Savannah, or Chunk as we affectionately call her, took to breastfeeding moments after she was born. It took her about ten minutes of skin to skin with me before she crawled/wriggled her way from my belly to my boob, and she stayed on there pretty much all night. All of the nurses told me how well she latched on, and how good she was at sucking. This gave me a false sense of security; “how hard can this be?” I thought. She also slept from 11 to 6 with only three small feeds in between. There was no crying, no fussing and I felt like one hell of a smug son of a bitch when I heard other babies crying. This was especially pleasing as she had been a stressed baby inside and had pooed, leading to meconium being in my waters, and her being a concern to us and the nurses.
But no, she was an angel, sleeping and eating just the way I thought and hoped she would.
Night two, on the other hand was completely different! By the next morning she had started to feed every hour and this continued throughout the night. I had been confident that as I’d always been a bad sleeper having a baby would not make much difference (total fool!!), but the second night hit me like a ton of bricks. She napped, then woke hungry, every hour, sometimes every 45 minutes. This surely wasn’t normal? Yes, all the books and websites said that babies would feed often, but not many seemed to be saying that they would continue feeding at that rate throughout the day and night. They gave me a false sense of security that had me believing the charts and quotes. And obviously at that time I was as physically useful as Stephen Hawkings and so exhausted through literally having the life sucked out of me. No one, not even at the breastfeeding classes, mentioned that she might feed every 45 minutes/hour!
She also would not sleep, or even nap, in the Moses basket, even if it was next to me in bed. Everywhere I looked it seemed to advise against babies sleeping in the bed with you because of the risk of SIDS and the majority of people seemed to turn their nose up and judge me for it. We bought a sleepyhead which she liked for a while but then seemed to get bored of and a sleeping bag which she tried to fight her way out of. So, she slept next to me, and now does so every night. To me it feels like the most natural thing, and I just love waking up with her little smiley face right next to me. If I had to get out of bed every time she needed feeding I think I would collapse with exhaustion. This way I can just whack my boob out when she gets fussy; she doesn’t need to cry so I barely even have to wake up to feed her.
I felt very pressured by all sides when I had her. I was in Yorkshire by day three to see the in-laws and was not at all ready to be out of the house. I was far too inexperienced at being a mummy to be anywhere but my bed or sofa. I was also encouraged to go out when we got back instead of sitting around. I have promised myself that next time around I will be staying in the house and in comfy clothes for a month! I quickly learnt to breastfeed in public, but seeing as how she fed every hour it was difficult to do anything or go anywhere without her getting upset if I took my time. The common assumption was that this was a bad thing and a whole team of professionals, midwives, health visitors and doctors as well as family and anyone who wanted to give their opinion, made me extremely conscious that I was wrong for giving in and feeding so often. I was encouraged to give her a dummy, to top up with formula and again to make her sleep away from me.
I was confused as I felt that what I was doing was natural and right. She was hungry, and I fed her, where was the problem? She was a healthy weight, peeing and pooing all the time and most importantly, happy. So why was I made to feel like I was doing something wrong? Some midwives told me that it was ok to pump from one month, others from 6 weeks and others 8 weeks. I knew I had a very good supply of milk as I went to bed one night a 34b and woke up a 34dd, and was leaking from 30 weeks, so she must be getting enough, but just be hungry. When I got over the original engorged pains I got quite used to her feeding very quickly and loved it; it was really special bonding time that we shared. This also made me want to avoid pumping and bottles as I felt it was the only thing I could do exclusively and I didn’t want that taken away from me. I had so wanted to breastfeed when I was pregnant that I battled on feeding frequently because I didn’t want to give in without a fight.
One old woman was advising me to get her on the bottle and told me that she had got her granddaughter to take it by keeping her away from her mum for 15 hours until she took it. I mean what the fuck? I was being criticised for “giving into her” and making her “totally reliant upon me” and she was starving hers…? I lost a lot of confidence in the first couple of months thinking that I was doing something wrong and quite a lot of times I questioned whether breast feeding was the right thing for both of us, especially when people kept telling me not to let me let the “breast police” take over. I was told that I could make her sleep during the day by leaving her on her own; tried it once, didn’t work, didn’t like it, didn’t try again!
When I look at my beautiful girl, especially when she’s not grouchy, I can’t see that I’m doing anything wrong. I do what she wants, but surely she wants it because she needs it? I was and am doing exactly what her little body needs. I don’t want to leave her to cry, whether it’s because she’s hungry, bored or just wants cuddles; it hurts my heart when she cries and is unnecessary as I’m more than willing to give her all of the above, even when I’m knackered. She’s always at my side, sleeping, eating and bathing with me, and why should I separate us if we’re both comfortable with that?
Friends I’ve spoken to can’t believe I’m still going at this rate; having had lots of problems with breastfeeding they switched to formula after a lack of support, or plethora of bad advice. But, they are not judging me, the same way that I wouldn’t dream of judging them for doing what they felt was necessary for them, and best for their babies. Most are admittedly quite sad that they stopped so early, something that makes me even pleased that I am sticking with it regardless of the frequency. She may not sleep for hours on end like formula fed babies, and I cannot be separated from her until she will take a bottle or is on solids, but I can cope. Breastfeeding for me was all about good advice, instincts and confidence. Once I knew how to trust all of the above I realised that what I am doing is right for me and her.
And as for sleeping… I’m sure that one day she will sleep during the day. For now, I know that I am always guaranteed an ear to rant at all day long!