Scarlett was a 100% breastfed baby from the day she was born until we started semi-solids. And I continued to nurse her until she was 20 months old. She doesn’t seem to take the bottle very well from the early months onwards(we still haven’t figure out why), and I had to direct latch her all the time. The thought of that now still traumatizes me.
The initial phase was the most difficult, as with all mothers’ experience. I struggled with low supply and it didn’t help that jaundice made her too sleepy to nurse during the first few weeks. She also took a long time to learn how to latch on properly. The fact that she was born tiny at 2.46kg only made it more stressful for us. Even after going for lactation consults and rummaging through all the breastfeeding websites(kellymom, LLL etc) and forums, I still struggled. It came to a point where I decided to do exclusive pumping. That actually worked for us. Although she still cries a lot and doesn’t sleep well, at least I knew she was getting enough. But it came with a price. I had to pump every two hourly round the clock. Minus the time I need to wash and sterilize the pump parts and bottles and falling back to sleep, I actually only get an hour of sleep at most between each pumping session at night. My night pumping schedule looks something like that: wake at 12.45am, set up my pump, start pump at 1am for 20-30mins, transfer bm into storage bags plus wash and sterilize stuff for 10mins, lay in bed and fall asleep at 1.45am, wake up at 2.45am to prepare for 3am pumping. If Scarlett wakes up at 3am, she would latch for at least an hour and then take another hour to be put down to sleep. Which means I would have been awake through the night. Gosh, I’m feeling queasy just typing this, knowing that I might have to go through this again soon.
And then the ironic part came when she started rejecting bottles after my supply is established and stable at around three months. By then I have built a whole freezer of fbm stash because of the frequent pumping. But she won’t drink any of those. Can you hear the sound of my heart breaking already?
From then on, she’s basically glued to me all the time, except when I returned to work of course. She would take very little from the bottle, say 60mls per feed when I’m away, and that made me worried sick. It took me awhile to disregard all the growth and intake norms to just go with the flow of my instincts. And that’s when I stopped beating myself up for everything that seemingly went wrong.
After Scarlett started solids, her milk intake decreased even more. By 1yo she was already almost completely off the bottle and would nurse whenever she wants to when I’m around. It is especially so at night time where she is highly reliant on nursing to fall asleep as well as for comfort through the night. For the whole of 20 months, I have not slept through the night for a single night. Did I mention that I’m also a FTWM working shifts? Exhausted is an understatement of my daily physical state.
I really think I had a pretty miserable experience with breastfeeding, but I’m so glad that I made it through and still consider it super worth it. So, mommies out there, I really encourage you to press on and know that although it may not be all rosy, it is going to be worth it when you come out from the other side! But I also have to caution you that if you find yourself losing your sanity and becomes very down or emotional for an extended period of time, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Post-natal depression is more common than we think and there have been many instances linked to breastfeeding. Breast is best, but remember that your child needs a happy and healthy mom even more!
Having been through this, I always feel very inclined to provide some sort of support for fellow mummies who are going through difficult phases in their bf journey. So, please feel free to pm me here or DM @scarlett.ansley if you wish to talk to someone regarding bf issues that you’re facing. I’m not an expert or what and I may not be able to provide all the answers you need. But I would be glad to offer a listening ear at least!