When it comes to parenting, there are always going to be certain subjects that have your Facebook forums and mother’s groups turn from mild-mannered lovelies, into opinionated monsters. For anyone who has ever asked online about vaccinating a child, you’ll know what we mean!
One of the hottest topics of all? Breastfeeding! Whip out a bottle of formula at your new mum coffee morning at your own peril. We know. We’ve been there. But whether you’re a first time mum worrying about milk supply, or a seasoned mum trying to fit breastfeeding around your other kids, we think it’s fair to say that breastfeeding is not only different from mum-to-mum, but also from baby-to-baby.
Tracy Tristram, mum to a tribe of three small, medium and large menaces, shares her breastfeeding experiences, and how they all came with different sets of trials and tribulations…
Baby number one: Jack, born 2002
First time round, way back in 2002 (eek!) I spent my entire nine months reading everything I could on all things baby, including breastfeeding. I spent hours researching breast pumps, pored over breastfeeding (and labour!) horror stories, and quizzed every mum I met about their breastfeeding highs and lows. When my son finally popped out (via an emergency c-section – the carefully-scripted birth plan didn’t pan out at all), the reality of breastfeeding was such a personal experience, I soon sussed that my journey was my own.
Thankfully, despite almost everything else about being a mum being much harder than my expectations, breastfeeding was a doddle. And yes, I was a little smug about it. Of course there were cracked nipples, worries about undersupply and the pure exhaustion of literally breastfeeding 24/7 (the every two to three hours thing is a myth!), but Jack thrived. Sadly, I had to finish up at six months when I returned to work after maternity leave, but I do believe we could have gone on longer. It was a great first breastfeeding experience, and left me feeling positive for future babies…
Baby number two: Angelica, born 2007
Yes, there is quite a big age gap between number one and number two, but it wasn’t because of my breastfeeding experience. It took myself and the hubs a fair while to be ready for another shot having found parenting way tougher than we had ever envisioned. However, I was confident that for all the fails I had made during my being-mummy-to-Jack-experience, at least with number two, breastfeeding would be in the bag.
Wrong! Oh my goodness, that sweet bundle of pinkness was a NIGHTMARE to breastfeed. She was teeny tiny for a start, only 5lb 8oz (2.4kg) at birth – a low birthweight that wasn’t helped by the fact that I suffered hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) for the whole nine months of pregnancy.
My little girl also had reflux – every time I fed her (24/7 again) she would throw the entire lot back up. Every. Single. Time! Plus, I had low milk supply (she was a planned c-section which can sometimes delay milk supply), so when she propelled all her milk back up, I had nothing left to give her, and we were both exhausted and ratty all of the time.
We had to top up Angelica’s feeds with formula very early on, which did make me feel like a failure (so ridiculous when I look back – and mum shaming has a lot to answer for when it comes to this issue). I got mastitis twice, and Jack was seriously neglected in the face of so much breastfeeding drama. And Angelica, despite my efforts of diet-management to try and help with her reflux, continued to projectile vomit all of my painstakingly made mummy-milk.
At three months, enough was enough, we switched permanently to formula. And guess what? Cue happy, content and thriving baby (no more reflux!), happy big brother (no more having to exist on bread and butter) and happy mummy (no more painful, lumpy boobs).
Baby number three: Rafferty, born 2012
Another sizeable age gap later Rafferty arrived kicking and screaming into the world (we decided to wait not because of parenting struggles, but the fear of HG on my part. Turned out that Angelica was the easiest child EVER once the breastfeeding woes were left behind). The third time round I really wasn’t sure what to expect from breastfeeding, but being older, wiser, more open-minded, and way less vulnerable to judgey opinions, I was prepared for it to go either way.
Turns out, Rafferty was a boob monster from the moment he popped out the sunroof (yep: another c-section, and no, I don’t feel robbed of a natural birth). We had no feeding issues whatsoever! In fact, he was text book perfect to breastfeed. I was not smug this time though, I was relieved. We managed a full 12 months, which was a lovely way to end my breastfeeding journey. The fact that he never slept through the night until he was 3.5 years, still won’t touch a vegetable, and he has zero ‘danger’ filter is a bunch of other stories for another time…
Go with the flow: literally! If you’re having breastfeeding problems, do speak to a midwife or lactation consultant, who will do their best to help you and your tiny person overcome issues. But also be aware that breast is NOT always best – being happy and healthy is far more important than how your baby is fed. As long as bubba IS fed, then you’re doing your job, and it really doesn’t matter whether it’s with a bottle or a nipple. Bear in mind that if you don’t succeed the first time round, this absolutely doesn’t mean that it won’t work out with other babies (and vice versa in my case).
Parenting isn’t all beautiful social media photos. It’s hard work and there will be moments of pure despair and wonderful wins. Breastfeeding should not be about despair. If you ace it, fantastic, but if you can’t manage it, then that’s absolutely cool too. At the end of the day, parenting, boobs ‘n’ all, is different for every baby and every mummy.
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