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- 30 Oct 17

When I was expecting my daughter four years ago I knew I wanted to breastfeed her. When we came home from hospital (armed with Lanolin cream!) I was already a bit sore, but feeding. Gradually over the next few days it got worse and worse. By the second week I was in agony. My nipples were so sore and my patience was wearing thin. I snapped at anyone who dared to tell me “I think she’s hungry”. I’d be thinking ‘how on earth can she be hungry, she’s just fed for half an hour and my right nipple is half hanging off’! And to be honest, it wasn’t just anyone, it was my nearest and dearest. I didn’t let anyone else near me. In the words of the midwife, giving birth left me looking like I’d been ‘kicked by a horse’…and I felt like it too. I had access to an array of breastfeeding support (we had done the NCT antenatal classes and had a breastfeeding support worker just a phone call away) but I just didn’t want anyone else near me or touching me. So when the Health Visitor came round at two weeks and told me that too much damage had been done to my nipples so it would ‘just always hurt’ I was gutted. I had pinned all my hopes on her telling me it was a bad latch (that old chestnut!!), making a quick positioning adjustment and I’d be pain free. But alas, no. So the next day I started hand expressing. And my husband disappeared off to the shops for an hour, returning with a breast pump, and I never looked back. I expressed until my daughter was about four months, then gradually moved her on to formula. It was the best thing I could have done, I totally see that now. But I carried a lot of guilt around. I would comment on articles that I felt criticised Mum’s who ‘give up too easily’ on breastfeeding – didn’t they know how hard it is and how hard I tried?! I took those articles so personally. I found it hard to see others breastfeeding, especially in public. It looked so easy, why couldn’t I do it? I was almost prudish about it. And when other Mum’s complained about their little one not taking a bottle, I would think ‘you what, just give them the damn bottle, if they’re hungry they will feed’!!
So fast forward three and a half years and I gave birth to my son in March this year. I wanted to breastfeed, but was determined to not beat myself up if I couldn’t. And for whatever reason, it all just happened. So easily and so naturally. It just didn’t hurt. I don’t know exactly why……Maybe my nipples had built up some sort of super hardcore resistance after the last time. Maybe because I felt so much better in myself after the birth (on the kicked by a horse scale, I’m talking less Grand National winner and more Shetland Pony). I gave birth in a different hospital second time around and a lovely Maternity Support Assistant (and breastfeeding expert extraordinaire) spent just a few minutes with me on day two showing me different holding positions. She was amazing and I get emotional just thinking about how much difference I think she has made to my life.
I breastfed in public, in a coffee shop, for the first time when my little boy was a month old. And I’ve probably breastfed a hundred more times in a coffee shop since (that’s a lot of cake eaten too, I know this!). Gone is the prude!
I honestly can’t believe that I am part of the 1% (the 2010 Infant Feeding Survey found that the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding at six months is 1%) but I am so proud that I am. This time around, at one of the baby weighing clinics, the Health Visitor asked me if I had ‘gold top’ in my breasts as my son was doing so well. What a contrast hey?!
I never expected that after everything with my daughter the first time around I would be able to breastfeed successfully this time. So to anyone who might be reading who is in a similar situation, it is possible. No two children are the same, and no two situations are the same.
But please don’t ask me how to get a baby on a bottle, because it’s just not happening with my son. Maybe I need to take my own advice……’Come on Rebecca, just give the baby the damn bottle, if he’s hungry he will feed!!!’

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Wife. Mum of two. Country girl currently loving life in London.

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