This is my last installment of the 10-part series “Ellie’s Pregnancy Journey”. In my previous post, I described everything surrounding the birth of our daughter Alaena. Now, let’s talk about breastfeeding. Ever since I found out I was pregnant I’ve been eager to breastfeed. There are numerous reasons for this. Firstly, it is healthier for your baby, as it provides him/her with antibodies that will help fight off viruses and different bacteria quickly. Secondly it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than baby formula. Thirdly, it increases the bond between mother and baby with skin-to-skin contact.
At every antenatal class I went to, the midwives always tried to encourage me to breastfeed. In fact they did a whole class on everything I needed to know, including how to breastfeed. However, they did tell us that they wouldn’t teach us how to bottle feed. I thought this was unfair for the mothers who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to, plus I would have also liked to have known a little bit about bottle feeding just in case I had to.
When I was a baby, I was bottle-fed. This was because when I had cow milk, I would throwing it all back up. It turned out that I was allergic to milk (lactose intolerant), so I had to be put on soy milk! Since I didn’t get this option when I was a baby, I wanted to breastfeed Alaena even more, as I knew it would be a great benefit to her.
I spoke to a lot of my mom friends about their experiences with breastfeeding. I wanted to gain as much knowledge and advice I possibly could about it. A lot of them had varied experiences. One of them told me that her son couldn’t get the hang of it at first and she struggled a lot, but then with her daughter it was very easy. So, I prepared myself that it might not be as easy as I initially thought.
After I gave birth, I stayed in the delivery room for a few hours and, pretty much straight away, I was encouraged to try and breastfeed by my midwife. At this time, I think I was a little too high on laughing gas (gas and air) to be able to do anything. Also, it had been a very very long night and I was pretty exhausted to give it a try straight away. The midwife gave me time to recover before trying, but my baby was hungry as soon as she came out, so I really had to feed her as soon as possible.
I can’t remember very much of trying to breastfeed her for the first time, as everything at that time is a little bit of a blur, but I know it was definitely not as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, it was proving difficult for our daughter to be able to latch on properly.
Shortly after, I was transferred to another room with four other new moms. I managed to get some food down and I took a quick power nap. Then, it was time to try again. At first, the sensation was a little strange and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure anything was actually coming out. I knew that the first few days of breast milk are the most important, as it is when your colostrum is in. This is different to milk, as it’s more of a yellow color and it contains many benefits for your baby’s immune system.
So, the first day of breastfeeding wasn’t great but was not so bad either. The main problem is that my breasts started to get really sore. This was due to my daughter not latching on properly, which made it painful and it took several attempts before she finally latched on correctly. To be honest, this process was starting to hurt me more than actually giving birth! I had a lot of support from the midwives about breastfeeding, but each time they showed me how to do it, and then I tried to do it on my own, it just didn’t work. By the end of the day, I was starting to feel pretty helpless, as it didn’t seem to be working at all.
I had to stay in the hospital an extra night because the nurses and midwives wanted to make sure I knew how to breastfeed properly before they sent me home. That night, staying there was horrendous. Aleana woke up screaming at 5am because she was so hungry and breastfeeding wasn’t going to plan. I felt really sorry for the couple next to me, as Aleana kept them wide awake all night. In the end, the midwife gave her a bottle of formula because both of us were getting so stressed that it wasn’t working.
I wasn’t sure if bottle feeding was the best thing to do. I didn’t want the formula to stretch her stomach so much that she’d expect more milk from me. That would be a big problem, as my milk wasn’t fully in yet. The next day I tried all day to breastfeed her. At one point, she produced a painful cut in my nipple. But, by the end of the day, I was starting to get the hang of it. I really wanted to just go home by this point. So, in the end, the midwives let me go back.
When I was heading home, I was still unsure about whether I wanted to breastfeed or bottle feed. I decided to give my breasts a bit of a rest, as they were more and more sore. So, I used formula through the night and then I went back to trying the breast the next day. Thankfully, I also had a midwife visiting me the next day, so I was able to get her to help me again. Unfortunately, when she was doing this, she told me that I was starting to get lumps in one of my breasts and she thought that this would probably lead to mastitis. So, in the end, after a lot of thinking about what I should do, I decided to use formula, as I was just finding it way too painful to carry on.
And that, my friends, is the end of my story. But, who knows? I may continue sharing my journey with you in the future. Until then, thank you for reading!
Ellie, my partner, and baby Aleana