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My Experience of Breast Feeding
Breastfeeding in General
Member Name: maxwell_star
Breastfeeding in General
Date: 21/04/12, updated on 24/04/12 (117 review reads)
Advantages: Free! Easier than preparing bottles, lose weight quicker, special for you and baby, great nutrients
Disadvantages: Biting etc, clothes needed for easy access, don't know how much baby gets, ruins breasts a bit!
Before I start this review I would just like to state that this is not going to be a balanced debate of whether it is better to breast feed or formula feed babies as I am certainly pro breast feeding. However, I strongly believe that women should not be pressured one way or another and that they are the only ones to decide what is appropriate for them and their baby. This is simply an account of my personal experiences of breast feeding and hopefully this will be of use to someone.
- Ideas of Breast Feeding From My Own Childhood -
My younger brother and sister and I were breast fed until we were about 10 months old. My mother was a midwife so she was definitely pro breast feeding. When I was six I remember my brother breast feeding and me asking my mother if it hurt. I couldn't quite understand that the baby wouldn't just chew on the nipple like I chewed my food. When I played dolls with my cousin I remember pretending to breast feed by holding the doll to my chest and I distinctly recall thinking it would be lovely to do this for real with my own baby, I was only about seven at the time!
- Pregnancy -
As soon as I told people I was pregnant breast feeding became a topic of discussion, particularly with my own family as it was expected I would opt for breast feeding over formula. My husband and his family were also pro breast feeding. It wasn't really something I had to think about, I knew I wanted to breast feed and it was one of the aspects of being a mother that I was really looking forward to. I bought a book on the subject, attended an antenatal breast feeding class and I purchased various items I thought would come in handy for the task. For example I bought nursing bras, breast pads, nipple protectors, nipple cream, breast cooling pads and a nursing pillow. I wanted to be prepared for any discomfort I might experience so that these issues wouldn't result in me giving up breast feeding. I was also keen to express milk for the rare occasions I might want to go out without the baby so I also bought an electric breast pump and a small selection of bottles. I stated my wish to breast feed on my birth plan and that I would like a prolonged period of "skin to skin contact" with my baby when he was first born so that we could attempt latching on and feeding.
- Peer Pressure -
My mother was concerned that giving the baby a bottle with expressed milk would cause confusion and then he wouldn't latch on. On quite a few occasions she made comments about this and expressed concern about how I might give up quickly. My mother in law was also opinionated on the subject, commenting in a slightly negative way that a relative had only breastfed her baby for six weeks. I was keen to breast feed so this didn't really bother me too much but I certainly would have felt pressured had I not wanted to breast feed. At the other end of the spectrum I had a friend who I would describe as having a slightly negative attitude towards breast feeding, her reason being that so many women feel pressured to do it and it quite simply isn't for everyone. This is fair enough and probably true in many cases. However, I don't think this should make someone anti breast feeding. She told me that it was unnecessary and even weird to breast feed past six months and she bought me a pot to keep formula powder in!
- First Experiences of Breast Feeding -
Due to a complicated labour and my baby starting to get distressed, I had to have an emergency caesarean and my son was born around 10pm. There were a few concerns about my baby boy when he was first delivered but he soon recovered and within an hour I was able to have skin to skin time with him and attempt feeding. This was lovely but I was absolutely knackered! One thing I hadn't appreciated was that not only was I learning the ropes of breast feeding but my little boy was too and he didn't have a clue what he was doing! I found it hard to get him to latch on or even get his mouth to my nipple. He was so small and delicate it was quite hard to move him around and I didn't want to hurt him. I think eventually he did a little bit of sucking but by this time it was midnight, my husband had to leave the ward and it was time for me and the baby to get some rest. During the night the midwives told me my son's blood sugar levels were a bit low so they thought they should give him some formula until he got the hang of breast feeding. Although this wasn't what I wanted I agreed that it was best for my baby. I was very concerned that giving him formula would hinder his progress with the breast and that it would also affect my milk supply.
The next few days in hospital were exhausting and I struggled to get my son to properly latch on rather than just sucking my nipple. This was very painful and my nipples were red and cracked. He had to have formula to top up some of his feeds as he wasn't getting enough from the breast to maintain good blood sugar levels. After two days of this an amazing midwife gave me some tips about the way I was positioning my baby, my breasts and my hands and gave me signs to look out for that showed my son had latched on properly. This made a world of difference and by the time we left hospital we seemed to have the hang of it. I felt like had I not had the determination to persevere I would have given up at this first hurdle which would have been a shame.
- A Mother's Worst Nightmare -
We happily continued a three hourly breast feeding routine and this was going really well. My baby was satisfied and I wasn't suffering too much with sore nipples. I really loved the special bond this gave us as it was something no one else could do for him. It was exhausting at times but that is to be expected with a new baby! However, when my son was about five weeks old he became critically ill and was admitted to a special care baby unit for two weeks, even needing to be resuscitated at one point. This was the hardest time in my life by far. I wasn't able to breast feed him until the end of our stay in hospital as he had to be fed through a tube. But the nurses did feed him breast milk that I would express for him every few hours. There was a room on the ward especially for expressing milk and I spent a lot of time in there pumping away. What kept me going through this stressful and emotional time was the thought of breast feeding my baby again. There was a poster on the wall of a mother happily breast feeding her content little baby and I would stare at that longing for my son to better so we could be like that.
- Low Milk Supply -
Unfortunately my milk supply started to decrease and when I pumped I kept expressing less and less each time. I'm sure the stress and me not eating and drinking properly contributed to this but I also think pumping doesn't have the emotional connection which can also have an impact on the flow of milk. My baby had to have some formula as my supply was so low. When he had fully recovered we were allowed to take him home which was absolutely amazing but I had the new stress of trying to breast feed him when I knew my milk supply was low. He would get very agitated as he wasn't getting enough milk from me and this made it very hard to settle him. We were giving him some formula but I was very aware that this was going to make my milk supply worse so I tried to limit this as much as possible without depriving him. I was feeding him on demand every two hour as well as expressing in between which was so exhausting. I did some research online and came across a herbal remedy called Fenugreek which is supposed to increase milk supply. You have to take four tablets three times a day and the tablets are quite large to swallow but I figured it was worth a try as the only side effect seemed to be that you smell of maple syrup! After taking these for three days and continuing to feed on demand and express I noticed a difference. For the first time since we had left the hospital I had the feeling of my breasts being full and my son fell asleep on the breast, one very satisfied customer! My supply seemed to pretty much return to normal after this, although since then I have found that my left breast always has more milk than the right resulting in my son having a favourite side!
- Breast Feeding in Public -
This seems to be an issue for a lot of people. I have breast fed in restaurants, shopping centres, train stations and on a park bench. There often isn't a designated breast feeding room in public places so I don't have much choice, all I can do is cover up the best I can. You get the occasional stare if people work out what you are doing but I have never had a nasty comment. In fact on one occasion when I was breast feeding in a shopping centre a lovely young woman came up to me and said she thought I was amazing for breast feeding in public. It has got harder as my son has got bigger and at 11 months he does have a habit of ripping off the blanket and exposing us!
- Advantages and Disadvantages -
I will keep this brief as I'm sure most people know about the health benefits for both mother and baby. For me the advantages of breast feeding have been that it is free, I think it helped me lose weight quicker, it is special between me and my son, I personally find it easier than preparing bottles of formula (especially at night and when out and about), and it is my opinion that it is the best I can give my baby in terms of vitamins and nutrients.
Disadvantages for me have been as my son has grown he has pinched, scratched, punched and bitten my breasts and nipples. I don't think my breasts look as good as they used to and I haven't been able to wear many of my tops and dresses as I always have to think about quick access to my breasts! I think the other disadvantage is that it took my son a little longer to get to the point of sleeping through the night. If you formula feed your baby you can increase the amount you give during day time feeds so that they get enough to see them through the night, but this is much harder when you are breast feeding and you don't know how much they have had. In my group of mummy friends the two breast fed babies took longer to sleep through compared to the four formula fed babies, obviously this isn't a scientific study and babies do have very different sleep routines generally. My son started sleeping through the night when he started on food and got the extra calories from this.
- Stopping Breast Feeding -
I have enjoyed my experience of breast feeding so much and I think I will actually be quite sad when I stop. I plan to wean my baby onto cow's milk when he is between one year and 18 months.
- Summary -
I have definitely experienced some ups and downs with breast feeding but the positives outweigh any negatives by a long way. I think you need to be quite determined to continue if you face issues such as peer pressure, difficulty latching on, painful nipples or even infection, or low milk supply. I can see why people give up but I am so glad I have stuck with it and I will certainly plan to breast feed any future children.
Summary: I have loved breast feeding but had to be determined to overcome dificulties