I uploaded a photo of me breastfeeding my son well over 4 months ago and did a small write up under the photo of my thoughts towards breastfeeding and how they had changed in the short few weeks of becoming a mum. Being that it was just World Breastfeeding Week I thought I’d elaborate more on my experience with breastfeeding my son using what I originally wrote as a template – explaining how and why I went from being feared of it, to it becoming something I now enjoy immensely and have gradually come to love!
Breastfeeding was the one thing after labour that I was dreading the most about motherhood. I dreaded it more than tears and tantrums, more than the fear of not bouncing back to my pre baby body and having abs anymore, loosing my high level of fitness, even more than sleepless nights and over tiredness (I’ve been very precious with my sleep for years and dreaded not getting the same 9-10 hours per night so it’s a big deal to fear anything more than that!) I know this all sounds rather dramatic and my list of anxieties were long but I am just being honest here.
Some women look forward to experiencing breastfeeding and soaking up that feeling of nursing their baby – but I never did. I was anxious at the very thought and the idea of a baby sucking at my breast was a turn off and somewhat unbearable. I was fine with watching other mothers breastfeed but for myself imagining it was too much.
In the weeks leading up to having Jonah I started to massage my nipples with oil to try and prepare them for the stimulation that was to come. I was recommended to do this by a few mothers and was told it would help. Even doing this after the shower made me feel uncomfortable and I would get this wirey, agitated and flushed feeling come over me and I could barely even massage my own nipples because of it. Aside from that they were so sensitive – and not in a good way. I didn’t want to even touch them myself, let alone a tiny mouth being attached to them!!! I would cringe thinking of how much harder it would be to tolerate a baby sucking than my own hands and fingers massaging.
I even cried to my husband about this, in doubt that I could cope or endure it, and he would try and say the right things to console me. He even said that if it was too much and I couldn’t manage it, that he would not expect me to continue. He assured me there would be no pressure on me from him and we could use formula after a few days if breastfeeding didn’t work out. This would calm me down of course and I thought “yep I have an immediate plan B in place as I think I’ll need it.”
I’d made comments over the months like “oh if I make sure I feed my child for a month I’ll be happy.” In my mind I planned to only feed for a month at some points, then only 3 months maximum. I’d put time limits on it as I didn’t want to do it and felt unenthusiastic and apprehensive about it. I feared the pain from it and all the stories I’d heard of things that can go wrong. Cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, baby not latching properly, not having enough supply…. to name a few. I also feared the task of giving so much of myself to feeding and everything that surrounded that. Like many other people I did have a very prominent selfish side before having a child. I feared how much of my life would be consumed by feeding, being woken up, burping etc etc.
After a while I thought to pray to the Lord for help in this area, about my feelings towards this natural process. I don’t know why I didn’t pray sooner to be honest. I also know that although I did turn to God to ask His help, I still doubted myself and what he could really do to change my mind about this daunting task that lie ahead (that’s how I viewed it!). It wasn’t until after my labour did I really rely on Him to help enable me to do what He had made me (a woman and mother) to do. I asked him to help my outlook on it and to physically cope with the demands of it. Praise God He did more than that!
From the very start Jonah was a perfect feeder, had a perfect latch and suck. He has a big mouth and big lips so this helps I was told. When I was in hospital and he was feeding for the first 2 days, I did experience dry and slightly chapped nipples. It reminded me of when I was young and I forgot to wear lip balm to school on a cold windy winters day and came home with chapped lips that stung a little. My nipples felt and looked like that. So naturally I got worried and nearly had a melt down thinking my nipples weren’t doing so well. The lanolin balm came in really handy I tell you what! I grew an attachment to that stuff!! Also my left nipple would sting when Jonah would latch on a feed for the first few seconds so I instantly got insecure and feared that he wasn’t latching properly and causing me pain on that side.
It wasn’t until I went to a class held at the hospital after the second day of staying there and saw a very experienced lactation consultant did my insecurity fade considerably. She watched me feed Jonah and was so encouraging, told me he was a great feeder and latcher. She also told me what to look for to know if he’s feeding properly, and assured me that the slight sting did not mean he wasn’t latching correctly and that it was more my nipple getting used to the sucking. I was so relieved.
I admit I was also a lot slower to whinge after going to that class and seeing about 8 other women around me have a very hard time feeding their babies! Some women’s babies were not even latching on the nipple properly and they had to squeeze the colostrum out with their fingers (it looked painful and uncomfortable!) and feed their baby through a syringe! This seemingly was quite frustrating for mother and baby and was resulting in tears from mum and a lot of crying from the baby. Some other women had bleeding and cracked nipples and I really felt for them. I looked at Jonah asleep peacefully after I had the lactation consultant watch and guide me feeding him for a few minutes and I felt like a fool for being so dramatic and working myself up over nothing when other women actually did have something to be frustrated or upset about. I couldn’t believe I nearly had a melt down over chapped nipples that stung a little bit. I’m so precious sometimes, with anything to do with my body I always have been. Becoming a mother has really helped work some of that out of me.
Once I got over this initial hurdle the next wave of fear about feeding came. I feared day 3 or 4 when my milk was due to come. Although I know this varies for everyone, I feared the next stage and all the cluster feeding that was to come. My milk came in at day 3 and my body didn’t handle it well. Like every other woman I had boobs like Dolly Parton – they were HUGE!!! 😳 So round and orb like. They were rock hard. I was almost intimidated by them. I don’t fancy large breasts and don’t aspire to have them…so I was thinking “gosh I hope they go down in size, image training with boobs this big, what a set back!” I don’t know how women can get implants now after having boobs like that for a couple of days! My body must of been in shock I think because the huge boobs were just the start – it took a hard hit. I had the sweats so badly, soaring temperatures one hour to then having the shakes from being so cold the next, a splitting headache, almost fainting from feeling light headed several times. I was as pale as a ghost and felt shockingly depleted and ill. I was confined to the couch and only got up when needed to feed Jonah and go to the toilet. This lasted almost a whole day, but the fevers only lasted a few hours. So that wasn’t the best experience! However Jonah didn’t cluster feed at all, he just consistently fed every 3 hours. So this made thing easier for me whilst I endured all these symptoms from my milk coming in!
I did spend many days very insecure at the slightest thing to do with feeding Jonah. For the first 2 days when my colostrum was in he would feed every 3 hours for around 30 mins. However once my milk came in the duration of feeding time went down to only about 7 minutes on average. He would suck like a Hoover for a short time and then be done. I worried he had issues with feeding and wasn’t getting enough as all the brochures I was given or articles I read stated average feeding times of 30-45 mins! So naturally I jumped to my own conclusions. Well, when my midwife made her house calls and weighed Jonah it was clear the kid was packing on the pounds and was well and truly getting enough. At day 4 he had regained his birth weight plus nearly 100g! At 3 weeks he was 5 kilos. She said he was a very efficient feeder and was taking what he needed but just in a very short space of time. It was only then I let go of that issue. To this day Jonah never feeds long. 15 mins tops if that! Only before bed will he feed half an hour. Every baby is different, so I’m told all the time.
Now that God has taken me through child birth and I have my son, and I see how dependant he is on me and how much he is growing and developing because I am the source of his food. My mindset has changed. It’s almost as if God has softened me towards this and my fear and dread of breast feeding left after a couple of weeks. I went from enjoying it most of the time to loving it. I love being able to bond with my son through the experience, I love knowing I can give him the best possible nutrients through my milk and what I eat. I’m proud of his weight gain and healthiness because of what I am giving him 😊 It makes sense to me now that if I can breastfeed and my son can latch well and feed well I should be thankful for this experience and not look to avoid it.
Fast forward almost 6 months and I love breastfeeding so much. It’s one of my most favourite things to do as a mother. It brings me so much joy and happiness. So many precious and funny memories have come from Jonah feeding, or latching on. It’s like there’s Jonah when he’s feeding and Jonah when he’s not feeding – 2 different sides to him. If this makes sense? I spend most of his feeding time staring at him nowadays as I’m doing my best to savour the experience. I used to see it as a bit mundane to begin with and the early weeks are a blur. Now I sit there with him, leave my phone behind and just be there in the moment, gazing at his gorgeous little face and his ever changing facial expressions. I get emotional when I think that the weeks are limited of exclusive breastfeeding as I start to introduce more solids. I’m proud of us both and thankful to the Lord that I have exclusively breastfeed for almost 6 months. What a beautiful experience and gift, and a journey that has taught me about sacrifice, selflessness, love and patience.
God has continually taught me through my short time of being a mum that there is no fear in something natural that He has ordained. I’m still learning so much about my new job as a mother but having no fear and to rely on Him is one of the first of many things I’ve learned.
Thanks for reading 🙏🏼😘