I wasn't sure whether to write this post or not, because it is one which feels incredibly personal to me and it's not something I've written about or shared much about before. But then this blog is my space, my little corner of the internet, and it's where I love to document our memories, both the ordinary ones and the extraordinary ones too. And breastfeeding is something which has become a very ordinary yet very extraordinary and special part of our lives over the past 5 months.
My breastfeeding journey actually started back in 2013 obviously when LO was born. When I was expecting him, I just assumed I'd breastfeed him and didn't think anything of it. I perhaps naively thought that babies just latched on and fed with no issues. I was going to write all about my breastfeeding journey with LO in this post, but as I started to write, I realised just what an emotional and eventful journey that turned out to be so felt it was worthy of a separate post (to follow soon)...
Basically, my breastfeeding experience with LO was a difficult and complicated one, and because of that and also LO's traumatic birth, throughout my pregnancy with Little L, I felt incredibly anxious and worried, not just about the birth but also about the whole feeding thing as it was so difficult with LO. As I said, my story about LO's feeding journey needs a whole separate post on it's own, but basically with him, I expressed for 6 months, and I knew that for us as a family, it wouldn't be practical or sustainable this time around with a LO to look after as well as Little L, so I knew straight away that if conventional breastfeeding didn't work out, then expressing wasn't really an option, and I made that choice very early on.
So fast forward to January 5th of this year, the day that Little L was born. He was born in a water pool and we were quickly whisked out of there and onto a bed where I had complications with a retained placenta. I waited until all that drama was over before I cradled him in my arms and fed him for the first time. He seemed to take to it well and, knowing I was a second time mum, the midwives were more than happy to leave me to it and we were discharged a few hours later.
Once we got home, we really felt a bit out of our depth and almost like first time parents, because of course we were in hospital for two weeks with LO, so for a whole fortnight we had nurses and midwives supporting us throughout the days and nights. It was a bizarre feeling being at home and solely in charge of a tiny baby just a few hours old, and it took us by surprise seeing just how much a newborn sleeps over the first 24 hours of their life (we didn't get to experience this time with LO as he was away from us in special care).
The day after Little L was born, in a moment of madness we decided it would be a good idea to go to Asda, just to get some supplies and to go to the cafe there. I think a huge part of me wanted to try and feed him in public for the first time, because again it was something I never got the chance to do with LO. It was an absolute disaster. My clothes were completely wrong for breastfeeding, he stayed asleep the whole time and I panicked that he'd gone 7 hours without a feed and LO decided to have the worst tantrum he's ever had in the middle of the shop. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and thinking back, I realise it was completely ridiculous.
After day 2, he did start to feed very regularly, in fact, he was attached to me most of the time, yet it was becoming excruciatingly painful. I knew that feeding was generally painful to begin with, and they often talk about the first 10 seconds being agony, but it was continuous toe curling pain. I screamed and cried every time he fed, I was getting cross and frustrated and started to wonder why yet again I was struggling with feeding my baby boy. I decided not to put too much pressure on myself though, and I'd already decided that if it didn't work out we would use the bottles we'd already bought 'just in case' and have Mr F on stand by to nip down to the co-op to get a tub of formula. I knew I wasn't going to go down the expressing route already, and as long as he was fed and happy and I was a happy mummy then that's all that mattered.
Mr F was so unbelievably supportive though and encouraged me to carry on. He helped me to position him and read up on ways to hold him. It was only because of his support that I got through those first few painful days, days where I dreaded every feed, every hourly nighttime wake up. We made the decision to call my midwife, Danielle, and ask her for help.
With LO, I had a ridiculous amount of help from so many different medical professionals and not one of them were able to sort out LO's feeding issues, so I had very little faith in my midwife this time. But amazingly, she came over to our house, after her shift had finished, to observe how I fed Little L. She sat with me, chatted to me, and was so incredibly kind and supportive. It actually makes me feel a little teary thinking about how kind she was, and how encouraging her words were. She brought a huge doll with her to demonstrate different holds and told me I was doing all the right things and just needed to make one small adjustment- to gently pull his bottom jaw down on by putting my finger on his chin to encourage a wide mouth- crucial for getting baby to tilt their head back and get a big wide open mouth.
And like magic, he latched on, with minimal pain and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of love and pride. I was so incredibly proud of my baby boy and over the moon that he'd finally cracked it. But I think more than anything the biggest thing was that she was so encouraging and she told me I was doing all the right things. At my following appointment, I was so thankful to her that I took her a card and present to show my appreciation.
From then on, I carried on feeding him as and when he wanted to feed- which was a lot in those early days. It was exhausting, particularly at night time. I find feeding has a very soporific effect on me but I relished every cuddly feed. I was very nervous about feeding in public, but decided I needed to face my fear as it would make it too hard day to day otherwise. I think my first proper feed in public was at Costa, and after that I was fine. I gradually became more confident with feeding him in front of people I knew as well, and it sounds silly, but that was also a big step for me.
I really am loving this feeding journey I am on with him. I love the way he immediately settles if he's been crying and you just feel his little body relax when he feeds. I love just looking down at his chubby cheeks and his fluffy blonde hair, or the way he grabs hold of my jumper or clings onto my finger when he feeds. I never want to forget these little things, or the way he gets so distracted when he feeds and then looks up and gives me the cheekiest grin.
Because while breastfeeding has become a very ordinary moment in our days, and in our family routine (we worked out that over 5 months Little L must have fed well over 1000 times) it really is an extraordinary moment in mine and Little L's lives, and I feel so proud that I overcame my fears and difficulties and cracked it second time around.
I really wanted to have some photos of me feeding Little L so Mr F took these really quickly the other evening. My hair is messy, I'm in my scruffy clothes and we were all exhausted but they're real life, and show how life really is for us at that moment. I'll cherish them forever.