I'll set the record straight, breastfeeding hasn't always worked for me. My daughter who is now 4 years old refused the breast at 2 months after being breastfed and then topped up with a formula bottle since about 2 weeks old. There was nobody more devastated than me. When I was pregnant with Izzy I was determined to breastfeed. On one of the (many) pregnancy magazines I purchased, I was given a free breastfeeding book which I read from cover to cover. It was really helpful, showed me the correct latch, talked about expressing and also told me that if I was doing it correctly my baby would feed for approximately 15 minutes per feed and go 4 hours in between feeds. Like I said, really good book. Well, Izzy fed for about that during the day for the first 2 weeks. She wouldn't however, go to sleep at night (in her own cot). For 2 weeks I slept for minutes at night in a chair in our room as she constantly wanted to suckle and every time I tried to put her down she would scream. Unfortunately I did not take the advice of most people about sleeping when your baby sleeps so I got a little tired. To make matters worse, Izzy was not putting on weight. Each time a midwife came they would tell me she had lost a little more but I was given no advice as to how I could rectify this problem. At the end of 2 weeks I was exhausted and my right nipple was cracked and bleeding. After another visit with the message of lost weight I faced another agonising feed. My husband and a friend suggested giving in and ringing the breastfeeding helpline that was given with all the hospital information............I got the answer machine...........so I rang the on-call midwife in tears. She was not happy..........she told me to express as much milk from my right breast, feed from my left and then give Izzy the bottle of breast milk followed my formula if she was still hungry. My very good friend took Izzy's moses basket into her room for the night, I fed Izzy, put her down, and then went to bed. I remember it now, it was 9.30pm I woke up the following morning panicking that my friend would've been awake all night with someone else's screaming baby............it turns out Izzy had woken, taken the couple of oz of breast milk I'd managed to express and then guzzled 6 oz of formula before falling asleep again............at 9.30am she was still asleep.
From that point on I was advised by the midwives to breastfeed and then top up with formula. This worked a treat and Izzy started to put on weight. I was signed off from the midwives and progressed to the health visitors! They were ever so helpful and were quick to tell me that I needed to stop giving formula as my breast milk would dry up. So I stopped...........and so did Izzy's weight gain..........so they told me to start again...............and so did Izzy's weight gain. Back and forth this went until at 2 months old Izzy decided she was not going to feed from me anymore. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.
I blame a lot of factors on my failure to breastfeed Izzy.............false ideas given by the book I read..........lack of advice from the midwives and health visitors (actually I did get some advice from one midwife "nobody said it was going to be easy"!!!!!)..........nobody actually checking my latch position...........lack of support.
This time however I was determined to give breastfeeding a go. Luckily on a trip to my midwife drop-in clinic at my local Sure Start centre there happened to be a La Leche League drop in clinic and I met a lovely lady named Lesley. I told her all about my problems feeding Izzy and that I was determined to give it my best shot ever with my soon to be born son. Lesley was amazing, she gave me some advice about latch positions and leant me a book called "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West and Teresa Pitman. I didn't read it all, instead I just dipped in and out of the chapters I thought were relevant.
I was shocked to discover how important skin-to-skin contact is in the first few days after birth. I kept a very open mind and gave birth to a healthy 9lb 5oz baby boy called Charlie. Straight after his birth I gently offered him my breast and like a miracle he started to breastfeed........and didn't stop for 4 hours! I fed Charlie on demand, which meant practically constantly for the first week! Nobody tells you that can happen........ I only ever read that babies should go hours between feeds, my little boy was a real booby man. I didn't ever let him cry for long. If he did I would pick him up, cuddle him or change his nappy and if that didn't work then I would offer him the breast. At first it was hard and one night he fed from 4pm until midnight but he gradually went longer an longer between feeds.
The best thing I have ever done is to listen to Charlie. I remember a health visitor telling me, when Charlie was about 2 months old, that he should be going at least 3 hours between every feed. I got quite upset and almost listened to her until I went to my La Leche League meeting and was reassured to feed Charlie when he wanted feeding, not when some woman told me he should be fed. It made perfect sense, I bet the health visitor wasn't abstaining from Mars Bars when she got a bit peckish so why should I make my 8 week old hold out when he was hungry?
Charlie is amazing, he is quite chilled out, happy, lively. Sometimes he will feed a couple of times in an hour and sometimes he will go 3 hours. Yes he might be a little clingy but other than me and the Mr we do not have anyone one else local that we can leave him with and as he is breastfed he needs my babillons! I have just returned to work 3 evenings a week so Charlie is learning to take a sippy cup of milk from Daddy as a bottle just does not come close to a nice warm, squidgy booby.
At night Charlie feeds about 3 or 4 times. I used to put him in his cot and get him out for feeds and then put him back when he was finished but I found myself falling asleep whilst sitting up. Charlie now co-sleeps with us but I'll post more about that later as I know lots of people have opinions about it.
So, breastfeeding. For me it is amazing. It was hard work at first, but it has got easier. The bond I have with Charlie is fantastic, completely different to the one I had with Izzy when she was a baby which makes me very sad. I know breastfeeding is different for everyone but what makes me saddest of all is that breastfeeding is not seen as the normal way to feed our babies. I don't know how long I will feed Charlie for. Originally I just wanted to be able to do it so I didn't even think about when I'd have to stop. I used to think that women who breastfed toddlers were hippies and a bit weird but now it just seems natural. Again, I don't know how old my booby grub will be when we stop but for now I am just grateful that I have had this opportunity and I'm going to enjoy it for as long as I can.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on breastfeeding or your own experiences...............