My breastfeeding journey with Elliott was a bit of a roller coaster ride and it did not help that I had Post Natal Depression early on in the piece but brushed it off.
It all started when Elliott was born at 36 + 6 weeks, what a surprise. From the moment he was born, he just would not feed properly. He found difficulty latching and would always fall asleep on the breast. Because of this he was admitted to special care and was there for almost a week until he began to improve.
My experience in hospital was mixed. I felt like I had so much pressure on my shoulders because my son was in special care and it was up to me to provide the milk to get him through. In the days before my milk came in, I painfully tried to hand express the colostrum, many times feeling as though I had failed when I could only get a few milliliters or when I couldn’t manage to hand express properly. I kept thinking in the back of my mind ‘my baby needs this milk, if I don’t give it to him he’s going to lose more weight’. That was the hardest part, but it was made even worse by one bitch of a nurse who, when I asked for help hand expressing, physically handled my breast in a way that hurt me, while making me feel absolutely useless and even more guilt stricken with the things she said.
I remember my saving grace in the hospital was the medela electric breast pump. Oh what a dream to hook that baby up, I remember seeing how much milk I had produced for Elliott and was so happy to walk it down to the special care unit to give to them. I was so disappointed that I had spent lots of money on a different brand of breast pump, something I came to regret throughout my breastfeeding journey and something I vow to do next time…buy a Medela breast pump (and I’m not saying this because this post is on behalf of Medela, I swear by it and was so happy I could work with Medela on this one as I love their product).
Once I got home and continued breastfeeding Elliott, my rollercoaster continued. I never came to enjoy breastfeeding, I didn’t have the bonding feeling, I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy although I tried so very hard to. I persisted as long as I could, for two whole months until I just couldn’t take anymore.
I sat plastered to the couch for hours on end, with most feeds often taking well over an hour each time because Elliott either had trouble latching or would fall asleep. My backside would go numb from sitting in the one spot for so long and my legs would start to ache. It frustrated me, I felt like it was such a chore, like I was some sort of milk factory, but what I didn’t know was that according to research, a 67 minute feed was in fact deemed a normal length of time.
I would always feel so overwhelmed when Elliott wanted another feed only a short time after a previous one hour long stint, ‘was he not getting enough milk’ I thought? Again, my lack of breastfeeding knowledge lead me to believe that constant feeding like this wasn’t normal, that he wasn’t getting enough, but in fact research shows that feeding between 4-13 times a day is normal and so is the consumption of as little as 54 mL in one session! Oh I wish I knew this back then!
So, with my lack of knowledge on what is ‘normal’ when it comes to breastfeeding and in an attempt to see if Elliott would drink more milk from a bottle, I started pumping half of his feeds and breast feeding the other half and then progressed onto pumping for all his feeds. With an inferior breast pump, I could only keep this up for so long, it just wasn’t sustainable.
So at two months, I changed over to formula and gosh did I feel guilty and useless for not being able to do something I knew I should have been able to and that I thought I would enjoy. For some reason, I felt as though I had to explain to everyone exactly why I made the change so early (which I didn’t have to) and was worried about being judged. Changing from breastfeeding to formula was my first experience with Mothers instinct and my gut was telling me that Elliott was not getting what he needed and formula would definitely help him along, which it did.
When I look back, I wish I had seeked support and I wish I knew of the research by leading lactation researcher, Jacqueline Kent. At Medela’s 9th International Breastfeeding & Lactation Symposium Kent shared her research findings which stated that there is in fact no breastfeeding norm, no specific pattern that infants will, or need to adopt and certainly no set rules that benchmark the right way to breastfeed and that every breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby is unique.
The additional findings below shared by Medela would have also made my life much easier too, I’m almost certain I would have realised that much of what I was going through was in fact quite normal, I would have stopped making comparisons or listening to others point of view based on their unique experiences and I definitely wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. I’m definitely armed with knowledge for baby number 2, bring on the breastfeeding!
If you’re a first time mother, or someone giving it another shot, I hope that me sharing this information with you will make your breastfeeding experience just that little bit easier. x
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