Relax! Don’t believe the hype…
When I was pregnant with my first child, I had a very clear vision of how things would be, when she finally arrived. I was going to be one of those awesome Earth Mothers, using a sling to carry her, holding her close, and of course, breastfeeding. It was something I felt both nervous and excited about, but I was very sure it would be the right thing for me.
In reality, things didn’t work out quite as I had imagined. As soon as my little girl was born, my breasts refused to make milk. I tried everything – poking, squeezing, prodding, you name it, and still after 24 hours, I was still milk-less, and feeding my daughter with a bottle of formula which went against everything I believed in.
I still got the closeness with her which I had dreamed of, but I felt as if I had failed her. I was lucky, as my midwife and health team were understanding, and said that sometimes? This happens. I was not to feel at fault, or guilty, and instead focus fully on being close to my baby and bonding her. This I did, and she didn’t have any adverse issues as a result of my milk-free breasts.
In my second pregnancy, I was a lot more cautious about my expectations. When my second daughter was born, my husband and I planned ahead and bought in the formula, bottles and paraphernalia which we thought we would need. When she was born, I was absolutely convinced that I would not be able to feed her naturally, so I barely considered the possibility. Instead, I held her to me, relaxed and relieved that all had gone well, and when I brought her home I felt much more confident in my ability to provide her with all she needed.
That first night, however, something incredible happened. I bent down to pick up my new born, and felt a very strange sensation. I looked at myself, and realized that my breasts were not just completely full, but over spilling with milk. I was like a fountain, bursting at the seams with all this fluid, and there was only one place I wanted to put it!
I picked my daughter up, and stood for a moment considering. I felt almost self-conscious when I lifted my shirt, and offered her my breast. It felt as if I were doing something clandestine, after so many months of getting accustomed to the idea that she, like her sister, would be bottle fed. I settled her in to my arms and she rooted for my nipple, and I giggled with the strange new rightness of it. She latched instinctively, and we sat for a while. She made little snuffling noises of happiness, and I suspect I probably did too. I have never, ever had an experience like it. It was a primal, perfect moment of motherhood, and I felt blessed and overwhelmed to have that experience.
After a few days, my breasts reverted to their usual habit and dried up. I popped my daughter on formula, and as I did I felt a sense of grief that I would not have that amazing experience with her again. However, I still feel blessed beyond belief for those perfect times with her, when we shared the ultimate in mother-baby bonding.
If there’s one thing I learned from this experience, it’s that the most important thing a new mother can do, when it comes to breastfeeding, is relax and let nature and your innate instinct take over. I believe that it was only because I had no expectations with my second child, that my breasts finally breathed a sigh of relief, and started to do what they were made to do. My few days of milk flew in the face of medical expectations, proving that sometimes, our bodies are so determined to do what they are built for, that they can overcome even the most extreme obstacles to achieve it.
So, if you are a new mother struggling to feed, hang on in there. Spend time skin to skin, sniffing up that perfect new born smell, watching your baby’s beautiful face, and let your body instinct carry you through. Your baby knows what to do, and so do you.
I wish you all the luck in the world on this new adventure.