Last week it was World Breastfeeding week here in Australia, and I was planning on sharing my breastfeeding story. But (like always lately) I just didn't get it done in time. However, I've decided to share it anyway.
When Georgie arrived I didn't really have a clue what I was supposed to do. (Does anyone?) I had her in a busy, big-ish, hospital, and there were a lot of different midwives with very different opinions. I rarely saw the same midwife twice. I had some who made me try to feed lying down, others who insisted I sit up, and hold the baby just so, some said I should never express, and then there was one who made me express. I had a slightly inverted nipple. I also had a baby who had had a pretty intense birth, she was jaundiced, and her head was sore from the vacuum, so she was very disinterested in feeding. Those who said 'it won't hurt if you are doing it right' were liars. It hurts in the beginning. A lot. I was totally unprepared for what it would be like to have my milk come in, and I was blessed with an abundance of supply.
So, it was a pretty uncomfortable journey in the beginning.
I didn't know what to do, or how to feed my child and I was convinced I was a horrible failure as a mother. But then one night, there was a lovely midwife who was a lactation consultant, and she gave me some much needed rest, and helped me (finally) feed my baby. It wasn't all smooth sailing, and some times I still didn't get it right, but by the time I went home we had established feeding.
I got home, and started feeding my baby girl, and we had our issues. I had to learn what I could and couldn't eat. (Anyone who tells you that what you eat doesn't affect your baby, doesn't know what they are talking about!) We had a couple of screaming nights due to chilli, and oranges and onion, until I finally found what was safe. But then, just when Georgie was starting to feed well (after she had taken out a massive chunk of one nipple), I started to get pain. It started with very, very sore burning, stinging, tender nipples, and slowly got worse and worse. This pain was awful, and like no other pain I had had while feeding.
As I fed Georgie, it would feel like there was a razor blade sliding up my milk ducts, through my breasts. It was a shooting, stabbing, deep pain. It was toe curling, sob-inducing pain. It made me absolutely dread feeding my baby. It took all my strength to fight through the pain to let Georgie feed. I mistook it for regular attachment pain in the beginning. But eventually it got so terrible I saw a Doctor. They had no idea what it was in the beginning, and treated me for mastitis. (which ended up making things worse) But that wasn't it. My Mum and my sister had no idea what it was. Nobody seemed to know.
Eventually I used good old Doctor Google, and self-diagnosed myself with nipple thrush. I went back to the Doctor, and this time saw my GP, who was lovely. She prescribed me with Daktarin gel, (a miracle drug.) I started taking probiotics and we also treated Georgie for mouth thrush. It took a very long time to clear it up, and I was told I may have to express for a while because it had gotten so bad, and I seriously considered weaning. Between Georgie's reflux, and the thrush I felt like I should have just handed my purse over to the pharmacist! But we persevered through the toe-curling pain, and I am so glad we did.
By the time Georgie was around 4 months, things had mostly cleared up, and breastfeeding (finally) became a natural, easy, thing for me to do. I fed Georgie until she was 13 months old. My goal was to get to 12 months. I would have continued longer, but I got pregnant with Charlie when Georgie was 9 months old, and by the time she was 13 months my supply was really dwindling, and I just wanted to have a little break from breastfeeding before the next baby came along.
Breastfeeding Charlie has been a bit of a dream, by comparison. As soon as he was born, Charlie knew what to do. He had his first feed just after he was born and it was so much easier. He attached really well from the beginning, and I was a lot more confident and secure in my abilities. I was also a lot less inclined to listen to so many differing opinions from midwives, and just did what worked for me.
We had our dramas with wind, Charlie also suffered a little from reflux, and I have had the occasional skirmish with nipple thrush, but this time, because I have been more aware, I have taken probiotics from the start, and I knew to get on top of it the moment the thrush hit, so it has never managed to get a proper hold on me.
Now, Charlie is seven months old, and breastfeeding, is, for the most part, just something I do that is almost a second nature now. I don't love the fact that Charlie has teeth, (he is a bit of a biter) but mostly it's really good. I have had a few supply issues with Charlie. He is a big boy and takes a lot of milk from me, plus I am also a lot busier and getting much less sleep than I need. But for the most part, things are going well.
Breastfeeding is not easy in the beginning. It is a lot of trouble, and requires a lot of effort and causes a lot of pain. I was fortunate and had a lot of support from my husband, my Mum, my sisters, my doctor... there really wasn't anyone around me who wasn't supportive, and I know that that was so important in my journey. I am aware everyone has their own journey to travel, and I do not believe that bottle feeding is the worst thing in the world. Sometimes it can be a necessary, sweet relief.
However, if you can get past the pain and the drama and the stress and the problems, and get help with it in the beginning..... eventually, you might be able to reach a point where you realize 'Hey, I am feeding my baby, and it is easy!...... I can feed my baby!!!' And you look at those squishy, chubby legs, and those kissable fat cheeks with pride, going '"Oh yeah, I made those."
And you get to feel pretty darn proud of yourself and your body.