Reminiscing with my husband, we took some time to look back on my rather tumultuous breastfeeding journey. At least we can laugh at it now!
I will freely admit that for me, trying to breastfeed was worse than giving birth. This may be down to the fact that during the birth I was off my tits thanks to an allergic reaction to a certain drug I was given.
Either way, I felt utterly trapped, in AGONY, overwhelmed and just generally out of my depth by the whole experience. This whole ‘it’s natural’ bullshit, just made me feel worse.
At the time, all I could think about was, why I couldn’t do something as ‘simple’ as feed my child. He needed me, and I couldn’t provide for him. Gut wrenching.
He would cry for a feed, I would tense up, my husband would pass him to me, and two hours of agony, tears and arguments would flow.
When the milk came in, I just wanted to cut off my boobs. I remember in the NCT classes, they were like ‘Oh, you’ll probably not want to go out of the house or wear a bra.’
As my husband reminded me, he once found me sat in the bottom of the shower, crying my eyes out, screaming for my boobs to be cut off. I still to this day can not put into words the agony, nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
My husband felt so helpless. But importantly, his support was unwavering. He went into action mode. He helped when the lactation consultant came. Running out to rent or buy whatever she recommended.
I don’t mind sharing that at 3am one morning, when I thought I was going to have to go to hospital (I didn’t have mastitis, I just had severe engorgement) my husband ran out to Tesco’s and loaded a trolley with 6 savoy cabbages and 2 hand pumps.
He must have got some funny looks as he loaded that shop on to the conveyor belt! Did I ever say, I love my husband!
As the days went on Sprog and I continued to struggled, it meant that my boobs were continually filling up with milk. It got to the point where I had square boobs. I shit you not. SQUARE!
I couldn’t touch them, I couldn’t have anything touch them. If I moved, it was agony and I leaked. So this ‘oh you won’t want to go out the house/wear a bra’ just riled me. I didn’t want to fecking move!
There were two things that relieved the excrutiating pain and that was cool savoy cabbage leaves inside my bra cups. It was bliss. Apparently there’s an enzyme in the leaves that helps to relieve the pain and stop milk production. It worked! I was in heaven.
The second thing was to hand express to stop the build up of milk. This was a painful process, but as I got to grips with it and the technique it was a life saver.
However, to learn the technique, I had to be shown. And how was I shown? By someone doing it for me. Bye bye dignity.
There was me, watched on by husband, being hand expressed by a lactation consultant into a pyrex jug. Yes, you read that right.
Needless to say that a mixture of hand expressing, cabbage leaves (apparently the darker the green, the more effective the cabbage), Sprog and I finally ‘clicking’, and going back into properly fitted underwired bras meant that eventually we had a wonderful experience breastfeeding. But by gawd, it took a lot of work!
So, to all you mum’s struggling to establish breastfeeding, I am proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are doing WONDERFUL, you’re trying, you care so much about your baby, but don’t forget to look after yourself.
Are you spending so much time trying to work out how to feed, rather than enjoying your precious bundle. I had 2 days left on my calendar before I was about to give up. I’d put a date in the diary and was like if I’ve not got it nailed by then, then I need to stop for both our sakes.
Yes, there are times when breastfeeding just will not work, but I didn’t have problems with milk supply. For me, it was purely the latching technique and Sprog’s squished face.
More importantly, we’re in an age where you have CHOICES. You CAN feed your little one formula. I was raised on formula and I think I turned out ok. I’ve fed Sprog formula and he’s not turned into the devil… Yet!
Why did I persevere? Because I am terrifically stubborn. I’d started the breastfeeding journey, so I wanted to finish it.
That, and the fact we’d spent a small fortune on breastfeeding and I felt supremely guilty at the money and time we’d committed. We probably spent close to £700 from start to finish.
On what I hear you cry!
On renting an expressing kit, a lactation consultant, a cranial oesteopath, nursing bras, nursing pillows, random nursing aids, lotions, potions, and let’s not forget those damn CABBAGE leaves.
Seriously, my husband and I should have bought stocks in ‘Savoy Babbage’ as we called it.
I just genuinely didn’t see another way!
It’s funny, my husband’s best friend moved to Japan and his wife had their first child in the UK and their second in Japan. He commented that the pressure the NHS put on Mum’s to breastfeed, that ‘Breast is Best’ is damaging.
The attitude in Japan was so far removed, so much more gentle to the mother. His wife had a tumultuous time establishing breastfeeding her first and in a way, the Japanese attitude made things easier for her to go back to try breastfeeding.
Perhaps the UKs maternity services need to look at how they’re providing information and cut us Mum’s some slack!