My first daughter was born eleven days late in the water as planned. Nothing else really went to plan after that though.
She struggled to latch. I struggled to drink enough after her birth and promptly fainted (I knew I was going to, but no one believed me!). She continued to struggle to latch. The help with breastfeeding once I had been moved out of the lovely midwifery led birthing unit was almost non-existent. I remember a young girl, who had no children of her own, coming over with a woolly boob and showing me what to do. Eventually, my daughter latched on and stayed there for what felt like forever. It was more like twenty minutes, but I felt a cheer inside myself that finally she had decided to accept me. That twenty-minute feed meant that they were happy to send us on our merry way.
Once we returned home, she refused to latch again. And again. And again. I felt like a useless mother. She became sleepy and lethargic. At only two days old, the midwife popped over to weigh her and she had lost over 16% of her birth weight. Cue returning to hospital to the NICU. As soon as we got there, they shoved a bottle of formula in her mouth. I cried feeling like I’d failed. Prior to giving birth, I had heard so much about bottle feeding being bad etc that I had started to believe it. Luckily, I’m much wiser than that now and know that, although nutritionally, of course breast milk is better, a fed baby is better than a malnourished one.
I persevered though and each time she was woken for a feed (every three hours), I attempted to latch her and then when she wouldn’t or couldn’t, she had a bottle of formula while I expressed. Once my milk came in on day 5, things got a little easier. They discharged us as her weight had increased well and she was thriving. Baby blues hit big time and I sobbed. The hospital, although hideous being in there, was a place of safety for us in case things went wrong. We continued to combination feed her; this solution was so much better for my wellbeing. I stopped breastfeeding her altogether once she hit eleven months.
With daughter number two, she was a boob fiend from the word go and never failed to latch and therefore thrive. It was only when I started to wean her that she dropped weight, but she got there. The celebrations the health visitor and I shared when she finally showed an interest in food (a whole prawn cracker nevertheless) were somewhat amusing.
Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone. Different babies have different struggles. Just do the best you can. And if you really hate it, that doesn’t make you a failure.
So… I’d like to leave you with a little story about an experience I had whilst shopping with my daughters. Brave me, I decided to traipse around Norwich with a baby and toddler in tow. Daughter 1 had just turned three and daughter 2 was five months. Daughter 1 was complaining of being hungry, so Jarrolds it was. We hit the café. It was a challenge manoeuvring the pushchair and carrying the tray, but we succeeded. Just as we sat down, hungry baby cries emerged from the pushchair and I knew I wouldn’t be eating my cheese scone in peace. I whipped her out of the pushchair and a boob out at the same time to feed her. She had reached that nom nom nom stage. You know like Jamie Oliver makes those satisfied noises when he likes the taste of the food he’s created? Yeah… that is what she was doing as well as squeezing my boob. An old lady glared over in our direction before whispering to her husband. He was either deaf or disinterested as he ignored her pretty much. The staring made it obvious that she was uncomfortable and didn’t agree with my choice to feed both of my children in a café. Odd that as food establishments seem like the perfect place to eat. Not allowing her negativity to ruin our lunchtime, I attempted to eat whilst feeding. Buttering a scone with one hand is not my forte. The knife slipped out of my hand at one point, drawing further attention to us, particularly from the sour-faced old woman. Then something unbelievable occurred. She got out a small bag from her handbag. From this bag, she withdrew a pair of nail clippers. With those nail clippers, she began to clip her nails. Ping. One flew off onto the table in front of her. Ping. Another landed on her lap. Ping ping ping. Goodness knows where the rest went.
So, quick poll… what’s more sociably acceptable: feeding a baby or clipping your nails (and letting them ping everywhere) in a food establishment?
I’d love to hear your breastfeeding stories: funny, sad, happy, wonderful, depressing, embarrassing… all the emotions are welcome!