I would say that breastfeeding has been one of my biggest surprises
in parenting as a whole.
I didn't have mixed feelings about it before I had the beautiful boy,
it was more that I had no feelings about it.
I wanted to give it a go,
but I wasn't at all worried about whether I would keep it up or not.
I had no expectations,
and my breastfeeding journey with my son,
just amazed me in the best way possible.
Second time around was different
because prior experience meant I had a ton of expectations.
I still stood by every word I had thought or felt the first time around;
that a happy mummy and a happy baby were the most important bit.
I was determined, yet again, that I would not allow myself to be a martyr to it.
I had two babies to be thinking about this time around after all,
and I had no doubt that a toddler running around
was going to present a new set of challenges for breastfeeding my new baby.
But like most things about parenting
when you are doing it for the second time,
I had baggage.
And a lot of mine was tied up in breastfeeding.
My breastfeeding experience with my first born had been amazing,
and more than anything I wanted to have that again.
Late on in my second pregnancy I found myself really looking forward
to the opportunity to breastfeed again.
I was actually really worried that I wouldn't be able to for some reason,
I had horrible dreams about it and woke up in a cold sweat;
a baby that wouldn't latch,
milk that didn't come in,
a jealous toddler who screamed whenever I fed;
these things all featured in my hormonally charged dreams.
I was also so worried that I would manage to feed,
but that for some reason I wouldn't make it as long as I did with my son,
and I foolishly though that I would be a bad mummy if I didn't make it to a year with my second baby too.
That was kind of where I left it
when I wrote my last post about my breastfeeding journey.
And that was a while ago now...
When my little lady was born,
similarly to her brother before her,
I didn't have a kangaroo delivery (where they place the baby straight onto your tummy)
I didn't do skin to skin contact
or feed immediately.
She was probably about an hour old when I fed her the first time.
She started snuffling around rooting for food,
I offered, and just like that she had it.
No teaching needed.
No lazy latch or sleepy feeding.
She fed hungrily and enthusiastically for 10 minutes
and that was that.
The quick version of the story would be
that twelve months down the line
things haven't changed very much.
But the truth is, there have been high points and low points in this breastfeeding journey.
For the most part my little lady has been a complete pro at feeding.
Where her brother would feed for forty minutes
and anything beyond an hour on a growth spurt,
she has always been a quick feeder;
normally around eight to ten minutes,
fifteen to twenty as a maximum
and even then it was only because she was sleepy.
Her quick feeds certainly made my worries vanish
about feeding a baby
while also caring for a todder.
But a quick feeder is not without it's unique set of worries.
There were plenty of times when I was utterly convinced that my milk supply must be low
and that my darling girl must be hungry.
Those old concerns about never being sure how much milk a breastfeed baby gets
didn't seem to have gone away in the early days.
But confidence and prior knowledge did help a bit.
During my breast feeding journey with my beautiful girl
I also started another breastfeeding journey
as I began training to become a peer supporter.
Peer support was at the foundation of the confidence I had felt
to keep on feeding beyond the newborn days with my son.
Those lovely, friendly, experienced mothers empowered me.
They normalised any concerns I had,
they answered my questions on latch, routine and weaning
and most of all, they gave me knowledge and understanding
about the positive thing I was doing.
Cheesy as it sounds
these women who gave their time and their expertise for free
inspired me to give back.
My own experience with breastfeeding has value to other mums,
and the training to become a peer supporter gave me more information
to offer support and help when it is needed most.
By the time I finished my training
I had a year of feeding my son under my belt
and ten months of feeding my daughter.
I felt like I truly had this breastfeeding thing down.
And then I got thrown a curve ball.
A curveball which, thankfully, I had the knowledge to identify quickly.
I began to experience pain
not during but after feeding.
Only on one side
but it was crippling.
No exaggeration it left me curled over in agony
for anything from an hour to three hours after any feed I did on my right side.
The stabbing, deep tissue pain I was experiencing,
combined with my daughter pulling back during a feed,
And knowing how tricky it can be to treat
I went straight to the doctor for treatment.
Fortunately I was listened to
and I have no doubt my new peer supporter qualification
meant that the doctor took me far more seriously
and she gave me te exact aggressive treatment I needed.
Unfortunately while the thrush was treated
the damage it had done resulted in my suffering from vasospasm.
The deep stabbing pains continued
and increase in frequency and length.
Vasospasm is a pretty rare thing to suffer with
and from what I understand of it
during feeds the blood supply to parts of breast and nipple were being reduced.
As my little lady unlatched
my skin would appear pale blue or white,
before blushing to a purple
and then back to a normal pink
as the bloody supply returned to normal.
However this sudden flow of blood would cause spasms in the blood vessels
and it was almost like the breast tissue kept cramping,
which could only be soothed by staying really still and apply heat.
Vasospasm is something which, for most mums, simply has to run its course
and fortunately we were at a point where we were only feeding morning and bedtime
so I was able to take time to be comfortable and apply heat while waiting for the spasms to subside.
In all, this low point lasted about a month.
A month which, while I was in it, seemed forever.
I have no doubt that had it not been for my recent peer support training
and the support I received from other peer supporters at that time,
that it would have been the end of our feeding journey.
Only the knowledge, or should that be hope, that it would pass
and my own stubborn streak and determination
to give my daughter the good start my son had,
kept me going.
At the time I was so worried it would cast an ugly shadow
over my otherwise wonderful experiences,
or that, even worse, our breastfeeding would end on a low point.
But I persevered, we got through it
and we got back to normal, pain-free feeding.
And that time feels like a small blip in the scheme of it all.
And silver lining of that particular cloud
is that I think I'll be a better peer supporter as a result.
Now we have passed the point that my little boy stopped at,
and are breastfeeding into the second year.
The two feeds each day seem more than manageable
and my little lady's love of cows milk
means I can pop out for the odd night out
without needing to worry about her.
She was so needy and such a milk monster in her first six months
that I never thought we'd get to this point so soon.
I genuinely thought dropping every single feed would be a fight
but actually following her lead and going with the flow has been perfect.
She dropped the mid-afternoon, then mid-morning, then lunch time feeds with ease,
later than her brother did, but happily.
As to where our journey goes from here,
I couldn't really tell you.
Part of me wonders if now would be a good time to stop;
she is at a point where she likes to feed but can take it or leave it.
And I feel that maybe although stopping would be initiated by me
now could be a seamless and potentially easier time to stop.
But the other part of me thinks maybe continuing to follow her will work better
and waiting for her to self-wean like her brother did
might be the best decision all round.
I guess time will tell.
Breastfeeding and my experiences of motherhood are pretty tightly intertwined
and I wouldn't have it any differently.
It is one of the best things that I've done as a mother
and it is something which makes me ridiculously proud.
It was, and is, absolutely the right thing for me, my babies and my family.
It makes us happy and that's what matters.
I have been lucky.
Many mummies are not.
I know that only too well.
Breastfeeding is not a given.
It is not easy.
And it is not the best thing for every family.
But it was the best thing for mine,
and I couldn't be more grateful.