My breastfeeding experience

I think I’m in quite an unusual  position to share my experience of breastfeeding. I’ve covered the whole spectrum exclusively breastfeeding, pumping, combination feeding and bottle feeding plus we’ve needed to figure this out for my daughter and my twins.

There is so much written about breastfeeding v bottle feeding. It can be a really polarising topic with strong opinions on both sides. It’s a debate that I don’t want to wade into, I’m simply going to share my experience of feeding my three babies. For me there were pros and cons to both approaches and at the end of the day we went with the approach that worked best for everyone at the time.

My breastfeeding experience

Feeding my daughter
I was 100% sure that I was going to exclusively breastfeed my daughter. I hadn’t bought bottles, formula or a steriliser before she was born. We watched a video in my antenatal class which emphasised how natural breastfeeding was. I think there was a brief follow up discussion about technique but not in any real depth.

I remember feeding my daughter as soon as she was born. The midwife more or less clamping her on and left me to it. I went home from the hospital only a couple of hours after giving birth. With hindsight I don’t think this was a good idea. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to feeding my newborn. I clearly remember a conversation with my husband where I said something like don’t worry about feeding, I’ve watched a video it looks quite straight forward. It took about half a day to realise this was very misplaced confidence.

What I know now that I didn’t know then is that breastfeeding is a skill that you both have to learn. As natural as it is it takes practice. I really struggled, I didn’t really understand how to get a good latch. I knew that I needed help but I found it quite hard to access help from the overstretched health visiting team. When I did speak to a health visitor I got really frustrated to be told that if it was hurting then I wasn’t doing it right. It really hurt most of the time. My daughter didn’t seem to enjoy breastfeeding all that much. I wanted it to be a tender bonding time with my baby, instead I started dread every feed. After about 3 weeks I went to a breastfeeding drop in session hoping that someone could help me figure out how to do this. As much as they were very supportive and encouraging I didn’t really feel that they gave me the information I was desperate for. How do you do this without it hurting! I persevered exclusively breastfeeding for five weeks in total.

At this point I bought a good quality electric breast pump and decided to try pumping breast milk to give to my daughter in bottles. Luckily I had a plentiful milk supply and found that I could pump a good quantity of milk. My daughter also took to using a bottle very easily. I felt reassured that my daughter was getting the health benefits of breast milk. I was getting very stressed and upset battling with breastfeeding and it was a relief to have another option. It also meant that my husband could help with some of the feeds so I could get some extra rest. The down side was that it very time consuming and I had to be really organised to pump milk at regular intervals throughout each day. There was also the faff of washing and sterilising bottles and the breast pump. I pumped milk until Sofia was about 5 months old then I slowly switched her over to formula.

Feeding my twins
My plan when I was pregnant with my twins was to formula feed. I decided that any breast milk that I managed to give them was a bonus. I didn’t put any pressure on myself this time around. The boys had completely different ideas and latched on very easily from day one and were very keen to breastfeed. They lost quite a lot of weight in the early days so their feeding had to be supplemented with tube feeding but I carried on breastfeeding them at the same time. I had much better practical support in hospital. A nurse watched me breastfeeding the boys on a couple of occasions and suggested a couple of tweaks that made it much more comfortable. If I’d had this kind of help with my daughter I wonder if it would have made the difference?

I didn’t want the boys to leave hospital with feeding tubes in. They had started to get strong enough to pull them out and they needed to be put back in by a nurse (hardly practical in the middle of the night when at home). Instead we started supplementing their breast milk with bottle feeding. Combining breast and bottle feeding was the happy medium that we needed.

Once we were home we fed the boys based on a set routine and at each feed one of the boys had a bottle of formula and one had a breastfeed. We alternated who got what at each feed. We had to write down who had what, when to keep ourselves organised. In terms of milk supply this worked out as the equivalent of exclusively breastfeeding one baby. I’m not sure I could have coped physically with doing more than this. My husband worked full time so there was a lot of time that I was looking after the twins and my daughter on my own so this approach fitted in with that. When my husband was home he could do the bottle feeding while I did the breastfeeding. This especially helped with the night feeds and was a way to feed both boys at the same time and get back to sleep quicker.

We combination fed the boys until they were 6 months old. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to stop breastfeeding. The boys more or less decided they wanted to stop once they had started eating solid food. I was a bit sad that breastfeeding was coming to an end but was also really proud that I had managed to breast feed the boys as much as I could and for as long as I could.

How was your experience of feeding your baby/babies?  What worked for you?

18 thoughts on “My breastfeeding experience

  1. This is such an interesting post, you really have the whole spectrum of experience! I am in awe that you pumped for FIVE months, that’s amazing! Ever since reading your blog I have had surprise twins at the back of my mind, and because I’m a ridiculous overthinker I was wondering how I would go about feeding my imaginary twins. I think combination feeding sounds like a clever idea…if an organisational obstacle!
    I think you make a really interesting point about support in the hospital. I volunteer on a maternity ward for breastfeeding support exactly for that reason…for some women if the support and ‘technical’ advice isn’t there in the first few feeds it can scupper the rest of her feeding plans. This doesn’t mean there won’t be problems and difficulties later on but early hours/days breastfeeding support for those who want and or need it is crucial.
    Sorry rambling comment, it was interesting read!
    Lucy at occupation: (m)other recently posted…Becoming a MotherMy Profile

    1. Thanks Lucy. It’s great that you volunteer in a hospital to support with early breast feeding. I think it would probably have made the world of difference to get the technique advice from the beginning with my daughter. I found that the support I did have was a bit too late and was not quite the technical/technique stuff that I needed. Or maybe my boys were just more determined (they are very motivated by their appetites even now).

  2. This was interesting to read as I am wanting to breastfeed when my baby boy arrives in July. I bottle fed my other two girls so I have no idea what it is like to breastfeed. I am hoping I will be kept in hospital for 2 or so days to get the help and support I need. x
    Life as Mum recently posted…Siblings | MarchMy Profile

  3. I love to hear other women’s honest experiences with breastfeeding because for me it’s been really difficult and I’m sick of hearing people say it’s natural and easy. It’s taken a good six weeks to turn that corner and feel like it is getting easier. Thanks for sharing your story and for being honest about the difficulties and need for a lot of support

    1. I know! I started to get a bit frustrated and upset with some of the dodgy advice we received. It’s great that its getting easier for you.

  4. oh wow, I’m finding this super interesting especially after reading how you managed the twins! That is such a clever idea to take in turns! I struggled and did not get the help i needed. I was truly let down when it comes to my breastfeeding experience and if i ever have a chance to do it again i would make sure I had better support.

    Angela
    Angela at Daysinbed recently posted…Thoughts on Blogging, Twitter and Reviewing ItemsMy Profile

    1. I think the right kind of support at the right time is so crucial – I felt like we were left to figure it out for ourselves and it all went a bit wrong!

  5. Sounds like you have had quite the breast feeding experience I couldn’t even imagine trying to feed twins, I didn’t get on with breast feeding at all with my first two with Lottie is just worked and I did until she was almost a year old it was lovely but the whole it doesn’t hurt if you’re doing it right is just crap I had a perfect latch it still hurt for the first couple of weeks! x

  6. It’s very interesting how different your experiences were. I chose not to breastfeed with either of my children despite being put under a lot of pressure to do so by all of the health care professionals I met, but it just didn’t feel right for me. I do think if I have another baby I will breastfeed this time around.
    It’s great to hear your experiences, thanks for sharing x
    BloggerMummyLauren recently posted…A Surprise Breakfast with TescoMy Profile

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