Breastfeeding is perfectly natural and the absolute best thing you can do for your baby. At least that was what I was told during my pregnancy countless times: early parenting classes, pre-natal visits and all the literature I was reading trumpeted the benefits of breastfeeding.
But what none of them told me was how absolutely frustrating and discouraging it can be to get breastfeeding established. I am convinced this lack of information leads to many women who would love to breastfeed giving up – I was nearly one of them.
It all started beautifully – directly after birth my little baby girl Lina did a breast crawl and found the breast and started suckling straight away – she was perfectly attached and I didn’t feel any pain, only bliss.
The next morning I went to the hospital’s lactation class and Lina did it again, this time attaching herself to the other breast.
From then on it went downhill. Every few hours a different midwife came into my room, tried to forcefully attach my tired baby to my breast when all Lina wanted to do was sleep. Consequently I ended up with sore and painfully grazed nipples and Lina kept sleeping.
Then the midwifes started to manually express milk from my breast and Lina was fed through a syringe. I wasn’t even allowed to do it myself, I was told only the midwifes could do it. The next day I was told there was too much milk for the syringe and we’d have to start bottle feeding. At this point I panicked and some kind friends came to my rescue, spending the next day with me in hospital giving me support. I asked for a small cup and fed Lina with it after expressing milk with an electric breast pump.
Finally I was visited by a lactation consultant who recommended I use a breast shield.
When I was discharged from hospital I was mainly expressing and sometimes using the breast shield – hurting my nipples again and again, so much so that sometimes the expressed milk was tinged pink with blood.
It took seven weeks, lots of tears from Lina and me, a number of sleepless nights, two more visits to a lactation consultant and two day stays at a Tresilian Family Care Centre to finally start breastfeeding normally.
Lina is now nearly eight weeks old and has finally started to suck efficiently and I have learned how to correctly attach her to my breast. We still have problems but I finally feel convinced we’re getting there.
At the end of my pregnancy, a few friends told me about the problems they’d had with breastfeeding. Two of them had major problems which led to bottle feeding and supplementing with formula in the early days but a number of months later both have succeeded in fully breastfeeding their bubs. Knowing that other women also have problems but that it’s possible to overcome them with the right support was incredibly valuable for me. Much more valuable than all the info about how important breastfeeding is; that only made me feel guilty and fearful that I was a bad mother as I wasn’t sure if we would make it.
I don’t think I would still be breastfeeding without the support of my friends, my partner and my mum who took over my household giving me the space and time to fully concentrate on overcoming the problems.
How did you go with breastfeeding? Did it come completely naturally to you or did you have problems? How did you find support and what advice would you give to new mothers?