Muddling Along Mummy recently wrote this
very honest post about breastfeeding. Of course, this got me thinking about my own experience of breastfeeding (I'd think of nothing to write about if I didn't read other blogs...)
I breastfed both of my children, exclusively, for a year. I am proud that I did it. But I do not count myself as part of the 'Breastapo' either. I think you do what is right for you, and if that is formula, then that is fine. I would not want to judge anyone who chose to use formula, for whatever reason they have.
Now, I do actually think 'breast is best' and, if it were my place to do so (which it isn't), I would encourage new mothers to at least give it a go. But, in my experience it isn't easy and if something has to give and if that something is breastfeeding then so be it. We beat ourselves up about so many things - if formula works for you then do it. I was formula fed. I am healthy, intelligent and I love my mum.
The first 2 weeks that I breastfed my daughter were complete agony. Every feed took about an hour and she needed feeding within an hour and I dreaded it every time. I would be crying at the thought of having to feed her. Once latched on it was bearable but that initial latch was excruciating, like razor blades. I would literally be in tears. My midwife kept checking the latch and saying it was fine. But getting that tiny little mouth to open wide enough to latch on like all the books said it should be done seemed practically impossible. One of my nipples ended up badly cut and I have been left with a scar that reminds me that things you eventually do with ease don't always come naturally and so you should never judge those who choose not to go there.
The midwife told me to pump on the cut side and just feed from the other side to give it time to heal. Eventually the pain of breastfeeding subsided but I still didn't do it with ease. I needed at least 5 pillows around me to prop the baby up. I don't think I have a body that fits naturally for breastfeeding - I am tall and small breasted. I had to hoist my daughter up to the height of my boobs to feed her, there was nothing relaxing about it. Any hopes I had of a routine were out the window, not only because of her constant feeding but also because I insisted on feeding her before I left the house because I was so terrified of having to do it in public and not being able to.
One kind mum I met recommended I go to Mothercare and feed in the breastfeeding room there as my first attempt at feeding out and about. Slowly, slowly I became better and eventually I could feed walking around, one arm propping her up. But if anyone had told me I would be able to do that in those first few weeks I would probably have laughed (and not in a nice way) in their face.
I carried on, and perhaps that's only because I was lucky that it took only around 2 weeks for the pain to subside. I just wanted to breastfeed. But I would not have blamed myself or anyone else for deciding not to do it - if that pain hadn't subsided I don't think I could have carried on. Feeding during that time was such an ordeal and something that I dreaded so it was certainly not the bonding moment to be treasured that you read about!
I carried on for a year because 6 months came around very quickly and I felt that I'd only just got the hang of it, so it seemed natural just to keep going.
I was prepared for it to be difficult with Theo as well, but luckily it wasn't. A bit of initial soreness but I slipped easily back into breastfeeding again, for which I am thankful, as I know that is not always the case. I breastfed Theo for a year, because I was able to and I had done the same with Freyja. It seemed right to do the same for both of them. But, again, if I had struggled with Theo I might not have applied this rule to myself.
The thing with breastfeeding is that you expect it to be the most natural thing in the world and for most people it just isn't. If there is one thing I remember from those crazy early days of motherhood it's that you need support, not someone beating you up for your decisions - so no one should judge anyone who is just trying to do their best.
And that is why, despite being a breast feeder, I'm not a member of the Breastapo either.