Learning How to Breastfeed
Can you believe it has taken me three children to learn how to breastfeed?
Three newborns, cracked nipples times three, three lots of issues with low supply. And to be honest with you – I was never really good at it. I used to watch other mothers breastfeed their babies and wonder why it never felt that natural for me? Wasn’t I meant to feel that special bond and connection through breastfeeding? Three kids later and I finally accepted, breastfeeding simply isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok.
Breastfeeding a Newborn
I thought I was acing motherhood when Cassie was born. We had the five-day stay in the hospital, and I was mostly left to myself unless it was time to top up on pain relief, or, of course, if I had any questions. But I didn’t. Cassie was drinking like a pro – or so I thought. She fed for a solid hour and then slept for the next two hours until I woke her for her next feed (controversial I know, but it’s the schedule we followed that worked for us).
My nipples were so sore. But as a first-time mum, I figured that was normal – they weren’t used to being sucked raw hour after hour. The lactation consultant even came and saw me before I left, helped a little with the latch and told me the grazing was normal and would get better over time and with a little cream.
It didn’t. I couldn’t handle the cluster feeding at night time, and soon enough was replacing one bottle with formula. It worked for us, and I have no regrets and, more importantly, it gave my nipples a much-needed break. Over the months, I watched as my supply slowly dwindled, and we were introducing more and more formula until Cassie was three months old and fully formula fed.
Making The Switch
I will never forget that day. She was fussing at my breast, pulling on and off, screaming, whacking, and both of us were miserable. Cassie was three months old and still taking an hour to feed. I also thought that was normal. It took my mum to come over and hand me a bottle of formula for me to let go. It was my mum telling me that it’s ok – fed is best. And it was.
Thankfully, switching over to formula was easy for me, as I had such a low supply. A couple of days of being uncomfortable, and suddenly, I had my body back. I simply expressed off the top when they go sore (any more and the supply will stick around), and wore tight, supportive bras during the day.
Second Time Around
Fast-forward two years and along came Vivi. Chris (my hubby) stocked up on the Lanolin for me, and I lathered myself up in preparation. Once again, my experience was sore. Once again, she slept so well I figured it was normal. I shared my story of Cassie with the lactation consultant, and she said there is no way a baby should be taking an hour on the breast at three months – something wasn’t right. But she gave me no extra advice on how to make it work with Vivi.
We went home, and I tried my best not to introduce the formula. I have no issues with formula at all – I just wanted to build my supply. Then the cluster feeding happened. I had a two-year-old running around. Broken, I gave her a bottle of formula and called the Australian Breastfeeding Association. The only thing I remember from that conversation was hearing I had put my newborn daughter at risk of SIDs by giving her formula.
I felt defeated and took the advice of some friends and booked in to see a professional lactation consultant. HOLY S#%& BALLS. How did I not know how to breastfeed? She changed our latch, she showed me how Vivi was latching well and got lazy during the feed and ended up just on the nipple (hence the pain). She showed me different ways to latch, and she fixed all our problems. Unfortunately, it was a little too late for the evening feed, as we had already gone to formula, but the rest of the journey was much easier. We still made it to three months, and I decided I was done. By now, I had simply decided I didn’t like breastfeeding.
This brings us to number three – Elliot. I could have started him on formula straight away, but there is this little thing called mum guilt that eats away at you. Just as I did with the girls I wanted to give him the same start to life. I didn’t necessarily believe it was the best start, for me, fed is best, but I wanted it to be the same. From Day 1, I was focused on that latch and on how he sucked. I took him off when he got lazy, and I reattached. Day 2 – in came the milk and there was so much of it! Amazing what a proper latch can achieve.
I went to the breastfeeding class in the hospital. When they found out it was my third child, they actually asked why I was there. Every newborn is different. Every breastfeeding journey is different. Why wouldn’t I be there?
We made it to 7 weeks, and it wasn’t without its issues. We did the odd formula top up – at the advice of a sensible Health Nurse who was trying to help us get his weight up. But mostly we breastfed. Now here’s a truth: I don’t enjoy breastfeeding. It took me three children to work that out. I just don’t enjoy it. Never have. And I think that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with a bottle of formula!
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