Hello and welcome back to another instalment of The Baby Feeding Series, that features real stories from real parents who have experienced how hard and baffling feeding your baby can be. I want this series to be a place where parents can share their own experiences in the hopes that other parents who are struggling can feel less alone. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world but it's one of the most rewarding jobs too and so I want to share their stories.

Last week we had the lovely Jenny from Midwife and Life who kindly offered an insight into stopping breastfeeding when your toddler isn't quite ready. It was a very honest post and had lots of tips and advice to help you along your way. This week I would love to introduce the lovely Jo from Cup Of Toast who asked to write a post about how she breastfed all of my boys but found it very difficult with her first but also found that there was a surprising lack of support. If it hadn't been for an exceptionally kind and patient health visitor, she would have been left feeling very upset in those precious first weeks when you're finding your feet. So, without further ado I'd like to hand you over to the lovely Jo.
My Breastfeeding Experience
I had it all planned. I’d been to the antenatal classes, I’d seen the videos. The birth was the hard part, after that would be a doddle(ish). I wasn’t looking forward to the nappies, making sure the baby’s temperature was ok. I steeled myself for the sleepless nights and the removal of spontaneity from my life. I organised the house and car and read review after review of car seats, buggies, changing bags and cots to make life as straight forward as possible after baby arrived. I bought myself a breast pump and a few bottles as a ‘just in case’ option. But the feeding part itself? Well, I was determined to exclusively breastfeed. The midwife said that the baby would breast crawl from my stomach to my breast, latch on and feed directly after birth. It did sound like some sort of peculiar swimming stroke that I hadn’t encountered from my days with a swimming club, but apparently it happened. The only other piece of advice was that if it hurt then baby wasn’t latched on properly so you should remove baby and try again.

Fast forward to Chief’s birth. He had apparently missed the memo about breast crawl (perhaps he’d slept through that class?) but I forgave him. After all he was minutes old and had just been yanked out of me with instrumentation that looked as though it had fallen out of a horror movie props catalogue. So I slid him upwards as discreetly as possible and plonked him on. Then gritted my teeth, and then gritted them again. This hurt. I wouldn’t say anything, he seemed ok and I didn’t want to disturb him further. Plus there was all sorts going on at the business end that I thought I was better off ignoring. We stayed in hospital for a few days because of the damage to his head made during his entry to the world. One lovely midwife sat with me one night encouraging me to try different positions, but that was the only breastfeeding advice or support that I was given, and it continued to hurt.

When I was discharged and sent out into the world the real trouble started. One midwife told me that of course it hurt, I was bending forward. Another suggested that I didn’t feed Chief until I could get comfortable, after all he wouldn’t starve (all the while I might be driven mad by the hormonal surge that made me feel as though I was having a hot flush every time he cried in hunger). Out of desperation I called an advice line one evening. “It shouldn’t hurt” they reiterated over the phone. “How many times have you tried to latch him on?” “A few” I confessed. “If you’ve tried more than three times and it still hurts then he’s not latched on properly and you’ve failed him”. Stunned I ended the phone call and promptly burst into tears. Fortunately, unbeknown to the call handler, I had a supportive husband at home. “It’s ok,” he said, “I’ve found a group that you can try”. A kind friend offered to come with me so off we went. After a couple of wrong turns we found the breastfeeding counsellor in a back room of a church hall. She was sitting with another lady when we got there. “Wake him up, strip him off and get him hungry” she barked. I did as I was told. “Now, expose your breast and wait for him to find it”. Again, I did as I was told whilst other people started filing into the room waiting for their turn whilst my boob was hanging out dripping milk and Chief was getting red with rage. Eventually, after a few mortifying minutes, I gave in and helped him. “You didn’t give him a chance” the counsellor tutted before turning to the assembled crowd of nervous women, “Next!”.

It was around eight weeks that I had a breakthrough, in the form of my wonderful health visitor. She was so supportive and could see how much I wanted to try, desperate to avoid fulfilling the comments on the advice line and having to stop altogether because I couldn’t get my head around it. She directed me to a cranial osteopath in a nearby town who examined Chief’s head, found a problem with his jaw, and promptly put me on the road to breastfeeding success. By twelve weeks it had stopped hurting and I was starting to enjoy it, even though my cross cradle position of feeding raised a few eyebrows and wasn’t the most comfortable position for me, it worked perfectly for Chief and he was content.

When he got to around eight months old and was weaning and starting to sleep more, I raised my voice to anyone who would listen about breastfeeding. It may not hurt some people, and although it wasn’t a 10/10 on my pain scale, but it did hurt, and it wasn’t comfortable, and it wasn’t close to being as natural and straightforward for me as some of the antenatal classes had me believe.

So I’ll end with this thought. If your baby is fed then one of their happy boxes will have been ticked. If they are happy, chances are that you will have an opportunity to focus on another area of the vast parenting wilderness that greets you when you have a new born. So don’t do what I did and put pressure on yourself to do it one way or another. Do whatever works for you and your baby.

Incidentally, I have since had two more babies, both exclusively breastfed, and both fed totally differently. With both, however, the biggest difference was that I was so much more relaxed and took my lead from them. That you are nurturing your child is surely the most important factor to consider when it comes to how you feed, clothe, bathe them or even which nappies you choose to use, so that should be your focal point, not what a stranger on the end of the telephone says to you.
About Jo

Jo blogs at Cup of Toast about her family life, food, adventures and everything in between. She is a mama to 3 boys (aged 6, 4 and 2) and several fur babies. Jo enjoys reading, writing and eating biscuits 😉
You can find Jo over at Cup of Toast
Don't forget to go and find her social media platforms and give her a little like or follow.