5 Reasons Breastfeeding Didn’t Work So Well For Me the First Time Around
I’m not going to say I failed at breastfeeding with Baby J, because I definitely didn’t. (And if I didn’t manage to breastfeed at all, what does it matter anyway?). But I do think I could’ve done a few things differently or better to make it a bit easier. Because I’m doing it all again with Little S, I thought I’d consider why it was such a difficult journey for me with Baby J to see if I could make it easier this time around.
Let’s start with why I think it was so difficult for me – bear in mind I’m not a lactation consultant or medical professional in any way but I have two boobs and they produced milk so that’s my pedigree:
1. I was dehydrated
I’m not a fan of water. Never have been, never will be. Love tea, coffee, juice, coke (scandalous!), but not water. I’ve just never seen the point of drinking something tasteless. With Baby J I definitely did not drink enough of the stuff. Drinking liquids is one thing but there really is no replacement for water. And the thing about breastfeeding is that you get dehydrated a lot easier than if you’re not so it’s vital to make sure you drink enough water. Total fail on my part.
2. I didn’t look after myself
Let’s just say that healthy life habits are hard for me to stick to at the best of times, so if I’m tired and hormonal and struggling emotionally, fresh fruit and vegetables are the last thing I turn to. Sugar is undoubtedly my biggest vice and I happily survived on jelly babies and gummy worms for a while. Besides, when it was taking me over an hour to feed and my baby wasn’t sleeping in-between feeds, who has the time to make decent food for yourself?
3. I wasn’t sleeping
Baby J was hard work. A colicky baby with reflux and insomnia meant that I had barely time to pee let alone sleep. Sleep when your baby is sleeping is all well and good when your baby sleeps. I was also adamant that I was going to do the mom thing on my own, even though I had a lot of support at my disposal. I basically didn’t sleep for 6 months so my body took a battering.
4. I was given the wrong advice
This might be controversial but looking back I feel like the advice I was given about breastfeeding Baby J was not suited to me. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t pump and couldn’t give J a bottle for 6 weeks. Instead, every feeding time I used hot face cloths on my boobs, manually pumped with a nipple puller, struggled with J until he could stop screaming and latch and then sit in tears from the pain while he fed what he could from two very large, very overripe melons. Then I would put on frozen cabbage leaves until the next feeding time. Needless to say, when I could finally start pumping with an electric pump and give J a bottle every now and again, our whole world changed.
5. I succumbed to the pressure
Breastfeeding your child is a hot topic. If you are a mom and you have boobs you are expected to breastfeed. Breast is best and all that. I fell hook, line and sinker for the “science” and became more and more convinced I was a terrible mother because breastfeeding just wasn’t working so well for me. As you can imagine, that didn’t do wonders for my self esteem. Cue a nasty catch 22 situation.
How am I doing things differently this time around?
1. Rehydrate is my best friend
Water is still not my favourite, but I make sure there is always some (watered down) jungle juice available for me and I force myself to drink every time I feed. It’s not that much fun but I’m hoping it’ll become a habit soon.
2. I’ve asked for help
My mom is currently staying with us and if I had my way she would move in permanently. My mother-in-law pops in most days and is always available if we need an extra set of hands. I’ve given up a lot of my control issues and have handed over Baby J duties. Some days I don’t even know what he’s had to eat but I’ve been able to have a shower or an afternoon nap without worrying about him.
3. I’m sleeping
This is not really my doing but just a happy circumstance. With the extra help I have time to spend with Little S. With feeding going well it doesn’t take as long which means more chill time between feeds. Plus – and I know this might just jinx it for me – Little S sleeps. Hallelujah and long may it last.
4. I was given different advice
This time I gave birth at a different hospital and wow, what a difference it made. Again, circumstances were different and I felt things could’ve been easier with J so my headspace was different and I had experience with breadtfeeding, but at this hospital I was encouraged to pump from day 1 when I became engorged. Little S was in NICU for our hospital stay so it was necessary for me to pump but the doctors and nurses explained that pumping is producing the same effect as the baby feeding, so there was no reason not to do it. He kept on pulling out his feeding tube so he was also given a bottle on day 1 or 2 and that hasn’t made a difference to how he feeds from my boobs. Instead, I am already building up a stash of milk for when I feel like I need some time out from feeding and, more importantly, if a feed doesn’t go well I have milk to give Little S in a bottle to make sure he’s fed. Fed is best is my new motto.
5. I’m focussing on Little S
Little S is a special little man (more on that later) and he is really precious. With Baby J I was constantly fussing over my role as a mother and how I was doing – usually according to societal norms – and this time I’m just worried about Little S. I will do anything to make sure he’s happy and fed and clean and warm and I don’t pay any attention to what other people think. Again I’m sure this has to do with my confidence levels as well and my lower anxiety levels but still, there is definitely a difference to how I’m approaching motherhood this time and it’s making us all happier.
So that’s it. Even though things are very different this time around, things are still not easy. Not as bad as they were with Baby J but there are other issues to contend with, as there always will be. Also, it’s only been a week and a half so things may completely change. But I do know we have gotten off to a good start and I am in a much happier space now than I was a year and a half ago, even though the thought of me being a mother of two boys still frightens me.
But breastfeeding for the win at the moment – bring on the bubbles!