Our combination feeding journey (part 2) - Getting breastfeeding going
Our first few days at home were nothing short of a mess. I had prepared so much for labour and birth and nowhere near enough for postpartum! I didn’t anticipate the pain, the night sweats, the sheer NEED to be next to my baby but also the exhaustion. Lockdown had left us pretty much on our own and with my family grieving the loss of my grandad, there was too much going on for us to feel anywhere near the amount of support we felt we needed at that time.
Making up bottles felt so unnatural to me in these early days. The desperation to breastfeed was so intense to me still and I was pumping at every opportunity, sometimes sacrificing (even more) sleep to get an extra session in. I remember the first time my milk appeared. It felt like such an accomplishment, despite it being absolutely normal and expected for a new mother to produce it. I felt for the first time that I COULD breastfeed this baby. In the meantime, we needed to think about bottles. I’d only bought 2/3 bottles and we absolutely needed more. My first trip out postnatally was to Asda to get some more. We didn’t think about teats so the types we ended up with were completely different. Some were Lansinoh ones with a long teat and some were Tommee Tippee, designed to look like a breast. Olivia wasn’t fussy about these and happily drank from both, fortunately! I know this isn’t always the case, but it does make me wish we hadn’t spent a small fortune on them. Always go cheap as possible, your baby may be just fine. If not, you haven’t wasted loads of money on one that was supposedly the ‘best’.
We slept in shifts for the first few weeks as Olivia was a contact sleeper through and through. With me having barely slept or eaten for the first few days, as well as trying to recover from the infection which was eventually identified and acknowledged, these 4-5 hour blocks of sleep were WELL needed.
Following my sleep on night 3, I woke at 2am with an overwhelming need to have Olivia with me. I couldn’t explain it, I was still so tired but nothing would have stopped me getting to her! I brought her upstairs where she slept next to me and it was the most peaceful morning. I watched the sun come up through the window and had my labour playlist on quietly. When she roused, I put her skin to skin and she spent the next hour or so drifting in and out of sleep, bobbing her head up and down on my chest. She was definitely searching for food and eventually… she found it. She had latched on before, but I knew nothing was happening. This time, I felt a let down and saw little bits of milk around her mouth as she learned what she was doing. She fed herself to sleep!! I captured this moment in a photo and text everyone who had supported me and knew how much this meant to me.
Following this, we could relax a little bit. When I was around and awake, I would breastfeed until we got the hang of it properly. If we were struggling, I would express while Olivia would have a bottle. But with the drive to breastfeed even stronger now, I hated giving bottles myself and felt overly emotional if Olivia fussed or refused the breast. There was no reason (in my mind) why she would at this point, so it was incredibly confusing. There was one night where she wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t take the breast and continuously cried. I had tried over and over again to feed her but she continued to fuss and cry. My partner took over, gave her a bottle and she took 20mls of formula and went soundly to sleep. I was heartbroken. I emailed a La Leche League Leader who was incredibly supportive and normalised Olivia’s behaviour for me. We discussed my worries and I continued to breastfeed, utilising her tips and advice.
By the time Olivia was 4 weeks old and breastfed round the clock, except for just having a bottle or 2 of an evening with Daddy, we seemed to have found our rhythm. Her sleep cycles were extending slightly, I pottered on while she had her bedtime bottle or read her a story. Then Benj and I had a few hours in the evening afterwards to have some down time. I would feed through the night while I caught up on soaps or just stared at Olivia. And at this stage, I LOVED the night feeds. The still and the quiet were lovely. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on that bedtime feed at all. Completely unexpectedly, given our journey so far, this seemed to feel like it was the way forward for us…