Breast friends? The good and the bad about breastfeeding

breastfeedingI almost called this post ‘my love/hate relationship’ with breastfeeding, but that would be too strong. I’m nursing an injury tonight from a teething Baby D who sneezed whilst feeding and bit down on my nipple. Ouch. I swore, he cried, and that was it for the evening.

I’m still breastfeeding him at a month short of a year, which has sort of crept up on me. Because I’m starting to work for myself there was no need to wean him earlier and I’ve generally found it a positive experience, convenient and useful – especially when he’s teething or under the weather. However, him not taking a bottle has meant there’s no let up and I’m not sure how weaning will eventually go.

I breastfed both of my little ones and I’m pleased I’ve done that – seven months first time around, 11 months and counting this time – but I was pretty sure I’d carry on come what may. We’ve been through thrush in my milk ducts (excruciating), tongue-tie and a shallow latch, and it’s pretty much never been pain-free with Baby D.

A family member recently said I’d inspired her when it came to breastfeeding her two, which was a lovely thing to say. For me it’s something I wanted to do, but haven’t necessarily felt the need to trumpet. I’m really happy to talk about it and give tips or advice or even have a bit of a moan after a nipple injury, but it wouldn’t be the first thing I bring up and I’d never comment on someone choosing or ending up with bottle over breast.

And the reality is, it can be hard. It can be painful and tough for both of you, particularly at an overwhelming and exhausting time. I credit a breastfeeding counsellor for helping me turn a corner with Scrip and continue when I was at a particularly low point. So I’ve been thinking about the good and the bad from my 18 months’ experience of breastfeeding two little ones:

The good

  • The closeness – particularly with Baby D as he’s a real wriggler and this is the only time he’ll be still in my arms
  • I love the snuggles in the early, hazy days where feeding mingles with sleepy cuddling
  • I love the contented look they have when feeding well. Baby D now catches my eye and sometimes gives me a cheeky grin (with his mouth full!)
  • It’s good to feel you’re protecting them with natural immunity
  • It’s helped me lose some of the weight, whilst eating cake or croissants
  • It’s a good comforter and a great way to get them back to sleep (not that it should be at this age, probably…)
  • It’s hassle-free – particularly in the middle of the night. No need for fussing with bottles
  • It’s free
  • I feel proud I’ve been able to stick with it

The bad

  • It’s something just for mums – and as D’s not been taking a bottle until very recently, I haven’t been able to share this closeness
  • It can be hard – it doesn’t always come naturally to you or the baby, so it often takes work. Baby D wouldn’t latch on one side for weeks and it could take literally half an hour and lots of tears for him to do it
  • It takes a while to get used to doing it in public
  • It can be painful and not just when you’re starting. After being tongue-tied Baby D has never had a very full latch and my nipples have suffered
  • It’s easy to worry you’re not producing enough milk or it’s not the right quality
  • You may get more green nappies!
  • Your body’s still not your own, even after pregnancy – you have to watch what you eat and drink
  • The early daily pumping can get exhausting
  • You get big, painful boobs when they’ve gone too long without feeding
  • Exclusive breastfeeding means they may not take a bottle, which might make it harder for you to have a break
  • You need to plan what to wear and stock up on nursing bras

Part of me is looking forward to winding it down and hopefully shifting the last of my stubborn baby weight. But the other part will miss it – especially if we don’t have any more children. So we’ll carry on for a bit longer and see where we end up. My mumnesia means I’ll no doubt just remember the good parts.

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