As many of you know my little girl Penelope, or P as she’s commonly referred to, was born late July. And if you follow me on Twitter (@ElleJasminBlogs), you’ll have seen my contrasting tweets about Breastfeeding P so today I wanted to get it all down on paper (or a blog post) and tell you about our journey so far.
Before P was born I attended a local breastfeeding class to learn about all things boob with my mom. My mom fed my three sisters and I herself so I had grown up around breastfeeding and felt passionate to do it too. The class was somewhat useful; discussing positions, the perfect latch and the process from colostrum to milk.
As soon as P was born, she latched on straight away, perfectly. We were complimented by many midwives by how well she was doing. I continued swapping from side to side, as advised in the class and thoroughly enjoyed feeding my tiny little human; newborns are very needy feeders.
One of our first feeds together whilst I was updating my family on our lovely little girl.
However when we returned home and were visited by the community midwife and student midwife, I began feeding P during our chat. To which they quickly told me my positioning was wrong, both swarmed over me, shoving my boob in P’s face. Swiftly, followed by propping her under my arm, lay flat on her back and then began questioning why she wouldn’t feed. As a new mom; tired, aching and hormonal, this experience knocked all my confidence and reversed the compliments I’d received in hospital about how natural we both were. I wish at the time I’d had the confidence to say “I don’t want to be poked and prodded and, evidently, neither does P”. I was also then told “you’ll be like another mother I have, whose positioning is wrong and the baby is poorly because he hasn’t gained weight” – just what I needed to hear. Once they’d left, I picked P back up into our usual positioning and cried. The fear of suddenly doing it all wrong and her being unwell, broke me inside. The thing with boob feeding is, you never really know exactly how much they’re taking in and that worried me in the start. But I had J, who reminded me that she was happy, settled and doing enough dirty nappies to prove I must be doing it right.
That first week was hard; we had an unexpected re-admission into hospital for a suspected infection and during that period my milk came in, making me terribly engorged. This was then followed by her constant cluster feeding causing my nipples to bleed and crack. It quickly became too much over the next few days; my boobs were sore, my nipples was horrendous and I kept considering giving up. One evening it drove me to tears and J called his mom over to help us figure out what to do next; formula or not to formula, was the question. This is when we decided to begin expressing to ease the discomfort; my mother-in-law taught me how to express (that’s the point of desperation I’d gotten to) and P took a couple ounces from bottles whilst I took time healing.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to focus on yourself whilst breastfeeding; buy comfy pretty bras, take time to heal, eat those naughty snacks. If it makes you feel good, do it, because it’s bloody hard work.
Since then, P’s cluster feeding days have reduced and my boobs have settled (thank f***). On the most part, I enjoy feeding her; it’s free, efficient and has led to an incredible mother-daughter bond. However I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t made me a little depressed; the pressure sometimes feels too much and the constant need has led to me feeling like nothing more than a dairy cow at times. The first time I tried to take a bath after P was born, she needed me, even though we’d tried to time it perfectly I ended up sat on the edge of the bath, naked and freezing, whilst she filled her little tum up. I’ve left stores in a hurry because she needed feeding so instead sat in the back of the car instead. I’ve cried in the middle of the night because sitting up alone can become incredibly lonely and exhausting. But I’ve also felt that wave of unconditional love every time she falls asleep whilst feeding because I help her rest when she’s being grumpy.
I can’t sit still for long; it’s a running joke between J and I that I don’t make it to the end of a film before wandering around, cleaning and tidying. So this has proved to be difficult whilst feeding as I can be sat for 5-40 minutes at a time, and have moaned to J before about all the things I wanted to get done during that feed but he always reminds me how much good this is doing for our little one, and then he does the chore for me – bless him.
It is hard work but every day it is worth it. Her weight gain has been perfect and she is the happiest little girl. My boobs can now cope thank goodness and on the most part, I do enjoy feeding. Looking at her perfect little face staring up at me whilst we feed is beautiful. I’m so lucky I have a partner like J to remind me of how well we’re doing when I begin wavering.
Feeding in public has served to still make me nervous; there’s something about whipping a boob out in front of total strangers whilst they have a good gawp because the baby’s crying, that makes me anxious. But I’ll learn. I’ve fed P in parks, ice cream parlours and tiny cafes – each time I’m a little nervous and sometimes I’ve headed to the car for a bit of a privacy (even though I despise being cramped in the back seats) but in time, I’ll grow in confidence.
The first time I fed P at a public park – it always feels like the whole town have come out to walk their dog the moment you pop a boob out. Within minutes my nerves eased however.
The positivity I’ve received from J, his family and mine has kept me going. There’s no way I’d still be feeding if they weren’t so supportive and helpful when I’ve needed them most. And her weight gain is what keeps me motivated – from 8lb 3oz at birth, P was 11lb 2oz at 6 weeks and that makes me seriously proud.
Now Penelope is 7 weeks, exclusively breast fed and I get a little sense of achievement that the one bottle of formula we bought, sits unopened in our cupboards. I would love to get to 6 months exclusively breastfed but I know it could be hard, which is why I feel so strongly that fed is best. I’ve found myself inspecting her poos (colour, consistency and quantity – I’ve worried over it all), counting feeds and worrying that she’s “too windy” but I’ve learnt that that comes with being a mom, breast feeding or not, we all worry that we’re doing the right thing and that our little loves are doing okay.
Luckily, J will help me make the best decision for us all and support my every step (including inspecting poop colours).
I hope this has been insightful, I struggled finding people that felt the same as me (usually they discuss empowerment and confidence, not nerves and cracked nipples haha) so I hope this helps some moms who don’t enjoy breast feeding from the get go – it’s all one big journey.
Side note – “breastfeeding” feels far too formal, usually we just call it boobing haha.
Eleanor Jasmin x