Sunday, 27 June 2010

Getting it off my chest

There has been a lot of talk online this week about breastfeeding as it has been National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, and it got me thinking about my experiences of feeding my two girls.

When I got pregnant I had no strong feeling about the subject either way. I accepted that breast was most probably best and knew I wanted to give it a go, but beyond that I was fairly relaxed. Maybe because I felt like that we took to it pretty easily. We had some initial clumsiness, mainly down to me not being used to holding a baby, nevermind in a feeding position - but I had help from the midwives in the maternity ward and managed to get the hang of things, with the aid of a cushion or two for support.

Any problems I had with feeding were down to my general ignorance about babies, rather than any physiological. When Annie was feeding constantly near the beginning I rang the NCT and a La Leche Telephone Support Lines and the ladies I spoke to were brilliant - saying yes, babies do have periods of pretty much constant feeding but to ride these periods and my supply would soon match her demand.

Along with all this, I was also expressing. I hated expressing. It was the one thing that made me feel like a cow at a milking parlour. But I wanted Annie to get used to drinking from a bottle, so I persevered.

At about 12 weeks I introduced 1 bottle of formula at bedtime, as I had read that formula sustains a baby for longer and may help them sleep through the night. I really struggled with this, but I was also extremely precious about my sleep, so I caved in. I finally stopped feeding Annie at 9 months.

By the time Molly came along I was even more passionate about breastfeeding, albeit a little worried how I would cope with feeding a newborn when I had a 19 month toddler to look after too. I need not have worried. Molly took to it like a duck to water and it was as though, second time around, my body knew instinctively what to do and went into milk-producing overdrive!

Second time I was adamant I was not going to express. I decided if she wanted feeding I would rather quickly feed her myself for 20mins than spend hours trying to harvest a few pathetic drops to put in a bottle. It made for less stress for me, but it did come back to bite me on the bum a bit, as Molly never took to a bottle, which meant I ended up feeding her for 14 months. But it was she who decided when to stop. The day before we went on holiday she point blank refused to feed. Several attemnpts later, with boobs like bricks, I resigned myself to an abrupt cessation of feeding and spent the whole holiday in boob-related agony, having to surreptiously hand express to give myself some relief!

In the end, despite not really caring either way, breastfeeding became a defining part of me being a mum. Don't get me wrong - I was never outspoken about the subject and was actually very shy and uncomfortbale feeding in public. But to me, the experience of having a baby just wouldn't be complete without this fundametal element. At the end of the day, the responsibility was all down to me. Sometimes this was a huge burden and some days I would cry at my lack of freedom, feeling resentful and used - but most of the time it was a joy, a priviledge and a huge sense of achievement.


Smart Talkers said...

That's pretty much my story too. I think with no.1 its always hard cos there's so much to learn. By the second I was much more relaxed and didn't care what other people said!

Anonymous said...

Same here. We try so hard to fit nature around us in the beginning and then we realise it's just easier and perhaps better to give into it.

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