Ok so, as a Mum of 4 I have been through just about every issue when it has come to feeding my precious babies. From the first moment, I found out I was pregnant with my eldest I desperately wanted to breastfeed her. I heard on the grapevine that it wasn’t always easy and I expected my boobs to be sore for a day or so but I didn’t worry about it – I just assumed those first few days might be tough and then I would be an earth Mum and would feed her long term.
How wrong I was! My hugely overdue 8lb 7oz of squishiness was born on a very cold January afternoon, after 38 hours of long labour resulting in forceps. I fed her and was relieved to be finally holding her safely. I then went on to feed her for the best part of 6 hours through that night, and was reassured by midwives that was normal – She was ‘getting my milk to come through’. So despite being absolutely knackered, I persevered – and when my milk did come through the massive feeds subsided a little, however, she still was a very ‘sucky’ baby (I realise now).
Being my first born I followed all advice from midwives and health visitors to the latter – dummies were the devil and I continued breastfeeding through what I can only describe as dragging razor blades through my boobs for the first 30 seconds or so of every feed. Finally when I had engorged bright red lumpy boobs and in total agony, I went to the Doctors. I was so fortunate to fall on a lovely lady Doctor, nearing retirement who in no uncertain terms told me to express my milk for the next few days and feed her that way, as I was on the verge of a serious infection due to totally chomped nipples as my darling baby had such a strong suck.
I was relieved and mortified in equal measure… Relieved that someone had given me a break, and taken the decision off of me. Yet mortified as I was about to give my baby the dreaded bottle (even if it did contain my milk). So I began the process of expressing and topping up with formula as required. I didn’t realise how important it was to express through the night and as a result, my milk began to dwindle and by about 6 weeks old my baby was fully formula fed.
Was this wrong… no. Had I tried my best to give her booby milk … yes. However, I felt so enormously guilty and like I had failed my beautiful baby girl by resorting to formula.
So why am I telling you about this? Because this is a normal experience and now (almost 10 years on), I can look back on this and I wish I could go back and give myself a break. I should have been so proud that I managed for 6 weeks. Any breastfeeding is better than none… and whichever way you feed your baby… FED IS BEST!
Mixed feeding – a whole new world!
Yes I am a total champion of breastfeeding, but I also have now experienced probably every possible breastfeeding issue, (mastitis, chapped nipples, bleeding nipples, tongue tie, and milk overflow to name a few) and four children later – For me the answer was a combination of nipple shields and mixed feeding. Yes, that’s right, by the time I got to my most recent babies, (twins who are now two) – I realised mixed feeding – both breastfeeding and bottle feeding worked for me. Not one of my children ever had any problems such as nipple confusion and just took whatever was offered. It gave me the freedom for Dad to get involved with feeding, meaning I could still have quality time with my older children – which became particularly important after having twins.
That’s the other part of feeding – It is a group effort! I know that sound ridiculous, particularly if you are a purely breastfeeding mum but hear me out… For me it was important when I had baby number 2 and then even more so when I had babies 3 and 4 that I could still spend one and one time with my bigger girls, and being able to leave the our twins with Dad for an hour without fear of them needing my boobs was such a relief. Also, so many times I came up against problems and with my youngest three babies I was lucky to have the best breastfeeding support mentor and group. Donna based at Angram Bank Children’s Centre and her breastfeeding group helped me more than she can ever know, and it really made the difference and allowed me to feed my babies as long as I did. Having that support around is invaluable.., and I will always be grateful to Donna and the ladies in her group – Some of whom I forged some great friendships with!
With my eldest, mixed feeding meant she got my breast milk for a few weeks more. Rather than instantly stopping and giving her a formula bottle when I ran into problems. I breastfed (and bottle fed) my second baby until she was 8 months, at which point she was eating all solid food in sight and rejected my boobs herself! Finally (and it really is finally, I am having no more children). I breastfed my twins until they were 1 and every night of that year they also had a bottle of formula. This is what worked for me, I am not the breastfeeding oracle, I am just a Mum doing the best I can, and for me whatever helps Mum’s to continue to breastfeed their babies in any way… Whether that is for an extra day, week, month or even a year longer – that has to be a good thing. So if you take anything away from this blog, let it be this. Do what works for you, if you want to use a dummy, use one. If nipple shields work for you, rock those nipple shields, if you want to express and formula feed – do that. Give yourself a break, you are doing the best for your baby and fed is best.
So that’s my story and that’s why I so willingly got involved with the normalise normal campaign with Stylish Mum. Whatever way you choose to feed your baby and child, you should feel comfortable enough to be able to do it wherever you choose, and how you choose. Hopefully, our campaign will really help Mummy’s feel that way… and encourage those who are breastfeeding to keep it up a little bit longer.
For more information on Normalise Normal or to book your own breastfeeding shoot please contact me.
Hope this helps x