Goodbye to breastfeeding – the end of an era

I’ve spent two years of my life breastfeeding my babies, there have been ups and downs but I’m very grateful to have been able to do it. I decided to see if Louis was ready to stop as he had lost interest over the past few weeks and I was only giving him a feed in the wee hours just to try get him back to sleep. (I know this probably isn’t the best strategy but lack of sleep makes you do anything to get some rest!) I wasn’t producing enough milk in the end so it was only sending him into a rage which wasn’t quite what I was trying to achieve!

I feel a certain sadness that my breastfeeding journey is over. I did it with both kids until they were 1 year old and both were ready to stop so I didn’t have any issues with weaning them. It’s been an amazing experience. I loved bonding with them during feeds and was really lucky that I didn’t have any issues once I established feeding with both them.

But those first few weeks weren’t so easy… trying to figure out how to position them properly and get a good latch was tricky. Constant feeding was exhausting and the initial pain while establishing feeding wasn’t pleasant to say the least.

Both my babies were petite so I feared smothering them as my boobs grew to a humongous size!! I cradled them in front of me, I tried a sideways hold, I lay down in bed with them beside me or on top of me. Sometimes it felt like I did nothing else in a day but feed and change nappies! One feed rolled into another. Night time was brutal at times. I felt like I was going mad with tiredness, it was relentless! I can see why sleep deprivation is a form of torture! I used to set an alarm for every four hours when both my babies were new as I feared them going too long in between feeds. Although I fed on demand, they were both fairly small birth weights -6lb 6oz and 5lb 5oz- so it was recommended to me not to let them go longer than 3-4 hours to start with. Funnily enough the alarm never went off as they always woke up before that, if my memory serves me right I think it was every 2-3 hours at the most in those early weeks! I felt it helped me feel less anxious in between feeds as I feared sleeping for too long and not feeding them when they needed it.

 

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Both exhausted!

 

Every time I saw a wee mouth open and slam down on my nipple I winced in pain. I had to brace myself until my skin toughened up. I used cabbage leaves which apparently help with engorgement, but I also loved the cooling sensation as sometimes it felt like my boobs were on fire! Lanolin was also really good for chaffed nipples. I looked really glam rubbing my cream in and sticking my cabbage leaves down my bra! The imprint of the leaves was impressive on my skin.

 

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Cabbage leaves came in handy in the early days!

 

I wanted to stop breastfeeding at times and it was a wee bit overwhelming but I always kept in my mind that it wouldn’t always be like this, I would eventually get past all the pain, the sleeplessness and I could enjoy the experience. I planned to express milk so that Jim could take turns feeding with both babies. In the end I didn’t do it nearly as often as I planned purely due to not really liking expressing and I found it time consuming. I used a hand-held breast pump and was always pretty impressed by the volumes that I was producing, I think our bodies are awesome! I found it hard to find the time to do it the second time as I had an older child to look after. Feeding Penny was easier in a way as I didn’t have to worry about anything else but I sometimes felt sorry for both her and Louis when I fed him. Often she would climb up and want a cuddle as I fed him bringing those feelings of mummy guilt, and I just didn’t have the same uninterrupted time with him for feeds which led to mummy guilt then too!! Also, Louis was an extremely fidgety feeder, I’ve never seen a baby wriggle around quite like him! It was so funny to watch but drove me nuts at times! Feeds were never really a relaxing time for us!

So if you are at the start of your breastfeeding journey, are finding it hard work but want to carry on, I promise that even when you feel completely overwhelmed by it all, it can get easier if you get support in whatever way works for you. My family was enough support for me but sometimes you need more. There are great breastfeeding support groups out there, whether you prefer meeting other mums face-to-face or need to chat to a counsellor over the phone, there is a way to get support if you need it. I was really fortunate that I didn’t need additional support but I really appreciate that not everyone has a similar experience and it definitely isn’t easy but if you can manage to get past any issues you experience, it really is lovely to do with your baby if it’s what you want to do. You can speak to your health visitor to find out about local breastfeeding support groups. La Leche League is a great resource for breastfeeding information and support, which includes a helpline. The NHS choices website also has  more information about the benefits of breastfeeding. I remember when Louis was quite young we all caught a horrendous vomiting bug. It was the kind of bug that left me unable to walk so I crawled around the house! It was really grim but the one person who didn’t catch it was Louis and I’m convinced it was thanks to me breastfeeding him and passing on the antibodies through my milk. I really think that stuff has magic properties! I find it fascinating that it adapts to suits the baby’s needs, it’s absolutely amazing!

So I was fortunate not to experience issues while breastfeeding and another aspect of that I wanted to touch on which was feeding in public. This one is very topical and seems to provoke some pretty extreme reactions from people. Personally, I don’t quite understand a negative point of view of feeding a child in public, though I appreciate that it’s a refection of that person’s belief system for whatever reason they have. I never experienced any negativity when I fed my babes in public. I find it really sad to think that people have issues with women feeding their baby, and make them feel awkward for doing so. No one deserves to be made to feel uncomfortable for doing a very natural and essential part of raising a baby.
If you are feeding out and about and are looking for clothing that will help make you feel more comfortable, I recommend my favourite item which is called a breastvest. It’s designed to be worn under your normal tops and is shaped to fit under your breasts so that when feeding, you just lifted your top up without worrying about showing your belly off and you don’t need to worry about buying expensive nursing tops or stretching tops out of shape to pull them down to whip that booby out! I highly recommend trying one if it’s something you’re thinking about. I used them both times and they helped give me confidence when feeding out of the house. I didn’t feel the need to use muslin squares to cover up thanks to using them. They have been well used and are now definitely at the end of their life-span much like my breastfeeding days.

 

I’ll always be thankful that I had such a positive breastfeeding experience. As much as I’ll miss those moments in the wee small hours, stroking a hand and enjoying extended cuddles, or battling Mr grabby hands as he fidgeted around, it does feel it’s come to a natural end. The pluses of no longer breastfeeding are I don’t have to worry about expressing while I’m out or away from the kids. I had to express in the toilets of the SSE Hydro in Glasgow when we went to watch Brian Cox earlier this year! It wasn’t one of my finest moments! Most other times I expressed I was able to find a designated area and I think it’s great that there’s so much thought put into providing women with areas which are comfortable and clean to feed or express in private. It’s also easier to leave the baby with family or friends and not have to worry about being there for feeds or expressing. Finally, I get to sleep much better these days yay!! You may have picked up how much I love my sleep!

I have stretch marks, I’ve had big leaky boobs which have done their worst while I’ve been out and they have since shrunk quite a bit. Yet I feel more confident than ever in my body as I know the amazing job it’s done for me by growing my babies and feeding them for a whole year each!

Goodbye breastfeeding, thank you for all the good you did and you will be missed!

#loveyourbody   #breastfeeding   #naturesfinest    #mammasmilk

 

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