I wanted to write this post while it’s all fresh in my head. I’ve just attended Nicola O’ Byrne’s breastfeeding prep class and I am full to the brim with new information and most importantly confidence and excitement for this next chapter in my life. Nicola is a certified lactation consultant and an all round lovely person. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend her course.
For those of you who don’t know I breastfed my son Billy for just over two years and I feel the need to clarify that this was never the plan. In fact breastfeeding at all was never the plan. I was almost offended by the question if I am completely honest. The midwives asked me in The Coombe how I planned to feed my baby and I honestly wondered was it a trick question. I had never, in my entire life, seen someone breastfeeding. Nobody around me had ever done it or even spoken about it so to me it was completely abnormal. Why would I choose to do something abnormal? Bottle feeding thank you very much.
(By the way, if you choose to bottle feed that is your choice and no judgement from this gal. If you do want to breastfeed though, you might find this post helpful.)
So yes, I was an “accidental breast feeder”. When my son was born I just kind of wanted to try. Maybe it was instinctive or hormonal but I just knew I wanted to try. He wouldn’t latch though and half way in to his first day of life the midwives were telling me that he “needed to be fed” and we would have to do something. They suggested a “little bit of formula” and that was that. He showed even less interest in latching after that. Sure hadn’t he tasted a fast flowing sweet drink that was much less work. I can’t say I blamed him.
So then became my sort of underground secret breast feeding attempts. When I was alone or in the dead of night I’d try to latch him in the hospital. Sometimes he would and sometimes he wouldn’t. We did loads of skin to skin and I just found myself sobbing every single time he had a bottle of formula. I felt like I was failing and I didn’t know what else I could do. I asked for help and had a visit from the hospital’s Lactation Consultant but as soon as she left we came back to the same latch issues. We were discharged after a week in hospital (I won’t go in to it but I had a pretty tough birth, couldn’t really sit/walk and then Billy was lethargic and required some special care) as a mother and baby that were formula feeding. So that was that. Well, until it wasn’t.
When I got home from the hospital I felt so awful physically and emotionally. I never anticipated being in so much pain and now I had the emotional anguish of feeling like my body was failing my baby again. It had failed me during the birth causing his heart rate to rise to the point where he needed a very quick forceps delivery and now I was failing because I couldn’t feed him. Of course I see so clearly now that I was not failing at all but try telling that to a swollen emotional first time mum with horrific haemorroids and stiches that had come apart after a week. Sorry for the TMI.
A client of my mam’s suggested nipple shields and as a last resort I decided to try them. Billy was about a week old now and even if you look at the photographs of his first few days you’ll see tonnes of bottles and formula. We were absolutely formula feeding. As a last shot I popped a nipple shield on and even now I am filled with emotion looking back on the memory of what happened next. Billy swallowed milk FROM MY BREAST. I went from having Pamela Andersons to two fried eggs in about ten minutes and I literally balled crying. He was latching. There was milk. I was BREAST FEEDING. I quite literally threw the formula in the bin (I wouldn’t be the least bit dramatic like) and from that day forward we exclusively breastfed. Even in those early days I said that I “was never going to be one of those hippies that breastfed a one year old”. Instead, I became a hippie that breastfed a two year old.
Breastfeeding has been a profound experience for me. It became so much of who I was as a mother and it literally transformed the way I saw myself and my body. I can’t quite put in to words what it meant to me but I’ll try by saying that it is something I absolutely cannot wait to do with and for this second baby. It’s something I cannot wait to do for myself also. Breastfeeding has so many emotional, physical and spiritual benefits and most of all it gives you a reason to sit down which I think we all struggle with.
Nicola invited me to her breastfeeding preparation course as a thank you because she uses one of my photographs in her classes. It was surreal to see my face on the presentation but I just love the photo. It is the most unglamorous photograph imaginable but you can see how happy I am to just be feeding my baby. My PJS are mismatched and I’m getting my hair done in the middle of my kitchen but in my arms is my beautiful little boy and I am so happy to be breastfeeding him after such a rocky start.
I don’t want to summarize Nicola’s course but rather I would really really urge you to attend one of them if you can. She does them monthly in the beacon hotel and I cannot recommend the course enough. You’ll find the upcoming dates and information here. It is brilliant value, partners can (and are urged) to attend and there is a gorgeous coffee/cookie situation in the middle of the course.
My biggest problem last time round was my lack of knowledge around the subject of breastfeeding. I honestly had no idea about colostrum, cluster feeding, the importance of positioning or some of the things you can do to encourage your baby to latch better and feed more. I knew nothing and this time around so I am preparing myself for all of it. I feel confident going in to this journey even though I know every baby is different and I could have a totally new experience. Maybe we won’t need nipple shields again? Maybe we will. All I know is that I feel ready to give it my all and I know that there is ALWAYS a breastfeeding solution for a breastfeeding difficulty.
At the course I learnt so much about positioning and the difference it can make.
Breastfeeding is so unbelievably rewarding but there is no denying the challenges of those first few weeks. A couple of weeks ago someone told me that for the first six weeks bottle feeding is easy and then becomes a serious pain in the bum. The sterilizing, all the paraphernalia, tracking the feeds and dealing with wind issues for example.
Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is challenging for the first six weeks and then becomes so unbelievably easy and convenient. I really like this and think it’s so very true.
I haven’t bought a sterilizer this time round. We don’t have bottles on the list of things we need to buy. Some might think that sounds overly confident or even a bit arrogant but I just feel confident in the fact that there are so few people who actually medically cannot breastfeed so my chances are good. I feel confident that with the support of my family, partner, the help of a Lactation Consultant and all of the information I’ve been armed with – we will do this and I absolutely cannot wait for it.