No two babies are the same, and one Sassy Mama finds that the breastfeeding journey can be very different too.
We’re told it’s going to be tough, but does anything truly prepare you for the realities of breastfeeding? If you struggled the first time around, or you didn’t feed as long as you intended, rest assured, it doesn’t have to be the same the next time around. This is my personal breastfeeding journey with both my kids.
I ask myself almost every day, how did I get here?
I’m eight months into breastfeeding my second-born, a gorgeous, chubby baby girl. Each night, at 6:45pm you’ll find me in the nursing chair feeding her to sleep. After a busy day at work or running around after her energetic three-year-old brother, it’s our chance to snuggle and reconnect. Often, she’ll decide she needs a bit more uninterrupted Mum time. Usually, around 3am. Despite the sleep deprivation, there’s something incredibly special about those moments.
Breastfeeding For The First Time
I didn’t have the greatest experience breastfeeding my firstborn. There were, quite literally, blood and tears (mostly mine, not his!). Two weeks in, I had to switch to exclusively pumping or risk losing a nipple. I scoured the internet. I poured over parenting books. I sought help from lactation consultants. Nose to nipple, hamburger grip, different nursing positions, wait until the mouth is wide open, make sure the chin isn’t tucked. I’d ace the written exam, but could I do the practical? No.
Adding insult to injury I had plentiful supply. There was no “excuse” to quit. It was my mind that didn’t want to continue rather than my body telling me I couldn’t. Each time I strapped on that pump it didn’t feel like I was providing for my son, but rather more like I was having the life sucked out of me. Other mums would tell me how much easier it was to just give the baby the boob. But for me, it just didn’t work.
Around two months in, I reached for the formula tin. The guilt was so overwhelming that I didn’t even tell my husband at first. One feed replacement became two. Then two became three. Eventually, I was only directly feeding him in the middle of the night – the only time he was calm enough to feed and when I couldn’t be bothered messing around with a bottle. My breastfeeding journey completely came to an end when Bub was around six months old.
Persevering For My Second Born
My experience certainly didn’t fill me with hope as I prepared for the birth of my baby girl. I had made peace with my first experience and despite the trepidation, was ready to try my best for round two. We started well but hit a big hurdle very early on. The one thing that breastfeeding mothers fear more than anything else. Mastitis.
She was just three weeks old. It was mid-December and I was planning on braving the shops to finish off Christmas shopping. By 10am I had a throbbing headache. By noon my back was so sore I could barely move. At 2pm I called the GP for an appointment and by the time I arrived at the doctor’s at 3:30pm I was shaking uncontrollably with a fever of 39.5.
And so, after being at home only a few weeks, I found myself being driven back to the hospital for a round of IV antibiotics. I had spent months agonising over how the drive to the hospital during labour would go. Let me tell you, I would take that any day over the pain of that drive with mastitis! Those nights in the hospital were almost unbearable. More than once I thought it would mean the premature end of my breastfeeding journey.
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Somehow, we got through. As I made it to the two-month mark I gave myself a little mental high-five but also lamented the fact that my baby girl wouldn’t take a bottle. She became a fussy little thing! By four months we’d managed to introduce a bottle of expressed milk for a couple of feeds a day. The new goal was to make it to six months of exclusively breastfeeding.
That milestone has now come and gone and I find myself faced with a question I never entertained. When, and how will I stop?
That is a question for another day. For now, I’m just thankful. Thankful that, despite the obstacles, the story of my breastfeeding journey has been rewritten.
This is part of a special series, “Everything You Need To Know About Breastfeeding In Hong Kong“. For more posts on breastfeeding in Hong Kong, click here.