Is Breast really best?
We have all heard the saying and been told over and over that “breast is best” for a variety of positive reasons, being most beneficial to mama and her baby. I have enjoyed four very special months of exclusively breastfeeding Ava, which I am “over the moon” happy about and proud of, as unfortunately I didn’t experience the same with Jaxon.
Maybe sharing my two experiences is something you resonate with, maybe you’re an expecting mama that can pick out some “words of wisdom” from my post, or maybe you have breast fed or bottle fed your children and they all grown up already and just feel like a good read, while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea.
I did a TON of reading before Jaxon was born. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for anything and everything as a first-time-mom. For some reason though, I did not do a lot of reading when it came to breastfeeding. I’m not really sure why, I suppose I just always thought this is something that would just happen naturally and all would fall into place.
If you have read my blog posts prior to this one, you would have read that my birth with Jaxon was a somewhat difficult and tiring one. He did not want to latch the few times we tried after his birth and in the early hours of the next morning after he was born, he received his first formula top-up because he was so hungry. Thereafter, I persisted with trying to breastfeed but after every feed he would cry and cry and the nurses would encourage me to keep giving him top-ups, which I allowed, because let’s be honest, as a first-time-mom the last thing you want is to think that you are allowing your baby to starve.
Once we arrived home, I felt at ease, being in my own space, and was determined to get “into the swing of things” with breastfeeding Jaxon. I will never forget our fourth night at home, where out of the blue that night he cried and screamed for what felt like non-stop until the early hours of the next morning. I tried skin-to-skin, putting him on my breast to drink, rocking him, kept trying to breastfeed him… but he was inconsolable. I just thought it must have been a bad night, but when we went for his first weigh-in at the clinic the next day, I was told he had not gained weight and was obviously super hungry, which is probably why he screamed so much the night before. Roll on feeling like the WORST mom in the world at that moment. The nurse advised me to express for one feed and see “how much milk I was making.” She then advised me to drink fenugreek tea, take a few stimulants for my milk supply and I was also prescribed eglonyl at a later stage.
After another two weeks of complete struggle and constant formula top-ups, I contacted a lactation consultant recommended by my gyne. It turned out that Jaxon was not latching properly and was not sucking effectively, which led to my milk supply dwindling. A plan was established to get Jaxon sucking effectively, increase my milk supply and work towards stopping the formula top-ups, but this meant a lot more breastfeeding Jaxon, then expressing so that I could top-up with breastmilk as opposed to formula, and taking natural stimulants for milk production. I remember Jaxon feeding so many times… and I remember expressing right after a feed at 1am every morning. I remember “power pumping” (that’s when you pump for 20 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes and so forth).
I remember during the day time, I would feed Jax, then lay him down, so I could express and only when I was done, could I give him my full attention. But I couldn’t miss expressing in between feeds as I was trying to increase my milk supply. Then I remember just always being constantly tired and emotional and taking eglonyl made me feel “out of it.” After two months (what felt like a lifetime to me) of persistence, exhaustion, a lot of tears shed on both his and my part and with no real improvement, I called it a day and started giving Jaxon formula.
I felt guilty for months afterwards, but made every effort to still make our bottle feeding experience a bonding one. Jaxon is very healthy and rarely gets sick. Being bottle fed, we were also able to capitalize on “date nights,” as we could just leave him with family without any hesitation. He even enjoyed a few sleepovers from a very early age All-in-all, our experience with bottle feeding was a great one and even though it was not my first choice and what I ultimately wanted for us, it all worked out for the best. A happy baby = a happy mama and his happiness is what really mattered at the end of the day.
When I found out I was pregnant with Ava, I started doing a lot more reading on the topic of breastfeeding and created a private board where I pinned inspirational pictures and quotes, ways to succeed at breastfeeding, what to eat and drink to assist with milk supply and so forth. A few weeks before Ava was born, I already made contact with my lactation consultant and asked her to come in to the hospital the day Ava was born to help me and guide me, which she was more than happy to do. Before she came though, I also made peace with the fact that I may very well not be able to breastfeed her either and I wouldn’t put any pressure on myself or her.
The day she arrived, she did so in a much quicker and easier way compared to Jaxon. She latched quickly and easily and I remember feeling so much happiness in that moment… thinking “Wow, she is sucking so well, is this real, will this last?” That night I got some help from he head nurse at Sandton Mediclinic, she was really great at helping me feel at ease and showing me different comfortable feeding positions. The very next day my lactation consultant came, we spoke for such a long time, she encouraged me, she was my cheerleader from the get-go and offered me the first real advice that was worth adhering to – “You’ll know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Trust your motherly instincts. And when in doubt, pop your boob out.” And so I did all of these.
The second night in the hospital I felt extremely exhausted and the first thing one of the nurses said to me was to send Ava to the nursery and they would top her up with formula so I could rest. I really didn’t want to and I stuck to my guns. When we left for home, Ava hadn’t had any top-ups and I have exclusively breastfed her for four months.
Our breastfeeding journey has been a special one. It has been difficult at times, as she is completely and solely dependent on me for sustenance, and being back at work on regular occasions since she was only four weeks old has often meant breastfeeding on the go and taking her with me everywhere I go. Just a few weeks back, I was conducting an interview and she was very upset because she was hungry. I just brought her into the interview and carried on feeding her while carrying on with the interview.
A lot of people ask why I don’t just supplement with formula, or if I’m working so much and running around so much, why I don’t just put her on the bottle… and trust me, it often crosses my mind as right now my schedule is “out of this world crazy.” But I am happy…she is happy… we doing so well… we have come this far through all the craziness… and so it just feels like our “special thing.” I don’t know how long we are going to continue (I have my own personal ideals in mind), but for now we are really enjoying every moment of our breastfeeding journey and I am glad I got the opportunity to breastfeed this time.
Is breast best?
My take on it all is that ultimately – fed is best! A happy mama and baby is best! Doing what feels right for you as a mommy and for your baby is best. You need to trust that. Trust your motherly instincts and know that you are ALWAYS doing your very BEST!
- Create a “Breastfeeding Board” on Pinterest and pin motivational quotes, tips for successful breastfeeding and more. This helps prepare your mind positively, educates you and is nice to refer back to on your more difficult days. The images below are ones my amazing lactation consultant sent me for days after I arrived home with Ava. Her motivational texts and constantly checking in with me had a huge positive impact on me.
- Get in touch with a great lactation consultant. They really are amazing! I can recommend mine if you would like. She was my rock, a fantastic support, motivator and cheerleader.
- Spend some money on yourself and buy beautiful nursing bras. I bought a few pretty ones from Bras ‘n Things and ordered a few from Sophie and Jane (follow their Instagram page).
- Spend some more money on yourself and buy the Breastfeeding Box from The Mummary (follow her Instagram page). This box is stunning and the mama who curates these boxes has put a great deal of thought into it, knowing exactly what a breastfeeding mama needs.
- Lastly, I recommend taking vitamins – because a breastfeeding mama needs to keep herself going and keep herself feeling strong. The image below shows an energy tonic I still drink everyday, along with a tea I have been enjoying too.