_MG_0071-EditWhen I was ten, I visited an aunt who was breastfeeding her baby. I legged it red faced from the room, but that image didn’t turn me off. It was completely opposite, the image will always remain with me. It was beautiful and inspiring.

Years later when I was expecting my first child I told my other half that I would be breastfeeding. I used to read him articles saying that your partner was the biggest influence on whether you succeeded or not. This was my subtle way of warning him to support me or else. I would often read out loud about the benefits. When I was asked how I would feed, the responses I mostly got was not to expect too much cause it was very hard. I found this irritating that I was expected to fail before I had even begun. I’m stubborn thank god, so was adamant that I wouldn’t be giving up without a fight.

So my little boy entered the world unexpected on Christmas day 2006. Five weeks early. It was so lovely, we were over the moon! I was allowed to hold him for a few minutes and then he was whisked away to the special care unit.

I wasn’t a mammy yet so I didn’t know what I was missing. I had a nap of one and a half hours and when awake started chasing a midwife asking what I did about feeds for him and that I wanted to breastfeed. So far nobody had asked how I would feed, and sure I didn’t know when to start or what to do it was so new. I just expected somebody to tell me what to do next. She answered that because he was in the unit, I would have to pump which they would provide me with.

So I went up to the next floor to get a pump. I explained again and they sent me back down to get the ward pump. On the ward I was told no, they only had one, and that I had to get one upstairs in the special care unit. Anyway up and down maybe one or two more times and I started saying “No, I’ve just given birth and I need someone to tell me what to do”.

Soon enough I was given a pump, all for the sake of a drop but I was constantly reassured it was fine, that’s all he needed.  Even though it was disheartening seeing virtually nothing in the little bottle, the midwives said to keep going.

My milk was flowing by the time I was discharged, my little boy was still in the ward, but I would set the alarm for pumping every three hours round the clock. We tried to latch him on during the day and he would get from my freezer stock during the night feeds.

As he was in the unit, he needed to take bottles and feeds off me, so this took us two weeks to fully establish. In the unit, there were times that my husband would be trying to get the nipple in, other times I’d have 2/3 midwifes around just trying different things giving different advice, all so helpful but so confusing. I was worried I had too floppy boobs, so he wasn’t getting a good grip with his mouth. Eventually, with the aid of nipple shields for my inverted nipples, I got him on. Two weeks later I weaned him off the nipple shields and we were feeding straight from the breast.

When my freezer stock dried up I would offer the odd top up of formula as he went through growth spurts. Breastfeeding was not the normal to my in-laws, but they were very supportive. I did feed in another room, but I had started that and it was hard to change. This was a mistake that I would do differently next time. My supply slowed and got lower and lower as the weeks progressed. I eventually gave up at twenty two weeks. I was so happy with myself to go this long as my initial target was twelve weeks, but I knew I had made some mistakes that I would learn from.

So my beautiful daughter arrived three weeks early in April 2009.  We were over the moon. It was like a new experience altogether.  She was with me from the start, unlike my son. She latched on immediately. I knew at once I was more confident that I could do it this time.

My father in-law visited on the second day, and he could look nowhere when she demanded a feed. So that sorted my problem out this time, no more hiding, sure it’s just natural.

No one could prepare me for the hunger on the second day, she was only quiet when on me, which I found so tiring. I gave in after four hours of constant feed to a top up. She only took 10mls which pleased me no end. I ended up having an argument with a top paediatrician about top ups. She was insisting I continue them after each feed to get rid of her jaundice, but I didn’t agree. I felt quite bullied by this and reluctantly followed her instruction. I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to battle anyone as baby blues were coming on a bit early. Top ups were a fear of mine because these had led to my supply issues, which in turn ended my breastfeeding journey on my son.

This time when I had an issue I contacted LLL and went along to their meetings and coffee mornings. I found these great. They knew so much and were so supportive. They were always at the end of the phone for many of my struggles. I continued to breastfeed till my little girl was fifteen months old.

From twelve months I was back in work and we slowly introduced cow’s milk. I am now pregnant again on number three so my journey is not yet over, but I will cherish each and every feed that I have given my children. It doesn’t make me a better mother, but I’m proud of what I have achieved so far. I would hope to inspire at least my Daughter and of course my Son.

My mother breastfed me for six weeks and my cousin said my mother inspired her when she was feeding me, so who knows who’s inspiration I could be! I’m always surprised by the lack of knowledge some professionals have on breastfeeding. Just because there are posters all over hospitals doesn’t mean they have the manpower to support the quest to encourage breastfeeding as the normal. Some people think they are being pressed into breastfeeding, whereas I felt I had to fight to get support for wanting to do it.

The best thing a new mother can do is be prepared, read as much as you can beforehand. Know about growth spurts, low supply issues, cracked nipples, good latch and wet nappies as a sign of enough milk. Yes it is hard at the start, but a few weeks down the line you will see benefits. Expect jaundice cause breastfed babies don’t get fluids as quick as bottle fed babies but this clears quickly. Go to an LLL meeting before.