Next week Amelia turns one...which means that we will have been breastfeeding for one whole year! When I was pregnant I didn't have a clue what I was going to do, it just hadn't crossed my mind. I didn't buy any bottles, formula, breastfeeding essentials nothing at all. Once Amelia was born and we were back on the labour ward they latched her onto me straight away. She took to it like a breeze, she would feed non stop every hour and was known to all the midwifes as a big feeder! I'm not surprised as she was a whooping 9lb 13.5lbs so of course she was going to need to feed more regularly. I guessed from that moment on that we would be breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding actually could have saved my life! When I was 1 week postpartum I passed half of my placenta whilst breastfeeding you can read the full story here... As I had a forceps delivery they didn't remove all of my placenta after giving birth. The midwives hadn't noticed even when they did their check, no one would have guessed it was still there. So on the Sunday night whilst getting ready for bed and mid feeding Amelia I had to make a dash to the bathroom and throw Amelia in Andy's arm. I had no idea what was happening, I actually thought I had given birth again it was that painful and I thought it was a lung (ha!!) It was huge. I got taken back to hospital as I had lost too much blood and was really low on iron. Luckily Amelia got to come with me as I was still breastfeeding. I was told, it was lucky I was still breastfeeding as it contracted my uterous and it was shrinking and allowed me to pass the placenta which might I add was the size of a A4 piece of paper! If I hadn't been breastfeeding it would have been inside me for months and could have been really bad for my body and Amelia as she was drinking my milk.
I'm not going to lie and say it was easy, because it wasn't. Many sleepless nights, many days where Amelia would cluster feed and it would seem like all I was doing was feeding her, many nights where I would sit up in bed feeding Amelia and wanting to punch Andy in the face because he was snoring his head off. But it was all worth it, every bit of it even the horrible cracked nipples! I would stay up pretty much all night and have Amelia lay on my chest as she wouldn't sleep in her moses basket. So I would get 1-2 hours sleep max. I had great support from a baby group on Facebook and a few online forums from other mums who were in the same situation as me. It was great to find that there were other mums across the world going through the same thing.
For the first month or so every time Amelia would latch on I would tense up and cringe with pain as it would hurt so much! Many times I thought about giving up but stuck at it because I knew it was what was best for my baby. Of course there is nothing wrong with formula feeding and if we couldn't breastfeed then that is what we would of had to do. But it just gives me so much encouragement knowing that Amelia has had all the good nutrients during her first year of life. I did pump for a few weeks when Amelia was around 1-2 months as it hurt so much it gave me some relief to pump for a while. It went well but soon gave up and went back to exclusively breastfeeding as it worked best for us. Amelia would drink from the bottle then but she won't now. I think I should have continued to feed her from the bottle every once in a while as it would have been much easier if I had to go out but because we didn't she would never take it.
For the first 6 months Amelia would feed at least every two hours and for around 10-20 minutes at a time, when she was younger it was more like every hour for anywhere between 10-30 minutes. She always fed on demand. Now I tend to feed her in the morning, after lunch, in the evening and before bed around 10-11pm. She now sleeps through the night thank god! As she would always wake up at least 2-3 times a night right up until around 9 months. She now sleeps from 11-8am roughly which is great!
I miss the first few months of breastfeeding even though they were painful it was so adorable to see Amelia milk drunk and smiling after nursing. Now I get scratched to high heaven and punched in the face, toys shoved down my throat, hair pulled out, and slapped in the face! I have enjoyed nursing Amelia and I'm not sure how much longer we plan to continue. I am now back at work and I have already noticed my supply has decreased, Amelia now eats more solids which is brilliant after all the struggles we had in the past with her eating food. But now she is eating its much easier and she can go longer without having to nurse. I guess we will just nurse at night and in the morning, I think it's more of a comfort thing with her.
Tips for Exclusively Breastfeeding:
Stay hydrated! - Drink at least a litre of water a day. This is my biggest regret, as I don't drink water it was very hard for me. I did notice when I drank more my supply was better.
Eat a lot! - Have a healthily balanced diet. Breastfeeding it hard work and I would always find myself starving during each session. I would end up with packs of biscuits and crisps next to me everyday because if Amelia fell asleep in my arms which she did almost every time I would find myself starving! You burn roughly 500 calories a day so you need to get those calories back by eating more. Also, my bedside table usually has about 10 empty packets of crisps and chocolate wrappers as I'd get hungry in the night.
Keep track - If you are feeding on demand ensure that you keep track of when they are feeding and how long for. You can download some fantastic mum friendly apps nowadays.
Invest in some nursing bras, tops and covers! This is one thing I didn't do. Still to this day I don't have any nursing clothing or bras. Which isn't a huge deal but it would have been so much easier to nurse.
Stick at it! - The first few months will be tough! But it does get easier with time. Cherish those moments and invest in some good nipple cream!
I have loved breastfeeding and it has been an amazing bond with Amelia. In the future if we have baby no2 I will definitely try and breastfeed again. A lot of people I know are shocked when they find out I'm still breastfeeding, I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with it especially younger women but its the most natural thing in the world. It doesn't gross me out, why should it. So there you go, there's my experience with breastfeeding I hope it can help some women out there, perhaps if you are deciding what to do or having trouble with feeding - just remember stick at it and it does get easier and if you can't breastfeed, you are not a failure!
Were you able to breastfeed? Did you choose formula over breastfeeding? I'd love to hear your story.