I cried when I had to give my first baby a bottle.
She was three weeks old and wasn't getting enough food. She was sleepy and fell asleep in the bath. I knew she needed a bottle of formula but that didn't make it any easier.
This is my story - my breastfeeding journey.
When you have a baby you simply think that you will be able to breastfeed. Well, I did anyway. I had no idea how long it would take or more importantly how hard it can be for some mums.
When I saw friends feeding it was simple and quick. They could pop their baby on the boob, give them a quick feed, and that was it. Of course by the time these mums were out and about their babies were often several months old and had been feeding for a while!
Breastmilk is incredible
As a new mum, we want to do the best for our babies and we have all heard how good breastfeeding is for our babies and for ourselves.
Breastmilk has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat. It provides everything your baby needs to grow. And its all wrapped up in a convenient container which is ready to go at any time of the day or night!
Breastmilk is incredible! It contains antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers a baby's risk of having asthma or allergies. Research shows that babies that are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, without any formula have fewer ear infections, respiratory illness, or bouts of diarrhoea.
I had read all the literature I was given - I knew that breastfeeding my baby could help protect me from several different types of cancer, I knew that breastmilk was the best first food for my baby. What I didn't know was that exclusively breastfeeding was not going to happen for me!
In the beginning
My first baby was an emergency c section. I didn't labour and she wasn't really ready to come out. So from the beginning, I was prepared that my milk may take a few days to come in. Looking back I never got the engorgement that the other mums talked about. I didn't need to drag the cabbage leaves out of the freezer and put them in my maternity bras. The first few days, like for many new mums feeding was difficult and pretty painful. I remember crying in pain one night when I had to latch her on. Feeling like I just couldn't do it again.
She was slow to put on weight and I was monitored closely by my amazing midwife. A very sleepy baby, she needed to be woken constantly and a feed took a very long time - she would nod off and need waking several times during each feed. One day she went to sleep in the bath and my midwife knew it was time a bottle was introduced.
I had a fantastic, experienced midwife and I was also very lucky to have a best friend that was at the time a lactation consultant - who used to make house calls in exchange for baby cuddles. I trusted them 100% and there was no hesitation in introducing a bottle of formula to supplement feeding. But still, it was hard,
At the time, giving my three-week-old baby a bottle of formula, I felt like I had failed. I couldn't do this simple task of feeding my baby. Something that mothers for generations had done. I knew in my head what was needed but as a hormonal, sleep-deprived new mum all I felt was a failure.
Luckily I could see pretty quickly the effect a full tummy had on my beautiful little girl and because I had such a great support network I was able to keep breastfeeding as well.
In Northland, we are lucky to have one of the only DHBs that offer free breastfeeding clinics to mums. Three days a week our fabulous team of lactation consultants are available to mums. They also work at the hospital and there is a consultant on call for emergencies over the weekend. Every time you visit the lactation consultants you walk out feeling like a breastfeeding rockstar. It is evident that they love what they do and are passionate about helping mums. I just wish that all mums had access to the support that we get in Whangarei.
Continuing to breastfeed wasn't without its challenges. I had to express after every feed - day and night, to keep my supply up and eventually I also took medication - domperidone to help increase my supply. And as I mentioned I am very lucky to have an amazing friend who was a lactation consultant at the time, and without her support (on the phone and in person, with donuts) I probably wouldn't have been able to keep feeding for as long as I did with my first - a very long seven months!
Second Time Around
With my second baby, I got to six weeks before she also needed to be supplemented with a bottle of formula. She was an amazing breastfeeder and from the first feed knew exactly what to do. She was easy. But for the quality of my milk to be any good I basically had to eat all day and pretty much do nothing. This wasn't an option with a busy toddler and a newborn. And neither was expressing.
This time around there was no time for hours of expressing, I couldn't leave my 17-month-old to her own devices while I was attached to a breast pump - no matter how efficient it was.
I may have felt a little bit of guilt when at 4 months she decided that the bottle was quicker than feeding from mum, but it didn't last long. This time I was wiser and busier.
I had realised that my firstborn, now a bouncing bundle of toddler fun was perfectly healthy and to survive two under two I had to do what was easiest for all of us. If she preferred the bottle then who was I to argue!
Basically, I had worked out that sometimes mums have to do what is best for them.
Breastfeeding is amazing, the fact that our bodies can make the perfect food to feed our babies still amazing me. I find it incredible that mother's bodies know exactly the right amount that their baby needs, and that the baby can increase how much it gets when they're ready for more.
It blows me away that in hot weather breastfeeding mums can produce more watery milk for thirsty babes, that mum can feed a newborn and a toddler at the same time and produce the right milk for each little one!!!!
This week is World Breastfeeding Week, and I for one am very happy to celebrate how amazing breastfeeding is and how incredible our bodies are - mums rock!
But it's not easy for everyone, and no matter what the reason, that is ok too. We all know that breastmilk is the best, but when it comes down to it, I truly believe it is what is best for mums and babies too!
This is my breastfeeding journey - I would love to hear about yours too.
For more information about World Breastfeeding Week head to www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org