Having just watched a heart breaking interview on This Morning with a man whose wife committed suicide as a result of post natal depression, somewhat exacerbated by her struggles with breastfeeding, I felt I should take to the keyboard and share my experience.
Looking back on it now Sally's birth was pretty traumatic. I have done a previous post on this here if you wish to get the full low down. I had prayed whilst I was pregnant that I did not mind what I had to go through as long as my baby came out healthy. Which of course she did, at my expense! I class myself extremely blessed that such depression did not take hold. It's effects are devastating to mothers, and even scarier for these women is the knowledge that if they were to have another child there is a 50% chance of PND returning. I in no way wish to demean the struggle these mothers go through, I just want to highlight to mums to be out there that things can also go well! Very well!
Having read and heard lots of stories of mothers who have struggled to breast feed and felt like failures, who had little support and knew not where to go, I feel tremendously blessed that I got the care I had both at the hospital and at home.
I developed pre-eclampsia in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, though they did not fully acknowledge this until the day I went into labour. As a result of this, and the general physical trauma I had from a forceps delivery to a nearly 9lb baby, I, unlike most mothers, had to remain in hospital for an extra two days. Although this meant little rest with babies and phones going off all night and day it did mean I had on call support to help me get the hang of breast feeding. Breast feeding had been my intention from the beginning, but nothing had really prepared me for how much energy it takes out of you, how difficult learning how to get the right latch on is, and also how painful it is for those first couple of months. In the lead up to giving birth you see all these beautiful photos of women breastfeeding, and it's almost instilled in you how worthwhile it is for not only the baby but you yourself. I just wish my midwife had said, 'Be prepared, breast-feeding is hard!' Those few days in hospital I called the staff nearly every time I fed Sally to check I was doing it right. To be honest most of the time I needed them to latch her on for me, or show me different positions which may be easier. Gratefully they were more than willing to help, and I never had the feeling that I was a burden to them, despite their heavy workload.
When I was finally discharged I was pretty scared of what to do if I couldn't get it right at home. So when I got home I just read all of the pamphlets and stuff they had given me on breastfeeding to see all the different techniques. They had also highlighted to me the 24hr helpline you can call if you are struggling, so I knew I had that as a last resort. Those next couple of days were hard. Dave won't mind me saying he was a little bit useless at night time, and when I would be feeding Sally and would try and wake him up he'd be half asleep and practically non-functioning. To be honest there wasn't much he could do but it got very lonely those first few nights, and I often would cry to myself because of the pain of feeding and Sally just wanting to be fed all the time. Thankfully in the days that followed my midwife reinstructed me how to latch Sally on properly as this is what was causing such agonising pain. With her help and that of the breastfeeding support worker who also came, I felt confident in my technique. The initial pain remained, but after 10 seconds or so of what they call 'let down' the pain would subside and I was able to enjoy breastfeeding like all those women appeared to do on the photos. In complete honesty it is hard work, and you can feel like a cow being pumped especially when you have a baby that refused a bottle like Sally. But when you see how satisfied your baby is and how much they are growing just on what you have inside you, it truly seems miraculous! Then as you continue to 3 months, or 6 months, or in my case 1 year, you can't imagine you're child not having it! By 3 months the pain is gone completely! And you can just enjoy your hot water baby! Plus I'm generally the sort of person who likes to do things the easiest way possible, and once you have the hang of breastfeeding it requires very little effort. Yes there's the whole initial nerves of having to breast feed in public, but I had an AWESOME nursing apron that I took everywhere! And it worked a treat. Plus my breastfeeding support worker had instilled the confidence in me to tell people where to shove it if they turned their noses up or said anything to what I was doing. Gratefully I never had to employ my responses, as you can breastfeed with people barely noticing. And if they do they either smile or quickly look away out of their own embarrassment! Deal with it people! It's just a booby, and I'm not even waggling it in front of your face! Also nobody, by law, can ask you to leave a place when breastfeeding, so don't feel like you have to sit in a stinky loo somewhere shivering! You wouldn't eat in a loo, so why should your baby. I have fed at coffee shops all by myself on a comfy chair, fed whilst enjoying Pizza Hut with the family, and even fed in the middle of a Sunday School lesson (as we currently meet in a school so no mother's room) and gave answers at the same time! Daring I know! Could almost class me as a feminist! Just don't feel like you have to exclude yourself from social environments otherwise the whole process can become very lonely!
Breastfeeding is a hard journey that has a great reward (like most difficult things in life)! Count yourself lucky, or I prefer blessed, if you manage to do it! And if you struggle ask for help! Tell your other half or family member you're finding it hard. Trust me, they really can't read your mind! Call your midwife and everyone else on your list until someone comes to reassure you! And if you don't want to do it then fine. I won't lie, I am all for breastfeeding, but mothers should not be judged by others (especially other mums) for the choices they make which are 99.8% of the time for the benefit of their baby, and they shouldn't belittle themselves either which is more than often the case. Do what's best for your individual, different from any other, baby. Yes there are all the pros and cons of each method, but it's about your sanity and your baby's happiness, so like most things in life make the choice that reaps the most rewards for you and your loved ones. All I would say is that breastfeeding is hard, but totally worth it, and things can go the way you wanted them to. Don't give up at the first hurdle, but don't jump over it by yourself. Heck! Even contact me if you're struggling!
I hope that kinda helps someone in some way! Baby's are the most precious thing Heavenly Father can ever give us, so in the end just enjoy them! They don't stay tiny for long, and once they are bigger I hardly think one of the first things they will ask you is how you fed them as a new born- it will most likely freak them out too much!