My breastfeeding story
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in this world, but it doesn’t come naturally to all mothers and babies. In my naivety, I had never even considered that I could have problems. I had the perfect pregnancy.
I had expected an all-natural birth, I had envisaged skin to skin contact immediately after my baby’s birth and I thought my baby would latch on straight away. Maybe my expectations were too high. In reality none of this happened, so here is our story.
Lucia and I were one of the couples who faced problems from the beginning but, together and with a loving and supportive husband/Daddy, family and friends, we overcame all obstacles. We are still enjoying our feeding relationship and did I think during those tough times that I would be breastfeeding an eight month old baby? Certainly not.
Lucia was born almost 6 weeks early by emergency caesarean section as a result of a preterm labour. She was whisked away before I could even see or hold her. Although Lucia had no major issues and she was only kept in an incubator for a few hours, her sucking reflex had not developed and she was initially fed by naso-gastric (NG) tube. I started hand-expressing and then using the hospital grade pump to ensure there was sufficient supply in the NICU fridge for her 3 hourly feeds. As she got stronger we moved to bottles of expressed milk, but she still had no interest in latching onto the breast. Eventually her Daddy and I made the decision not to force her and we were happy to take her home on bottles; we would work on the breastfeeding later.
On the day Lucia came home, we collected our own hospital grade pump and that was to be my new best friend for the next four months. I pumped and pumped and pumped some more. I will admit that sometimes in the middle of the night I questioned my sanity as to why I’d set my alarm to get up and pump to maintain my supply while my baby was sound asleep.
We had a major breakthrough when we tried using nipple shields; for the first time Lucia seemed to be interested in feeding.
Following this, we went on to our local Cuidiu group in Drogheda. Here we got and continue to receive fantastic support. I have met the most amazing mothers and babies and these are ladies that I now have the pleasure of calling my dear friends.
Frequent lunches and coffee dates with the other breastfeeding mammies gave me the confidence to feed in public – something that I lacked when on my own. Eventually, I was happy to feed my baby wherever and whenever she required it. The day I returned the hospital grade pump was a huge milestone. I felt confident enough that I could feed Lucia without the need to pump and I knew we were moving in the right direction.
When Lucia was just over 5 months, she began fussing with the nipple shield during feeding and one day she just removed it and latched on. It was the most amazing feeling ever! I was almost scared to breathe for fear of disturbing her. This feeling was obviously what new moms experience when their baby latches on for the first time after a long labour. We had gotten there in the end, it had just taken us a little longer.
So after the initial tough few months, I have no intention of giving up breastfeeding when it has only just gotten easier. The World Health Organisation recommends feeding to the age of two and we are taking it one day at a time. I have returned to work and I find that being able to feed Lucia when I get home is a fantastic way to reconnect at the end of a long day. Those mid-night snuggles make it all worthwhile!
Lucia is a very happy, content baby and I have no doubt that my perseverance with breastfeeding was the right decision for us.
My advice to any mom-to-be/new mom:
- Go along to your local Cuidiu/breastfeeding support group when you are pregnant
- Your maternity leave is to allow you to look after your baby
- Trust your instincts; you know what is best for your baby
- If you are struggling or unsure of anything, please ask for help or advice
- Make friends with other new moms – they will be your sanity, their advice and experience is invaluable
- Look after yourself, eat well, drink lots of water, get sleep when you can, take help that is offered and have some time just for yourself. You need to keep well in order to feed your baby.
A huge thanks to Rachel at Wilde Portrait Photography
for the most amazing breastfeeding photographs and for allowing me to use one of them for this piece to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week.