Everyone know’s that breast-feeding is deemed ‘best’ for a new baby.
Not everyone know’s that it’s not always best for the new Mum. Nor is it always easy and natural.

For anyone that read Matt Coyne’s ‘new Dad’ Facebook post that went viral, he made some good points on how his and his partner’s experience of labour left him convinced that conspiracy theories could in fact be true. The world can keep secrets.
After my breast-feeding experience, I have to agree.

Until you have given birth, you don’t need to know how hard breast feeding can be.
The NHS and those pro-Boob feeding pray on the fact a new, sleep deprived and hormonal Mother, desperate to do “the best” for their baby, will carry on regardless, even if they aren’t enjoying it.

I had decided to give the old boob feeding a crack.
The NHS guidelines state that doing it for the first 6 months of the babies life is the ideal scenario.
In my naïve pre-baby state, I had decided that I would attempt to breastfeed and my aim was to get to 3 months.

I wanted my daughter to have “the best start” in life – OBVS!
However, I didn’t want ME to be the only means of her feeding.
Call me selfish but I wanted some sleep.
Call me selfish but I wanted my Husband to be able to feed his own Daughter now and again.

I’m someone that craves & needs freedom and alone time, so the thought of someone stuck to my chest for 45 minutes plus, 7-8 times a day sounded like a mental prison to me.

BUT I wanted her to have the best start, of course I bloody did, so I entered the baby world thinking I could work to my own rules.

We’d been to one pre-baby parents class at our hospital, which covered a whole hour of breastfeeding advice.
Yes I am being sarcastic on the ‘whole hour’.
2 Ex Midwives and a woollen boob took centre stage. We watched a doll show the correct latch position on woollen boob and then watched one ex Midwife show us how to express milk from woollen boob. I’d also ‘squeezed’ in a couple of You Tube vids, so felt fairly sure I’d know how to get my Daughter to latch -on, on day 1. Preparation, preparation!

Fast forward to Labour Day.
My Daughter arrives after 11 hours of labour, which I managed on just gas & air. Yeah!!! High Five me! Thanks to hypnobirthing, my Daughter being in the correct position and probably my lack of expectation of labour, I had a really positive experience when it came to getting her out.

They passed me Violet.
She was fooking massive. 8lb 11. Just the three little stitches required and once the nurse had finished her needlework, it was time to get Violet to feed. It felt crazy and lovely all at once but what did I know? I was exhausted and high on gas & air.

Fast forward 2 days and my Daughter was having to go to Neo-natal twice daily as her infection levels had been too high and they had to rule out meningitis amongst other things. She also had lost weight since birth and if we were to ever leave the confines of Wythenshaw Maternity unit, we had to get her back up to 8lb 11.

Even with my lack of breastfeeding expertise, it was starting to become clear to me that Violet wasn’t feeding correctly.
I’d needed a blood transfusion after passing out 2 hours after labour and little did I know this can stop your milk coming in. But 2-3 days after and my nipples were bleeding heavily during every feed and skin was starting to come off in the style of a really good school-ground grazed knee. My boobs were heavily swollen, boiling and painful to the touch. Even lying down really hurt.
This coupled with tender everything else, meant I started to dread feeding time.

My life became soley about feeding.
After the 45 minute feed came to an end I was watching the clock, dreading 2 hours passing when I would have to start the process again. As my milk hadn’t come in, in between the 2 hour break, I’d shower and hot cloth/ massage my boobs to try and get the milk going, then try to express. Usually this would give me 30-45 mins ‘off’ to look at my baby, sleep or eat peanut M&M’s. I mainly watched my Husband hold the baby and ate peanut M&M’s.

When Violet began to draw blood from my nipples again and I developed a red rash down the side of my right breast, I was convinced I was getting mastitis and I decided to tell the midwife I needed a rest from feeding.
I needed to have normal nipples and some sleep, before I could face the pain of breastfeeding again.
They said to avoid our 3 day old daughter getting nipple confusion, we should feed her from a teeny, tiny thimble -sized cup, until I was ready to try feeding again.
Whilst I spent an hour pumping my boobs to try and get the milk flowing, my Husband fed our Daughter from the thimble.

This in retrospect was a hilarious time. Baby being fed from a thimble. Me sometimes on all fours or upside down over bed, trying to pump milk.
We took photos the day I managed to get 25 ml out (after almost an hour of pumping) and the Midwives congratulated me and said it wouldn’t be long until the supply kicked in.
My boob’s never leaked like I heard they were supposed too, more of a thimble like trickle and only as many times as I could count on one hand.

As you can guess, the thought of this whole ludicrous process continuing for 12 weeks was starting to seem more and more unlikely for me.
One sensible Midwife after 5-6 days in hospital thankfully told us not to worry about “nipple confusion” and that my baby needed to feed to get her weight and strength up. In came the superhero in the shape of a good old bottle of Aptimil.
Hence a new plan was hatched. We’d combination feed and I would continue pumping to get the milk going and also get booked into some one on one breast feeding advice.

The hospital told me there was a Breastfeeding clinic every Thursday and that I should drop-in, once home, every Thursday morning.
For anyone that has struggled to get a baby to latch correctly, the thought of trekking to a public place, inconveniently located from my home, to then strip off in public and battle to get my daughter onto my breast with a stranger helping me, didn’t fill me with much confidence nor give me that “early bonding days happy glow” type of mood. Call me Crazy but I was starting to feel like this wasn’t a natural process for me or Violet!

Instead I decided to get my Hypnobirthing Teacher to come round and help as I trusted her implicitly and felt comfortable in her presence. After Tracey helped get Violet attached to me, whilst I held her like a rugby ball and fixed my feeding pillow, her observation was that she was not tongue-tied but just had a really small mouth.
Given this, she wasn’t stretching her mouth enough to take in much more than my nipple and hence the stinging was only going to stop if I re-trained Violet to feed by putting my finger in her mouth every few minutes and sliding it open whilst she fed. Yeah right!!!

We got to 12 weeks of combination feeding. On week 11 I “accidentally” forgot to breastfeed at night, when they said your milk supply could be stimulated the most. I wanted it to stop.

If I’m honest, it became an unpleasant chore to me. I’d set my alarm to feed, get the nipple shields on and then poise myself for 45 minutes of ‘feeding’ which was never enough, so had to top her up with formula anyway. EVERY 2 HOURS. DAY AND NIGHT.

Had feeding hurt a little less and I felt Violet was thriving from my limited milk supply, maybe my breastfeeding experience could have been different. But I laugh now at the whole situation and the fact, I thought I could chose how to feed her!

Before the birth of my daughter, many people asked me if I’d breastfeed.
I could only say that I would try. In that sense, I had been right.

Not everyone can breastfeed like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Whether it’s because they don’t want too, don’t like it, it doesn’t feel ‘natural’ to them, their baby won’t latch, their milk doesn’t come in, or the baby needs to cluster feed so frequently – the woman can’t handle it anymore.
I’ve heard that some babies, and from my limited straw poll of 20 female friends, feed for hours at a time. HOURS. Not an hour, 3 or 4 hours. Half a working day.

Now does anyone tell you this before D-Day?
What if you are not the type to be able to stay still and feed in front of the TV?
Some love the excuse to do nothing but lie and bond / chill.
Some people, myself included, are just not wired this way.

When I think of Jamie Oliver making comments in public about breastfeeding, or any male for that fact: I just want to punch them in the face and then attach a small rabbid dog to their testicles for 45 minutes to 1 hour, 7-8 times a day.

All I can say is that after labour, I was starting to feel like Theon Grayjoy in Game of Thrones. You know the bit where he is attached to a wooden board and then has his penis cut off? That bit.

I needed my Husband in those day’s more than I had ever cared to admit I needed anyone.
He was my rock and supported me in every way possible.
But when it comes to commenting on breastfeeding, any man outside of the Dad in question, should absolutely keep their opinions to themselves.

Just as every women’s labour is different, so is every women’s experience of breastfeeding.
Did I mention I got my baby out within 11 hours and with only the help of a ten’s machine and wonderful gas & air?

My view in hindsight is that people who succeed at breastfeeding, do so for many reasons. Most commonly, I’d say the successful ones are all dog-eared determined to make it work. They really believe it’s the only way. I just wasn’t that determined.

Those who succeed are probably avid supporters of feeding and all it’s benefits and were most likely, breastfed themselves.
It can also be down to the fact they may have waited to have a child for a really long time. Possibly struggled to get pregnant or had a very medicalised childbirth. After such a traumatic event, the desire to then have something more ‘natural’ and that you are in control of, makes complete sense.

I wasn’t breastfed. I wasn’t a sickly child. I have done alright academically. I don’t have diabetes, have never been overweight, didn’t develop asthma and have always had a great bond with my Mother.
Given all of the above, whilst I respect scientific research and can see that Breastfeeding does have better statistics for lower diseases etc, I also believe several other lifestyle factors will come into play. Diet, nurture, education for example.

If I ever had another child and at the moment that still seems crazy, I’d absolutely give it a go again.
Everything can be different second time around.
However, depending on my labour and pain afterwards, I would be far faster and guilt-free at stopping if I needed too.
Happy Mummy equals happy baby.
That is a fact and not subject to several scales of interpretation.

Even if I did breastfeed more successfully in the future, I will always do a formula feed at the night time feed.
Actually when I say I, I mean get my Husband too!
I’m a big believer in the Father being involved for his bonding purposes and the recovery purposes for me or Mother’s generally. Sleep heals.
I’m a big believer in admitting, I am NOT Superwoman!

For anyone that does breastfeed successfully – big respect to you! Especially if you don’t actually enjoy it! These women really do deserve medals.
But do they love their babies more than I love mine?
Not necessarily.

There is a huge emphasis on New Mother’s, especially first time Mother’s, to start sacrificing.
Whilst some sacrificial elements are unavoidable, know where your own personal limits are and try and keep yourself as happy as possible.

For anyone who finds themselves in their first child situation, post labour and struggling under the watchful eyes of the Breast-feeding Gestapo/ Midwives and / or opinionated friends and family: just remember:
What do you want and what can you realistically do for yourself and the baby? What’s best for your health and happiness is what’s best for YOUR new arrival.

In hindsight, I did give my daughter those first all important feeds. But the remaining few weeks, would I have been better lying around enjoying skin on skin and giving her a bottle, rather than dreading every breast-fed feed?

I think the NHS should look at doing more early stages development with expectant Mothers and be more honest and prescriptive on what Breastfeeding will be or could be like, in the first 12 -16 weeks.
For any absolute Pro-Breast Feeders looking for spare cash on maternity leave, maybe they could volunteer at local classes Pre and Post birth, to show women feeding positions and any tips?

Pregnancy lasts a long time and I would have liked more practical courses that didn’t cost the earth, that I could have been studying throughout those 9 months. I could have been more prepared.

So remember ladies, breast milk is best, but only if it’s also right for you too.