As a dietitian, “breast is best” had been drilled into our repertoire during our studies when it comes to feeding newborns. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding that it was a no brainer for me to enter motherhood with a goal to breastfeed for at least 12 months. That is…until I actually started breastfeeding.
I wasn’t counting on my little worm having a tongue tie or the pain of her latching on or the brutality of the midwives kneading my boobs for colostrum to feed my bub with. There’s nothing worse than fighting off a hypo, being sleep deprived, having a screaming newborn who’s hungry and feeling like an absolutely failure of a mother.
Thankfully we had multiple support services we could reach out to and we ended up borrowing a breast pump while waiting for the tongue tie to get fixed, received some advice around supplementing with formula and given a ton of reassurance that we were doing a great job. I had my first cry as a mum after that phone call.
Even after my little worm got a tongue tie fixed, I continued to exclusively pump and supplement with formula when we felt we needed to. My pumping station was organised with snacks, hypo food, water etc. and my husband could bottle feed her. Our system worked a treat, our little girl was thriving and growing well.
I reluctantly went to see a lactation consultant who only focused on going back to breastfeeding and how it was especially important because of my diabetes. It was never implied but I constantly felt judged for not nursing directly from the breast. And perhaps it was partly the guilt I felt for not doing so. But I had already established my comfort zone with pumping and the pain from that first week of trying to breastfeed still lingered.
I gave up within the day and went back to pumping.
It was all going well and we were settling into a routine. Even though I liked being able to quantify how much milk the little worm was getting, pumping was time consuming and a bit isolating. My goal for breastfeeding drastically shortened to six months. That is, until the mastitis hit, which brought along a whole new level of pain and misery.
I was encouraged, again, to nurse from my breast to help clear the mastitis. Out of desperation, I decided to try again. This time, breastfeeding wasn’t as bad as I had remembered, so I persisted. All my friends I had spoken to reassured me that breastfeeding took several weeks for them to establish. So it seemed like persistence is key here.
We’ve now been getting into breastfeeding for about three weeks now. There have been times where my husband has found me crying with the little worm screaming at my breast. But there’s also a newfound sense of pride and freedom of the ability to be out of the house for longer periods of time as long as we can find a place to nurse while I build my confidence up to whip my boob out in public.
Being able to breastfeed has been such an achievement for me. Even though we still have some rough days, I think we’re slowly getting there. More importantly this experience has taught me to be patient with myself. It’s all well and good to push the boundaries but you can’t do it when your mental health is down in the dumps and your body is physically constantly in so much pain.
Even though breast is best, fed is ultimately better, no matter how you do it. My breastfeeding goal now is to last till three months, cos I have better things to do (like cuddle my newborn) than to have sore boobs all the time!