Another breastfeeding story on the blog today this time by Plummy Mummy from http://plummymummy.blogspot.com/ and http://chilipaperchains.wordpress.com/ who you can also find on twitter @plummy_mummy Thanks for sharing your story with us hon x
I’m not sure I ever consciously decided to breastfeed – it was just a given I would do it. My brother’s wife had 3 kids and had breastfed them all – it seemed the natural thing to do. Using formula was the most unnatural thing to me. And at the back of my mind there was also the lazy thought that I could not be bothered to mix up bottles of formula when I had milk on tap so to speak. Plus, the more I read about the health benefits for both child and mother, the more my mind was made up. Then when I was I was told I would need a c-section breastfeeding became even more important as I wasn’t going to have a natural birth.
My tiny daughter was born by c-section – a week earlier than planned. I had gone on maternity from my a designer job a month earlier. So here was me, 40+ years old and used to working ridiculously long hours, in a male dominated team travelling to Europe regularly where I used the force of my personality to “persuade” developers and manufacturers to change to my designs – faced with a small crying bundle and having absolutely no idea what to do. I had nieces and nephews but my role in their life involved buying gifts and feeding them up on sugar. Furthermore, I hadn’t been to NCT or antenatal classes.
When my body got over the drugs of the c-section, I was left trying to feed her. She just wouldn’t latch on…heck, I didn’t even know what latching on was.The lowest point was when a temp midwife confused me by first telling me to express milk, then having a go at me as I cried when hardly any milk came out as my daughter lay in her hospital cot and cried. This woman was frankly horrid and could have put me off the whole thing but I was determined and knew that I had to get out of the hospital. I pushed my recovery and left hospital 3 days later – in pain but happy. The first week was awful. I wasn’t sure she was eating enough and laying down to feed her was painful.
The second week was much better and from then on things really improved. My daughter was tiny but she fed well. I learnt how to alternate the breasts I used and soon there was a good flow. Her moses basket was right next to the bed and when I finished feeding her, my husband lifted her into the basket. That’s if he and I hadn’t fallen asleep – I still laugh remembering how I panicked one night thinking I had crushed her but as I’m a strong advocate of co-sleeping it wasn’t really an issue if she slept between us.
I had to learn to deal with leaking but that started during pregnancy so I already had a good supply of washable breast pads. I bought some breastfeeding bras which were non-wired for comfort. To make things easier, I bought a breast feeding cushion so I didn’t have to hold her body as she fed sometimes for an hour. Of course, it wasn’t always perfect – days she would cry so hard and I couldn’t figure out if it was lack of milk, lack of sleep, lack of hugs or just some random thing like the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun.
Sleep deprivation can be a real issue too when you are breastfeeding as the milk is digested much quicker so I had to feed more often than a formula fed baby – so I started expressing pretty early on. This helped to increase the flow of the milk and also let my husband feed our baby whilst I slept. Funnily, we ended up buying much of the formula fed baby equipment including bottles and sterilisers.
Another hurdle was breast feeding in public. We had moved to Dundee and there aren’t many cafes there but when I was out shopping and baby needed feeding, I had to desperately find a baby-changing room. I was too embarrassed to feed in public – there aren’t many mixed race couples in Dundee and I didn’t want to give people yet another reason to stare at us since it was not the done thing to feed in public there. On one occasion, I even fed her in a toilet as there wasn’t a baby change room available. But this couldn’t go on – on one of our regular drives from London to Dundee, I eventually fed her in public in a service station. I faced the window so people couldn’t see us but at least I was no longer in the loos. From that point, I became adept at feeding her but covering her and my breasts with a muslin. Happy baby,happy mummy.
After six months breastfeeding, I had to hide our decision to continuing breastfeeding. I wanted to go as long as my daughter wanted to feed. I enjoyed feeding her, I loved the sensation of the milk flowing out of my breasts, of holding her tiny form close to me and watching her drink. I was giving my daughter all the sustenance she needed and it was the ultimate form of mother love. But family members commented in their typically undiplomatic way that it was “sick” when mothers fed older children. I am the least traditional Indian I know, but I recognised that was a very Western view point. In other parts of the World, it’s common to continue for years sometimes. I would continue until my daughter wanted to stop and just prayed that it was before she went to University! I didn’t tell my family I was still feeding her. My daughter decided she wanted to stop around 14 months as she became more mobile, wanted to explore her world and preferred to have a quick bottle than be latched to me. It was really sad the last day I fed her and even now, 2 years on miss that wonderful close feeling.
One unforeseen consequence of breast feeding was I left my job. As my maternity year drew to a close, we would have to move back to London and I was faced with the prospect of a long hour and half commute each way. I couldn’t see how I would express enough milk let alone leave my daughter for that long. I certainly couldn’t imagine expressing at work in front of my male colleagues or in any of the meeting rooms which were glass fronted. There wasn’t a room for mothers to use as far as I know or a sterile fridge to store milk in. I was offered a job in Dundee by another firm but even with the shorter commute, there was still a huge lack of understanding about breastfeeding. In retrospect, I should have attempted to do it and try to work with human resources to find a solution that worked for everyone but I had panicked with a real sense of separation anxiety. I resigned my London job and turned down the Dundee job. I do not know if the decision would have been different if I was formula feeding since feeding is not the only reason I didn’t want to leave my daughter however, I just didn’t want the battle with my employers.
We are now at the stage of dealing with a child that does not sleep through the night. I don’t know if any of that has to do with the breastfeeding / co-sleeping. I think if I was going to do it again, I would still breast feed but not let the baby fall asleep next to me. Yet, despite the issues and how hard it was to get started, I’m glad I persevered. I am a strong believer in a parent’s choice on how to feed their child – whether it is breast or formula. A parent does what is right for their child and I did what was right for mine. I’d like to believe that given the chance again, I’d be much more brazen and like Lady Godiva, would be quite happy to bare all to feed my babies. But luckily for the people of Dundee and SE London, I’ve just got the one for now though and she’s well past all this breastfeeding lark.