Looking back on the past 11 months, I feel very blessed that I was able to breastfeed my baby boy. It has been a beautiful journey, but it wasn’t without pain, sweat and tears! My little man arrived via caesarean section and due to complications during the birth, he was in the neonatal icu for the first 3 days. This of course threw my plan of breastfeeding my beautiful new baby in the comfort of my private room out of the window. I was wheeled into the icu, drowsy, a bit disorientated and sweaty from the hormones and warm icu, and suddenly given my hungry newborn to feed. I think it is best to be clear that breastfeeding never came naturally to me in the beginning. All I can recall is the nurse telling me to put my arm here, move this way and that way, lift the baby up and down and to the sides, and after all of that I rarely got it right! The best position I found during the first few days was the football position with a pillow under baby. Sadly I never mastered this over time and ended up requiring every pillow in the house just to get the position and latch “right”. Fast forward two weeks and I had sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. I hope I am not the only one, but it took me so long to get the latch, that by the time I got baby on, I soldiered on hence the sore and cracked nipples. I have read about it, spoken to mums about it, but nothing quite prepares you for it. The pain was not pleasant to say the least, especially with a newborn who was feeding every 3 hours.
Despite the struggles in the beginning, I knew in my heart that I wanted to breastfeed and knew I had to try everything to get it right. I saw an experienced lactation consultant and after a few sessions, we had no success with the latch. At a crossroads, and knowing I wanted my baby to get as much breastmilk that I could provide, I decided to express my milk and bottle feed. I felt like I was failing my baby by being unable to physically feed him, but found reassurance and comfort in knowing that my baby was still getting all the important nutrients from my milk. Luckily my little man wasn’t too fussed between either breast feeding or bottle feeding so we were very fortunate. Expressing breast milk also has it challenges especially during the first few weeks when establishing milk supply and not having a spare bottle of milk on hand.
Fast forward 3 months and after dreading the 3am express, I starting putting baby back on the breast. Fast forward another month, my baby was fully breastfed. I am still not sure what changed, but I am thankful everyday that I persevered and that I finally got to experience breastfeeding naturally. Funnily enough, it eventually became second nature to me and I finally experienced those feeding moments like you see in the movies. My little boy was fully breastfed until 10 months and slowly started to wean himself off from about 8-9 months. I was hoping to breastfeed for a year, but I am grateful that I managed to feed him for as a long as I did especially after the rocky start. It is a journey I will always treasure, and the memories shared with my boy with always remain close to my heart.
To all the pregnant and new moms out there, every journey is different and I think it is almost guaranteed to not go according to plan. Seek help from an experienced and qualified lactation consultant as soon as possible especially during those early days. Draw support from your partner, and include him in your journey. Look after yourself, keep hydrated and eat healthily. There are so many changes during those first few weeks that mom often forgets to look after herself too. Most importantly, enjoy every moment….even if you crying with sore nipples. Those early days are so special, and before you know it, you will be planning your baby’s first birthday party. Wishing all the special moms out there a beautiful breastfeeding journey!