When you are pregnant, breastfeeding is a hot topic. It is discussed in antenatal classes, on social media and in the labour ward. How you feed your baby is a very personal choice. I have never been one for pushing it onto someone who, for whatever reason, just thinks it isn’t for them. But for me, from the day the 2 lines on the pregnancy test turned blue, breastfeeding was the obvious choice. I had boobs, they made milk – easy peasy right?
After the birth of my first baby – a traumatic and long labour ending in a crash C section under general anaesthetic, I was in no fit state to feed my baby in any way shape or form, and my daughter wasn’t up to feeding either. She started life in special care with drips and a tube up her nose, down which I would syringe the tiny amounts of colostrum I was expressing several times a day. My boobs hurt, in fact everything hurt, and I couldn’t see how breastfeeding would ever be established. But it was, and by the time we came home, my daughter fed every 3-4 hours. We battled through mastitis with the help of antibiotics, warm compresses and an industrial quantity of paracetamol, and our breastfeeding journey continued for 10 happy months.
Second baby, another journey. My son was born 6 weeks prematurely, and couldn’t suck. Again, I expressed tiny, regular amounts of colostrum and dutifully syringed them down his tube. Once my milk came in, I hooked myself up to the electric pump like a cow, and pumped ounce after ounce for him. It was so satisfying seeing that precious milk filling up bottle after bottle, and being able to offer my son the best nutrition even though he couldn’t suck. Every time he was tube fed, I would put him to the breast to encourage latching – and one day, he got it. That was it, we were off!
Third time round, I was certain we would have an easier start. This baby wouldn’t be a special care baby – wrong again. Baby 3 was born 4 weeks early, and had breathing problems. Cue another SCBU unit, another baby in an incubator. This time, there was no need for a feeding tube as his sucking reflex was well developed, and despite the CPAP mask over his face, I breastfed from day 1. Within 24 hours, he was strong enough to have the breathing support removed, and the following day we were home with a baby who loved boobs, and continued to do so for many months.
Breastfeeding is not always as simple as whipping out a boob and directing into the waiting mouth of your newborn. For me it was never that easy. Some days were a real battle, where I could have happily reached for a bottle of formula and called it a day. But I am glad I didn’t. Not because formula is evil (it’s really not), but because breastfeeding was what I wanted for my babies, and I am so proud to say I did it.