Here comes the milk…

So being small breasted, I was surprised when on day 4 I woke up looking like Dolly Parton! My milk had come in! I was so excited and couldn’t wait to feed my baby! I felt immense relief that everything was ok and I could continue our breastfeeding journey.

Now that my milk had come in, I was very fortunate in that it had come in in abundance. I had what one of my friends later referred to as ready, aim, fire boobies. Every morning I could literally feed my baby with one boob and, whilst he was feeding, I could express almost another whole bottle from the other (this was great as it meant I could freeze the extra milk ready for when I was due to have surgery a couple of months later). The minute I got ready to feed my boy it was like a switch had been flicked and the milk literally shot out. On more than one occasion he got a spurt of milk to the eye!

On one hand it was amazing to have so much milk with which to feed my child, but it also meant I leaked all the time. I went through 3-4 sets of breast pads a day and constantly had wet patches on my tops – I soon learnt to layer my clothes and stick to dark stuff! I suffered as most woman do with the pain of breast feeding, and anyone who says it doesn’t hurt has been very, very lucky. I combatted the pain issue by watching Netflix while I fed (due to the sheer volume of milk he only fed for maybe 15 minutes at a time) and that took my mind off it. It was this weird, painful, drawing out feeling and after about a month it started to be less painful and more just an odd sensation. I was fortunate in that my little trooper latched beautifully, and so I didn’t suffer with blisters or bleeding. I personally think that’s the trick to successful breast feeding– if your baby can latch on right then it’s unlikely that you will get blisters, and no blisters = less pain. I also used tons of nipple cream. I tried different brands to find the one that worked best for me and found there were two – Lanolin, which was great for a good soak before bed, and Bennetts, which has the same consistency as Savlon and so was really soothing when I was feeling a bit raw.

I won’t lie to you, it was hard. Some days (or more specifically nights) I would sit there feeding my baby and feel the weight of the responsibility crushing me. Every time he cried for milk it was on me, but I knew this was the decision I had made and I had to stick to it. I had tremendous support from my other half and that made it possible for me to continue for as long as I did. He would do all the burping at night, allowing me to wake up, feed and then go back to sleep while he settled the boy.

I was only able to breast feed for the first 3 months due to needing surgery and possibly radiotherapy, but working as a team we were able to stick to plan A and give our son the start we had wanted and it was the most amazing experience for me.

Is Breast Best?

Now there is a lot of discussion surrounding the concept that ‘Breast Is Best’ and maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

Something that stuck with me from long before I even fell pregnant was my friend telling me how she felt like she had failed because she had struggled with breastfeeding. No woman should feel like that. Being a mother is hard enough without all the pressure that society puts on us. One thing I knew from the start was I wasn’t going to beat myself up over it – as far as I was concerned as long as my baby was fed then whose business is it if I breast feed or bottle feed? Fed Is Best!

I was very lucky and within the first fifteen minutes after giving birth my little champ had latched on like a dream! I was so proud of the little guy and couldn’t help feeling slightly chuffed with myself too! Go us! After a while I gave my precious boy over to his dad and thought about having that awful first shower. I didn’t realise how much it would hurt to stand up. Everything felt like it had been turned inside out. I got washed as best I could, feeling slightly bemused by the sight of my still swollen belly. I honestly thought it would be like a balloon had been popped and I’d be rocking my jeans within a couple of days…clearly not!

So because I’d given birth in the evening, by the time we had got sorted and moved into the Maternity ward it was time for my man to head home. He was allowed to stay until we were settled, and then to be honest I was glad that I could finally close my eyes and go to sleep! Ha ha ha…had I forgotten I had a new born baby beside me, a life that was now my responsibility for the next 18 years!? The minute his dad left he decided it was time to stretch his lungs. He started crying and I started panicking! What the heck was I supposed to do? I went for the most obvious choice and stuck him on the boob.

I will say that if you are healthy and baby is healthy and you are able to try breastfeeding, then go for it! It is the most amazing feeling in the world (and a bit strange) but honestly, the fact that your body is feeding your child is just something magical. I had the doubt that everyone who has tried breastfeeding has – and that is ‘is my baby actually getting any milk?!’ So I did what any normal person would do and I asked the question.

In hindsight I wish I’d just trusted my body and kept my mouth shut! The woman on shift told me we should use a breast pump and see what we could get…so not knowing any better I agreed. And then came a mix of emotions. Naturally there was hardly anything there as all that is produced to start with is tiny amounts of colostrum. She seemed surprised that no milk was pumped out and suggested we cup feed him the colostrum mixed with formula. I had failed. The high from earlier disappeared in a flash. She took my baby away and fed him. I never got to see that. Exhausted I fell back asleep and woke to hear her putting my baby back in the cot. As I said, in hindsight maybe I should not have asked that question in the first place, or maybe I should’ve got a better response.

Looking back it’s obvious that all that’s going to come out is that liquid gold, Colostrum, as your milk doesn’t come in for 3-5 days. It was then noted the following morning that I had had trouble feeding and I had to agree to formula feed my baby (and actually give him a bottle) before they would let me leave. I was determined that once home we would get back on the bike so to speak, and continue trying to breastfeed. And we did.