Let’s start with the good news: 8 weeks in and I’m still breastfeeding. Who would have thought (least of all myself) that I would hang in there, after my last post on breastfeeding from a bit over one month ago?
When I wrote that last post I was at the end of my strength: tired, worn out, depressed that I didn’t make enough milk and that my poor baby would be starving, annoyed by the constant hour-long feeds, etc.
That post however triggered so much response and I got support, breastfeeding stories very similar to mine, and a lot of good tips. This all taken together changed my attitude and my breastfeeding style. Since then my life as a milk supplier has been so much easier and all of us (particularly mummy) have been a lot happier and more chilled. Jamie has become a rather fat little baby with chubby cheeks and a double chin only on breast milk *proudface*.
So first of all thank you to all you lovely people out there who bothered to respond and comment, you did make a difference!
Below find a summary of what I have learned from all the comments, emails and tweets, and who knows, my new-found wisdom might help you too.
1. You are not alone: Remember, when you sit somewhere in the middle of the night with a baby on your breast in an uncomfortable pose, insanely tired, your back hurting and baby sucking in slow-motion and falling asleep while sucking and crying as soon as you take him off, there are thousands of mothers doing the same this very moment. Facebooking or tweeting helps to find similarly desperate souls.
2. It gets easier: Ladies who nursed their baby past 6 week, insisted that it would get so much easier and to be honest I didn’t believe a word. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for me. Now however I can confirm – it REALLY gets easier! Babies suddenly eat less frequent and learn to speed up. Even James!
3. Dummy, you wonderful thing! A long long time (well, about 4 weeks) ago I was one of these overly ambitious mums who would never give a dummy to their child. Well, and then there was the point when I realised that my lovely boy sucked and sucked on my poor and maltreated nipples, not because he was hungry, but just because he liked sucking, basically misusing me as an oversized dummy.
The moment when I ceremoniously unveiled my hidden away emergency dummy and stuffed it into the little one’s mouth will be forever known as the moment when it all got easier. Thank you dummy! Thank you dummy! I love you dummy! You are the best thing that ever happened to me!
4. Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding while lying down. No one (least of all the rather useless midwives I had the misfortune to encounter) tells you when you start your long and winding journey as a breastfeeding mother that the worst part are the nights. This is not because you are woken up by a hungry desperately crying infant. Waking up is fine and was not the thing that bothered me. What however bothered me was the getting the baby out his Moses basket, sitting in an uncomfortable position (by then being fully awake) trying to latch him on, feed and feed and feed for hours (the boredom!) maybe even change the nappy, burping him etc – 1.5 hours would pass easily and it would take me forever to get to sleep again. By then it would almost be time again for the next feed!
Then some mothers who successfully breastfed their children whispered me their secret: shhhhh it’s co-sleeping. I will talk about co-sleeping in a separate post, but let me just tell you, having the baby next to you, feeding while are lying down, falling asleep while feeding – makes a happy and rested mum and a happy baby.
5. Evening cluster feeds are normal and 6. Giving formula once in a while (or more often than once in a while) will make your life so much easier. I was so desperate for the first few weeks, as Jamie didn’t seem to be getting enough milk in the evening. From the day of his birth he, as soon as I had finished an hour-long feed, would be rooting, wanting to eat again. This this story would repeat itself from around 6 or 7 pm until midnight. I thought my milk was no good, and may poor baby was starving to death under my bad care. No one had told me about evening cluster feeds, which are very common.
Breastfeeding purists suggest that you have to suffer through this (forgetting to mention that the more exhausted you are the less milk you produce) as to not reduce your milk supply. I have introduced a bottle of formula in the evening, whenever Jamie didn’t settle at all on breast milk, and now I actually produce enough milk in the evening to satisfy him about 6 out of 7 times.
Initially I felt bad about giving formula (thank you stupid NCT breastfeeding teacher!) until I realised that most mothers give formula at some point. It actually is a big advantage if your baby takes a bottle (with either breast milk or formula) as it makes your life easier in the long run. It’s kind of rubbish if you need to run an errand where you can’t take your baby and baby is refusing the bottle. Another big advantage of the occasional bottle is that 7. Dad can help out. It’s so nice to have a whole night of undisturbed sleep once in while with dad taking care of baby.
8. A moderate amount of alcohol doesn’t harm the baby (and makes a relaxed mum). I am happily drinking my glass of red wine each night since I found out that there is actually very little evidence of alcohol going into breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs considers alcohol compatible with breastfeeding, that is if you consume it in reasonable amounts.
9. Every day you breastfeed is good for the baby but not breastfeeding doesn’t matter either. Last weekend there was this provocative article in the weekend Observer, asking the question whether breastfeeding really is the best. Some interesting arguments are made:
“Women who choose to go through the labour of breastfeeding have made a commitment to go the extra mile for the sake of their baby’s health,” says Wolf. “They are likely to be doing all kinds of other things too. Their homes are clean. They wash their hands. They will be reading more, talking more, serving more fruit and vegetables …
“When you look at all of those things and hold them up to the very small differences that researchers find, it could very well all be down to these environmental factors.”
Also, this article comments on the common perception that breastfeeding is free:
One of the greatest lies promoted by breastfeeding advocates is that breastfeeding is free. But it’s not free if you count mother’s labour. For many you could say it has an extraordinary cost and is probably not worth the effort of continuing to do it.”
This article is definitely a refreshing read for a generation that has been brainwashed with pro-breastfeeding propaganda. I enjoy breastfeeding most of the times now as it makes me feel close to my little James, but at the same time hate the fact that it takes so much time.
Something really has to change how breastfeeding is portrayed in our culture. Every woman should be able to decide, without being bullied, if she has time and energy for breastfeeding and it should be very clear that breastfeeding is not a measure of how good a mum she is.
I will end this blog post with another extract of the afore-mentioned Observer article, which I found positively shocking.
As part of the Latch On, New York City campaign, formula is to be kept under lock and key on maternity wards. If a parent requests it, a nurse must deliver a lecture on breastfeeding and then document a medical reason for giving out the formula. The Huffington Post reported that mothers would have to “sign the formula out like medication”. “Baby formula is not Budweiser,” protested the Daily News.