Persephone: Parent

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Breastfeeding is Easy Peasy

on October 24, 2014

One of my biggest realisations since becoming pregnant this time is how much medical professionals lie to you during a pregnancy. It was heavily implied that pain relief and cesarean meant a baby couldn’t breastfeed or that breastfeeding, when done right, does not hurt. Or how about the fact that nipple creams and shields provide no benefit. And, as an article from The Guardian says, breastfeeding is natural, but that by no means makes it easy. The fact that the article is written from a father makes it all the more refreshing because if the point of this blog is to say that women, mummies to be are mis-led, then so are fathers. Far worse in some ways.

Maybe some people never have a problem. Maybe some never have a bad latch, never need cream or shields to help get through a bad few days or nights. Maybe some never get blisters, engorgement, mastitis or worse. Soon after I stopped breastfeeding Elvis, I discovered a milk bleb. Well, my milk was all gone and whilst there was no pain from it, I didn’t think it should just remain there until Robin comes along. I posted in a local bf group for advise as I had always healed up my milk blisters and blebs for Elvis feeding it out of me (blood blisters heal themselves eventually). A very good friend, pro-feeder of two kiddies, responded asking what a milk blister even was. So, I completely get that some mums, some babies just do it and they never have a problem. Some people get quick diagnoses of tongue tie and have feeding issues resolve. Some people have a baby that latch on perfectly straight away. It’s the same as how some babies become efficient feeders and take a feed in 5 minutes, others take an hour at the same age. Or how some babies self-wean, others need to be slowly decreased over a few months. But how come, in my experience, during pregnancy, professional people tell you about those later differences but not about the immediate ones?

I by no means mean to scare monger a soon to be mum with tales of bleeding nipples and screaming at every latch, but how about some realism? During my antenatal classes, my breastfeeding classes none of the pains were mentioned, nipple shields and nipple cream were never mentioned. I’ve said in a different blog that there are plenty of natural things that do not work as nature intended, so why should breastfeeding?

Why is breastfeeding reported as being easier and cheaper than formula feeding? I read someone’s blog where, due to the mastitis and blockages, the medicines not being covered by their countries insurance — the cost to them was huge. And it isn’t always easier. Not to begin. I know that by 4 months I knew that I could not be bothered to learn how to sterilise or prepare formula or buy it, but in those first two weeks? We did. And I remember feeling guilty by the pros that I had supplemented with formula for a few nights. I was tired, expressing wasn’t working and I desperately wanted to give up. Then the pain started. The blood blisters, the milk blisters. By 3 weeks, I was screaming in agony every other feed for my left side, unable to feed on that side in public because it hurt so badly and Elvis was still feeding every three hours so there was no resting that side.

I’m incredibly lucky in my city that there is support, the city as a whole is very pro breastfeeding. And I don’t just mean by the midwives before and after birth, who discharge you and don’t have time for follow ups. We have daily breastfeeding free drop in sessions around the city – except maybe Sundays. They all have trained volunteers manning them. We have an incredibly friendly and supportive facebook group, regularly advertised in the general mummy group.

Elvis was about 5 days old, I had no sleep. I’d had people from breastfeeding support come out to me, but I knew there was something wrong. I went straight to the nearest group. At 5.5 months his latch changed and I felt pain like newborn again, I went straight to the nearest group. I know mums that attended groups weekly, needing support. At first I needed to see mums further down the line, surviving and hear what they had battled through. It gave me hope; I could survive to. In those days, my favourite baby group had no other breast feeders so who could I learn from?

Support and help is needed for a lot of mums no matter how they feed, parent, discipline, etc, but breastfeeding, to me at least, seems to be the one field (other than maybe delivery itself) where you are told by professionals, people you automatically trust and believe that you should breastfeed, that it won’t hurt. So what do you do when it does hurt, when your baby isn’t thriving and you feel like a failure, feel like giving up? Even worse, what do you do when it’s 2am, you’re exhausted, your partner can do very little to help before they genetically engineer men who can lactate, and it is hurting and everything official you’ve been told/read is telling you it’s natural and simple? At that moment, you’re the one doing wrong, right?

Yep, breastfeeding’s a doddle for everyone! Don’t get me wrong, it was difficult, it was painful, it was time-consuming, it was exhausting, it was lonely. Did I mention painful? But that did all pass. And it is all of those things that worry me about the second time around. But I’m not naive as I was the first time around. And if this can be the shocking reality for a new mummy, then what the Hell does the father think? Does he sit there as his partner sobs in pain and lack of sanity from sleep deprivation, that she’s being weak? Because he’s been told that it’s natural and pain free, that it’s what everyone can and should do. Does he sit there worrying over his newborn and his partner, worrying that they’re not going to make it through, all because of a tiny little blood blister on a nipple? Does he feel helpless because he can’t takeover, because he can’t take her pain away, because he can’t sleep for her? Not until that genetic engineering works anyway.

~ P

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