The battle to breastfeed


Breast is best. We’re told so all the time but I hated it for the entire 6 months I breastfed my son. We didn’t have the easiest of starts. Like most new moms I thought breastfeeding would come naturally to my baby, that my son would just know exactly what to do, but he didn’t. And neither did I.

He couldn’t latch properly and every nurse that came in had different advice. One said that he only needed a teaspoon amount of milk. The next one would scoff at that advice and say no, he needed a lot more.

They suggested nipple shields and we had no idea what they were. My husband hurried down to the hospital dispensary to buy a pair and we used them for the next 3 months.

We struggled at home. He wouldn’t latch properly without the shields and by 3 weeks I was at my wits' end. I called my husband in a state and asked him to please buy us some formula because I just couldn’t anymore!

But my husband was my biggest support and with his help we made it to 6 months. Not because I couldn’t stand it anymore but because when I went back to work my supply dropped.

Pumping was very hard work and even though my workplace was very accommodating with regards to expressing, my workload wasn’t and I found it hard to even find the time to pump.

I won’t lie though, I was so relieved when we decided to stop breastfeeding and go over to formula full time. I felt like I was finally free and that I got my body back and I didn’t have to share it with anyone anymore.

All in all, breastfeeding my son was very stressful because aside from relying on the breast shields, I was very conscious of breastfeeding when away from home or a comfortable place like my mom's house. Just the logistics of the whole situation was too stressful to consider. So we had to plan our lives around feeding times. And it felt a bit life limiting, to be honest.

Better the second time round

With my daughter I was determined to do have a different experience. Because this was the second time I knew what to expect and how breastfeeding was supposed to feel. Which is something that not a lot of people talk about – they all tell you it shouldn’t hurt but there’s no way to describe what it actually feels like until you've experienced it.

Before she was born I armed myself with a few things to make our lives easier.

I got a proper breastfeeding shawl so that if I had to nurse in public we could both be comfortable, special nursing T-shirts so I wouldn’t need to fumble about when out (or at home for that matter).

Because I had a problem with my supply when I returned to work the last time, I picked up some nursing tea to help with that. I did to the fennel tea thing the last time, but honestly it was so much effort and steeping a tea bag is much easier than messing about with fennel seeds. And then I also got a 1 litre water bottle because aside from helping with milk supply, you also get as thirsty as the Sahara desert while breastfeeding.

But the biggest difference this time around was getting a lactation consultant to come in to the hospital to help me. Even though this was baby number two, I still needed some guidance. And because of her help, we only needed the breast shields for a couple of weeks.

Four months later, we’re still going strong and the pumping is going well. And I'm actually enjoying breastfeeding this time – there's something I thought I'd never say.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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