One thing that has surprised me about motherhood is breastfeeding. I am finding that I am quite pro-breastfeeding, which surprises me.
Before Charlotte was born, breastfeeding scared me. I wasn't sure if I could do it; I heard that it hurt; I thought it might feel weird and just be weird. However I was determined to give it a go. I figured that if I could get to 3 months then I had done well. Yes I knew that "breast was best", but my main motivation was money. My frugal nature was coming through and I couldn't see the point in paying for formula (and bottles and so on) if I could supply it for free. I am now a huge convert for the immunological benefits that breastmilk provides.
So when Charlotte came along I gave it a go. And it was hard. Very hard. My nipples were sore and cracked from the first feed (which was partly because I was unconscious for it and had no idea what they were doing). Charlotte wouldn't attach. She kept pulling away, or latching on then pulling away (trust me, this is alot worse). The midwives regularly came in to help and I had my boob shoved this way and that. I was milked like a cow to get colostrum to feed Charlotte with. You definitely give up your modesty when having children. Unfortunately most of the advice was contradictory, but we kept trying their suggestions. It was simply exhausting.
It didn't get easier when we got home. By now my nipples were bleeding, I would take painkillers before each feed and sit there in tears. My Mum was here though and kept encouraging me and giving support. And this is what you need. Someone telling you to keep at it. Because it did get easier. We saw a lactation consultant who offered some suggestions but ultimately said we were doing it right. The pulling away we later worked out was due to Charlotte's reflux. After about 3 weeks the nipples healed. It took a few more weeks for it not to hurt. Before I knew it we had reached 3 months, then 6, then 12. By then I was getting over it but I was still sad when we stopped at 13 months because of the IVF.
So I knew with Angus that we were going to breastfeed. I can't tell you the relief when he latched on straight away in recovery. I got a bit sore at first. I mentioned this to the paediatrician who commented that those with fair skin tend to get sore nipples, no matter what you do. I had never heard this before! If I had known this with Charlotte I would have felt less like I was doing something wrong and just accepted that it was in my makeup.
I think this is one of the problems with breastfeeding. There is so much information out there, alot of it contradictory. When really all you need is some encouragement to keep at it. There seems to be so much emphasis on weight gain, supply, foremilk/hindmilk. As long as the baby is putting on weight, you should just be able to stick them on and do what is right for you. Babies make you feel like you are doing everything wrong anyway, you don't need someone else confusing you. At the end of the day it is a hard thing, it can hurt, and it is tiring, and confusing. I still feel confused if I am doing the right thing or not, but I have to keep challenging myself that it seems right, so it must be ok. The last few days I have questioned myself whether I want to continue breastfeeding as I'm just so tired at the moment (this cold is really knocking me around) but then I just think how much money I'm saving and I snap out of it.
I just want to say that I'm not anti-formula. You do what is right for you and your baby. But, if you are wavering on whether you can keep doing it, then I think we should openly come out and say good on you for trying, and just keep at it!