World Breastfeeding Week – Real Life Stories
I didn’t realise 6 years ago how much breastfeeding would be a part of my life. I had a really rocky start with my eldest. She didn’t latch properly and I ended up with severe mastitis and in hospital. I exclusively pumped for 6 weeks whilst she had a tongue tie cut and we tried everything we could to get her feeding from the breast.
I spent most of my week at various local breastfeeding groups/drop ins. I finally got her to the breast at 7 weeks old and I managed to feed her until she was 2.5 years. I weaned her during my next pregnancy as I developed a severe aversion and couldn’t carry on. My second child was diagnosed with Down syndrome when I was 20 weeks pregnant.
I worried that I wouldn’t be able to feed him. He was born and spent 2 weeks in the scbu. He came home with an ng tube and I again was pumping round the clock. I managed to get him from the ng/bottle to directly from the breast by the time he was a month old and again we fed until around 2.5. He again weaned in my following pregnancy due to aversion.
This time I was pregnant with identical twins. I wanted more than anything to directly feed from the breast from the start and didn’t want to have to use a pump this time as I found it very challenging. Despite them both having a tongue tie I managed to tandem feed them from the beginning. We did a few top ups of hand expressed milk using a syringe and cup for one of my twins but it was by far my easiest journey.
The local drop ins helped me so much that in between my eldest and my son being born I became a breastfeeding helper with the BFN and volunteered in those same groups. I have recently continued my training and will be taking my first call on the breastfeeding helpline in the very near future!
I was recovering from emergency c-section at the time [I wrote the below post] and Rowan wasn’t taking to breastfeeding very well. His latch was very shallow and I was super sore (everywhere!). I was also quite emotionally traumatised from the birth. Looking back I don’t know how I got through it! It was quite dark for a little while. I’m sure Breastfeeding helped to give me purpose and with bonding when I was really generally struggling. I did go for some breastfeeding peer support in the end (even though I’m a third time breast feeder and have never struggled with previous two children – I really had to let go of ego and accept the help I needed) and that helped tremendously. He’s now nearly 22 months and still breastfeeding. It’s been such a journey this time.
The realities of breastfeeding a newborn
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unkempt hair pulled back from a grimacing face, the darkest of eye circles, an already aching body supporting burgeoning weight, the hot and cold flushes and hormonal rushes as milk begins to flow, engorgement, the rush to get him latched onto cracked and bruised nipples, the ‘haven’t-left-the-sofa-ness’ of it all. 1am, 2am, 3am cluster feeds…4am, 5am, 6am cluster feeds, the guilt as you wonder “is it time again already?”
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the getting through each day, watching your baby absorb the most magical nourishment, the skin-to-skin, the bond, the looks, the physical tie to this most precious soul, the healing of your uterus – returning it to its rightful place, the relief on your baby’s face at being on your magical body, only *your* body, the all day loving, the knowing it gets easier, the milk is here – it’s warm, it’s ready. The looking forward to dreamy days of curing all with your magic. The knowing this pain is just for now. The realisation this is just for now, and now doesn’t last ?
Our breastfeeding journey started while I was pregnant with my first. The only people we knew with children had all breastfed and the state run antenatal classes we attended happened to be taken by an amazing (and award winning) lactation consultant who completely normalised breastfeeding.
To me, breastfeeding was normal. I had no preconceptions (positive or negative) and no goals or targets that I was aiming for. In that antenatal class we had watched a youtube video of the “breast crawl” and I was in awe of what can happen when you allow natural instincts to play out.
When my baby was born, umbilical still attached, he crawled up my stomach and rooted for my nipple, he was just minutes old. It was the most overwhelming and amazing moment and I believe that it was fundamental in the smooth breastfeeding ride we had.
My nipples were sore for the first few days as they adjusted but it just got easier and easier and before I knew it he had been exclusively breastfed for 6 months and we were introducing solids! I returned to work when he was 7 months old, I expressed milk which he had in a bottle while I was away. I had to travel with work and when I returned from a 2 week trip he had forgotten all about breastfeeding, I was absolutely devastated, he was only 8 months old.
It took a week, but with perseverance we overcame it and we were back to feeding for all of his feeds. A couple of weeks later I had to go away again for another 2 weeks and it broke my heart knowing that he was likely to forget me again, and unsurprisingly, he did, this time no amount of effort could bring it back.
I continued to express and bottle feed him for another two months but in the end it was just too much and we switched to formula shortly before his first birthday. I was riddled with guilt for having allowed my job to stop us before we were ready, mourning the loss of the bond that breastfeeding had given us and coping with the serious added faff involved in bottle feeding (boobs are so convenient!).
When I fell pregnant again, the thing I was most looking forward to was breastfeeding again, my baby girl is now 10 months old and we’re still strong on our journey, I don’t know when it will end, but I know it won’t be until we are ready and that’s not yet!
’ve been breastfeeding continuously now for 3.5 years. In that time, there have been many highs and lows in my life, but breastfeeding has rarely been anything other than a lovely, life enriching experience. I breastfed my 3.5 year old until he self-weaned very recently. He still asks for milk sporadically, but has mostly given over my boobs to his little brother, who was born in March.
The early days with my 3 year old were challenging. He was born at 37 weeks and syringe fed exclusively until he learned to latch on day 3, and I found the support in hospital really inadequate. I was absolutely determined to breastfeed but it was a real fight and I was told that I was giving my baby jaundice by not accepting formula. Once he’d got the hang of it, though, we were fine, and never needed a drop of formula.
During my breastfeeding journey with him, we sadly lost 5 pregnancies. 3 of these were early miscarriages, which had no impact on my milk supply. The other two, however, were little girls whom we lost at later stages of pregnancy. With both of these, my milk supply disappeared and my little boy continued to dry nurse. When both girls had died and been delivered, I feared my milk wouldn’t return. It took almost a week both times, but it did. This can be a really traumatic experience for women, to have milk but no baby to feed. But for me it was a source of comfort to be able to continue to nourish my toddler in harrowing circumstances.
He also breastfed through my most recent pregnancy, until his little brother was born healthy at 35 weeks in March. The early days of this journey were much more straightforward, with an uninterrupted hour of skin to skin at birth, during which breastfeeding was established. However, we have had our challenges, with severe reflux and a mild airway disorder associated with prematurity.
I actually think it’s unusual to find a breastfeeding story that’s without challenges. Mums who breastfeed in the UK do so within a society that frowns upon it, certainly past 1. They often do so without support systems in place, either institutional or familial. But they nevertheless persist, in the knowledge that they are gaining health benefits for themselves and their babies with every day or breastfeeding that passes.
I have been breastfeeding now for 2,033 days. (Wow! That feels like a lot to see it like that)
My first son, Harrison, was born in January 2015. I desperately wanted to breastfeed and was thrilled when we he did the breast crawl after birth and latched on.
Day 5, the midwife came to our house to do Harrison’s weight check, and such, and he’d lost 20% of his body weight. We were quickly sent back to hospital, and a few blood tests later revealed that Harrison was really poorly with an infection, dehydration, and needed to be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
He was there for a week, where we realised he had a severe tongue tie and wasn’t able to latch properly and draw milk. I was shown how to express milk for him, and how to keep the associate with the breast whilst feeding him through an NG tube, and later a bottle. This was a pretty rigorous 90 minute routine that we continued with, 24 hours a day, until he was around 4 weeks old and was finally able to latch!!! That was a momentous day.
At 8 weeks, he had his tongue tie snipped and was able to feed exclusively from the breast and I no longer had to express breastmilk for him.
The freedom that gave us, away from sterilising bottles, and breast pumps, storing milk and timing it, and that 90 minute routine, was amazing! Breastfeeding on demand became so easy and I loved every second of it. The bond, the convenience, the cuddles. Bliss.
I wanted to breastfeed Harrison until he was 2 and planned to let him self wean when he was ready after that. He had no plans to self wean at that point so I nursed him through my pregnancy with his baby brother, tandem nursed him and Seb once he was born, and then tandem nursed them both through my pregnancy with their little brother Jude until they both self weaned when harrison was 4 years and 3 months old, and Seb was 2 years and 1 month old. I’m now 13 months in to breastfeeding Jude and we’re going strong.
Breastfeeding has been a wonderful journey for me and one I continue to treasure. I’m thrilled I was able to feed the way I wanted to and have had access to the support and information I needed to be successful. I desperately hope that everyone can have that same support to feed their babies however they choose.
Breastfeeding for me is something so incredibly special. I’ve been so fortune to be able to feed both my girls. I’d always wanted to breastfeed, even before becoming a Mummy. My journey with Isabella was almost textbook. She fed well, and weaned naturally at 16months. I went through a terrible grieving process when our journey came to an end. I had no idea so much emotion could be tied up with nursing. I thought she would feed much longer, so it was a shock when she naturally weaned.
With Penelope, things have been much more of a challenge. A tongue tie meant I was in a lot of pain in the early days, but at 7 days old she had it snipped. She completely forgot how to latch. I was in such a state and ended up having to do an overnight with her in our local MLU to try and get her back on. This lead to lots of pumping, but always offering the breast. After about 5 days, she remembered how to latch but I continued to have to pump as every so often she would slip off and I knew she wasn’t getting enough. After a month or so though we were finally nursing really well.
Then just 2 weeks later the scariest experience of my life. She took bronchiolitis and pneumonia and ended up on a ventilator in ICU. Horrendous. I had to continually pump and wasn’t even always able to do it beside her for the week long stay. I was pumping more and more often and getting less and less milk and had asked for donor milk to be used if I couldn’t match her demand. Thankfully, just at the point where that was going to have to happen, she recovered enough to try nursing again at the breast. We continued to offer the breast and tube feed too.
I was taking lots of supplements and foods to help with milk production and was glad to have friends support me. Had she been in any longer than a week I’m not sure our breastfeeding journey would have been able to continue.
At 5 months, she then had a dip in weight and I doubted my body was doing enough for her. Again, I upped my supplements and kept nursing as often as possible. Turns out, the growth spurt she was due to have just came a little late, and if id never had her weighed, I wouldn’t have had any cause for concern!
Now at almost 1, she is thriving and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved together. I hope we can reach the same milestone that Isabella and I achieved, and perhaps even surpass it.
While pregnant with my first son I made the decision that I wanted to do everything as naturally as possible – a natural birth, breastfeeding, cloth nappies and babywearing. This was how raising children was done in the past and seemed the easiest and most cost effective options. There was a lot of preparation for birth in our antenatal classes but very little preparation for breastfeeding – here in Powys we have great rates of breastfeeding and it was pretty much given that is what we would be doing.
Nothing can prepare you for the first week or so of breastfeeding- there is no getting away from it, it is agony until your nipples toughen up. My firstborn had a voracious appetite and fed all the time, my nipples were raw and my toes would curl every time I heard those little whimpers when he woke. I had fantastic support from my community midwife who would sit with me day-in day-out to make sure his latch was correct and patiently working through postnatal queries with me – without her support I don’t think I would have stuck it out. It did become less painful though eventually and we were soon out and about, and I loved the freedom breastfeeding gave us, as well as the much needed bonding.
I went on to feeding all three boys beyond the 2 year mark – a quick shout out to anyone extended/natural term breastfeeding – it usually goes on behind closed doors and not as visible, but still a normal, everyday occurrence for a lot of parents and we treasure those moments of calm.
I’m Angharad, long time Babi Pur fan and buddy, mum to two boys aged 2 and 4 and sister to the lovely Llinos Babi Pur. This year is my fifth World Breastfeeding Week as a breastfeeding mother. I’ve been feeding one, or both, of my two boys for that whole time. I’ve also trained as a peer supporter, supporting other mothers on their breastfeeding journeys. Everyone’s experience is different, from smooth sailing to those who experience rougher seas. I believe the more we share our experiences, the more we hear of others breastfeeding journeys, the more we learn and the more we support each other, the more we normalise breastfeeding.
Five years ago, pregnant with my eldest, my goal was to feed for 6 months, or until my baby had teeth. My view of infant feeding as an expectant mother in 2015 was that while ‘breast was best’ initially, you then switched to a bottle. No-one really corrected me and I received very little information regarding feeding beyond a DVD (that I never watched) and an antenatal class featuring knitted boobs and a doll the size of a 6 month old. There were times I felt embarrassed to even admit I planned on breastfeeding past 6 weeks. Bottle feeding definitely felt like the norm and my view of breastfeeding was narrow, naive and on occasion ignorant.
After giving birth my views and knowledge changed rapidly. My eldest took to feeding easily. He had a great latch and fed like a champ, my only “problem” being that I had a fast let down and an oversupply (which felt insignificant in the grand scheme of breastfeeding woes) and so had to discover ways of managing that. My local breastfeeding group had ceased meeting a few months earlier, and while my health visitor was very supportive, I didn’t really have any breastfeeding friends that I could pop out for a panad* with or ask for advice. So I turned to the internet and consumed as much breastfeeding literature as I could lay my hands on. After all, I had plenty of time whilst sitting and feeding!
My HV had directed me to KellyMom early on, a site which I found invaluable for its wealth of evidence based information. It opened my eyes and introduced me to terms such as the fourth trimester and normalised infant behaviours I’d previously thought needed to be trained or changed. Then at around 7 weeks I discovered that there was a regional Facebook breastfeeding group and joined. I was still struggling with oversupply and fast let down and my son was suffering because of it. I shared my worries and was supported.
This led to meeting a wonderful peer supporter for a panad in a local cafe with her son. She helped me problem solve and normalised what I was going through, and she explained to me how peer supporters were experienced breastfeeding mums who have a little extra training and knowledge to help other breastfeeding mums. 7 weeks of just me and the internet and suddenly I had company and someone to discuss breastfeeding with. It was a revelation.
Unfortunately there were no training courses available at that time. However there was a need for a local breastfeeding group and so myself and a small group of other mums began meeting weekly at a local cafe, a meeting which grew as the weeks went on, with a dozen or so mums in regular attendance. Having that weekly opportunity to chat in an inclusive environment where there was no fear of judgment felt so important and I’m so proud of what we created at that time. Mums supporting mums, sharing what we knew and helping each other with what we didn’t.
Just over two years later, our youngest came along amidst the chill of the Beast from the East. I fed through aversion, intense nipple pain, nausea and low iron and B12 levels during pregnancy, day and night. I won’t lie, it took its toll. But I was determined to continue and so I did, and when my youngest was born I was grateful to relieve my swollen milk filled breasts easily with the hunger of my toddler.
My youngest didn’t feed so easily. I mistakenly admitted in hospital that I was still breastfeeding my toddler and that I was about to finally embark on a peer supporter training course. I was given little to no feeding support; “You know more than us!”. But I felt like a total newbie. Feeding a toddler is a completely different kettle of fish to feeding a newborn. Toddlers know what they’re doing. Newborns, by and large, do not. I knew something wasn’t right, but the 30 second breastfeeding assessment I was given at about 4am said it was ok and that I just needed to continue feeding. My pregnancy brain fog was still thick and I was exhausted having lost just under a litre of blood giving birth. I didn’t have the tools to fix my problem at that time; what’s more the health care professionals around me didn’t seem to either.
I fed through sore nipples for almost 6 weeks. Cracks and cuts. A poor latch that needed constant correcting. Mild jaundice. A rash so violent over my son’s bottom it made me doubt whether I was washing his nappies properly (I was). No cream (not even my trusty Weleda Calendula Cream) would touch it. We were both seen by different health care professionals but I was just told to keep at it, to keep feeding, to try different creams. By this point I was holding back tears during feeds. It was only because I’d started my peer supporter training course when my youngest was a week old (yes, I was mad) that I found the tools to fix our problems. I worked hard at revising his latch using the flipple and deep latch techniques. I asked the questions during my training sessions that led me to paying my Nurse Practitioner a visit and finally being diagnosed with thrush. At this point I got it. I got why so many mums didn’t continue. Didn’t reach their goals. Didn’t feel supported. Because if he had been my first, I don’t know how much longer I could have continued. Moreover I feel like my woes were small in comparison to many others.
From there on in, things did improve. He was a different kettle of fish to his older brother, who’d always been content at the breast and fed quickly. My youngest fidgeted and snacked, became incredibly nosy and exposed my nipple to more than a few eyes. Thrush recurred twice and mastitis hit at about 10 weeks as a reminder to slow down. It wasn’t all that enjoyable for the first 6 months. But when he found his feet and discovered more of the world, he started to calm a little. Then I went back to work and I got a break and actually our feeding relationship improved.
I weaned my eldest to bedtime feeds only when my youngest was around 6 months, although essentially he accidentally night weaned during his little brother’s 4 month sleep regression. He was about to turn 3. He fed like this until a week past his fourth birthday; I tandem fed both my boys for 19 months to the day. It was a decision I made for us, but that we worked gradually towards. It would be another 4 months or so before I got out of bedtime duties and dad could take over though!
My youngest is just shy of 2 years and 5 months, the age his brother was when he was born. He still feeds on demand, but can also happily go without and be cared for by other family members and at nursery and I don’t express for this time apart. He still wakes in the night for a quick feed. But he can also go to sleep off the breast. He does as he needs to and I’m happy with that.
I wouldn’t have made it here without support. My aunt, who as a health visitor in the 80’s was part of a renegade group who shunned all attempts of unscrupulous marketing made by formula companies and encouraged the normalising of breastfeeding, gave me the confidence in myself and my body’s ability to feed my child. My partner has supported me throughout, and spent many of those first nights checking ‘if he was latched on ok’. You’ll now find him singing the praises of breastfeeding as it gets him out of night time duties, (yes I’ve envied his useless nipples and full nights of sleep for 5 years) but moreover it’s never been a barrier to the wonderful bond between him and his sons. We made the decision to breastfeed. He was actually wonderfully naive to think that that’s how all babies were fed and didn’t realise that it was actually an option.
Finding my village, my people, those whose thoughts align with mine, my ‘Breastmates Bubble’, have made all the difference to my breastfeeding journey. From the expectant mother who felt shy to discuss her plans to breastfeed, to the mother of two who whaps out her baps to feed a toddler no less, I’ve definitely come a long way. I couldn’t have done it without support. But I don’t want congratulations or platitudes for being amazing for feeding so long. I don’t want to call it extended breastfeeding. I don’t want to sometimes feel awkward to admit I “still” breastfeed. I want what I do to be normal. Not different. But the politics of that are for another day.
Thanks to all our buddies for sharing their stories ?