Guest blog by Amy Waterhouse from "Flat Whites and Stripes".
Most of us know Amy, and her no nonsense attitude towards motherhood, and her blog "Flat Whites and Stripes" is well worth the read.
Amy definitely isn't afraid to tell us how she sees it, which is exactly why I knew I would get a raw, and honest blog from her for this week's guest blogs. So sit back with a cuppa and enjoy, I know you will. xx
Breastfeeding always seemed like the norm to me. Growing up in a family with many siblings, it wasn't uncommon to walk into our lounge room and see Mum breastfeeding one of my little sisters on the couch. It was the way babies were fed in our house. It was easy, effortless, convenient, and the most natural thing in the world.
.. Until I gave birth to my first baby, and gave it a whirl myself.
The first time Jack ever latched onto me, it felt like an army of ants were clustered over my nipple, and on the count of three - they all bit down as hard as they could, at the same time.
The first "let down" I ever felt, didn't feel as magical as I thought it would. Rather than a tingly gush of the liquid gold, cascading from me into my babies belly to satiate his thirst - it felt like he was sucking actual fireballs through my boobs.
I didn't know this at the time, but apparently it was a well known fact that breastfeeding assists in contracting the uterus back down to its normal size after childbirth. Would have probably appreciated someone telling me that it was going to feel like someone kicking me in the gut while I was also experiencing period pain. I feel like I could have prepared myself much more accordingly.
However, breastfeeding, much like riding a bicycle, becomes easier the more and more you do it. I was lucky (unlucky?) in the sense that Jack wanted to feed all the fucking time, and wouldn't take a bottle - because it wasn't me - so I got a lot of practice. It became easier, less of an effort, more natural - and bloody hell, I think we can all agree that whipping out a boob is way more convenient than having to sterilise and make up a bottle.
The truth is, I always took breastfeeding for granted. I always wondered "when will I be able to stop and get my freedom back?" As much as I am ashamed to admit it now, I was constantly counting down to a time when my baby wouldn't be so dependent on me.
I was honoured to be a bridesmaid in an overseas wedding, and went by myself for 3 days when Jack was 5 months old. At this stage, he had never taken a bottle, but he was on solids now. In my mind, I was so ready for a break from my baby being attached to me all the time, so it was kind of a "YOLO - he will eat when he's hungry! Seeyabye!" farewell to my husband and my baby as I headed for departures.
I took my breast pump. I expressed (and dumped - cringe!) at least three times a day while I was away, in order to keep my supply up.
So when I got back, popped one of 'the girls' out, and expected my baby to take it as he always had -
It was like the biggest punch in the face when he didn't want me anymore. He wanted the bottle.
I felt like I never really appreciated "that bond" that I had with my baby, until it was gone.
I felt ripped off. More than that, I felt like I had ripped Jack off by not being more "in the moment" with him.
Cue mum guilt.
When I fell pregnant with my second child, one of the things I looked forward to was breastfeeding the crap out of him. I knew now how much I enjoyed it, and wanted to make the most of the opportunity I had with my little one.
When Lachlan was born - he latched like a champ. Sure, the pains were the same (in fact - the uterus contractions were definitely worse second time around!) - but I had done it before, and I knew it would pass.
He was a big boy at birth (9lb 12.5oz), so he was hangry as hell from the get-go. Our first few months of breastfeeding was a dream. I loved it, and was so grateful that I was able to experience the closeness and bond with my baby - with all of my attention focused, this time.
Just before his four month check-up rolled around, I had noticed that things weren't the same. While I had previously been able to express an extra bottle a day in case of emergency - I couldn't do that anymore. I was still sustaining Lachlan's needs - but he was clearly hungrier than what I could provide him, and he was starting to get a bit frustrated. And so was I.
A baby who had been off the growth charts for the first couple of months of his life was now below the 50th percentile. Not that it's a bad thing, I realise that all babies even out eventually - but I was stunned that he had gone from a whopper to a pipsqueak. I asked the nurse if I should maybe try some solids as he seemed to still be hungry, even after a feed. She basically fobbed me off and told me that I should just breastfeed him more to increase my supply, because breastmilk is what he needs.
I became a desperate woman.
Lactation cookies and bliss balls. Drinking 4L of water a day. Ceasing exercise as to not "sweat" my breastmilk out. Trying to express between feeds. Trying to feed more frequently to remind my boobs that they needed to get cracking on the milk making front.
I may have seen some improvement from my efforts - but it was always temporary.
I started giving Lachlan a bottle of formula at nighttime, and trying to express that feed, just to get a better gauge on what was happening.
It was pretty clear what was going on - I couldn't express a drop.
My supply was dwindling to shit, not through lack of effort or trying to maintain and boost it.
I continued to mix feed for two months - until, on Mothers Day at 6.5 months, we had our last breastfeed together.
Following our last feed - I never had to express any milk. My boobs never got a hard-on. My milk just dried up. I took that as a sure sign that it really just wasn't meant to be.
I was so disappointed in myself. I had taken 'Round One' of breastfeeding for granted, and had completely been KO'd on 'Round Two'. I thought I had failed. I kept wondering what I had done wrong, and what I could have done better.
That was, until my baby started to thrive.
Lachlan immediately started to grow, and put on weight, and hit his milestones. He is the chunkiest, most delightful little guy I know. And why?
Because he is fed. He is happy.
When I look back now - in my eyes - I couldn't have done anything better. I breastfed while I could, because I wanted to - tried, tried and tried some more to keep going - and when it wasn't working anymore, I made the decision to stop, so that I would be able to keep my baby happy.
After a not-so-picture-perfect first breastfeeding experience, I put so much pressure on myself to succeed second time round. I feel that some people expect women to breastfeed, and that doesn't make someone who just can't - feel any better about themselves. It's just wrong. At the end of the day - breastfeeding is not a pre-requisite to becoming a parent. I just wish I could have realised that sooner, and saved myself some guilt.
I look back on the time that I was able to breastfeed my babies as some of the best, most loving, close, and personal moments and memories of my life. I will always be grateful to my body that it allowed me to breastfeed - even if it was for a short time. And hey - I'm still so lucky to have been able to bottle-feed my kids too. There is nothing quite like that little hand, curled over your finger, while you feed your baby - the look on their little face so full of gratitude and love for you, their mama, who is taking such good care of them.
As much as I would have loved to have practised extended breastfeeding this time around, it just wasn't meant to be. Although I am in awe of mothers that do so - they are not the only parents that I admire.
I admire all parents, mums and dads alike - for the sacrifices we all make to ensure that we, and our kids are happy.
Because at the end of the day, that's what matters.
You just have to do what's best for you and your baby.
Behind the blog...
‘The Mummysomniac’ is a lifestyle, motherhood and most recently, pregnancy blog, founded in 2015 by Kirsty McKenzie. She’s a mum of three, blogging about the highs and lows of motherhood, with a straight forward and honest approach, as well as a little bit of humour. Kirsty is passionate about sharing the realities of #MumLife, not the cookie cutter, high gloss version