Yesterday was the first day of World Breastfeeding Week 2018, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to write about breastfeeding second time round with Henry.
I’m no stranger to breastfeeding, having fed Alfie for 15 months. We exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and then continued alongside food until he self weaned at 15 months due to my return to full time work. I absolutely loved breastfeeding Alfie and I couldn’t wait to start again with Henry. I thought I was such a pro with Alfie that I didn’t need to worry about feeding Henry. I thought that it would all come flooding back to me and it would be a dream to feed again.
How wrong I was! Breastfeeding second time round has been a lot harder than I could have predicted.
The first feed with Henry was amazing. The midwife helped to latch him on in the recovery room after my c-section. The c-section had no effect on how we breastfed, despite that being something you will often be told. Henry latched well, it wasn’t too painful and I fell in love with it all again right in that moment. Then all kind of went downhill from there.
With Alfie, I was obsessed with how often and how long he fed for. Being a big baby, his feeds were frequent and long. I think because he was born in the summer, in a heatwave, he fed more often for hydration as well as food so it felt like he was constantly attached to me. I vowed with Henry I wouldn’t be so obsessed. I vowed I would just feed on demand and trust that Henry would take as much as he needed.
This didn’t exactly go to plan and on our first day at home, the midwife noted Henry had the “jitters” which can be a sign of low blood sugar. We were sent back to hospital, which was quite stressful for me, and was told he was ok but his blood sugar was boarderline and they wanted to monitor him for a bit. There was a LOT of miscommunication during this time, I felt forced to give him formula top ups which I didn’t want to give, but felt like I couldn’t refuse. I suspected Henry wasn’t feeding properly but despite being told I would be observed feeding him to check his latch etc for every feed, this never happened. The one time someone did check his latch, it was a health care assistant who was lovely, but clearly not a breastfeeding expert. Not once was I seen by the breastfeeding team, which just shows the lack of support in hospitals for breastfeeding mums. My milk hadn’t come in and I felt like it was completely the wrong thing to do to give formula when I should have been encouraged to put him to the breast more often, express colostrum and have lots of skin to skin. I felt really let down by the whole experience and it’s something that still upsets me now. I was made to feel like a failure for the first few weeks of Henry’s life because of him losing weight and then not gaining “enough”. This was completely new to me because Alfie was back to his birth weight within a week.
It turns out there were many errors made by the hospital which have had a huge impact on the way I feel about breastfeeding. The biggest one being Henry’s birth weight was converted from pounds to kg incorrectly, so it looked like he had lost a lot more weight than he had. He was also weighed on faulty scales which again recorded an incorrect weight. All this meant I had to have extra checks and weigh ins which added to my anxiety. I felt a lot more pain this time round, I think due to the fact Henry was smaller and has a very shallow latch. I’m convinced he has some kind of tongue tie but I’ve been told by three midwives he’s fine, so maybe he just has a small mouth and therefore shallow latch. I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding in those early days like I did with Alfie and just felt lots of pressure and feelings of failure. I don’t have Henry weighed regularly even now because of the fear someone will tell me to give him formula. Unfortunately we have no dedicated breastfeeding support in our area so I don’t know who I can trust to give me proper and correct support and advice.
Formula was never an option for me. As much as I wasn’t enjoying breastfeeding like I had expected to, I still wanted to breastfeed Henry because I felt it was the best option for us. This is no reflection of those who formula feed, it is just my personal opinion that breastfeeding was better for us. Formula is so expensive and I think more time consuming when you factor in making bottles, feeding them and cleaning them. I couldn’t imagine having to get out of my warm bed at night to make a bottle and feed the baby. I also felt like I had fed Alfie was so long, Henry deserved for me to at least try with him.
Once we had got over our problems and I started trusting myself more, things got so much easier. I knew deep down that I did know what I was doing and I just had to trust myself more. I relaxed more and concentrated on sorting out Henry’s latch and it improved so much. I didn’t have the time to sit and stare at Henry whilst he fed and enjoy the oxytocin like I did with Alfie but I tried to appreciate it as much as I could. I reminded myself daily what an amazing thing my body was doing for my baby and tried to be kinder to myself and look after myself more.
The biggest difference with my breastfeeding journey this time round is I’ve had to learn to multi task. Having a toddler has meant I can’t sit on the sofa watching box sets for hours on end whilst the baby cluster feeds. This time round I’ve become the queen of feeding whilst occupied doing another task. I’ve fed whilst baking, helping Alfie on the toilet, playing superheroes, pushing a trolley round Asda, answering the door to the postman, dancing to Disney, playing snap, doing bathtime, doing bedtime, cooking dinner, playing in the park… literally any time Henry has needed feeding, I’ve latched him on and carried on doing what I was doing. I haven’t mastered feeding in a sling unfortunately as it would make my life easier, but I’ve adapted and learnt ways round it.
I’ve also been much more confident feeding in public this time around. I was never nervous in public with Alfie, but I would always use a muslin or find a quiet corner… generally hide myself away. Now I feed completely uncovered (mainly because of this awesome heatwave, it’s just too hot to cover me and Henry!) I no longer look for a quiet space, I look for a space that fits a double buggy or that can contain Alfie in one place while I feed! Most of the time I’ve fed him before we’ve even sat down anywhere!
I’ve now been feeding Henry for 6 months and I still can’t believe how different he is to Alfie. Alfie was a total boob monster and milk solved every problem. Tired – boob. Hungry – boob. Teething – boob. Colic – boob. Crying – boob. Scared – boob. Overwhelmed – boob. It’s a completely different story with Henry. He will feed if he’s hungry or thirsty and that’s it. He will not entertain a boob in his face for any other reason. It’s frustrating for me as I’ve had to learn other ways to calm and settle him. He’s also a very quick feeder. Alfie would feed on average for 30 minutes at a time, every 2 hours day and night. Henry feeds every 3 hours or so, for about 10 or 15 minutes, sometimes longer at night (although we mostly feed lying down now so I don’t clock watch).
The biggest difference is definitely night feeds. I don’t clock watch like I did with Alfie so I don’t know how often he feeds for but we usually have one or two wake ups and then he goes back to sleep. I do still co-sleep with Henry when necessary, but try not to do it every night. Our next step is to transition Henry into his own room. I’m kind of dreading this purely for the fact I know the night feeds are going to be harder, but I’m sure it will be fine once we’ve all adjusted.
In some ways I’ve had it easier this time as I haven’t suffered from blocked ducts or mastitis at all. I think this is due to 1) wearing the correct sized, properly fitted bras and 2) not pumping. I use the haaka when I remember which is amazing, and I’ve pumped once with an electric pump as I haven’t needed to pump.
It’s taken a lot longer for me to get into the groove of breastfeeding second time round but I’m getting there. I do still sometimes find it a chore and the fact Henry won’t take a bottle has been a lot harder this time round. But to be honest we haven’t persevered much with it so it’s our own fault really. I plan to feed Henry until he chooses to stop, the same I did with Alfie.
Breastfeeding really is a wonderful thing and I’m so grateful I’ve had a relatively easy time with both of my children. As much as it can be painful, it can be a tie, it can be draining, it’s also the most amazing thing if you can successfully breastfeed and I’m fortunate to have done so.