Three years ago when I found out I was pregnant with Lady Emma, I never, ever imagined that I would breastfeed past 3 months. I deeply regretted not nursing Alex and I was absolutely determined that this new baby would be breastfed. I remember speaking with a friend and saying that I hoped I would make it to 6 weeks but no way would we go past 3 months. The thought of nursing a baby with teeth (the absolute horror!!) filled me with fear and honestly I was really creeped out about the idea of nursing a child who could ask for it. And here I am “still” feeding a 2-year-old.
Our first 6 weeks were very difficult. We had a few birth complications and I was recovering from a section and a horrendous dose of bronchitis. Emma had the worst latch and all that I could think of was “if I gave her a bottle, at least I could spend some time with Alex instead of being with Emma 24/7 nursing non-stop”.
But I persevered. Cluster feeding is not something that happens forever – it is the baby’s way of building your supply. I had also read that as the weeks went on, she would become more effective at emptying the boob and that I would get more time with Alex. A sense of sheer determination came over me to ensure that we would have a successful breastfeeding relationship. I think that we have this perception that breastfeeding should be easy as it is what our bodies are made to do, but sometimes that isn’t the case. It is a skill that mum and baby need to learn and (with the right support and knowledge) one that you will master quickly.
In the early days I had this mantra “I just have to get to 6 weeks, it will all start to get easier from there”. I used to count the weeks and realise as we went from 3 to 4 weeks and 4 to 5, that yes, it was getting so much easier. As we hit Emma’s 6 week birthday, I decided that I was going to reduce all formula top-ups so that she was exclusively breastfed. She had been receiving a maximum of 2 bottles of formula a day since we had been in the hospital. It was a combination of Emma having jaundice and what I now suspect to be at least a lip and possibly a tongue tie causing a poor latch that meant she was receiving formula. I remembering dreading not giving a bottle of formula (I have no idea why!)
The first 6 weeks passed and it was getting easier, so I didn’t see the need to stop. And then 3 months came up and it didn’t make any sense to stop and now Emma is 2 years and 4 months and I think she would have a fit if we tried to wean at this point. I am absolutely certain that she will “still” (I hate that word) be breastfeeding for her 3rd birthday. Gradually, Emma is having less and less “yellow boobie” (I have no clue where this came from – it was something Emma started to say!!) and we are down to just night-time (and all night) feeds.
It isn’t all roses and unicorns either. There are some days that I feel so touched out that I just can’t imagine continuing on this journey. And Emma can have a pretty epic shit fit if doesn’t get what she wants. But we have the most wonderful bond. The craziest thing is that it is like Emma can sense that I am stressed out and need to sit down and she will request (or scream for) yellow boobie. This few minutes of calm (or acrobatics, as it usually is with a toddler) really can make such a difference to us both.
My tops tips to get through the first 6 weeks (and beyond):
- Find your tribe. Regardless of whether they are online or your local breastfeeding group, find them in pregnancy and learn all you can. I found my tribe via a Facebook group I had heard about through the grapevine. The support and knowledge that I received throughout my pregnancy and the early days is 100% the reason I am breastfeeding at 2.
- Get to your local breastfeeding or Le Leche League breastfeeding group during pregnancy. A successful breastfeeding relationship depends on many factors, but in my opinion the most important thing you need to know is what normal newborn behaviours are. For example, a baby fussing at the boob or staying there for a long time (maybe up to an hour in the beginning) and then sleeping for 20 minutes and looking to be fed again is NOT a sign of having no milk. This is a normal newborn behaviour as breast milk is easily digested and baby is trying to build your supply. You will learn all this information and much more at your local groups. You may also find that they will have a buddy system in place, meaning you will be linked in with a breastfeeding mum who can answer all your questions in the early days.
- Read “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. It is one of the best books on breastfeeding and it is full of sound, knowledgable advice.
- Have the number of your nearest lactation consultant. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the only one who can diagnose issues such as poor milk transfer, lip and tongue tie. Having this information at hand before baby is born can make it easier to get in contact with them should you need to.
- Be confident in your decision. When you have all the knowledge and the desire to breastfeed, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
I would love to hear your breastfeeding stories in the comments below x