After last weekends’ Great Twitter Chat on my ‘Breastfeeding: A Pain In The Tits?’ article, I can’t stop talking about it to everyone I meet. Most women are in agreement that whether you or I breast or bottle feed our kids is nobody else’s business, and everyone just needs to get on with their own lives. BUT, there was a definite sentiment amongst many of the women I spoke to who hadn’t breastfed either for a long period of time, or at all, that a their reasons stemmed from a lack of information and support on the matter.
So I’m gathering up shit-loads of no-nonsense, practical advice for anyone who might be interested, on the subject of breastfeeding.
Step in my good pal Sinead, mother to the most adorable, dainty princess Harlow. Sinead and I were due our babies on the exact same date – we were ‘Competitively Pregnant’, you know (they bleedin’ won) – so Eva and Harlow are almost the exact same age. I breastfed Eva for two months and switched to formula feeding. Sinead is still feeding Harlow breastmilk exclusively – but not with her boobs. I’ll let her explain in her own words.
“I had my little one nearly 8 months ago and becoming a mum has been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. But, like most mums, I have had my challenges.
I come from a family who are very supportive of breastfeeding and when I was pregnant I read everything I could find about it. I decided I really wanted to breastfeed my baby. I even YouTube’d how to get baby to latch on properly so that I would feel confident on our first try! I did what the advice said and when I had my baby I fed her immediately skin to skin. While in hospital my baby fed without difficulty, latching on well and no pain, I thought I had hit the jackpot,” what’s all the fuss about”??
Then, after 2 days, we went home. She started to scream…., and scream. She screamed the house down. I couldn’t get her to latch on in all the hysteria. Thankfully I remained calm, thinking “she can’t scream forever”….well, she gave it her best shot! This proceeded to happen every night, the sun would go down and BOOM, screaming! In the first few weeks my little one wanted to be on the boob around the clock. She might drift off after a few minutes on the boob, looking like a tiny cherub in my arms, but as soon as I would take her off the latch the hysteria would start again.
I slept in 30 minute intervals those first few weeks and felt like I was losing my mind with tiredness. During the day she was a lot more content so I’m sure people thought I was mad telling them just how hard it was.
Then I got mastitis – lovely. This is no joke ladies, not only is your boob really painful but you get the shakes and feel like you have the flu. Naturally, it just so happened I was on my own with Screamer all that day so couldn’t do what I needed to, which was rest. So I was carrying Screamer in my arms at the top of the stairs when the shakes got really bad and everything started to go fuzzy. I have never fainted before but it definitely was not the glamorous swoon I have seen on the telly. I just sort of lowered myself to the floor with Screamer tight against me and lay there, on the stairs until the fuzz ebbed away. I knew I couldn’t keep going as I was.
I really wanted breastfeeding to go well. I felt everyone would be terribly disappointed if I stopped, especially me. I knew all the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and myself and felt I would be devastated to stop at that time. So, I rummaged out the little breast pump I had bought before Screamer’s arrival. I had bought it with the intention of using it on the odd occasion I would be away from Screamer. I had invested €125 in a Medela Swing which is a tiny electric pump, about the size of an old disc man. So anyway, on hideous mastitis day, baby was about 4 weeks old. I knew the best thing to do was clear the blockage in the painful boob and go the doctor. But, as I was on my own that day and too sick to leave the house, I just pumped until the infection cleared. Now, as you can imagine, this hard earned breastmilk was treasure, I couldn’t just bin it! With a little research I found you can refrigerate breastmilk for up to 5 days, so I kept it. That evening, I gave said bottle to Screamer, and something magical happened; Screamer slept. She slept for 3 hours straight. An absolute miracle, glorious. It meant I could get help. Every time prior to this that Screamer was, well, screaming, she was handed to me with “she needs the boob”, when in actuality, she didn’t always “need the boob”, she just needed someone to hold her and love her through the screaming. But I know it is hard to differentiate between crying due to hunger and crying for reassurance.
So anyway, that’s how I started pumping my milk, and how I felt I could continue breastfeeding and keep my sanity. Pumping might not be for everyone and I know breastfeeding your baby is best. It just is. No one can argue the facts. But this is how I got through. I consoled myself with the knowledge she was getting all the nutrients nature intended, but, selfishly, I gave her a bottle so I could get some sleep. It slowly went from one feed of pumped milk a day to solely pumped milk when Screamer was about 10 weeks old.
It took time for my body to get a routine established but now I pump 4 times a day. First when I wake up at 8.00 for 30 mins, then between 12.00 and 13.00 for 20 mins, then at about 17.00 and 22.00 for 15 minutes each. I found out you make the most milk in the morning, fascinating!
So there you have it, Screamer doesn’t scream anymore. She grew out of that at about 8 weeks. She is a very healthy and contented baby. Far more relaxed than her mother. I went back to work when she was 6 months old – I’m a nurse so I do long hours both night and day shifts and I still feed my baby solely breastmilk. To be honest, I am proud that we are still plodding along together pumping as we go but I still have guilt. That niggling in the back of my mind that she is not breastfed from the breast. I think mums put a lot of pressure on themselves. No one has ever said or done anything other than being totally supportive of my choice to pump but it’s me. This just happens to be the way I muddled through my first time being a mum.
No one ever gave me the option of pumping as just that, an option. I wrote this so that other mums might know that this is a viable option if you feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall breastfeeding a screamer. Pumping is a rarely discussed method of continuing to breastfeed with its health benefits included, while getting the positives of bottle feeding, like getting your other half to give you a hand the odd time. I don’t know how long we will keep going, but if I can do it, you can too.