Updated: Aug 20, 2021
My breast feeding journeys have been completely different with each of my children.
When I had Lucy, I was exhausted from a long labour. The midwife plonked her on me and I vaguely remember them commenting on how well she latched. Lucy was a good feeder, but we had LOTS of issues. In the first 4 weeks, she had oral thrush, I had nipple thrush, then we realised I had mastitis (for me, this was more painful than labour). This was alongside the usual soreness, adjusting to engorgement between feeds and getting used to milk leaking at any given opportunity (too full, having a shower or hearing Lucy cry).
I visited breastfeeding clinics to make sure I was feeding her properly and kept asking health visitors how we were getting on too. She was gaining weight fine but feeding her myself made me emotional. I would cry at the thought of feeding her. She would wake up and I would tense up knowing she would be hungry. She would latch on and I would get a shooting pain up my back.
At week 3 she started to cluster feed. After my husband's first day back at work, he came home to see me in a complete state. She had given me an hours peace all day long, only seemed to be comforted by feeding.
It just felt like things were not going right and I felt like an emotional wreck.
I saw my health visitor at a weighing clinic in the 4th week and she recognised me and asked how breastfeeding was going. I started to cry immediately. From that moment she looked after me so well. She came to visit me at home for the next few days and eventually suggested that I stop breastfeeding as she suspected it was making me upset.
I was overcome with emotion. I was relieved that someone was telling me it was ok to stop, but also felt guilty that I wanted to. Lucy was feeding so well and it felt like I was the problem. The health visitor reassured me that Lucy would be a happy baby if I was a happy mum and my mental health was important too.
After this experience I didn't think I would want to breastfeed again. I planned to give Ava the first few feeds as I had done for Lucy, but expected I wouldn't enjoy it and would stop soon after.
We had all the same issues again; the infections, the discomfort, engorgement and this time Ava took longer to latch.
Yet there was something different about the experience this time. I wanted to get through the first 4 weeks and see how I felt. I never had the intention to feed for long but somehow here we are, still breastfeeding and she's 1.
I think lockdown has made it easier, being at home with no interruptions and visitors. We were able to focus on making it work for us.
I do wonder if I would have continued without lockdown. I didn't like feeding in public with Lucy and I didn't have to do this so much with Ava. Interestingly, I noticed I was more conscious of feeding in front of people I knew than strangers.
I have enjoyed feeding Ava. I am amazed that the body creates a food source for our children. It really does fascinate me and how it knows just how much milk to make. I have tried to give up a few times and give Ava the bottle but she has shown no interest to both formula and cows milk. I then give up trying her with a bottle or cup fairly quickly too so maybe I am not ready to stop either. I do feel proud that I have kept up our breastfeeding journey and really do now understand what people mean when they say the first few weeks are tough and then it just comes naturally.