So after eight weeks of literally BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS, breastfeeding has finally clicked. But it's been an uphill battle and still has its moments. And for me, I just wish I'd known the reality of breastfeeding when I was pregnant. The exhaustion. The tears. The pain. Wanting to give up. And it wasn't about being discouraged, but just so I didn't feel so shell-shocked - or lonely - or just totally overwhelmed. So what do I wish I'd known?
When I was crying uncontrollably (or ugly crying) in the night during week one when the little one wouldn't latch on, breastfeeding 'clicking' felt like an impossible task. Like maybe it will never click for me. Maybe I wasn't meant to breastfeed. Maybe I just hate it. And it's been hard - with many moments of wanting to give up. But with a lot of encouragement (thank you friends, family and readers of my blog ❤️) and a slight obsession to keep going, we got there. So if you're reading this and you're at the ugly crying stage - hang on in there - it does get better. You'll still be exhausted and not know your own name some days - I can't promise miracles. But you'll get there. And your nipples will survive - although may never look the same again. Jury is out on that one. It's been such a struggle for me as you've all read. By far the most challenging thing I've ever done. And it still has its moments. Like being poorly and breastfeeding - not fun. I've had a head cold since Rafe got out of hospital. Been slightly paranoid about Rafe getting poorly again so actually been walking around with a surgical paper mask over my face. Yes - I know. Madness. I've been needing to rest as much as possible but it's been hard when I need to feed Rafe every two hours. I was so poorly one day I literally couldn't lift my head off the pillow but had to, and I feel bad saying it but I dreaded having to breastfeed. But my husband has been a great help (as always) just wish we'd introduced a bottle (of expressed milk) sooner but being in hospital has set us back. I really wanted to give up this week but didn't want to make the decision when ill.
So take away being poorly - it's still been difficult. Although people have contacted me now to talk about their struggles which has been great as it makes you realise you're not alone, I wish I'd known how hard it would be when I was pregnant. I know nothing can really prepare you but just so I had an idea. In one of the antenatal classes on infant feeding - and this is nothing against midwives, they're amazing, I just wish I'd had more info. We were given a doll and told a good way for baby to latch on, the huge benefits of breastfeeding and how it was easier and cheaper than bottle feeding. I just wish I'd been told that some people (not everyone) really struggle - for up to 12 weeks or more, to really get the hang of it. And then instead of just leaving it at that, go into more detail on some of the struggles you may face. Not to scare - to prepare. That should be the new breastfeeding slogan! This is what I would have told myself from my own experience....
I really could go on and on....
I think a turning point for me was when Rafe was being tube fed, I kept worrying he would struggle to feed on the breast and I wouldn't be able to feed him myself and that made me so sad. I really missed nursing him. So knowing I missed it, I knew then that breastfeeding was something I really wanted to do and I just needed to persevere. I think you really need to be able to make an informed choice either way and not be made to feel guilty whatever you decide. Although a lot of my guilt and pressure has come from me. It's difficult as I don't quite know who can tell women about the true reality of breastfeeding (me!) but they need to know it can be very hard - and you're not alone - you may struggle for weeks and that's okay. It's not about putting people off breastfeeding - I hope I'm not doing that. At the end of the day, I'm still going after all the many tears and hurdles along the way! I just hope I can help those who are on day 5 at 3am struggling to get their baby to latch on and feeling alone, or they've had a day of non-stop cluster feeding – to know that it's normal to feel like that/go through that stage - but it does get easier and better. Just takes practice - and a hell of a lot of nipple cream.
I just wanted to also thank everyone for the kind messages of love and support while Rafe's been in hospital. He's back to his milk monstering self and is smiling and cooing away which is just a blessing. A bit of a waiting game until his next consultant appointment about his heart but trying to remain positive.
Much love x
Royal Marine Wife. Mum to Rafe.