We made it to a year of breastfeeding and I just want to celebrate that fact. I listed making it to a year as one of my 9 things I wanted to do differently with my second child in this post mostly because I loved breastfeeding Jake and was so upset when we had to give up due to him biting (and drawing blood!) I don’t know why else a year was in my mind, I guess it just felt like a big accomplishment especially with breastfeeding rates being so low in this country.
I also want to celebrate this milestone because of the rocky start we had with William and having so many doubts about whether he would ever be able to latch on and take to feeding from me. I remember after he was born, having that uncontrollable urge to put him to my breast but I couldn’t because he was far too tiny, he was wired up from all angles and inside an incubator. I was then informed that he wouldn’t be able to suckle until 35 weeks as babies don’t get this reflex until that gestation. He was born at 32 weeks and the thought of not being able to create that bond for 3 weeks killed me inside. I was so disappointed and at the same time so worried that I would never be able to produce enough milk to express for him and then everything would go out the window before we could get to grips with our breastfeeding journey.
That first night trying to squeeze out those tiny drops of colostrum with a midwife catching them in a syringe is a memory that will stay with me forever. The moment she handed that syringe to my husband will now go down in history as the funniest thing we have ever done together!!
It was hard though. Not much came, I could see it wasn’t enough to fill him up and I knew expressing was going to be tough as I didn’t manage with Jake at all.
Luckily, the hospital pumps are amazing and they helped to establish a good flow during expressing and it helped me to get used to what felt comfortable, understanding when the milk was ready to come and made me feel much more relaxed about the whole thing.
What no one can prepare you for is the exhaustion of expressing around the clock in order to keep your supply up and to provide the hospital with enough to feed your baby sufficiently. I can hand on heart say that expressing is far harder than breastfeeding and is also more uncomfortable and such a chore.
After a few days of begging, the nurses realised that I needed to try him to my breast. I was aching to do it and I had an inkling he may have been a pro like his brother was! When his tiny mouth went up to my nipple I really wasn’t sure how he was going to do it but I knew that any contact would strengthen our bond and help him with his development. However, he surprised me from that day and he has continued to do so almost every day since! That teeny tiny mouth opened just wide enough to latch and away he went, suckling and getting milk out until he tired after a short period.
That feeling was amazing…
The nurses were over the moon and from then on I breastfed him as much as I could and as much as he could take- it’s very tiring for a premature baby.
When it was time to come home just 3 weeks later they credited the fact that his stay was shorter than it would have usually been because we established breastfeeding so early.
Apart from being ecstatic that my baby was coming home, I was also very relieved to be ditching the pump! I wanted all of that far behind me for a very long time.
Well, it didn’t take William long to discover he loved breastmilk and I guess this is one of the reasons why we are still going strong a year on. That and I am pretty determined when I put my mind to something!
Of course, there have been tough times. I did struggle at the start with his latch a little due to his small mouth and I occasionally had to realign him to get the position right and less painful, he made me red raw during the colic stage as his suckle went completely wrong at times and he was using me for comfort far too much and there were days where he never seemed filled; I fed him constantly and this could be at any given moment.
And then there are the sleepless nights. Those are slowly beginning to dwindle but my word that has been the hardest part during the entire breastfeeding journey. I have never been so tired in my life! A co-sleeping, breast loving baby who couldn’t bear to be apart from me… I have cried, I have shouted at my husband, I have considered formula and even tried it in a desperate attempt to get sleep– he didn’t like it and it didn’t make a difference. I have been at my wits end battling the never-ending exhaustion but at the end of the day I was doing all of it for him and do you know what? I may sound crazy but it was worth it which is precisely why I continued to give him the best I could.
Breastfeeding in front of Jake has never been an issue. I feel as though he has learnt so much about looking after a baby and bless him, he asks quite often how long it will be until he has his own baby he can feed! That to me is just heartwarming. He looks at a baby feeding from a boob as a good thing, as something that is essential and he can clearly see the bond that a Mother and baby has from doing it.
I have fed anywhere and everywhere, on a plane, on a bench, on a beach, on a train that goes around a wildlife park, in cafes, pubs and restaurants and not one person has ever said one negative thing to me (the same as the nine months I fed Jake for). I will continue to do so too, in order to show other Mothers that it is absolutely fine to do so, to continue to deliver the message that breastfeeding is the norm and because it is what my baby needs.
So here we are, a year gone by and that tiny premature baby who once weighed 4lb 2 oz and had to be tube fed until he could fully feed from me is now a healthy 20lb 14oz chunk who adores his food and still loves his breastmilk! I am so proud at how far he has come and am very proud to be in the 0.5% of women still breastfeeding at this age.
Here’s to many more months of breastfeeding!
You may also like:
- Why Support in Breastfeeding is Essential in Improving our Rates
- What I Love About Breastfeeding
- How Different Breastfeeding Positions Can Help with Feeding Your Baby
- Breastfeeding and Prematurity
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