Monday, 30 June 2014

Breastfeeding: My Experience

To celebrate Edward turning 6 months old (today!!) I shall share my experience of breastfeeding with you. ALL of it. I've now breastfed him for half a year, he's starting the solids, but we're not done on the breastfeeding just yet. Breastfeeding is so important and so special, therefore I want to do the 'topic' properly. So make sure you are holding a cup of tea and sitting comfortably - it's a long read!

My story

Breastfeeding was never an active decision for me. I had always planned to breastfeed. I had originally hoped that Edward would be born and put onto my chest immediately so we could start feeding within minutes. However, I had a c-section due to him lying in a transverse position. This meant I didn't get to hold him for quite a while. Nevertheless, I got my skin-to-skin time and he started to feed. This was all quite a blur as I was quite drugged up.

Breastfeeding in Public

Breastfeeding at Edward's Christening
I felt nervous at first feeding in front of others, which I guess is only natural. But Edward needed food, and my desire to feed him was greater than my self consciousness. The first time I fed him in public went really well. We were in London when Edward was 6 days old. We went to Café Rouge in Charing Cross, sitting at a window seat with a view onto the street. My mum had got a lovely shawl especially for me for Christmas to cover up any skin (she gave one to my sister too). I made a rookie error, never to be made again, by ordering my food before I started to feed Edward. My food arrived just as Edward wanted his. And again, stupidly picking mussels, I couldn't eat them one handed! So I had to sit and much away at chips until his 40 minute feed was over before I could return to des moules tiède. Since then I've been very confident about feeding in public. I've fed: on a train, on a bus full of uni students, in a lecture, in a seminar, at a Liberal Democrat Conference, on a plane, in a shop, on a bench in town, in a restaurant, in a cafe, in a Church. We've done it everywhere!

I'm a strong believer of breastfeeding in public. I feel there is a stigma still associated with it, even though it is not like it is in the USA. In the 1990s, following being kicked out of a pub/restaurant for breastfeeding one of my siblings, my mum and her friends planned a "tit-out" (rather than a sit-in - get ithaha!). I'm not sure how true the last part of that is, as it was my grandfather who told me and I've yet to ask mum if it's true, but I do know that she wasn't allowed to feed in there. Luckily, I've never come across that, and rarely the prejudice comes from the owners or managers of places (as that would be breaking the law), the prejudice comes from social media, online abuse and photos taken, or of members of the public huffing and puffing about having to view such obscenities. I feel repetitive in saying that breastfeeding is so important - but I can't stress it enough. If we are trying to encourage people to breastfeed, we can't be saying "You need to breastfeed, but you can't do it there, or there, or there." I think society has a big role to play in this encouragement as well. We shouldn't just be campaigning for mothers to breastfeed, but also for the public to accept that mothers will breastfeed.

Breastfeeding and Infections

I found breastfeeding really difficult on my left side. From the start, the latch wasn't right. We always struggled on that side. When Edward was a month and a half, I noticed a lump. I went to the GP and I was referred to the Breast Clinic. The doctor I saw at the breast clinic did an ultra sound. There was a solid mass in my breast as I had felt. Round and huge. He started to look quite nervous and snapped at the nurses to get the biopsy kit ready. He extracted (painfully!) a yellow bloody mucus. Sorry for the TMI. The nurse looked at the doctor and said to him, "Phew, you can relax now!" I guess they were thinking the lump could have been worse. It was an abscess, which is a build up of infection. Sometimes it can be cured by antibiotics alone. In my case I needed it to be drained surgically every week and washed with antibiotics. I was also maxed out on oral antibiotics.

From 7lb 11oz (3.6kg)
This had a big effect on my breastfeeding. The surgeon advised me to express so that Edward's mouth would not get near the infection incision 'holes'. I expressed for a week, until the surgeon said that the breast tissue was so badly damage by the infection that if I wanted to stop expressing and feeding on that side, I could, as I might not ever be able to return to feeding even in future children. I ended up stopping a few days afterwards. There was a day or two of engorgement, but that was it - the expressing for a week had already slowed down the supply anyway.

That side is all better now. I've even been told I could return to feeding on that side if I want, however I have decided not to for several reasons. Firstly, it'd take a very long time to bring the supply back up to Edward's demand. Secondly, I'm quite nervous about it! Thirdly, Edward is weaning and I am reducing his milk on the other side now. And finally, I am content with feeding on one side now. It's perfectly fine to feed on one side - you don't get that confusing dilemma of trying to remember which side the baby fed from last! The down side is that I have boobs that are different in size by about 2 cup sizes!
To 18 lb 4 oz (8.3kg) 

Breastfeeding and My Body

Breastfeeding has given me confidence in my body, and taught me not to be ashamed of it. I used to be very self conscious of my body, especially as a teenager, to the point where I dabbled in an eating disorder. Things have now turned out completely. Lying on an operating table (my c-section) and having to regular get semi naked for doctors due to the infections, I am no longer worried about what my body looks like. Some people say breastfeeding makes them more self conscious about their bodies. In my opinion, how can you be anything but proud of what your body has achieved?

Breastfeeding and My Baby

Breastfeeding has been wonderful. Edward has thrived, yes even from only having one boob! He has consistently gained weight as well as a bottle fed baby. He is now 6 months old and he is one hell of a happy baby. He loves his milk. He loves his cuddles. Breastfeeding has made the bond between us extra special because I am the one he needs. For all the difficulties we have come across, I wouldn't do the last 6 months in any other way! He would be the bouncy baby boy he is, if I had.

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A small update as I started drafting this post a few days ago: Infections are back due to us reducing the amount Edward feeds because he is moving to solids. This means another course of antibiotics and having to up the feeding again slightly. This has not made me feel down, I just see it as comical the amount of time I somehow manage to get an infection of some sort! Anyone reading this, debating about breastfeeding, must remember that I am highly susceptible to infections and so they mustn't assume they will have them too!

Please leave a comment below if you have a question or just something to say about the things I've raise!