeeding journeys with each one…
Learning to breastfeed with my first baby
Baby #1, born August 2016. As a breastfed baby myself, and from a family where all babies were breastfed, it’s all I ever knew. So I knew that was what I wanted to do and didn’t think twice. So off I went, straight after labour started my first breastfeeding journey.
As a breastfed baby myself, and from a family where all babies were breastfed, it’s all I ever knew.
Due to being a Group B Step carrier we were kept in for monitoring for 12 hours overnight. He slept really well. I took this as a good thing and let him, only for a midwife to make me feel so stupid and small by questioning me why I hadn’t fed him every 4 hours.
My answers of ‘because I’ve chosen to feed on demand’ and ‘because I’ve not been told or advised to’ clearly weren’t the answers she was looking for. She then continued on asking if I was fit enough to take my baby home and breastfeed him. This is when my mum stepped in, and said I had more support at home than I clearly did in the hospital. I had her, my mother in law, aunties and grannies that all had experience and some who also had midwifery qualifications too.
I was let home soon after.
I was in the newborn bubble, feeding on demand
I was in my newborn bubble, feeding my baby on demand, his latch was good but yes it did hurt. Nobody warns you of the pain, not the nipple pain although that is something but the toe curling pain as your uterus contacts back pain.
First day at home the community midwife visited. She checked us over and asked how feeding was going. She made sure latch was OK, she told me about creams and positions that would make it more comfortable. All in all she was very reassuring and supportive – unlike the hospital midwife.
She called me ‘a natural’, she also pointed me in the direction of a breastfeeding support group. Not that I needed support with the feeding side but just to be near other new mum’s in the same position. I loyally went to this group, it was good to discuss concerns, but also the positives. It was a safe place to feed and chat, but also stay away from some of the nasty comments.
One nasty comment still lives on in my mind
Yes, I had some of those nasty comments and one in particular really upset me. It still riles me and in hindsight wish I had the confidence I did now to stick up for myself. It was an elderly lady in Tesco cafe exclaiming loudly how she ‘didn’t want or need to see THAT’ whilst she had her lunch. I cried a little and then remembered my first outing and feeding my baby in public, it was under a tree in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Just doing the most natural thing in the world under a tree and how it felt so right. As I’ve said in hindsight it shouldn’t have bothered or upset me, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. My baby was just having his lunch too.
We didn’t really have any physical issues with breastfeeding. No mastitis or anything, but I do remember the tiredness and feeling kind of stuck. How I couldn’t really leave him for any length of time and all the ‘advise’ from others. The ‘pump and let Daddy feed him at night’ or ‘it’s OK to introduce formula’ etc just annoyed me – isn’t a mum allowed to say they are tired and for it to be left at that without unwanted advise?
We didn’t really have any physical issues with breastfeeding. No mastitis or anything, but I do remember the tiredness and feeling kind of stuck
My first baby self-weaned and I was heartbroken
I did pump and have a small freezer stash, but he didn’t really like a bottle. He would only take if I’d been away for a whole day i.e at work and he was really hungry. This didn’t happen very often as he self weaned by the time he was 11-12months and at nursery as I was at work.
I offered nighttime feeds but he just wasn’t interested. It was heartbreaking but he was eating well and healthy enough.
Baby no. 2 was a lockdown baby
Baby #2 was completely different. I thought I was prepared and I was confident. But baby #2 was born April 2020. She was a lockdown baby. So again support in hospital was limited as was the health visitor support. The phone calls asking how you were doing, how’s feeding going last 2-5mins. And it was easy to say ‘yeah good’ and leave it at that.
It wasn’t that breastfeeding wasn’t going well. She was gaining weight fine (didn’t see this on scales but she was getting chunky), but the reassurance and just support and chat wasn’t there.
Not being allowed family and friends round whilst you felt like she’d been attached ALL day was tough too. I felt guilty that she wasn’t getting the same experience as her brother. And I felt even more guilty that I was asking her brother to ‘wait a minute, I’m feeding’ etc more than I probably would have liked or should have. Let’s face it, he was stuck at home too!
I was diagnosed with postnatal depression
Just before Christmas I ended up with a postnatal depression and anxiety diagnosis. Family and friends seemed to think I had it ‘together’. It’s amazing what social media can hide, isn’t it?
I mean I didn’t not bond with my daughter. I adored her but I just didn’t see joy in anything, and it felt more like a chore than the nice bonding experience it should be.
So there’s a tip for you, even though your new mum friend might seem to have it together, do double check. Breastfeeding or not.
My daughter fed until she was nearly 2, she was a little boobie monster. But again, she decided when she didn’t want anymore.
With baby no.3 I felt I was ready for anything!
It was only a short break between feeding my daughter and falling pregnant again. I am now on my 3rd breastfeeding journey. This time I felt like I was ready for anything that was thrown my way – I’d survived lockdown baby!
My baby was born February 2023. No pandemic, phew! I was allowed my family round to support. Little did I know I wouldn’t be home for 4 nights, and they’d had to come to the hospital for this initially.
Again, group B strep positive meant he had to be monitored for 12hours. After the 12hours we were being discharged. But something wasn’t right, my baby was ‘jittering’. We questioned the midwife, who then called the doctor. Bloods were taken and high ‘lacate’ flagged up. So possible sign of infection. We were then kept in further for monitoring.
The midwife kept telling me to feed for longer
A midwife kept telling me I needed to feed for longer, and that little often feeds aren’t good enough it needs to be 10-20min feeds. But I just couldn’t get him to do what they were requesting, I told her time and time again, he’s just not managing. By now I was getting stressed out.
A midwife kept telling me I needed to feed for longer, and that little often feeds aren’t good enough it needs to be 10-20min feeds.
I tried all the tricks I knew to keep him awake, he just wasn’t doing it. He was too tired or something. More blood tests done, coming back all sorts of weird and wonderful results. Suspected early sepsis? I knew something was wrong, so why was the midwife pushing me to feed for longer when he clearly couldn’t.
Mummy instincts told me something was wrong
My mummy instincts and experience isn’t enough to know something was wrong and I was offering smaller more regular feeds because thats what he/we could manage. That’s better than nothing right? And also by 20 hours hours old, jaundice. As he was under 24 hours this was seen as serious and quite dangerous. So light treatment was given.
I thought as a breastfeeding mother I was doing the best for him, but actually I learned breast milk can potentially make infant jaundice worse or last longer. This is because there are certain substances in breast milk that may prevent a baby’s liver from breaking down bilirubin in their system. So was I going to formula feed for now? How was I going to establish my milk, I was gonna have to express wasn’t I?
As I contemplated all these questions, other blood tests came back and his breathing was pretty rapid so he was taken from me to neonatal and put on a 36 hour course of antibiotics. I expressed milk over there on their big fancy machine. 2oz come out pretty easily and quickly. It was impressive for 1 day postpartum but it wasn’t enough. They wanted 4oz.
I was so too tired to pump any more milk
By this stage I was just too tired to sit and try get more milk. I kept looking at the incubator and crying. My baby lying there linked up and under uv light. I needed sleep, everything would be better if I had a couple of hours. So I asked what the other options were. They said they could top up with formula, I agreed but joked ‘if I don’t see it, it didn’t happen’. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against formula at all, it’s just my other two were exclusively breastfed and would I need to combi-feed going forward?
I realise now that I was so tired with the labour and was probably being a bit dramatic and thinking too far ahead. One step at a time was the way. Once I had a few hours sleep I went back over to express more…only to find my baby wasn’t there! Where was he? What had happened? Oh no! Panic!!
A midwife noticed me and led me into the recovery bay. And there he was. Not linked up or under UV light. They were still with a cannula in and heart monitor but out of the incubator. I was allowed to lift him and feed him. He latched nicely and fed. He looked much better.
Finally we were able to go home
We got home after his antibiotics finished. And feeding was going well. He’d make those lovely content noises and gulps that you learn to love.
My sister had also had a baby who was breastfeeding him to, so we would videocall and feed in those early days and support each other during some of the longer nights. We still do, but lives have became more busy and ‘normal’ again. I’ve had friends who have had babies and come to me for some advise or support too, which is lovely. I always tell them I’m not an expert or qualified but I can always point them in the right direction or let them know of my experiences.
I’ve blocked out any advice that I don’t agree with, i.e dentists telling me to stop feeding due to infant tooth decay and also quality of my own teeth through ‘prolonged’ feeding, lack of calcium or something. The positives totally outweigh the cons here.
I was even taken aback when my son was admitted to hospital for Bronchiolitis, and I was constantly asked ‘how much has he taken?’. I would reply sarcastically with ‘I’ll check my milk gauge, shall I?’. I know many of us get these questions but they are so infuriating.
I was put on a calorie deficit whilst breastfeeding
We went through a tough few weeks when my baby was 4 months old. I signed up for a health and fitness program where the coach put me into a calorie deficit. I kept questioning this but was told breastfeeding was taking into consideration during his calculations. Now, any GP or breastfeeding advisor will tell you to eat 500 more calories not 500 less!
I lost 2.5stone in 9 weeks. It left me feeling knackered and run down. I was stressing how this was effecting my milk supply and quality. The GP stepped in and told me it was dangerous and I was right to be concerned. I left the program with a full refund.
I lost 2.5stone in 9 weeks. It left me feeling knackered and run down. I was stressing how this was effecting my milk supply and quality.
Crazy diets whilst breastfeeding don’t work
I now have a different, more understanding personal trainer who lets me eat what I want really, and I’m still on a really good path. So my advice? Please don’t go on crazy diets or programs whilst breastfeeding, it’s not worth it!
I don’t know how long I’ll feed for this time. We will see how he goes.