During my pregnancy there was no doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed my daughter, why wouldn’t I? So in my excitement as a first time mother to be I read a number of ‘Mothers & Babies’ magazines and websites on the issue. I prepared myself aptly by purchasing what was said to be the best in the market; the Medela Swing Breastpump with the intention to express and bottle feed my daughter my breast milk.
Shortly after the birth around 2pm, my daughter was handed to me and I as shown how to latch her on before the mid wife promptly disappeared and failed to appear till some hours later. I was discharged less than 24 hours later and I was eager to get home and settle into motherhood after all I was adequately prepared from the research I had undertaken as well as the appliances that had been taken out of their boxes and sterilized in anticipation of her arrival.
No amount of research in the world can prepare a first time mother for the pain that she feels when her breast milk comes in. Two days after the birth I woke up to this extremely painful feeling in my chest and was amazed that my 34D (from 34B post pregnancy) breasts had engorged to resemble two big watermelons in their place! This was one of the times that my African heritage came to be a blessing as my mother had just returned from Nigeria and had brought unrefined Shea butter (of which I knew nothing about prior) which my sister then used to sooth the milk out of my breasts into a bowl (graphical I know but my reality), let’s just say the tears that fell that morning did not come from the baby!
Whilst I was fortunate enough that my daughter latched on very quickly and I did not experience some of the horror stories I had read about, I was extremely naïve in that I thought that I could put her on a routine from the early days as advocated by some school of thoughts from my research. So once I had given her what I thought was a ‘good feed’ I would put her down and be extremely baffled by her incessant tears. Though by chance I came to realize that she like the white noise created by the Medela pump so I would breastfeed whilst trying to get her to sleep, before progressing to putting the motor part of the pump in the crib with her!
Then I stumbled upon the only thing that I would advise a first time mother to be to pick up BEFORE the birth of her child, the book “What to Expect When You're Breastfeeding...And What If You Can't?” by Clare Byam-Cook. From this book I gained a wealth of knowledge that ensure the next few months of breastfeeding went relatively stress free, with the only issue I had coming from my mother and his advocating that a baby can’t be satisfied purely by breast milk! Still I preserved with breastfeeding until she was about six months when one day she returned home after spending the day with her father and rejected my breasts. Once again tears flowed, and again they were more mine than hers! I felt like I had failed and was inadequate in not been able to breastfeed her further, but was uttering praises of gratitude that I did not have to deal with weaning her when I started my Masters a month later!