My thoughts on breastfeeding

I’ve been breastfeeding my baby every day for 264 days. I’ve fed him here there and everywhere, experienced all sorts of reactions and been given a lot of advice. Now, 8 months down the line, I’m sharing my thoughts on breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is tiring

It turns out that producing food for a whole other person using nothing but your lady udders is tiring. I didn’t expect that. This is no bad thing though because the extra energy required means you get to eat more food!

Shock at breastfeeding exclusively

I’ve never given my baby formula. This may shock some people. Many people suggested I give him formula before bed to help him sleep longer, but I didn’t. Instead I faithfully got out of bed every 1.5-2 hours and fed him. Some people suggested I use formula when I was suffering from severe food poisoning and dehydration, but I didn’t. Instead I did what I could to produce as much milk as I was able, and took twice as long to recover as I would have otherwise. I don’t know why. I’m not some sort of hippy with crystal skulls on the sideboard and a dreamcatcher over the bed. It just felt right for us. I’m not even particularly strict about following the official guidelines (to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months). It’s not been easy, but I’ve uncovered a dogged determination inside me that I didn’t know was there.

Breastfeeding on demand and routines don’t mix

I’ve listened to so many people talk about their amazing ROUTINE and how it’s saved their sanity/sleep/marriage/etc. It means that you can get your little one to go off to sleep oh so easily and have that magical glass of wine you’ve been looking forward to all day. You know when your baby will eat, sleep, poo, cry, write a novel…ok I’m getting a little facetious. Anyway, when you’re breastfeeding on demand you don’t know how much they’ve had and you don’t know when they’ll want to eat again, so you aren’t exactly in a position to implement a routine. It just doesn’t work*.

*Some babies have their own natural routine and still breastfeed on demand. Their mothers are truly blessed.

Breastfeeding gives you a bad back

No, not because you have giant pendulous bosoms creaking with milk. It’s because of the weird positions you adopt in order to breastfeed. You could be sat in the perfect chair with the perfect support cushion and I guarantee that in your haste to get the little one on the boob you’ll be sat slightly wonky and that misalignment will give you an aching back for many hours to come. Repeat over days, weeks and months and you’ll get a tense and painful back and your neck won’t move like it used to. Mothers ought to be given free massages at least once a week if you ask me.

Expressing milk is difficult

I have expressed milk, but I couldn’t get the milk to flow anywhere near as effectively as my baby can. Maybe it’s because my boobs aren’t all that big so even when they’re very full there isn’t loads of milk waiting there to be expressed, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I didn’t keep on trying. To be honest though, there just wasn’t the time in between the frequent feeds to express milk. I take my hat off to mothers who manage to find time to express milk and to do it successfully long term.

Feeling close

There’s no doubt about it, breastfeeding has given me regular opportunities to feel very close to my baby. I’m sure you get similar moments of closeness if you’re 100% formula feeding your baby. I do love those cuddles.

She’s the boss (living with a baby lead routine)

“Sleeping through”, that ever elusive holy grail and maybe the foremost reason people are so vehemently in favour of “routines” whether baby-lead or “parent enforced”. We’ve achieved it in our house – but at what cost?

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I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I’m so tired. That’s all I can think about these days (when I’m not occupied with Hannah of course). I’m no princess; I can cope with a bit of yawny yawny from time to time. Likewise I know I’m not special- we are all tired, let’s face it. But I feel I have to actually say it, because everyone else is bored of hearing it but the feeling is still there.

It’s certainly true that you get used to feeling tired and that weird malaise just sort of hangs over you, such that if I do get a rare chance for shut eye I’m out like a light. But it doesn’t last for long and the nap only just takes the edge off. I haven’t felt properly rested in over a year.

We had recently just got to the stage where Hannah was sleeping though, thanks, in our opinion, to The Routine. However life had other plans for us and when poor Hannah got her cold The Routine was shattered because she kept waking up to cough. So it’s back to square one, like looking after a 2 month old again.

Or gorgeous little bunny woke me up at 3 last night; just for the hell of it, it seemed, since she didn’t want her bottle. And she refused to go back to sleep, even when I actually cried at her saying “Mummy loves you darling but I need to sleep”. In the end I just put her down, listened to her whinge for 15 minutes and then assumed the silence meant that she had dropped off. But of course, that meant I couldn’t possibly do the same. What if the silence meant she had choked to death? What if she had literally frozen? What if there really was a monster under the bed that had got her? So of course I had to get up and check her. And so it continues. The best bit of course is when she properly wakes up and wants to play, all the while I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. But then, it’s all worth it when I see her beautiful smile.

I’m so tired.

Random things I’ve learnt

1.  Mummies are not allowed to be poorly.  If you tell anyone that you and/or your baby are ill, the stock response is “oh poor Hannah” (don’t get me wrong, I would do anything to take it away from her).  Your feeding/cleaning/changing duties do not stop. You do not get a lie in.  You do not have time to have a hot bath.

2. Mummies are supposed to know the answer.  “What does she want”? is the question my husband asks most.  “Where is the xxxx”? Is the next one.

3. Parenting books are rubbish.  I flicked through one the other day which I had devoured when I was pregnant, thinking it was the Bible of Babies.  I laughed out loud at the advice.  One bit said “by now your baby will be sleeping through”.  The author obviously hadn’t met Hannah.  And in fact has never been a mother.

4. You might not be able to establish the routine you wanted.  Before I had her, I was ambivalent about whether or not I would breastfeed, and when she came out I decided I definitely did want to.  I was helped with oodles of breastmilk (lucky me) which for whatever reason is no longer there.  So I’m topping up with formula and frankly it’s really nice to be able to drink from time to time, and to go out without having to get your boobs out to placate a hungry baby.

5. I’m fascinated by poo.  Sometimes she goes twice a day, sometimes once every 5 days. I have names for the different sorts.  I have names for the different colours.  I’d better not carry on with this bit.

6. Having a routine is great when you can stick to it.  Pros – I know when she will go to bed and when she is likely to get up, when she is likely to feed etc etc and can work my life around it.  She seems happier and is easier to manage. Cons – you are tied to the routine.  If she leaves it, I know about it all day for the next 48 hours.  So I can’t go out after 8pm….