When breastfeeding doesn’t go according to plan
If you plan to breastfeed your newborn, it can be unsettling to find that things don’t always go as planned.
Your baby, your milk supply, mastitis – a million things may conspire against you in the Milk Department.
Sarah Ivens shares her breastfeeding story.
I always planned to breastfeed. It was something I felt really strongly about. My firstborn, William, was placed in my arms minutes after he was born and literally pulled himself across my chest to my nipple, latched on and started to suckle. “Well, that was easy,” I thought. “And marvelous. Isn’t Mother Nature the best!”
Fast forward to five days later. My milk had come in full tilt. Not only were my breasts suddenly the size of soccer balls but they were hot and tight. “They feel like their full of rocks and razors,” was all I could repeat to my worried mother and husband, as William tried to nurse and I winced in pain.
It was no good. I needed a break, and my mother insisted I got one. So within the first week my plan to exclusively breastfeed had gone out the window. While I found moments of relief in ice packs, hot baths and sports bras stuffed with Chinese cabbage leaves (which work, it really does!), William took a bottle from whichever loving onlooker was there to nestle down with him.
And it was fine. The two horror stories that everyone scares new moms with turned out to be just that for us – stories. Firstly, we didn’t get nipple confusion…. In fact, once my boobs started behaving, he happily removed plastic teats from his diet, allowing me to nurse him exclusively after a few weeks. And it didn’t effect our bonding. If anything, feeding William allowed his dad and nana to get in on the act too, which was special for everyone.
So the most important tip I’d give new mommas is to avoid the hoo-hah and drama around how you feed your baby.
“I spent too much of my child’s first year feeling guilty about using a bottle,” confesses mom-of-one, Haley. “I couldn’t produce enough milk so Elsie was hungry and unable to sleep from about two months. My mother’s instinct kicked in and I switched to formula. Elsie was happier and slept better… But I allowed snide comments that I was a bad mom to get to me. I regret that now. Just follow your heart and trust that you know your baby better than anyone else. Elsie is 3 now and happy and healthy, which is all I care about.”
Nursing mothers get it too, especially when trying to feed their baby in public.
I was once told off by a restaurant manager for “lowering the tone of the establishment” for feeding William there, despite being in a dark corner, with my back to everyone and covered up with my faithful friend, my “modesty cloak.” After about one second of shame my Mother Lioness appeared and I informed him it was not only legal and dignified, but better than allowing my baby to scream the place down. And if he didn’t want to eat his dinner sitting on a toilet, why should my baby? We got free dessert and an apology.
“Fear of being judged for nursing Thomas actually kept me indoors for the first few months,” says Joanne. “I’d heard horror stories from friends and read nasty comments about breastfeeding mothers online and I didn’t feel strong enough to face it, which is a shame – cause I really needed to get out and about in the fresh air.”
The lesson I learned as a first time mom and as a woman? Be nice. Be kind. We all have different ways of doing things – especially when it comes to parenting – but let’s just admit that “mother knows best”… When it comes to her own child – and stop the fear and judgment. Please.