My desire to breastfeed eclipsed the sun

Before my child was born, I decided that I was going to breastfeed, but I also told myself that I wouldn’t beat myself up if I struggled or if it didn’t work.

After my child was born, my desire to breastfeed eclipsed the sun.  I did struggle.  It took a few days for my milk to come in, my baby lost weight, and we had to top him up with formula.  I was expressing milk like a demon to try to increase my milk supply.  It’s an up hill struggle when you start topping up with formula.  You need to express as much as you are giving in formula, but without the assistance of the hormones triggered when a baby latches onto your nipple you have to work twice, maybe three times as hard. I nearly gave up on numerous occasions.  I did it though.  By six weeks I was breastfeeding exclusively.  I know that not everyone can do this.  This is an achievement that I am really proud of.

Those first six weeks were really hard.  I felt like a failure.  That feeling of failure to feed the person that has been growing inside you for the last nine months and who you have the most overwhelming, primal, feelings of love for is horrendous.  I dreaded going to have him weighed by the Health Visitors.  The Health Visitors were nice.  He was putting on weight.  He could have been a bit bigger but they said that they had no concerns at all. 

The same could not be said of my ex partner.  He was worried about our son’s size and weight.  He read a lot on the internet.  He checked various growth charts.  He downloaded i-phone apps to track our baby’s weight.  Although his actions were well intended; he wanted to be sure our son was healthy, he exacerbated my feelings of failure.  I felt like I was constantly being appraised.

It would have really helped me to have a partner who was supportive of my desire to breastfeed.  A male friend of mine maintains that his wife and their baby cannot get the latch right without his assistance.  I am personally not sure about this; I suspect that they do just fine.  What is important though is that he is totally bought into the breastfeeding relationship between his wife and their baby.  He has said that he thinks that a woman’s body is amazing: it can grow a baby; a woman gives birth and then she produces milk.  When she breastfeeds, in fact all of the time, he looks at her with admiration.

My ex partner didn’t find the breastfeeding experience amazing.  He found it embarrassing to have a partner who breastfed in public.  It wasn’t like I was stripping off in public, I always covered myself with a scarf or muslin.  I suspect this embarrassment came from his mother who insisted that I breastfeed alone in the spare bedroom rather than in the sitting room partaking in conversation with everyone else. I think he found it awkward to see a baby latched onto his partner’s nipple, hitherto nipples had been sex toys. I don’t know whether he was jealous, or just prudish, but it was damaging.

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Some breastfeeding truths:

1. Some women find it really easy to breastfeed, I envy them, others really struggle. For me, the first six weeks of breastfeeding was the hardest thing that I have ever done.  It was my greatest challenge, but is now my greatest achievement.

2.   Just because it hurts doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. A friend’s baby was ill recently.  Rather than waking her baby up to feed she let her baby sleep for an extra hour or so.  When the baby woke she was ravenous and latched onto my friend’s face. My friend had a love-bite / hicky whatever you want to call it on her face for at least a week.  A baby’s sucking reflex is really strong.  If a baby can leave a love bite on your face, it is no wonder that your nipples, a much more sensitive part of your body, hurt. 

3.  Your body is better at producing milk when you are relaxed and rested. Evolution has clearly gone wrong here.  You will probably never feel less relaxed or less rested than during the first six weeks postpartum when your body is establishing its milk supply. 

4.  Some babies aren’t that bothered about eating. Now that my baby is on solids, he still isn’t that bothered about eating.  That’s just the way he is. 

5.  A baby’s birth weight is as much a result of the efficiency of the placenta than an indication of the weight that a baby is genetically predisposed to be. I think we get too hung up about weight charts and graphs.  A mother knows when her baby is happy and healthy.

6.  The postpartum period is really tough, we have a responsibility to support the mother whatever her decision around breastfeeding may be.  Breastfeeding is such an emotive issue.  Everyone has an opinion on it.  Ultimately though, I believe it should be the decision of the mother whether to breastfeed or not.  Our role as partner, family or friend should be to support her whatever her decision may be. 

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28 Comments

  1. April 24, 2015 / 7:06 am

    Thanks for sharing this post on my blog! We really did have such similar breast feeding journeys. I’m sorry that your ex partner wasn’t as supportive as he could have been, but I admire your courage and perseverance. Also your list of breastfeeding truths are sooo true and relatable!!

    • thesingleswan
      April 24, 2015 / 7:27 pm

      Hi, thank you for your comment. I think lots of women have very similar experiences. It is just a shame that no one tells you about these challenges before you start. Maybe I was just naive but I thought it would be easy…how wrong I was. Take care. xx

    • May 23, 2015 / 1:13 pm

      I breastfed both of my cedrilhn. My oldest was 5.5lbs, with a tiny little mouth. I was pretty niave regarding breastfeeding, but determined. There were blisters, buckets full of tears, but I was determined to nurse at least 6 weeks. After 6 weeks passed things improved. She doubled her weight at 8 weeks, and nursed for 20 months before I weaned her. It was very difficult, but very rewarding. My second was a complete cake walk in comparison. She weaned herself around 22 months (started to go 2-3 days without nursing).I am happy that formula exists for those not able to nurse or that choose not too.All parents are trying to do the best they can for their kids, no matter if they formula or breastfeed. We needs to be more inclusively supportive to all moms, dad, and guardians.

      • thesingleswan
        May 24, 2015 / 7:53 pm

        Hi,

        Thank you so much for your comment and apologies for the delay in my reply. For some reason, it diverted to my spam. Fortunately, this evening I read through rather than deleting in bulk.

        Well done for struggling through and continuing with breastfeeding. It can be the hardest thing ever. There are so many strong opinions on everything to do with babies and breastfeeding in particular. I wish that someone had given me the honest truth about breastfeeding – I too was naive – I really struggled and I felt like a failure.

        I totally agree with your point about parents doing the best for their children whether they breast or formula feed. We do need to be more inclusive and supportive of all Mums, Dads and guardians. To be a parent is to be judged and it is really hard.

        Thanks again for your comment.

        xx

      • May 25, 2015 / 4:54 am

        You’re right. At the end of the day, all parents are trying to do their best, and we need to encourage that rather than a certain way of feeding the baby!

        • thesingleswan
          May 28, 2015 / 9:03 pm

          Very true. I wish more people subscribed to this philosophy. x

    • thesingleswan
      May 8, 2015 / 10:11 pm

      thank you for your comment. So many people that I have spoken to have now said that they found breastfeeding really difficult. I wish I knew this before then I wouldn’t have felt such a failure at the beginning. I am really proud of myself too because I didn’t give up. Thanks for your kind words and support. I really appreciate it. xx

  2. May 11, 2015 / 8:31 pm

    I know you are anonymous so I need you to set up an anonymous email address as you and I have to be friends! I am starting at the beginning with your blog and working my way through but I already know that we have been through a very similar time- the things my inlaws said about breastfeeding!! you can use yt contact page on my blog if you fancy a chat x
    Hannah Atkinson recently posted…What does it feel like to have a c section?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 12, 2015 / 10:16 pm

      Hello again,

      I thought exactly the same when I checked out your blog. Our experiences seem to be very similar. I left a comment on your post about your c-section. It wasn’t very eloquent but I thought it was a great and really touching post. My anonymous email address is Pen@thesingleswan.com. I will also send a message via the contact page on your blog. (Not tonight though because I have to sleep!) Speak soon. xx

  3. May 17, 2015 / 9:41 am

    Thanks for sharing! I sadly don’t know anyone who’s found breastfeeding easy. I do remember enviously looking at mums with older babies who just seemed to pop their babies on mid conversation without as much as flashing a nipple, while I was struggling trying to get the right grip on her, getting her to latch in right and all the while feeling self-conscious about flashing my boobs. Those early days are hard but it was so worth it! x
    Emma’s Mamma recently posted…New shoesMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 17, 2015 / 8:58 pm

      Yes, it is tough. I wish people were more honest with me about breastfeeding before I gave birth. The NCT and midwives portrayed it as easy. I then felt like a failure when it transpired that it wasn’t. Things are a lot easier with an older baby. You are right though, it is so worth it. It was a real struggle, but I am so proud of myself for struggling on through. x

  4. May 25, 2015 / 9:41 am

    I know your supply desaecred, and you’re just trying to do what’s best for your baby, but in the long run, supplementing is only going to make your problems worse, not help.If you start adding formula, baby is going to demand less milk, your body is going to produce less milk, and you are going to start a vicious cycle that is going to cause you to supplement with more and more formula, and most likely you’ll give up on breastfeeding within a few months.Why would you want to mix that garbage with milk that’s perfectly designed for your baby?Formula was designed for that 1-3% of women who truly cannot breastfeed. If you can breastfeed, I wouldn’t start adding formula. Just wait through your body’s natural response to your baby’s demand. It will even out in a few days.3 weeks is really young to introduce a bottle most babies at that age will prefer the bottle and not want to nurse anymore because it’s much easier to get milk out of a bottle. Most experts recommend waiting until your supply and nursing relationship is well-established (5-6 weeks) before introducing a bottle.

    • thesingleswan
      May 28, 2015 / 9:05 pm

      I know. Supplementing did further decrease my supply and it was a vicious circle and a real uphill struggle to increase my supply again. I was pumping milk like a demon. I don’t feel that I had much choice though. My baby lost a lot of weight. I had to supplement because he was dehydrating…

      Thank you for your comment. xx

  5. May 31, 2015 / 6:44 pm

    Thank you so much for tweeting me this link. It was so interesting to read about your journey with breastfeeding.

    Couldn’t agree more with point number 2! I was told by various people/official sources that breastfeeding ‘shouldn’t hurt if baby is latched on properly’ and told that if it’s hurting, it’s because I was doing it wrong. The reason I struggled with feeding my daughter was that it hurt so much, even though she latched on fine. I was totally unprepared for the pain.

    Also yes to point number 6. Support and encouragement in those first few weeks is vital xx
    Megan recently posted…May Round Up! Holiday sandwiching, birthdays, and, er, throwing upMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 1, 2015 / 7:48 pm

      Hi Megan,

      There are so many myths around breastfeeding and I really believe that the lack of an objective, honest truth makes things really difficult for new Mums.

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is really important to get the truthful message out there and to get people talking about breastfeeding in an honest way.

      xx

  6. August 6, 2015 / 11:28 am

    Pen I was the opposite of you, I had no inclination to breastfeed at all, but then again I was in denial for at least 3 months after finding out I was pregnant at 40.
    So well done you for persevering. x
    Lorraine recently posted…The big #Readcycle for Marie Curie UKMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 6, 2015 / 10:05 pm

      It must be tough when things aren’t planned. What I learned about pregnancy and having children though is that you just can’t predict how and how much it is going to change you as a person and your priorities in life. I thought that i didn’t really have much inclination to breastfeed, or at least I thought that i would be ambivalent. As it turns out, it was really important to me, and still is. I couldn’t have predicted that whilst I was pregnant.

      thanks for your comment. x

  7. August 20, 2015 / 6:45 am

    Shame you didn’t have the support you needed from your partner and his mum. I can relate with breastfeeding being struggle, it was for months for us; and it took about 3 months for us to breastfeed exclusively, albeit with breastmilk top-ups from hours of pumping daily (thanks God for electric breast pumps!).

    Breastfeeding is beautiful … not pain free; yes …. needs support; yes … many women’s biggest challenge in many ways, yes … many women’s biggest achievement; you bet!

    Well done for keeping on. #BlogComment
    Adventures of a Novice Mum recently posted…Breastfeeding and I Linky 10My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 23, 2015 / 8:40 am

      Thank you for your comment and I totally sympathise with the pumping round the clock. I hated it (the pumping that was) and it was such a relief to be able to breastfeed without pumping for a bit. My son is now just one and I still pump occasionally – when he is with his dad for the night and my boobs feel like they are going to explode. x

  8. October 9, 2015 / 6:19 am

    I love that comment about how your desire to breastfeed eclipsed the sun. I felt exactly the same way. After having IVF and a C-section, I felt my body had let me down (even though the IVF was purely because I di have a partner). Breastfeeding was hard, but I could do it, and now I love it.
    Min recently posted…BALL!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 10, 2015 / 7:02 pm

      Congratulations for breastfeeding after a C-section. I have friends who have done it but it is a massively tough journey. Are you still breastfeeding? Hats off to you!

  9. August 14, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your breastfeeding experience, I really enjoyed reading it. The facts you stated are so true and accurate, some midwives tell you if it hurts you must be doing it wrong or the baby isn’t latched correctly.
    Congratulations for being persistent and being able to breastfeed exclusively, proud of you for not giving up.

    • thesingleswan
      August 14, 2016 / 8:10 pm

      Hi,

      thanks very much for your comment. I appreciate it. Pen x

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