My relationship with breastfeeding hasn't been a smooth one, to say the very least! With Charlie, I was a very idealistic first time mum - I read all the books and magazines from cover to cover during my pregnancy, and was convinced that breastfeeding would be easy, natural and really, the only option. I won't lie to you, when I heard anyone say they intended to bottle feed, I hoiked up my judgey pants, gasped in horror and heartily disapproved (albeit silently).
Yes, I was going to be a natural mother, I would have a silent labour with no pain relief, I'd breastfeed until he was at least a year old, and none of it would be a problem. WRONG!!! Wake up and smell the epidural, mama!
After a 24 hour labour, failure to progress, hormone drips, epidural, 2nd degree tear, ventouse delivery and countless stitches, I was in utter shock the first time Charlie was put to my breast. Holy hell, that first latch was unbelievably painful!
I tried, and tried, but every time I went to feed him over the next few days, the pain was ridiculous, and each time I became more and more tense and panicky. He fed almost constantly, and neither of us were sleeping at all. He picked up on my tension and every time he went near my breast, he'd start screaming and shaking his head. I convinced myself that he hated me!
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I developed a horrendous case of mastitis. Honestly, I've never felt so ill in my life!
Every time Charlie cried, I wanted to run away, because I knew that it meant a painful and stressful feeding session, and I struggled to bond with him at all. It didn't help that everyone else in my antenatal class was happily bottle feeding, and would joyfully tell me how their babies would sleep for hours at a time after having a bottle. Eventually, after three weeks of living in a black hole, I couldn't take it anymore and gave him a bottle of formula. He drained it within seconds, fell into a deep sleep and I finally fell in love with my baby. I never looked back.
With Daisy, I didn't even consider breastfeeding, she was given bottles from day one, and I didn't feel the least bit bad about it. Even when my breasts leaked oceans of milk in the first couple of weeks, it didn't even occur to me that things might be different this time. As far as I was concerned, the quicker those bad girls dried up, the better! To be fair, I did bond immediately with Daisy, she's never (touch wood) had any allergies or major illnesses, and she's no worse off for being a formula fed baby.
This time, however, I feel completely differently about breastfeeding.. I'm in a very happy, supportive marriage and Steve is completely on board the boob bandwagon. There's a whole lot more professional support available than there was ten years ago, plus all manner of gadgets that I'd never even heard of back then!
Besides, apart from the obvious health benefits for both myself and Baby Widders, we are a really outdoorsy family. We want to be out there camping and having day trips as often as possible, and how much more handy would it be to be able to just whip out a boob, tuck baby under my top and carry on, than to drag loads of bottles and formula with us?
Of course, it's a bit of a worry that things will be difficult, so I'm preparing myself this time with a plan of attack. Here are my coping strategies...
Knowledge is power
I'm arming myself with as much knowledge as possible. Watching and rewatching videos on this site , memorising proper latch pictures, and learning about where to find support and help when I need it.
Tough it out
The one thing I wish I'd been told ten years ago, is that it will be hard to begin with. Everyone, even the most established breastfeeders who might be feeding their sixth babies, finds it tricky in the early days. Every baby is different, and the first days and weeks will be spent learning each other's ways and getting into a groove.
Yes, it's supposed to feel natural, but it will hurt a bit. No boob is used to that kind of action, so of course it's going to be a bit toe curling to begin with. According to almost everyone I've spoken to, there just comes a point after several weeks where it all clicks into place, doesn't hurt anymore and starts to feel easy. If only I'd known this before! I just assumed that I must be failing or doing it wrong because I found it so damn hard!
So yea, I am prepared this time for it to hurt, I'm prepared to be exhausted and emotional and feel like it'll never get better, but I'm also determined to keep reminding myself that it will pass.
Go, gadget, go!
I'm shocked by the amount of groovy gadgets you can get nowadays to help with breastfeeding! Nipple shields to help babies latch on without chewing your bare skin to bits, lanolin cream to soothe chafed, cracked and bleeding nipples, breast shells to catch leaking milk and not waste it, little sucker type things to encourage flat or inverted nipples to behave, hot/cold packs to place on sore boobs...it's awesome! I have them all already...
Pump up the supply
I've read that having a c-section means that your milk doesn't kick in the way that it would if labour hormones were involved, so I'm aware that it'll take a bit longer to get established. I've bought an electric pump and intend to express between feeds, not only to encourage milk supply, but also to enable daddy to give a few feeds and give me a rest!
I've also been reading up on certain foods that can help increase milk flow, as well as googling the bejeezus out of "How to increase milk supply", so hopefully all of this knowledge should help. The internet is brilliant, because it's there 24/7 and I know that even in the middle of the night when I feel like I'm the only person on earth who is awake, I can get the ipad out and find some kind of answer online.
Take the support!
Luckily, there is a local breastfeeding support group which I've already joined. It's awesome to know there are so many ladies nearby who are also feeding, and it's a great way to make friends. It's also good to know I have support from my family, who will be more than willing to take over around the house in the early days, so I can just concentrate on feeding my baby.
So there we go! Fingers crossed, it'll all go well this time and I'll become a happy breastfeeding mummy. I'm not going to get stressed or beat myself up and I know that if I feel wobbly (which I'm sure I will), I can come back to this post and remind myself why I'm doing it.
If you're breastfeeding, struggling with breastfeeding or a happy bottle feeder, please feel free to tell me your stories!