This week is World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2018). After seeing posts on Instagram with different stories about breastfeeding, it made me think about my own journey, so I thought I would share. I have 2 little boys and my breastfeeding journey with my oldest was completely different from the journey I am experiencing now with my youngest.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
With my oldest it was a struggle from the beginning. I couldn’t get him to latch properly, the nurses had to help me latch him every time. The worst part is that we were in hospital over a weekend, so the breastfeeding expert was not on duty to give me advice. My worst fear was going home and that I won’t be able to get him to latch and that he would starve.
Somehow he didn’t starve, he actually picked up weight quite well, so he was obviously getting enough milk. But with each breastfeeding session, it was a fight, a struggle and a lot of tears. And as you know, a newborn feeds about every 3 hours for about an hour, so it was a lot of tough sessions! Breastfeeding wasn’t a good experience for me or my son. It was definitely not bonding us, kind of the opposite. I started expressing quite early, so my husband could give him a bottle for 1 feed per night, just so I can get some more zzz… and also get a break from breastfeeding.
I had a good supply of milk, so that wasn’t the problem. When I was breastfeeding it seemed as though I was pouring burning liquid down my baby’s throat. That is how much he hated the experience. I had to force him on my breast. It was torture for both of us. But I stuck with it, desperate to give him breastmilk.
My oldest also started teething very early – at 3 months he had two bottom teeth. One night, he started biting while I was feeding him, and that was the last straw! This has now gone from emotional torture to physical torture and I couldn’t cope. BUT, still trying to give breastmilk, I decided I am going to exclusively express. I pumped out a few times a day so that he can have a bottle of breastmilk for each feed – luckily my milk supply was good. Expressing is not as easy as breastfeeding OR just giving formula, as you have to do twice the work, but it was better than the emotional torture of the past 3 months. Eventually, I got into a groove and it was working for us. I was being positive about the situation.
I did it for over two months and I thought I had it all figured out, but my son was very unhappy during the day and woke up hourly at night and then I decided to take him to the paediatrician. We had to do some testing but in the end we realised he had silent reflux and he was lactose intolerant. Right there, my positive outlook crumbled. I had to cut out all lactose from my diet if I wanted to continue giving breastmilk. And with the little sleep I was getting and the amount of effort I was putting in to give breastmilk, I couldn’t add another thing to the list. I was exhausted! Physically & mentally. After talking to my husband, I decided that it was the best for me and my son to give him lactose-free formula.
Our life changed! Happy mommy = happy baby and vice-versa.
THE SNUGGLE IS REAL
I did not know what to expect with baby no.2. However I was positive about it and hoped that maybe this time breastfeeding will be different. And boy was it!
My youngest latched so well – even though my breast seemed to be 3 times the size of his head, somehow he got that nipple in there. He was feeding so well that he was almost back at birth weight when we left the hospital. Because he was latching properly from the beginning, I only had sore nipples the first night, and never again!
It was such a weird thing, because I really thought, ‘bonding while breastfeeding’, was not something I will experience (especially after my firstborn) In my mind feeding (if it goes well) will fall into the same category as changing nappies, washing baby clothes, sterilising etc. You know, something on the list you have to do. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s also not something you love doing, it just is.
But, with this little guy my eyes opened! The snuggle was real. He just wanted to be in my arms, and breastfeeding was the perfect excuse for him to be in my arms even more hours per day. I had to start stretching him as he drank so much that he was over-feeding at a stage. He actually got stomach pains because I think he was just too full.
5 months later, he is still doing so well. He now only takes 5-8min per feed, so I cannot imagine that I would ever need to switch to formula as it is just so easy whipping out my boob.
IF YOU CAN, PLEASE DONATE – THE NEED IS REAL
I was in a shared room in the hospital after giving birth to my youngest and during my stay I was one of 6 moms who stayed in that room. I was the only one who had my baby with me. I felt so guilty and also so grateful that there were no complications with my little boy. The room was filled with sounds of breast-pumps; new mommies trying to get another drop out to give to their little baby that was laying in the Neonatal ICU.
When I came home from hospital I decided I want to start expressing and because I have such a good supply of milk, I started expressing extra milk to donate. My eyes have really opened to how desperately the babies in the Neonatal ICU need it.
Babies in ICU & especially Premature babies are at a higher risk for other medical problems & breastmilk is the only food that contains antibodies and other substances that protect a baby from disease.
If you are expressing, please consider donating to a hospital close to you. I just had to do an AIDS & hepatitis B test (which they paid for) to ensure my milk would be safe. They also provide the containers for you, so it would cost you nothing more than your time! Please phone the Neonatal ICU of the hospital closest to you and find out how you can help!
Photography: Birth Photography by Chenel Kruger