World Breastfeeding Week is almost upon us (August 1-7), and I came across some memories I wrote down when my daughter was 11 months old. I want to share my story with new mothers and mothers-to-be. I ended up nursing my daughter till she was three years old, and she self-weened as we moved to Beijing last year. I breastfed through two long nursing strikes, bloody nipples, many engorged breasts, and severe postnatal depression. To say that I miss nursing her is a understatement; in spite of all the troubles I faced when she was a newborn, I loved nursing her. This is my story, and if you wish to share yours please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org
We started our nursing journey on April 25 2013, at the Royal London Hospital. I had an elective cesarean as my baby was breech, and around lunchtime I had Laila on my breast. She latched on perfectly, but that was the first time and the last time for a while. The rest of the day is a blur, I was in so much pain. I felt super anxious about feeding Laila, as she was crying and I had no idea what to do. One of the midwives told us that if she didn’t feed properly she would get ill.
This made us naturally very scared. We had no idea how breastfeeding worked, and anything I had read during my pregnancy I magically forgot as soon as they pulled the baby out. In the middle of the night when we called for help, we decided that we would give her some formula. I was surprised how fast the nurses came over to assist me with this. The nurse fed her an enormous amount of formula, and of course Laila vomited it all up.
When we went home Laila was a little jaundiced, but they told us that lots of feeding and daylight would help. I was in a complete state of panic; I had never felt like this before. There was the instinct to nourish this little human, but I was doing something wrong. At this point my nipples were bleeding and every time I put her on my breast it hurt so much I wanted to scream.
I hated breastfeeding at this point, and I promised myself that when Laila turned six months I would stop. We called the local breastfeeding support, and they send a lady to help us. She was so nice, and she explained to me the workings of breastfeeding and how to get Laila to latch on. We all agreed to give my nipples some rest so they could heal. Meanwhile I could express and feed her from a spoon. It was so hard to go against my instinct and not feed her myself. We sat in bed during the night expressing and then spoon feeding Laila.
I have to give my husband credit for all the work. If it was not for him I would have given up. He cleaned, he cooked, he helped me to get Laila to latch on, he helped me hand express milk, he changed her every nappy, he burped her for hours and he took her every single time she cried. I had no idea what I was doing; I thought a natural instinct would kick in, but all the hormones were on a roller coaster in my body. Then Laila cried more and more, and the midwife told us she was colicky. I stopped drinking and eating dairy products, and this helped her and changed her into a happy baby.
Around six weeks in I was getting the hang of breastfeeding. I sat for days and days in my nursing chair just feeding Laila for hours and hours. She stayed on my breast day and night. I was so tired but I continued to feed her on demand till six months, when we started to give her solids. However I did not stop breastfeeding her like I had promised myself. I nursed on, whenever and wherever – nursing in public was somewhat weird, but we got used to it and never had a negative experience.
There where times when I truly hated breastfeeding, but now I am happy and proud I did not give up. I felt that I failed at a “normal” pregnancy and a “real” labor, and it made feel less of a mother. But I saw how she gained weight, how I comforted her and how I gave her energy. It made me realize I am all the mother she needs.
Photos: courtesy of Pauline van Hasselt