Breastfeeding: the good, the bad and the ugly

Feeding your baby is something that sounds so simple, but in my experience is actually more complicated than expected.

Firstly, there’s the pressure. We all know the ‘breast is best’ message. That gets rammed down our throats enough by health professionals. Something I wasn’t expecting was the pressure I put on myself. Up until now (8 weeks), I’ve mangaged to exclusively breastfeed Jacob, but it has not been easy and at times I’ve really wanted to give up. The only thing stopping me at times has been the fact we don’t have any formula in the house.

I know I’d be really disappointed in myself if I did give up, which is ridiculous. My rational mind knows that the only thing that matters is the baby getting fed, but my postnatal brain thinks that it’s incredibly important that I feed him myself and if I don’t I’m a failure.

Secondly, breastfeeding did hurt at first. Occasionally it still does. We had problems with the latch at first, which was helped by going to a Baby Cafe. I strongly recommend going if there’s one near you. The breastfeeding councillor showed me the biological nursing position, where you kind of sit the baby upright and allow them to latch on themselves, which really improved things for me.

The thing I didn’t expect was how tied down I’ve felt at times. Knowing you are the only one who can feed the baby can be amazingly pressurising. Expressing milk occasionally has really helped me with that and I recommend getting a decent pump to make things easier.

Cluster feeding—where babies feed frequently (sometimes constantly) for a short period, often because of a growth spurt—has also been tricky. The website Kellymom has some great information on that and many other aspects of breastfeeding. I think if you didn’t expect it, you’d think there was something seriously wrong.

On the positive side, I love the closeness we get from breastfeeding—the snuggles are brilliant—and as a lazy mother I also love that there’s no sterilising. It’s also great in the middle of the night when the baby is screaming and I can stay in bed, whip a boob out and feed him. Minimal fuss and no going downstairs to make up a bottle. Perfect.

Overall, breastfeeding has been a great experience, but I think women aren’t prepared for the difficult side. It’s not always easy, but overall I’ve found it to be worth it. I hope to continue for a good while yet, but I am starting to realise that the odd bit of formula might not hurt. I’ll keep you posted.

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