My Breastfeeding Journey: Charles.

I've always been so determined to breastfeed. Since I was a young girl it always seemed like it was the right thing for me. I didn't see bottle feeding as negative so to speak, but to me it didn't seem natural. I'm not saying that it isn't natural for everyone, I know that for some people breastfeeding doesn't seem natural. [Isn't it a shame that we constantly have to add disclaimers for things like this so as to not offend each other!] Anyway, for me it was definitely something I wanted to do.

When pregnant with Charles I was over the moon that my husband shared my passion for our children to be breastfeed and loved that I had his support.
We bought a breast pump and bottles, mostly for me to use when I returned to work [we didn't know I could be a stay at home mum at the time] and also to gradually build up a frozen supply for when we weaned Charles too, to use in his cereal, mash potato etc.[It turned out that he wouldn't take a bottle at all, and I ended up saving up some ebm in the freezer but getting confused over how long it could be frozen, so the milk went to waste in the end]

When Charles arrived I was so excited when he first latched on. He was born at 12:41 in the afternoon, we wanted a short stay at hospital and was told previously that they don't let you home until feeding is established.
I remember thinking that the pain was a lot worse than expected...although I'm not sure really what I expected since I hadn't breastfed before! I called in a couple of midwives and they said everything was fine, he obviously just had a strong suck. At around 11:30pm we were discharged and came home.
I had originally planned to breastfeed for 6 months, so until Christmas.

We decided pretty early on that we were going to try for a second baby, aware that breastfeeding can act as a contraceptive we played the "if it happens it happens" game and didn't get too upset if nothing happened.

During our first family holiday to Centre Parcs in October my husband gave me the fantastic news that I didn't have to return to work. He said that we could afford for me to stay at home and that he could clearly see that leaving Charles wasn't an option as he needed his mummy so much.
Our plan was for me to return to work part time and for Charles to go into the studio with my husband whilst I was at work, although my husband didn't realise how much of a "handful" a child would be and expected Charles to sit there and play nicely for 4/5 hours whilst he worked.

In the March my monthly cycle returned so we knew that this meant me falling pregnant with number two was more likely. Although still not getting our hopes up and getting upset if nothing happened we carried on life as normal.
Charles was enjoying being breastfed and at just before 12 months he decided to accept a cup/bottle of juice. We'd made progress. up until this point it was breast only, not that we hadn't tried, but it was his choice. He wouldn't accept anything else. Which wasn't a problem for us.

We also tried him on cows milk after he had turned One but he wasn't interested. He would still feed quite a lot and would use it not only as a drink but as part of a meal, as comfort if he hurt himself and to make himself go to sleep.
Breastfeeding was such a big thing in our lives that to just stop wasn't going to be easy as there were so many other factors to consider.

Health Visitors were always so encouraging of me breastfeeding Charles. I was always praised. Then the day after his first birthday I decided to go and get him weighed.
I proudly told the Health Visitor that I was still breastfeeding, and expected the usual huge smile and "well done, you're doing amazing" response.
Instead I was greeted with a reponse I didn't expect. "You can stop now you know".
It was then that I realised that the Health Visitors just praise you up until the point they are told to. I told her that we didn't want to stop. I was happy feeding him and he was obviously loving it and needed it so we would be continuing. His weight was fine, although he'd always been smaller than his friends but this was put down to him being active from early on and just burning it off!
He also still used the boob as a way of napping, constantly using me as a dummy and used me for comfort if he hurt himself or was poorly.

Friends were always supportive of me although I knew a couple thought that it was time for me to stop. If anything this just encouraged me to carry on.
I decided to visit my first Breastfeeding Group to gain some support from other feeding mums. Just to feel a bit more normal. Out of my friends I was the only one still breastfeeding.
Sadly the other mums at the breastfeeding group only made me feel like a freak and like I shouldn't be feeding Charles anymore. Granted the group was full of newborn babies and babies who were only a couple of months old but I still expected a little more support and "go you" attitudes. The staff were supportive though but after a short amount of time, and embarressment of having to sit at a table by myself I made my excuses and left.

In November 2010 after a visit to a Wildlife Park and realising that Aunt Flo hadn't arrived that month we headed home and I took a pregnancy test. Positive.
We'd experienced a Chemical Pregnancy in September so we were nervous but excited at the same time.
Except I knew now that my breastfeeding days were seriously numbered. I felt guilty straight away. I was taking something away from Charles that he needed and loved so much.
Together with my husband we decided that around the 20 week mark we would try and wean him off the breast. We didn't want to give formula at all so we were happy that at least we could give cows milk.

Feeding became really sore and I was struggling. I hated the feeling of dreading Charles latching on. I didn't want the end of our breastfeeding journey to be negative and full of memories of me wincing as he latched and my toes curling, almost back to the early days of tongue tie.
My milk supply was also now really low, nothing I had ever had a problem with. Up until this point my milk supply was outrageously high. Charles was now having a little feed and then coming off and needing juice to top himself up and feel totally refreshed.

In December I picked up a horrible flu. It was so bad that one Sunday we phoned my mum to see if she could have Charles for the day as we [my husband also had this flu] just had no energy at all. In 18 months this was the first time we had felt the need to have someone else look after Charles as we couldn't cope. It was the morning of this day that I realised Charles hadn't had a feed for 24 hours.
He went off to my mums with no problems and didn't miss my boobs at all.
That day I discussed with my husband that Charles hadn't had a feed for 24 hours or even attempted to feed. We decided that we would try and encourage him to not latch on if we could and instead offer juice or cows milk instead. As it happened Charles just wasn't interested at all. Infact he probably only tried once to latch on and decided himself that actually, he didn't want it.
He wasn't too keen on cows milk so we tried him on Soya Milk which was a hit. We think this is because it was a sweeter taste and was most similar to my milk.
I noticed some white marks on his toe nails and finger nails and that they were starting to peel slightly. I made a trip to the drop in clinic to consult with the Health Visitor. Not much help. Although I knew the marks and peeling was due to calcium deficiency, she decided that he must've caught his toes and finger nails on a door [totally 100% wasn't the case and didn't make sense]
She wasn't keen on me giving Charles Soya Milk, not that she openly said this, I could tell by her reaction and eventually made her say it.
I gradually got him onto cows milk and gave him more cheese and his nails returned to normal.

In the 18 months we were breastfeeding Charles only needed anti-biotics once. This was due to thrush inside his mouth. He had never had a chest or ear infection unlike other friends of his.
As soon as we stopped breastfeeding he contracted his first chest infection as well as hand, foot and mouth disease.

This made it clear to me that despite others saying breastfeeding past 6/12 months has no benefits to a child I know for a fact that it did and does.

World Breastfeeding Week. August 1st - August 7th 2011.
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