My Breastfeeding Journey
Author: Brea Walker Date Posted:2 February 2017
My personal journey of breastfeeding - twins, expressing, formula feeds and feeding a toddler.
I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding before having kids but what I did know is that this was the only option I had ever planned for my babies. What I didn’t know is that breastfeeding is not a natural process. Breastfeeding is extremely difficult especially in the early days for many mums. Is it possibly the pressure that we put ourselves under to make sure we are doing the right things for our children that makes breastfeeding so hard.
Before the milk comes in
My twins went straight to special care after birth and I was instructed to start expressing up in the ward. I had no idea what I was doing and was just given some collection cups and was told that once my milk came in they would issue a pump set. With no instruction on how to express I was making it up as I was going. One side was much easier than the other and I ended up getting so engorged that I was in tears with the pain. I was so thankful when the nurse manager walked in and noticed I was in pain. She helped me express using a different technique which included a lot of manipulation and massage.
On the Express Train
My milk came in and I was then in the expressing lane. Pumping every 2-3 hours day in and day out to feed my twins. After a week in the special care unit, I was given the all clear to try and start breast feeding. The twins latched but not well and not very deep. I started getting sharp pains when they latched and just assumed that it was normal.
It was not normal and the pain just got worse and worse to the point that I was clenching my teeth with every failed latch. I was feeding for a hour at a time and then once the feeds were done I was expressing. The constant feeding and expressing left me no time to prepare any food or to replenish my fluid intake.
The milk didn’t instantly dry up. It slowly decreased over time. I just assumed that I was expressing less because they were breast feeding more. It never occurred to me at the time that my sleep exhaustion and lack of proper intake was the real reason my milk dwindled.
Turning to Formula
At 3 months of age I was broken inside. My heart ached because I was a failure but my head knew that formula feeds would improve my mental health. My body ached as I weaned from feeding. I felt like a complete failure and the worst mum ever but what I realise now is that I was being a caring loving mum. I realised that I had to look after my own body first to be able to give my twins the care they needed.
Second time round
Just like the twins, Xavier was taken into NICU straight after birth. I did not see him for 24 hours and started the joys of expressing straight away. This time I knew what to do. This time my milk came in a lot quicker. When I finally got to meet my little man I realized that my twins did not feeding efficiently.
Breast feeding was still painful with Xavier. It took more than 3 months for my nipples to become tough enough to deal with the constant feeding. He initially had a habit of chomping down in frustration. Xavier was a super fast feeder. I think the longest feed we ever had was around 20 mins.
Routine versus Demand Feeding
The twins were placed onto a set routine with feeds. Initially I loved this routine as it made life super easy. With Xavier however I choose to demand feed. I had read a lot of articles about demand feeding from birth. I found that Xavier made his own schedule. He set his own pace and most of the time I was able to go along with his plans. In my opinion, demand feeding worked for me.
Teeth and feeding
Breast Feeding during teething was extremely painful. It wasn’t that he would bite down hard – it was the imprinting that he would do during the feed. Initially it was just a little bit of pressure from the gum when feeding. This then turned to a sharp imprint once the tooth would cut through the gums. Once the tooth had completely come through everything would return to normal.
I choose to demand feed at sleep. I probably did not think this through too much but I was told by the lactation consultant that breast feed babies digest milk faster than formula feed babies and every baby is different. Xavier often feed 1-2 times per night. It didn’t normally bother me too much as I ended up co-sleeping with him most the time.
Xavier never took interest in a pacifier so it soon became obvious that my breast had become his comforter. As he grew older he became more reliant on night time breast feeds to fall asleep and resettle.
In the end, Xavier was 13 months when we had to wean him. He had become dependant on my breasts for soothing and would spend a large portion of the day and every couple of hours at night on the breast and it was affecting my personal health.
Although I was emotional at the thought of weaning my last child I was confident that it was time.
I am proud of my achievements for both breastfeeding journeys. I gave all three of my children the best start in life. I choose the best option at the time. It may not be the best choice for someone else but it was for my family.
Every experience is differentBy: Jennie Edwards on 5 April 2018You did your best through difficult times. i believe all circumstances in feeding babies are relevant...sleep & nutrition and help from friends and family are great in the early months but ultimately whatever feeding pattern & type are chosen...babies are never the ones who suffer. Everyone has an opinion but the only one that matters is yours. I have personally been through the agony of decision making over feeding options. Just know that we all do our best for our new & developing babes.
Thank you very much for your beautiful words. We do put too much pressure on ourselves and need to let go of the negativity and stigma that surrounds breastfeeding.