A few things in the media of late have really got my back up. Okay, most things in the media really get my back up, but generally I just slate the human race and carry on with the washing. However, when I read things that I have personal experience of and that directly contradict the feature's fluffy or opioionated approach I suddenly develop an attitude. A big one.
I carry around the realities of a) having had a caesarian birth and b) having had to combination feed/primarily bottle feed my daughter. So, what's the problem you say? Nothing I like to think, as far as I can tell I have a healthy, happy and above-average-in-height toddler. Really, at first glance, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to tell she was a section baby nor that she got most of her milk from a bottle, but maybe that is just because I'm her mom and in reality she has a sign on her back saying otherwise? A little defensive you might be thinking? Er, yes.
Firstly the Caesarian. I overheard a woman say the other day "you have to beg to give natural birth now days!". Hhhmmmm, correct me if I'm wrong but all I wanted when pregnant was to give birth to a healthy baby. Didn't think I was being naive, thought that would just be common sense? If anyone wants to know, I had a section birth because The Toddler was breech. The Little Mite planted her bottom in my right hip and didn't actually shift for the entire pregnancy. Each midwife appointment was a little stressful as they struggled to find the heartbeat at first, looking in the wrong place of course, then you had the added pleasure of not being able to walk properly due to concentrated pressure on the hips and having to wear a bandage-type thing over your hips and pelvis to keep everything in place. When other expectant mothers felt their babies move constantly all I got was a back arch when said baby would flex her neck and you could feel her head under my right boob. Literally rub her skull through my skin.
They don't like to tell you you're breech until about 35 weeks in. Then they give you the facts... If baby doesn't turn, you don't get to give "natural" birth. They can turn baby, by applying force to your belly and manipulating the baby to be "head down". Statistically this apparently works for 3 out of 10 women, 30% success rate. The rest of them go one of two ways, either have to have an emergency c-section there and then as mother or baby goes into distress mode; or baby returns to their chosen natural position of "head up". Armed with this knowledge we chose planned section. 30% is not exactly a success rate in my mind.
Skipping the birthing story for now (beautiful, surreal, happy day, etc,etc) I'll move on to feeding the now-born baby. My feeding approach was pretty simple, I would like to try breastfeeding... and take it from there. Suck-it-and-see, if you'll excuse the pun. Baby latched on straight away and I was complimented on my "technique". Ha! Get me, "got this one cracked" I thought! Oh, the irony isn't lost on with me with that pun either, trust me.
The first and second night passed with regular, but uneventful feeds. But by the third night Baby was feeding every 30 minutes, like clockwork. By then I was signing my own feeding charts and my 3-day old baby was in bed with me! A big taboo for babies, particularly when you're still in the hospital and being monitored by professionals armed with their lists of right and wrong's. But by this stage the staff must have grown weary of me buzzing them every 30 minutes to bring the baby to me for a feed (remember c-section, can't actually get out the bed on your own yet and so a nurse has to bring the baby to you for a feed), one nurse did half-heartedly go into the "sleeping with your baby" speech, but didn't even finish her own sentence. By the next morning, I was feeling a little worse for wear, feeding every 30 minutes, sleeping for 30, then feeding again was not the way to spend a night... I welcomed my mother and Fiancé with tears and a sleeping baby. Touché.
When we got home, things didn't really improve in the feeding department. Baby grew, considerably and slept in between feeds, but actual feeds were lasting 2-3 hours. Alternating breasts, feeding for literally hours. Why, you ask? Well, Baby was crying, hungry crying, a lot. This wasn't without its pitfalls for me. I spent those first few weeks walking about the house looking like a tribal woman. Topless all the time, trying the age old method of "drying out" the skin to toughen it up and heal the cracked and broken surface. No creams, lotions or caps could help a breast from a 3-hour feeding session that's for sure. What about the leaking you might ask? That might have been the first clue really, as I didn't. Not once.
Eventually I tried expressing, but only got 5ml after 20 minutes pumping. Still, we did photograph Baby's first "express" feed in keeping with capturing all those first moments. After 3 weeks of this and one particularly bad Sunday when I had fed the darling for 4 straight hours and still she was doing the "hungry cry", we called the emergency mid-wife number. The mid-wife listened to our tale and said only one thing: "get some formula". "I can't" I cried, "I am breastfeeding! I've read the pamphlets, I've heard the lectures you can't do both, you can't change the plan. Can you?"
Yes, yes you can dear readers! The Fiancé was despatched to 24 hour Tesco immediately, returned with formula and we all slept for 10 straight hours. The End.
Ok, not quite but it did change our lives, for a bit anyway. From that day on, Baby was combination fed. She would have breast milk from the first morning feed and throughout the day, then a formula bottle before bed and for the night feed as well. This was short-lived too. Just before 2 months old, I had to start dropping more breast feeds for a bottle, as the "hungry cry" was starting again, eventually I was only down to one breast feed first thing in the morning and Baby had to have the bottle immediately afterwards to actually get her breakfast. The reality of the situation was this: my milk just dried up. Stop coming in, disappeared. By the time Baby was three-months old I dropped the breastfeeding act completely, there was absolutely nothing there to give, my breasts hung by my knees and the tribal woman was closing up shop.
So, what's the moral of the story? Figure things out for yourself and listen to your body! Yes, read up on everything, yes, listen to the professionals, but firstly, listen to your body and your gut instinct.
The only real truth in parenting is nobody is right and nobody is perfect. We are all different.