Breastfeeding I was not prepared for! When I was pregnant I had read up on labour, done the NCT classes and religiously checked on the different stages of the baby's growth. I was well informed and mentally prepared for labour and what was to come. My pregnancy was text book; straight forward and no complications. My body was performing daily miracles and doing what it was meant to do and so I knew when the time came, my natural instincts would take over and I didn't need to worry about labour. I didn't however think much about breastfeeding because again I thought my body would take over and do what it was designed to do.
This wasn't the case and within 12 hours of my daughter being born, she was struggling to feed properly and had to introduced to a formula feed. I didn't once think about needing to feed any other way other than naturally and so this came as a shock to me. It felt like the first time since finding out I was pregnant my body was failing me. It seemed as though me and my baby were not compatible. She had been a part of me for 9 months but now it felt like she was rejecting me.
You hear so often breast is best and I am all for it but within a few weeks I found myself crying to my husband, telling him I wanted to give up. Everything about it was a pain. The only way my baby would comfortably feed was if I was lying down on a bed (not very practical when out and about). After 2 months, I had also developed mastitis which is a blocked milk duct and the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I would do labour again if it meant I never had to feed my child again it was that bad. So to me breastfeeding sucked! It was inconvenient, painful and long (each feed took about an hour, which it shouldn't).
However in my mind I had always had the goal of breastfeeding until she started eating three meals a day so anytime from 6 to 9 months. So like I do in work, I had to look at my goal and start to think about how I would be able to achieve it. How was I going to continue to breastfeed my child for another 4 months at least? So I made a plan, I had to...
1. Get rid of mastitis. This meant I had to feed through the pain and after every feed, express any unused milk. Thankfully after a week or so the infection was healed up
2. Set short term goals. I had to give myself a shorter timescale. So my aim was to just get to 3 months. If I could get to 3 months then maybe I could go further
3. Make feeding work for me. As mentioned she would only feed lying down and so it meant there wasn't any flexibility in my day. Therefore I made the decision that if I was going to be out and about and she needed a feed, I would give her a bottle. Thankfully she was introduced to a bottle very early on so was comfortable feeding from one. I wasn't going to beat myself up about the fact that every now and then she would be fed formula. This also meant that we were no longer had to stick close to home, we could go anywhere.
4. Change my mindset. I had to look at breastfeeding in a new positive light. I was giving my baby a great start in life and in order to overcome my obstacles I had to remind myself of the importance. It was amazing, the moment I admitted to struggling and needing help, the moment breastfeeding got better.
5. Persevere. People would tell me "it shouldn't hurt, you must not be doing it right" and truth is I probably wasn't but it wasn't all about me. It was about my baby too and how she was doing. I had to keep working with my baby until she started to feed properly and slowly she got better at feeding and knew what she was meant to be doing.
So, now my daughter is 3 and a half months and I am pleased to say that I achieved my first goal, we made it to 3 months! In fact most days she is entirely breast fed. I did not think I would get to this point but I am so pleased I carried on. The ladies I spoke to were right, it shouldn't hurt and thankfully after following their advice it doesn't anymore. I was at a conference this weekend and I was able to breastfeed my baby in public for the first time and I did not need to find a sofa, she can now breastfeed whilst I am sitting up and no longer takes an hour.
Like all challenges we face whether at work or in our personal lives a good plan, realistic timescales, good people around you and perseverance can make all the difference. Bring on the next 6 months!