*Please note, this is just my opinion, my decision, and my approach- I do not make judgement or comment on anyone else's choices for feeding their children!*
I always knew I was going to at least attempt to breastfeed my children. It is the most natural step forward from childbirth, to then feed your baby, as your body has been preparing to do so for 9 months. During pregnancy, it took me a while to adjust to the idea of having someone sucking on my breasts though, I won't lie. I actually even remember the day I noticed my nipples were changing, and I genuinely freaked out and cried about 'turning into a cow'. I called my mum, and had a weep over the phone about how I hated that my body was changing.
When Tilly arrived, however, I was ready and willing to make breastfeeding work. I had attended classes, I had had sessions with a lactation consultant, I knew all the technical info about how to get breastfeeding correct. I was ready for it to be easy.
Ha. I quickly discovered the one factor that no lesson or book or anyone with advice can predict- the fact that there is another person involved in the art of breastfeeding. Your baby. And sometimes, they don't read the information sheets you did while you were waiting for them to arrive. So they don't know what you know. And it means it can be difficult.
The hardest part from day one has been, she feeds well. That makes no sense, I know, but the problem with her feeding well is that, because she has no trouble getting the milk herself, the fact that her latch and attachment are not right, it's been hard to train her to do it correctly, because her end goal has always been met. It almost would have been easier if she wasn't getting the milk, because at least then she'd also have known something was wrong, and would have been more willing to work with me to get it right!
My milk supply has not been an issue either- in fact, it comes down so fast the poor little thing practically gags on it! But attachment. Like I said, I read all about it, I attended the classes, I knew how it was supposed to work. But it wasn't working. My nipples were being destroyed. Blistered, pinched, and oh-so-sore, I tried over and over and over again to find a way to make it work. In the hospital, I was trying to hold her in different positions, trying to force the right part of the breast into her mouth- at one point, I was hunched over with her head in one hand, my breast in the other, holding it in place in her mouth so she wouldn't slip off it, and crying all at the same time.
During my stay in the hospital, I called on almost every nurse and lactation consultant I could drag into my room for their advice and their help. I so desperately wanted to get it right, and it was eating me up inside. To all of their credit, everyone did everything they could to help me- once we were home as well, my lactation consultant visited me, and it was during her visits that I began to understand how I could help Tilly, if not in a physical way, but in an emotionally-connected way. She told me to stop focusing on the practical element of breastfeeding. To stop thinking of words like 'attachment' and 'latch', and to bring my attention back to the bonding experience between mother and baby. Skin on skin, free from timing feeds, free from distraction, free from worry, I spent a couple of days simply being mother to my baby, feeding her as naturally as I could. The pain was still there, the attachment still wrong, but I breathed through it, I felt the connection to my baby, and it helped to reset us as a team.
I learnt to stop seeing breastfeeding as a 'task' to be completed in a certain way, and to discover the sensual connection it truly is. And now, especially in the dark of night, I feel a warmth and a love when I'm nursing Tilly, that wasn't there to begin with. Because it's about nurturing my baby, not following a textbook.
Breastfeeding is not always easy. It may be 'the most natural thing', but then again, they say that about childbirth too, and that sucked (haha, no pun intended!). Babies have to learn the art of it too, not just us. They've never done it before, and sometimes, it can be physical limitations that hinder its progress too. Tongue or lip ties, under/overbites, or poor/immature sucking reflexes can make it difficult. Tilly appears to have none of those problems, so it simply became a need to train her to open her mouth properly, instead of being a little snapping turtle. It's a work in progress- some days, she still manages to pinch me and make my eyes water, but other days, it goes well. And at least my nipples aren't blistered anymore, because goddam that hurts!