Nothing ever goes quite to plan, does it? Not that I had a structured birth plan but I definitely did not plan an almost homebirth then a birthing centre birth via an ambulance - breastfeeding was no different!
After finding out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed. As Ottilie's Dad is asthmatic and has allergies it was really important to me to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months to make her immune system as good as it could possibly be!
breastfeeding - the first few weeks:
Breastfeeding is hard and not to mention painful! At least in the beginning anyway. Luckily we got the hang of it quickly but I wasn't prepared for the pain and the common phrase "if you're nursing properly it shouldn't hurt" is rubbish! My previously hidden away nips suddenly became a 24/7 all you can eat buffet. They were lucky to get an hour or two before they were ravished again! Every latch I would grit my teeth, curl up my toes and hold my breath to get through those first few seconds before the pain went. I never wanted to wear bra or a t-shirt because they were so sore but the revolving door of guests and health visitors made that impossible.
Eventually breastfeeding my daughter became everything I imagined it would and it all felt so right. But all of sudden Ottilie needed to feed (and I'm not exaggerating) every half an hour. This is where the dreaded low supply thoughts crept into my head and the struggle really started...
Worrying about my supply totally backfired. I thought Ottilie wasn’t getting enough milk as she was on me literally all day every day! I had no idea what ‘cluster feeding’ was and decided to give her a bottle with either formula or my expressed milk. Every day for about 3 weeks while I tried to up my (perfectly fine) supply by pumping (which didn’t work at all!) my body was missing signals to make more milk, so every day I made just that little bit less. And that is how my perceived low supply turned into an actual low supply.
pumping isn’t for everyone
My body was so used to breastfeeding at this point that pumping just didn’t agree with me. It’s only 5 months after I gave up that I am learning why. I thought I was right about having a low supply because I couldn’t pump more than a couple ounces at a time, and that's an ounce for each boob!
I cried as I saw other mums on Instagram posting photos of their milk-stocked freezers and there I was pumping for an hour to get an ounce of breast milk. I felt such a huge amount of guilt and disappointment; I was letting my daughter down. I remember turning to mumsnet where the array of women giving up pumping and the judging mums hurling abuse for doing so was horrid. But if you carry on down that road, you’ll reach the light at the end of the tunnel and the amount of support you’ll find is quite frankly overwhelming!
I won’t lie, I felt like a failure thinking about packing my pump away. But what I didn’t know was the amazing sense of relief I was about to feel. Deciding to stop pumping was one of the best decisions I made. For me and Ottilie! I didn’t realise the extent of the stress and guilt I was feeling until I could let it all go.
We tried to go back to exclusively breastfeeding but Ottilie’s latch wasn’t as good, and as my supply had dropped for real she would get frustrated and so would I.
So since she was 3 months old, Ottilie has been formula fed. Now at 8 months old, my chubby girl is thriving, crawling at the speed of Jenson Button, trying to run before she can walk and most importantly – she is happy and I am too.
final words on breastfeeding and pumping
I'd just like to say that I’m not pro-formula! Nor am I advocating that anyone should stop breastfeeding or pumping! If you’re pumping and producing breast milk, I encourage you to keep going! You’re doing something amazing for your baby. But if you’re pumping and it’s breaking your heart because it’s just not working, it is okay to stop.
Breastfeeding and/or pumping doesn’t work for every mum, and I’m personally proud of you for trying. Your baby will benefit from every drop of breast milk you were able to produce, and now they will benefit from a less stressed, less guilt-ridden mummy.
Hang in there and take a moment to breathe (just not at nappy changing time!), you’re doing awesome!