Although 20 weeks isn’t exactly a milestone age (we’re way past three months and quite a bit short of six months), now feels like as good a time as any to share my breastfeeding story so far. I predominantly breastfeed but use formula every day, so hopefully there’s something here you can relate to however you’re feeding!
At first, breastfeeding was pretty difficult and painful. My baby had the dreaded tongue-tie, and while he latched on the moment he was placed on my chest, it wasn’t a ‘good latch’ and soon became really sore.
I remember in hospital a midwife needing to collect drops of colostrum from my nipple with a syringe as I hand-expressed! It was every bit as unattractive as it sounds, but colostrum is ‘liquid gold’ apparently, so needs must.
As my milk started to come in, breastfeeding was still proving difficult so I used the hospital’s electric breastpump. I wish I could have taken that ingenious piece of machinery home with me…
My baby’s latch didn’t seem to be improving much over the couple of days I spent in hospital, so I went to see the Breastfeeding Babes about getting the tongue-tie sorted out. They asked me to show them my ‘technique’ for getting him to latch on (nipple to nose, then pretty much shove it in his mouth as fast as possible when it was wide open). Miraculously he latched on just fine in front of them, so naturally they said the tongue-tie wasn’t bad enough to warrant being cut and that was that.
Breastfeeding was still hurting me even when his latch improved after returning home, and my nipples were cracked and sore. I soldiered on, sure that it would pass. I used lanolin and turned to a manual breastpump (not nearly as easy as using the electric one) while they were healing and then donned nipple shields to protect myself from the pain. They were much more effective than I thought they’d be.
After a few days, I tried breastfeeding without the shields and it wasn’t painful any more! Everyone says breastfeeding is a fabulous bonding experience, but the truth is I didn’t find it particularly magical for the first few weeks at all. I got so used to it though that I could walk around the house with him latched on, supporting him while I attempted to do tasks like putting on makeup or making a drink for myself one-handed.
I decided that I would introduce formula alongside breastfeeding quite early on — at around 4 weeks. I thought this would make weaning easier and also allow people to feed him when I wasn’t around (I never did really get the hang of using the manual breastpump – even when it did work, I couldn’t express milk that I could actually keep, because my body would then run out and my baby had to drink the milk I’d expressed).
My baby now has about 1-3 formula feeds a day and the rest is breastmilk. I like doing it this way, as it’s the ‘best of both worlds’. I use the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine (not sponsored, I just think this is a lifesaver!) which makes up a warm bottle in seconds. A formula feed is much quicker than a breastfeed, and formula in the evening tends to help him sleep for longer. That said, he almost always wants to be breastfed as a ‘top up’ before bed. It’s like he’s not quite ‘satisfied’ without it.
I’m glad I’ve kept up with the breastfeeding for this long. These days, it actually gives me that big rush of love — hello oxytocin — which was missing at the beginning. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to feed my baby like this, and not just because I don’t have to get up to prepare a bottle! I definitely don’t believe any mum should be made to feel guilty for not breastfeeding (whether out of choice or not), but I feel very fortunate that I can.
I’ll most likely breastfeed for as long as I can up to around 12 months I think, depending on my milk supply and the appearance of teeth…