With it being World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2017), and Women’s Month, I thought that it would be apt to reflect on my breastfeeding experience, even though it only lasted five and a half months.
Before I could give birth to Kayden in July last year, my perception of breastfeeding was, “how hard could it be? I’ve just got to give my baby the boob”.
Gosh, was I in for a surprise!
Nope, it wasn’t as easy as 1..2..3. Maybe for some, but certainly not for me. Also, hubby and I decided not to go for pre-natal classes – I guess if we did, we would have learned these things there.
Whilst I was on maternity leave, which was really just about a week before I actually gave birth, as Kayden came earlier than expected, I joined some Facebook Groups and did some research on Google about breastfeeding, in an attempt to prepare myself.
You can never be too prepared. I learned only after booking myself at the hospital where I gave birth, that they didn’t have a lactation consultant at the hospital. They had a list of names, that you could call, and have the consultant visit you at home.
How can I explain my first breastfeeding experience? Mmmh…let me just say it was not gentle or special, and certainly not the way I had anticipated. I was still a bit drowsy, having had an emergency C-section – which was not according to my well thought out plan by the way.
Seeing that I have mentioned it, let me enlighten you. I had done a lot of research beforehand and I was adamant that I wanted to have a normal birth, WITHOUT an epidural, contrary to advice I was given by my husband. What was I thinking when I decided that?
My water broke around 17h30 on 20 July 2016, but I was not in labour. Labour was induced which began around 22h30 that night, at which point I had contractions every 4 minutes, and which was getting worse by the minute! By 04h00 the next morning, I was given something further to induce labour. Alas, by 08h00 that morning, there wasn’t much progress. A medical decision was then made for an emergency C-section.
At this point, the contractions were so bad, that I was on the verge of using NFSW language, which had previously been supressed. I was “demanding” an epidural or anything that would take away the pain! No words can ever describe how unbearable the pain was. Let me just say, if I can offer any advice to any mums to be – do your research prior to birth and make sure you make an informed decision.
Okay, getting back to my point of breastfeeding…I knew through my research, that when she placed Kayden on my boob for the first time, that this was not going to be milk, it would be colostrum – the first secretion from the mammary glands after giving birth, rich in antibodies – just what every baby needs and is enough to give them all the nutrients they need during the first few days.
I was so nervous, because there was no way of telling if he was getting enough? How much or how long did he have to feed for? There are various techniques and positions to help you with feeding but the most important aspect is comfort…for both baby and mommy. I am not the expert, so I am not going to try to explain the details here. What I can share is that I learned most of the things I needed to, from this awesome Facebook Group and website: (refer to links at the bottom of this post) I will however strongly recommend that you should book yourself with a lactation consultant.
As Kayden began to feed more, the colostrum turned to milk, I felt a little more at ease when I witnessed this transformation. I also felt so special – that I was able to provide for him, to give him everything that he needed. But that feeling was short lived…sadly so.
I used to feed Kayden every 2 hours and sometimes he would be on my boob for up to an hour at a time. It was tiring. There would be times that he would be on for so long and still cry afterward. What was I doing wrong? He can’t be hungry. I mean, he is on for so long. Besides, every time I squeezed my boob, there was milk. Sometimes so much, that I wet my top. So, I could not have a shortage, nope, I used to empty them in the shower to prevent them from paining, if they were too full.
Having enough milk does not automatically imply the baby is getting enough milk……that is the single most important lesson that I have learnt. If unsure, especially during the early days, I would recommend contacting your paediatrician, as the risk of dehydration is very high. Google may be seem like a quick and easy solution…but always consider the source of the information. The use of unqualified and unsubstantiated information can be extremely dangerous.
In the end, I ended up expressing and feeding Kayden, alternating between then, roughly every 3 hours, sometimes simultaneously. This became very exhausting….but it was what was needed, and I was happy to oblige.
I should also add that by day 10, since giving birth, I had lost a total of 10kgs – so it is true when they say that you lose weight whilst breastfeeding.
As the weeks passed on, Kayden needed more milk – and after a return visit to the new paediatrician, we found that he still wasn’t putting on weight. This is when the paediatrician prescribed FM-85, which is a breastmilk fortifier, added to expressed milk prior to feeding. At this point, we also got Kayden onto a strict feeding and sleeping routine. After 12 weeks we also introduced S26 Gold formula to supplement the expressed milk.
I accepted that my baby needed this and I didn’t “fail” as a mum. How he got the nutrients he needed was not important, but the fact that he got it and that was what mattered most. Through a challenging first few months, we eventually gradually saw him put on weight.
I was on maternity leave for 4 months, sadly so in South Africa, this is all we get. In this time, whenever we went out, I learned then only, how much we lack breastfeeding and baby-changing facilities. Before becoming a mum, this is something you definitely don’t notice or think about. It was such an inconvenience to go to most places, I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public and at times I had to go to the backseat of our car and breastfeed Kayden – if we were longer at a place than expected and this means the expressed milk was finished.
The other thing that you learn is that if and when there is a place which has a baby changing station, it’s usually in the female toilets, which means that if you are a single dad, you have a problem. Or if you are a dad, like my husband, who shares responsibilities, you can’t go to the female toilet to change your child. I can’t fathom how popular public places do not have these facilities. It is sad, very sad.
My plan was to breastfeed for 1 year. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, this only lasted for five and a half months. When my maternity leave was over and I had to go back to work, there wasn’t a facility for me to express milk. This was very disappointing. I wasn’t happy to express milk in the toilets. For you mums who have breastfed, you will know that when you stop expressing or feeding, your supply eventually runs out, as was the case for me.
One of the most magical moments of my life ever, was to experience breastfeeding, even though my breastfeeding journey didn’t last as long as I wanted it to, I am glad that I got the chance to experience it. Other than those challenges I’ve mentioned we had in the first 3 months, our son is healthy and happy and he had the flu for the first time when he was almost a year old. I could not have done it without the support of my husband, who was and of course still is there every step of the way.
Breastfeeding is not as easy as it seems and there is not enough awareness out there in my opinion. I believe that we should create spaces at work to encourage breastfeeding. I also believe that public places/entertainment venues should consider breastfeeding mums. Breastfeeding is something beautiful and as society, we should embrace this.
I would love to hear about your journey of breastfeeding, so please do comment below.
For more information on World Breastfeeding Week, visit: http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/index.shtml
The resources I found very useful which I referred to: