Our Breastfeeding Journey

Lily is 23 months old and she still breastfeeds at night. Some days I’m absolutely fine with this and other days when I’m exhausted and I have a tiny toddler dragging my nipple with her as she rolls in her sleep I think I’m so over it. Many times I’ve asked myself “how do I get out of this situation when it’s all we’ve both ever known?” and other times I think “this won’t last forever and she’s still so little really, just enjoy every minute”.

I’m a strong believer in women supporting women and despite being a mama who has always exclusively breastfed I would never push this onto others, I truly believe that the decision on how to feed your baby is yours, what is best for you & your unit and what keeps both YOU & your baby happy & healthy. Happy mama happy baba. Self care is so important and that includes decisions that are right for you, your body, your needs, your lifestyle.

If you’d have asked me about breastfeeding in my early twenties I know I would have 100% said it definitely wasn’t for me, however as soon as I fell pregnant at aged 27 I knew it was something I would like to try form the very beginning. I say try as it’s not a given, many ladies who would like to try to breastfeed are unsuccessful for many reasons & so I didn’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on myself. My change in attitude was down to a few things (other than just maturing). I was hugely into eating healthily and only trying to put goodness into my body so I wanted to try and do the same for my baby. Secondly by the time I was 12 weeks pregnant my boobs had grown a cup size already and these changes in my body changed my mindset, I thought “this is what my body is made to do”. Lastly, at one of our antenatal classes they discussed the options for feeding your newborn and Lee fully supported the idea of breastfeeding which made me feel confident & secure.

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The minute they wheeled me out of theatre after my emergency c-section and into a side room I put my beautiful baby girl to my breast and she latched on like it was all she’d been waiting for. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to me and it was the most special moment for me in my life. We had to stay in hospital for two nights and during this time Lily was mostly on my chest & when she wanted to she would find her own way to my nipple by wriggling like a little worm (referred to as the breast crawl) it was the most unbelievable thing I’d ever seen.

I was lucky that the latch came naturally to us both but that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding has been all serene and joyful. Oh at times it has been, watching my newborn fall asleep taking in all her yummy milk off Mummy and knowing she was getting pure goodness made me so happy. Especially after having to have the emergency cesarean. This was something I wanted to do for my baby and something I could control.

On the flip side the hair pulling whilst feeding in the early days was not pleasant but it wasn’t so bad compared to the nipple stretching & twizzling that would soon follow. In the early days my nipples were cracked & sore and each time that Lily latched on I would get a shot of pain but then it would subside and once she’d fed I smothered my nipples in Lansinoh. I remember one day getting in the shower & my nipples hurting as the water hit them, they were also bright pink – after a quick google of my symptoms I thought it could be thrush. I called my midwife who advised to use a gel that was prescribed by my GP called Daktarin, which I think I had to wash off before I fed Lily but it cleared it up quickly. Sorry for the overshare but it’s something others may not be aware of.

Choosing to exclusively breastfeed obviously meant that nobody was able to give me any help with the night feeds or any feed in general, something which I think can be upsetting for family as they want to feed the baby too & they also want to help to give you some rest. We did try giving Lily a bottle of expressed milk when she was a few weeks old but she wouldn’t take it and if I’m honest I didn’t want her too. I wanted to do this for us both and I also couldn’t be bothered with the faff of bottles when breastfeeding was working for us, no matter how tired I was expressing & bottles seemed far more work for me.

I was extremely lucky to have support in other ways, my Mum came to stay with us for a week after Lily was born and she would bring me bacon butties in bed, huge bowls of porridge, fill my bed-side table with bottles of water so I could drink easily with one hand whilst I was feeding, I can’t tell you the difference this made – thank you Mum. People tell you about the extra 500 calories you need to consume when feeding but nobody tells you about the thirst that comes as soon as your little one latches on. I also had a close friend who was my breastfeeding guru, thank you Emily for answering my questions day & night and supporting me & Lily on our journey.

In the first few weeks I wore t-shirts from ASOS & Mamalicious which had clever little waterfall details which actually covered an opening to make feeding accessible without exposing yourself. These were amazing and gave me great confidence to feed Lily in public as I wanted to feed my baby but I wanted to do it discretely, this was for me – not because of other people’s opinions and comments. In fact I never experienced any negative comments. I went to places that I felt more comfortable to feed & where the staff were helpful and I would have a chat with. I lived at the cafe at Urban Zen Yoga Studio for those first few months (this cafe has unfortunately closed now), Copper in Swansea City Centre was amazing – the staff were so helpful and they have spare nappies, wipes etc above their baby changing facility. I also had a few great friends who I used to walk with on a weekly basis & we were all breastfeeding so to me it was the norm.

For the reasons above I always felt confident to breastfeed whenever & wherever Lily needed – be it a cafe, a public toilet, in the car, sitting down, standing up, on one leg whilst I balanced her dream-feeding whilst I brushed my teeth (yoga cane in handy for that one). The only time I was baffled by people were by doctors as Lily got older, once past 6 month’s old doctors look at you like you’re crazy for still feeding your baby. I mean to the point last week where a male doctor actually sniggered at me. I let it pass knowing that he is ignorant and his opinion doesn’t matter to me.

When Lily was around 7 month’s old we put her name down for nursery. The mum guilt and panic set in rapidly. She was weaning at this point but she was still having milk throughout the day and I was worried as to how she would cope at nursery without it. She didn’t actually start nursery until I returned to work when she was 10 month’s old and in just those few month’s I had weaned her off day time feeds. I needn’t have stressed, she absolutely loved nursery & was fine without milk. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.

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This year I tried to stop the night feeds too as I thought it would dictate our evenings whilst we were on holiday. We were both doing well for the few nights before we went away & I was offering Lily a bottle of Almond Milk instead (she has CMPA). However, whilst on holiday she fed more than ever! She was off her food & obviously we were in the sun all day so the most important thing to me was that she had what she needed and so she had milk. I was happy to do this as lying on a sunbed with her I could still be discreet. Throughout our journey I have regularly asked Lee if he is still happy for me to feed Lily and he has always continued to support me and that is the only opinion I need.

Lily is back to just feeding at night now and I’m at a point again where I think this journey will end naturally for us at some point or when I decide I’m done. Until then we’ll continue on in the only way we know and I will forever be grateful for the most beautiful experience & for my amazing body allowing me to feed my baby.

Sending love to all the mamas out there however you feed your baby. We are all exhausted & all just trying to do what is best for our littles so let’s all try to have a little less judgement of others & be a little more empathic/supportive.

Thanks for reading, #worldbreastfeedingweek #fedisbest

J x

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