My Breastfeeding Experience

Elfie: my tiny little monkey baby

Breastfeeding was something I never thought about much in my first pregnancy. I just assumed I’d do it and kind of thought it came naturally to all babies; you simply wafted them in the general direction of your boob, they sucked and milk came out, right?

HA.

I never knew there could be positioning issues, latch issues, tongue problems, or even any pain involved. Ohhh, the pain. Nobody tells you about that part, do they?

Elfie ended up being exclusively breastfed for about to week. Because her weight gain was non-existent we were told to express and introduce formula to her diet so her intake could be monitored. I have to admit, this was like being given a get out of jail free card for me and I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to persevere through the toe-curling pain that didn’t seem to be letting up. We didn’t realise how weak her latch was at the time but it resulted in cracked, blistered and bleeding nipples and after a week of this getting worse and worse I was so downhearted. I used to dread her feeds and would weep at the pain.

When we found out how poorly she’d been during this time I was a little bit relieved that it wasn’t my body and my boobs that had been causing her failure to thrive, there was an underlying issue that I couldn’t have helped.

 
Various stages of Hux in milk happiness

When Hux was born I told myself I’d try to feed him but if it didn’t work, if it was as painful as last time then it wouldn’t be the end of the world. No pressure, no stresses. At my first cuddle with him about an hour after the birth he latched on straight away and fed like a pro, and because we had our week in hospital I focused a lot of time on skin-to-skin and would put him down my top naked for a snooze for at least 2 hours a day. I credit this in part for how well he feeds, but also how much he likes to sleep in my bed snuggled up to my chest (FYI am still searching for the answer to how on earth you have ‘intimate time’ with your husband when you have a clingy cosleeper). The first week was so painful, though. My nipples were cracked and bruised and I went through so much Lansinoh cream.

I was terrified this meant there was something wrong with his latch and think it was probably checked by every single midwife on the ward, but even the breastfeeding councillor called it ‘textbook’. I persevered with different positions and talked to A LOT of people online; I definitely dont think I could have made it through these tough few days without my breastfeeding cheerleading squad on twitter.

 

Hux the hungry boy / my leaking boobs

I’m so proud that at the age of 7 weeks Hux has had nothing but my breast milk and is thriving. This might not sound like a huge achievement but I really didn’t expect us to get here. Its all been completely plain sailing since that first week and having fed two babies using different methods I can say that breastfeeding is so much simpler. Nobody’s stumbling around in the middle of the night to sterilize bottles and boil water for the formula and we don’t have to take piles of milk-making related crap out with us when we leave the house. There’s not the expense there, either, at around £50 a month formula is not the cheap option.

My first public feed was when we were watching a match at the local rugby club and I’ve fed in plenty of places since: in restaurants, shops, at the doctors. I caught one older lady giving us the evil eye and was not above giving the evil eye right back, read this great story on Fritha’s blog about one mother who was verbally abused about her choice to breastfeed and what the breastfeeders of Bristol did in response.

 

Having fed my babies both ways I agree that it should be the mother’s decision to feed whichever way they think is best. Elfie has had no ill effects through being a formula baby, in fact I believe there was the additional benefit of Will being able to feed and bond with her which we only get now if I express. There’s A LOT to be said for sharing those night feeds. But having had such a positive breastfeeding journey so far I can definitely say that I prefer it, not just for the health benefits for the both of us (it took me only 4 weeks to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight) but for the bonding and ease of having food immediately available 24/7 (invaluable when baby is starving or upset).

If we ever have any more babies I’ll be trying my hardest to breastfeed again and am so thankful that the midwifes on the maternity ward were supportive and knowledgeable. When Elfie was born and wouldn’t settle on the first night the first thing the midwife at the Nottingham hospital suggested was a bottle of formula. In contrast, at Milton Keynes hospital the first thing the midwife suggested to settle Hux was cosleeping (it worked). In hindsight I am shocked the first midwife wasn’t more supportive of my choice to breastfeed and I hope protocol at the Nottingham hospital has changed since.

Breastfeeding: it’s not for everyone but when it works it’s brilliant. Yay for magic life-giving boobs!

I started writing this for National Breastfeeding week, which was 25th-30th June. Oops. 

 

20 Comments
  1. I really struggled at first with my son but was lucky to get awesome support and ended up breastfeeding him WAY longer than I ever thought I would have (14 months). I got pregnant again and my milk magically disappeared.

    I found after the first six weeks it just got so much easier and like you say it was just so hassle free! I’m due in 8 weeks and am very curious as to what my breastfeeding relationship with this new baby entering the fold will be.

    I’ve been lucky in that I have not gotten many negative responses from strangers but I have from family and friends (who urged me to start using formula/rice cereal and a pediatric nurse who told me to stop feeding at 8 months as it would make my son more independent….?!?!). There is so much ignorance out there. On both sides of the spectrum I should add.

    1. It’s interesting how different the breastfeeding experiences are with different babies! I can’t believe you’ve had negative responses from friends and family, you’d think they would be the supportive ones.

  2. OK, so I don’t have children and might never do but I always love your blog because I learn so much. I just never imagined breastfeeding would be painful and I think it’s people like you who speak out about it that must mean so much to people going through similar things. Obviously working for a brand that deals with nursing clothing etc means I now know a LOT about it but we still get tons of e-mails through asking various questions. I’ll make sure I point people in direction of this post :)

    1. One thing I vowed to do after my experiences was tell people how much it freaking hurts! I really wish this was something I’d known about it as it was such a huge shock.

  3. Yay! Go Alice! I am thrilled you have had such a positive experience, esp after Elfie was poorly & that 1st week with her must have been hard. I do agree that everyone has the right to choose but – for me – I am VERY pro-breast feeding.
    Yes, I had pain, cracked nipples (with holes in each), mastitus twice – all in the 1st 3 weeks with No1 son but I was so bloody minded and determined not to give up & it became a wonderful, hassle free, bonding experience that lasted 9months until I ret’d PT to work and he kinda gave me up. With my 2nd son I mentally prepared myself for the pain but luckily it was much easier and I fed him for 2 years -when heartbroken, I decided the time was right to stop.
    My husband had to help soothe him after 1 yr at night – there was no way I could help him sleep through as he would just want milk from me.
    I got no negativity feeding in public & did it everywhere – though as Elliot got older friends would not always support but it was up to ME!
    It’s hard to explain the sense of wellbeing you can gain from breastfeeding…snuggles, skin2skin, tear stopping, and it’s on tap and it’s free. I LOVE IT!

    1. That’s great there was no negativity, it’s so hard that women face this on a day to day basis. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t mind fighting back should anyone dare suggest what I was doing was in any way wrong. ROAR! x

  4. It’s bloody difficult to have ‘intimate time’ until the baby starts sleeping the first stretch of night-time sleep on their own and you get your evenings back. Have you heard of the phrase ‘Never sit on a co-sleeper’s sofa’? ; )

  5. Go Alice!

    My experience with breastfeeding has been really hard. Certainly harder than I ever imagined. I had two bouts of mastitis and recurrent nipple thrush – yay!! All in the first 8 weeks. As if breastfeeding wasn’t hard or painful enough on it’s own. I persevered and 9 months on we are still going strong. I thought I would give it up after 6 but she loves it so much I don’t want to take it away from her. She almost hyperventilates when I undo my bra… It’s sweet in a slightly strange way. I think we’ll reassess at 12 months though…

    K xx

  6. brillaint post, and Chloe’s comment made me laugh!! Ha god I wish I had some tips for you about that to be honest..I’m too knackered to even want any *intimate time*! xx

    1. This is true – we’re both constantly exhausted and we go to bed at 10, if not before! An early night no longer means what it used to, that’s for sure x

  7. Loved reading your success story! I loved my breast feeding time with Lily! After the early day of getting used to it we both enjoyed it and continued until she was one.

    Enjoy this time! X

  8. I am so very happy for you! You will love the nursing relationship as it develops! My first child screamed everytime she saw a boob. (this does not cause mummy guild or anything) I pumped milk for her like a mumma cow for-freaking-ever. My second child wanted nothing but the boob for years. You must be over the moon. Congrats again and enjoy your new one!

  9. I found your blog over at BritMums – congrats on being blogger of the week! Had a read of a few of your posts and will be back for more. Thanks for sharing your breastfeeding story, so glad it’s working out for you!

  10. Hooray for magic life-giving boobs indeed! This post is amazeballs.

    I feel really lucky that, ubiquitous cracked and sore nips aside, I haven’t had any problems, from feeding or otherwise. HA! Can you imagine if I got berated by a stranger for feeding? They wouldn’t know what had hit them. I can be totes gobby at times.

    I think my boy is beginning to wean, and as much as this makes me sad, it’s been his choice, and the one thing I have always wanted was that he stopped when he was ready.

  11. What a fabulous post, I had a horrific experience with my daughter (the pain really is something else, I can still remember those couple of days were I dreaded her waking as it would mean she needed fed), needless to say it only lasted 2 weeks. I was full of good intentions with my son but he had jaundice caused by a slight blood disorder and he was supplemented and it really was the start of a slippery slope. If we did have number 3 I think I would definitely research in advance whether supplementing is essential for a jaundiced baby. Gorgeous photos too. x

  12. Happy to hear that it’s going well now!! Breastfeeding little L was super easy – I never experienced any of the pain, cracked nipples or inflamed breasts you mentioned. I don’t think I could have persevered; I found it exhausting enough as it was. I am curious to see how things will turn out with baby number 2 though. Might be all completely different…

  13. I can totally relate to this post. I too had no idea that breastfeeding could be painful. With Noo I persevered through a very painful, infection and year filled 8 weeks until my doctor told me it was on to stop if it was becoming a traumatic experience for me and the baby. I was dreading each feed and Noo was getting more agitated as a result. Like you my experience wih baby number 2 couldn’t be more different. After the initial pain starting out it was plain sailing, I then understood why so many mums went on about how it was an amazing bonding experience! So pleased you wrote this piece – really well balanced approach to feeding.

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