If you persisted and succeeded in breastfeeding that’s awesome. Breastfeeding is natural, normal and enjoyable for you and your baby. Your baby is never hungry, and you can whip your boob out anywhere, anyplace, anytime. Employment legislation is improving for working mothers in New Zealand, and some workplaces are fantastic at providing breastfeeding facilities which is a big plus.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband and I decided to attend a childbirth and early parenting programme (antenatal class). We knew nothing about childbirth and as we didn’t have any friends or family with babies we relied on this course to tell us everything we needed to know. The antenatal class was fantastic at promoting breastfeeding, but it didn’t answer several questions we had, and the reality of breastfeeding for me was quite different. So, I thought as it is World Breastfeeding Week, I would share some advice that I wish I had been told!
Breast is Best, but Formula is Second Best
Before you even have your baby, it is drilled into you by several breastfeeding experts that to give your baby the best start in life you must succeed at breastfeeding: at antenatal classes, from your midwife, and in any books or internet articles you might have read. Of course, as a new mum, you want to be the best, and you want your baby to have the best. After we spent two whole sessions learning about breastfeeding, during our antenatal class, my husband asked, ‘When are we going to talk about formula feeding and how to make it?” The answer he was given, was “I’m sorry, but we are not allowed to talk about formula feeding during this course”. When he was shut down like this, it was very clear to us that they felt formula feeding was forbidden and was not an option for us. We did not ask any more questions!
By the time you have had your baby, this pressure to succeed at breastfeeding has had a big effect on you and if it isn’t working out the way you expected, it is not a surprise that you feel like a HUGE failure and sob your heart out for days. What do you do? You ask your midwife and your community nurse, and they tell you to keep trying, that it won’t hurt forever, it gets easier… but what they don’t tell you is feeding your baby when it’s hungry is what matters. We seem to have lost sight of this!
Don’t Forget Your Own Health is Important
I wish someone had told me this when I started breastfeeding. After my first baby was born I went back into hospital with a retained placenta. Because of anemia and exhaustion, my milk supply stopped when my baby was just seven weeks old. Not only did I feel like a massive failure, but despite my reasons, I was snubbed by my ‘postnatal coffee group’ because I was the first one to stop breastfeeding. As a result, of this difficult start and the pressure I put on myself I suffered from post-natal anxiety and depression. When my 82-year-old grandmother came over from the UK at 12 weeks, she realised something wasn’t right when she had more energy than me! I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. Now forget me if I am wrong, but surely the health of the mother is more important than breastfeeding success?
You Can Bond with Your Baby Over A Bottle
When I stopped breastfeeding one of the things that made me so upset was that I thought my baby was not going to bond with me on the bottle. What a load of crap. Why did I think this? Again, it’s because it is what I had been told. In fact, the opposite was true. By the time I gave my baby a bottle, he was absolutely starving. He would guzzle his milk down and fill his tummy. He loved being tied to me in a baby wrap for the first few months and I enjoyed looking at this happy content baby that wasn’t screaming anymore. Giving him a bottle also meant my husband would enjoy feeding him at least once a day, so they also bonded very quickly, and my husband also enjoyed the closeness of carrying him in a wrap.
Breastfeeding is Not Possible for Everyone
If you are to succeed at breastfeeding, a lot of things must go your way. There are babies out there born with perfect health, without reflux, an average appetite, and a perfect latch. There are also women out there with higher pain thresholds, beautifully shaped nipples and breasts that produce bucket loads of full-fat cream. There are lactation consultants, breastfeeding coffee groups, helpful community nurses and several other fantastic experts that can help. Getting off to a good start isn’t always easy, but keeping yourself well-fed, hydrated, resting as much as you can and having a family member to help you at the beginning makes a big difference. Do you know what mastitis is? What are the symptoms? There is a number of reasons why a baby won’t latch, or it struggles to feed, trust your gut instincts and talk to your doctor. My babies were both born vaginally and in a hurry. They both struggled to feed on one side– an osteopath quickly put this right.
Learn How to Make Formula Before Baby Comes
If you are breastfeeding, you don’t have the hassle of mixing up the formula in the middle of the night and you don’t have to drag around a heavy bag full of baby bottles when you leave the house. But, if your baby is hungry and you can’t give it breastmilk it still needs to be fed. Before your baby arrives, look on the shelf in the supermarket. Do you know what to buy? Newborn, Goatsmilk, Lactose-Free, Anti-reflux? Are you likely to feel happier with a particular brand? If you do this research before-hand it is a much easier experience for you and/or your partner when they are standing in the supermarket at midnight trying to choose! Will you buy bottles beforehand? How will you sterilize the teats and bottles? Have a go at mixing up the formula or at least read the instructions on the tin before the baby arrives.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this LittleMonkeys Blog, please post and share. Happy World Breastfeeding Week!