You may or may not know that this week in England it is National Breastfeeding Week. A week that will, according to Anna Burbidge in an article for LLLGB (National Breastfeeding Celebration Week 2018), “provide an opportunity to look at the support women currently recieve and what might be improved, in line with UNICEF’s recent “Call to Action” which recognises breastfeeding as a collective responsibility”. Although we have no particularly recent data, the UK does have some of the lowest rates in the world, with 8 out of 10 women stopping breastfeeding before they want to! The last survey was conducted in 2010 though so this information could have changed in the last 8 years!
This week I will be sharing a variety of posts to show awareness of some of the areas of breastfeeding that may not be spoken about as much such as breastfeeding and dads, tandem breastfeeding, breastfeeding a child with SEN or health issues and natural term weaning. To start though I will share with you a bit about my own personal breastfeeding journey.
It may come as a surprise to some but I was never certain about the method of feeding I would opt for when I was pregnant with Aoife. I was often asked if I was going to breastfeed, I would more than often reply “I would like to, if I can”. Obviously, knowing what I do now about breastfeeding and the formula industry, it comes as no surprise to me that a clueless first time mum would say such a thing. Prior to falling pregnant I had only really known one person that I could think of that had breastfed, that person ended up being a massive influence to me. Most people around me had bottle fed and with working in a nursery a lot of the children were formula fed and I was required to make up bottles for them. I hadn’t really thought that much about it to be honest, one of the first purchases we made when I found out I was pregnant was a box of six bottles!
As I got more and more pregnant the idea of how to feed my baby kept being brought up in every conversation! Luke and I decided that I would breastfeed and we would see how it went. At this point I had no end goal in sight, although teeth would probably put me off and you know, it’s a bit weird if they are walking and that… oh how my opinions would change!
I got off to a bit of a rocky start with Aoife, she was born at 36 weeks (perfectly healthy I will add) yet I was pushed into topping her up with artificial milk. I told them, thanks to the support of the breastfeeding mum mentioned above, that I intend to exclusively breastfeed. The answer to this was to cup feed her. I struggled massively with attachment and positioning. I asked for help and received barely any! Luckily, thing improved once I was home after our 4 day stay and I had the opportunity to really establish breastfeeding. I will forever be grateful for the support I received from a great friend, she bought me the book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” (if you breastfeed and don’t own this book I highly recommend you get yourself on amazon… it is amazing!), she also bought me my first sling and a hamper of goodies to help me through the early days. She was always on the other side of the phone giving me advice, sending me links and being my lifeline! Luke was a great support to, he did all he could to help me. He even helped me relieve my engorged boobs by hand expressing one whilst I fed Aoife on the other!
The struggles didn’t end there. I suffered horrendously for the first four months of Aoife’s life with cracked and bleeding nipples. Every feed filled me with dread and brought me to tear, it was a toe curling experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I was often met with “surely it wouldn’t hurt to give her one bottle” from well meaning family members. Fortunately I’m a stubborn cow and through gritted teeth and with sheer determination we got through it and eventually my nipples healed and breastfeeding became a painless experience. I know now that it was more than likely the latch that was the issue!
As time went on I became increasingly passionate about breastfeeding and decided I wanted to help. I wanted to help mum’s that like me struggled in the beginning, that need that extra support and advice in the beginning. I trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter and learnt many things I wish I had known in the beginning!
Fast forward a few more months and Aoife’s first birthday. I was officially breastfeeding a one year old! To mark the occasion Luke bought me a golden boob trophy! By this point I knew that the WHO and NHS recommendations were that infants were breastfed up until the age of 2. This was my next goal. During the next year, I fell pregnant with Cassius. I had no idea what would happen in terms of my milk. It is very common for milk to dry up in pregnancy, thanks to all the hormones and what not. I knew this could create an issue in feeding Aoife until she was two years old but I decided to go with it. As it turns out breastfeeding whilst pregnant is not a fun experience. My nipples were sore, I became super agitated all the time and worst of all, Aoife was a nipple twiddler and my god it drove me insane. Thankfully, all of this disappeared along with the arrival of Cassius. Apparently a baby on the boob is great for stopping a toddler that twiddles!
I never intended to tandem feed, in fact I don’t think I even knew it was thing until I met a lady that was tandem feeding her then almost four year old and almost 2 year old. I think she was probably the biggest influence in normalising tandem feeding as when I did fall pregnant I didn’t bat an eyelid at the idea. It certainly has it’s benefits in the early days! Aoife was a great help if I became engorged (I will talk more about tandem feeding and it’s benefits later on in the week!).
So, yeah, here I am now breastfeeding a 2 years and 7 month old and a 5 month old. Who knows how much longer Aoife will feed for, the intention at the moment is to let her make that decision. Breastfeeding is so much more than just milk, it is comfort. Neither of my children have dummies or comforters so boob is very much the replacements for these… or should I say they are the replacements for boobs! If I do feed Cassius for the up to 2 years recommendations, which I intend to as he has a suspected Cows Milk Protein Allergy I will have been breastfeeding for 4 years! It will be incredibly strange when it all comes to an end!
Thanks for reading! And please do drop back in this week to read my others posts! Tomorrow I will be sharing a post about dads and breastfeeding, featuring Ross from Isablog.