Welcome to the sixth Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month we have some excellent contributions on the theme of "What I didn't expect when I was expecting..." covering mums' expectations of breastfeeding and the reality.
Here's my contribution and don't forget to check out the other posts listed below!
What I Wish I'd Known about Breastfeeding!
Breastfeed! It was a decision that came easily to me when I was pregnant. I knew I would give it a try and that was that. I never thought to read about it or to ask other mums if they'd breastfed - I just knew it was best for my baby and there was no more to be said or thought about it. Don't get me wrong, I didn't intentionally set out not to research it. I just didn't think to!
Seven years on and currently breastfeeding my third child (Yep, right now as I type!) the fact that I did no research at all seems incomprehensible to me. And considering that I devoured books about getting pregnant, being pregnant and birth choices I feel in hindsight that it was just something I overlooked in all my excitement.
So when my first daughter was handed to me, it was with a strange sense of trepidation that I asked the midwife if I could breastfeed her. And when she didn't latch on immediately I assumed I was doing something wrong. However, rather than seeking medical help, I just kept trying until she did. After all, I reasoned, everyone was busy and it's supposed to come naturally. And later on that day when I was getting a little sore and asked the midwife if I was doing it right she more or less stuffed my nipple into the baby's mouth, told me that I was doing great - and off she went!
Only now, looking back and remembering that I did persevere makes me realise that I am very strong-willed when I set my mind on something. But it also makes me a little tearful to think that many new mums would have given up at that precise point. And would have felt that somehow they had failed themselves and their babies.
Within days of Tara's birth I was blistering, raw and bleeding - but even this didn't stop me! I dreaded every feed and sat with clenched teeth and tear-stung eyes as Tara latched on and the milk came in.
Believe it or not I simply believed that what I was going through was perfectly normal!
By the time Tara was four weeks old, rather unsurprisingly, I was in the throes of a painful bout of Mastitis, the first of many!
Anyway, to cut a very long story a little shorter, there are many things things I really wish I had known about breastfeeding, if for no other reason than to have reassured me I was not alone in experiencing problems and that breastfeeding shouldn't be difficult or painful...
I wish I'd known that breastfeeding was never going to be an easy option. Yes, it's much healthier for mums and babies and extremely convenient during the night, but on the other hand mum is responsible for all the feeding and breastfeeding can be utterly exhausting.
I wish I had prepared for this side of things well in advance.
I wish I had allowed other family members to help out more. (Instead I tried to do it all, to prove I was coping, which looking back, I clearly wasn't and ended up exhausted, tearful and even resentful on occasion!)
I wish I had sought guidance about how to express milk so that I could get the occasional break.
I wish I had known how important it is to insist upon getting help with positioning the baby so that problems such as blocked milk ducts and mastitis are avoided.
I wish I'd known that breastfed babies get colic too! And that baby massage is great for relieving the symptoms.
I wish I'd known that there are good and not so good nursing pads (that would really have helped!).
I wish I had been much more confident and adept about nursing in public so that other mums would have seen breastfeeding in action.
I wish that I'd known that there are myriad support groups, websites and blogs that offer help and advice to pregnant and nursing mothers.
I wish someone had warned me how strong the breastfeeding bond is! And how hard it can be mentally to quit!!
And I really wish I'd been able to breastfeed for the WHO's recommended two years.
But I did breastfeed Tara for sixteen months... and as a first time mum who truly had very little knowledge about breastfeeding I feel proud that I managed that. I had a great and very sympathetic health visitor, plenty of immediate family support and a fabulously supportive husband who all helped me through the moments when I felt like throwing the towel in...
Breastfeeding, what I wish I had known all those years ago, I soon learnt by trial and error. As a result by the time numbers two and three arrived I was a proficient breastfeeder.
And these days, as an active member of a local breastfeeding support group and the owner of a breastfeeding website and blog, I hope my own experiences have helped other mums prepare for breastfeeding prenatally and offered them helpful and useful advice postnatally!
So how was it for you? Please leave a comment below and share your experiences!
Check out these great contributions from the regular Carnival of Breastfeeding bloggers on the same theme:
This month we also have the some fantastic contributions from the following guest bloggers:
Leisa at Down With the Kids gives us "Goodbye Booby", a heartwarming post discussing her feelings about weaning.
Ashlee at New Mama’s Nest shares her experience of breastfeeding her premature baby.
Heather at The Spice Choir talks about how breastfeeding changed her life.
Melanie from Spit-Up on My Shoulder, writes about why Education is Key. (She is also a postpartum doula who has written a book entitled Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me? True Stories of New Motherhood).
Rixa at The True Face of Birth explains how preparation pre-birth helped her succeed with breastfeeding.