No one really tells you just how hard breastfeeding will be. You can go to courses and classes and chat to people, who will all tell you ‘if you’re doing it right it won’t hurt’ and what an ‘amazing experience’ it can be. I assume that the only reason people constantly give you positives is because they want you to do it and saying anything negative may put you off.
Well I’m going to tell you, it is so hard. You’re exhausted, your body feels like it’s been hit by a bus, your crying over any tiny little thing and while all that’s happening you have to learn and help teach this tiny little being to feed off you.
When Evelyn was born I had this very unrealistic idea that we’d just take to feeding, it would be beautiful and serene and everything would all be ok. In reality I had a tiny baby squawking at me because she was hungry, I’d try and latch her on, it would hurt, so I’d take her off, Repeat several times over and then I’d finally get her latched on (probably in between the repetition of these two steps I will have burst into tears, handed Evelyn back to Chris declaring I just couldn’t do it and I was a rubbish mother) she’d take two or three gulps and fall asleep. Frustrating.
During the first few days I just didn’t have a clue if what we were doing was right. Evelyn had to go in to special care, as she got sick, meaning she had to be formula fed in an incubator and my milk took a long time to come in. The hospital thought this meant I had low supply and got us to agree to breastfeed and then give Evelyn a top up of formula. I was devastated I thought I had failed.
We did this breastfeeding and topping up for about 5 weeks, it was hard doing both and we very nearly just stopped breastfeeding and bottle-fed. Until one day I went to a drop in support clinic. I wanted someone to watch me feed Evelyn and tell me if we were doing ok. I was so scared of going, of being judged, of being told I was doing an even worse job than I already suspected I was doing. I rang Chris from outside the centre, crying, saying I wasn’t going in. I went in, of course.
Embarrassingly as I went to feed Evelyn in front of the midwife, my milk sprayed across the room, she simply laughed and said you do not have low milk supply, just breastfeed your baby. While we were at the clinic I chatted with a peer supporter. This woman was the most instrumental person in me continuing to breastfeed, she basically said after every one of my sentences: ‘you are doing a great job.” It was what I needed to hear.
Back then I used to set myself deadlines, I’ll just get to October and then it’s ok, if I can just get to Christmas, that would be good. Evelyn is now 10 months old we’re still breastfeeding, she’s down to three milk feeds a day and I will genuinely be sad when she drops all her milk feeds.
People don’t lie, it is an amazing experience, it is incredible being that close to your baby and when you get them weighed and they’ve gained 8oz in the last two weeks you’re proud to know that it’s all down to you! But it is hard, and you’re not failing if you find it hard or even if you give up. Give yourself a break, try again later, talk to somebody.
You are doing a great job.