After successfully breastfeeding my first daughter, to the point where it was a struggle to make the transition to bottles, I never once questioned my ability to feed my new baby daughter when she arrived. With your first child you dont know what to expect, so I never put any pressure on myself and just maintained that I would be baby led and hopefully all would be fine.
However, the second time around, as an "experienced mother" (the midwife's words, not mine) I just assumed that my new baby would latch on the same. How wrong could I be?
For the first couple of days she just "snacked" and when the midwife weighed her on day three, she expressed concern that she had dropped lower than 10% of her birth weight and needed to speak to a consultant at the hospital. By this point, I was exhausted but had already recognised that feeding wasnt going as planned, so out came the breast pump! Anyone that has used one will know that this is quite simply the least glamorous piece of equipment ever invented (with the exception of stirrups maybe) and I started expressing and expressing and expressing. Amazingly, in complete contrast to my eldest daughter, the little one took the bottle straight away and whilst I was dissapointed that she wasnt breastfeeding in the traditional sense, she was still getting my milk, so did it really matter?
Those first few weeks seemed to be a constant merry go round of expressing, sterilising, feeding, expressing ... (you get the picture) and I joked that I was like a 24 hour cafe and I found it much harder than I had ever imagined.
The little one is greedy and my exhaustion didnt help the milk production either, so I replaced one feed, with a formula bottle. At the time I felt like a failure but I also knew that if I wanted to retain some form of sanity, I had to do what was best for me and the baby. My health visitor was amazing and once I had "confessed" to giving her a bottle of formula milk, we talked through moving forward and how I felt.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Week needs to be celebrated by mums, dads, grandparents and everyone else in between and its such a shame that the NHS simply dont have the funds to promote it as I was so grateful to have my health visitor to talk to and a local breatfeeding group to share with and these resources are invaluable.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I know that I gave both my daughters the best start I could but all mothers beat themselves up over whether they are doing the wrong thing or indeed anything right . The little one did eventually latch on and now at 9 months we have eventually stopped the last feed, so am I writing this with some pride and a little sadness. I did perservere, it was sometimes hard work, exhausting but ultimately totally rewarding to be the one she relied on but now at 9 months, she loves to feed herself and is already demonstrating strong signs of independance.
So for me, its the end of an era but for her, the food adventure is only just beginning.