My breastfeeding experience 5 months in...
I'm five months into breastfeeding my second baby boy, Luca, and I can proudly say that it's going really well. With Reuben, my first baby, it couldn't have gone worse and we sadly only lasted about a week, which ultimately came down to lots of different factors. I really do wish that things could have been different, but he's now a happy and thriving six year old so I try not to dwell on that too much. I am however, glad that I got a second chance and have been able to enjoy breastfeeding this time around, as there are so many things that I never got the chance to experience last time!
Breastfeeding my first baby...
So I'll start with a little back story with Reuben, when I was pregnant with him, I was desperate to breastfeed and I had read up on how breastmilk was the best thing for babies and how it contained all of these benefits and created this special bond between mother and baby. I was devastated when it didn’t work out and felt guilty about it for the longest time. When I was on the ward in hospital after he was born, I got no support from the midwives, and I ended up discharging myself the same evening after having him early that morning just so I could go home, sleep and have the support of my family rather than being left all alone on a ward feeling like rubbish.
After I got home, breastfeeding quickly became excruciating and I had sore, dry and cracked nipples. They were bleeding and one night, quite late on, I just couldn’t do it any more. I'd had a week with no breastfeeding support, no help with our latch, and no referrals to a feeding team. I remember going downstairs in tears with my screaming hungry baby and having no bottles or formula to feed him with. I lived with my parents back then as a recent university graduate and I remember my dad being my hero that night as he had drank a few beers, but rang a taxi and had it take him on a 20 minute journey to the nearest open supermarket and came home with bottles and formula so that I could feed my hungry baby.
I planned on trying combination feeding after that so that I didn't have to give up breastfeeding completely, but I ended up being admitted into hospital shortly after that night at one week postpartum, with sepsis. In hospital I was put on lots of medication and I had a drip in each arm, I was unable to pick up my baby let alone feed him. Everything was so overwhelming, I was a new mum and severely depressed, and I made the decision to quit breastfeeding completely for the sake of my sanity.
Breastfeeding my second baby...
Over the years I'd grown such a hate for the amount of breastfeeding content you see, I hated that it felt like formula wasn't normalised and how it was never taken into account that it just can't work for everyone. I'd given up first time for the sake of my body and my mental health and I felt so strongly about there being support for that and it feeling like there was a huge lack of. But then, I had Luca and my breastfeeding experience has been so, so different and I can finally understand why people feel the need to share so much breastfeeding content online.
During my pregnancy with Luca, I'd decided that I was going to give breastfeeding another go and it either worked out or it didn't. I wasn't going to force it and compromise my mental health again. I had a good idea of what a latch was supposed to be and feel like before giving birth, I’d read up on tips, watched tiktoks with advice from new mums, and most importantly, I had super supportive and helpful midwives.
After Luca was born, every single midwife on the ward was lovely and supportive, constantly checked his latch and checked in on us and I exclusively breastfed him for over a week with no pain. I did start getting slightly sore nipples after that, as we initially had some trouble with our latch after my milk came in. I was trying to put these huge boobs, that were bigger than my tiny newborns head, into his tiny little mouth. I managed by using one of my hands to sort of squeeze my boob into his mouth whilst he latched on, something I wouldn’t have known to do without my midwife showing me. That help and support really made all the difference to my breastfeeding journey this time, all of those little tips and tricks can make or break it.
Luca was checked for tongue tie by the midwife at our day 5 home visit, and we were also referred to the feeding team at one point when I was struggling with the soreness, where he had his latch properly examined and he scored fine on every check. I really wish that I'd had all this help and support with Reuben as I'm sure based on my cracked nipples, my trouble with him was down to a poor latch and/or tongue tie.
How it's going today...
Fast forward to today, I'm five months into breastfeeding and we're still going strong. It's not been the smoothest journey, I did introduce combination feeding from Luca being two weeks old when I started struggling with sore nipples and gave him bottles of formula as well as expressed breastmilk to give my boobs a break. I have no regrets as I don't think that I would still be breastfeeding today had I not done that. When he was 9 weeks old, I dropped the formula and bottles in general completely, and I started exclusively breastfeeding. There was no particular reason for this, I was just having no trouble with soreness or anything else and breastfeeding was so much easier than having to sterilise and make up bottles, so if I didn't need to do it, I didn't see the point.
Luca then ended up having some weight gain issues, and constipation, which took some time to get to the bottom of. I knew in my heart that he fed absolutely fine, my boobs made plenty of milk, but that self-doubt still crept in as it's so hard to know how much they're drinking from you when you're breastfeeding. Last month we finally got a diagnosis and Luca has CMPA (Cows Milk Protein Allergy) so after a month of me dropping dairy from my diet, he was totally back to normal. He is now piling on the weight and back to normal nappies, so all is well again. He has the odd bottle of a formula every other day that we have on prescription just to help his weight gain along, but his diet is 99% breastmilk. I think we're over most of the rocky patches now (I hope!) but what's life as a parent without our little ones keeping us on our toes eh?
I absolutely love breastfeeding, you really do have a special bond with your baby and my gosh it makes the night feeds an absolute breeze. All I have to do is roll over in bed, latch him on and he goes back to sleep after his feed every single time. He feeds regularly throughout the night, but as he sleeps completely in-between, I can't complain. I love that I don't have to think about making up formula and taking loads of bottles and supplies out of the house with us and it made our recent trip to France so, so easy.
I try and share our journey on my socials, because the awareness that people create around breastfeeding is because there really needs to be much more support available out there for everyone. I'm lucky that I got the support this time, but many mums can't say the same and I hate to think that breastfeeding experiences are being ruined down to lack of support, just like my first one was. It's also quite daunting to feed in public, and something I still don't love doing so I can see why people are still trying to normalise that too.
I really don’t regret formula feeding Ru, I did what was best for the both of us at that time and he thrived as a baby. However, I love that I’m getting to experience breastfeeding with Luca, especially because he’s most likely my last baby. It’s something that I’m so glad is going well simply because it went so horribly the first time round. My initial goal post was to get to 3 months, then to 6, and as we are now almost there, I think I'd quite like to get to a year of breastfeeding, but I will follow Luca's lead and just do what's best for us both.
This post has ended up a little bit longer than planned, so I'm going to do another post on all of the breastfeeding products that I'd recommend - if you're interested, keep an eye out for that!