I went into breastfeeding with a whole different outlook than I had the first time. First time round, I’m not afraid to admit – I was a little bit naive. I thought it would be easy and straight forward and I was so wrong. I mean for some people it can be a piece of cake but for others it can be a struggle and although there is quite a lot of breastfeeding support out there now, I feel like the problems that come alongside breastfeeding aren’t mentioned as much as they should be. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to put you off, but surely you’d much rather be prepared than to feel like you’re a failure or feel guilty because you can’t do it, don’t want to do it, or struggle doing it.. its not fair. I struggled the first time and unfortunately 3 years ago there wasn’t much breastfeeding support in my area. Not only that, I was a young mum.. for some reason, a lot of people assume that because you’re a younger mum you won’t even give breastfeeding a go, it’s not true. Regardless of your age, when you become a mum – you do whats best for you and your baby. Whether that be breastmilk or formula, who cares?
I wrote a post about my breastfeeding plans and experiences here, but to summarise – I struggled to breastfeed my first daughter, she wouldn’t latch and I pumped milk for 2 weeks before going onto formula. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I didn’t have much breastfeeding support and I struggled, so when I was given the chance to breastfeed my second daughter, I grabbed it with both hands. I was really lucky and she latched first time. But it hurt, and the pain I had from breastfeeding was coming close to unbearable and I was so close to stopping almost straight away. The after pains of birth were horrendous the second time around and each time I fed my baby, I felt my stomach contract. It hurt, but I found a way around it all, I used nipple shields and that is what saved our breastfeeding journey. It was more of a faff, it made it harder to feed in public and at first felt a little bit strange, BUT it felt comfortable and it totally worked. So if you are reading this post because you’re currently breastfeeding and are looking to stop, definitely consider using nipple shields first if you are struggling. For reference, we used the Medela shields and they were amazing.
When my daughter was just 2 weeks old, I got mastitis.. it was the most painful thing EVER and I wanted to stop breastfeeding there and then but knew I needed to shift the milk so I did everything I could to make it work. I fed through it and thankfully caught it at the right time so that I could manage it at home.
Fighting The Dreaded Mastitis
The best thing you can do whilst fighting mastitis is feed through it. Of course if you notice anything unusual or start to feel unwell, you should call your doctor. But I managed to get through it in just a few days without antibiotics, and here’s how:
- Feed, feed feed – just keep feeding to drain your boobs because Mastitis is an infection caused by blocked milk ducts and you need to unblock it.
- Use Savoy Cabbage leaves – nope, not lettuce and not just a normal cabbage, don’t let your partners get confused when you send them to the shops for supplies.
- Drink, drink drink – Keep your fluids up and drink as much water as you can.
- Use a Hakkaa Pump / Naturebond pump – these are AMAZING. I used a naturebond pump on the other side whilst breastfeeding and it catches all the milk that you would have wasted in a breast pad.
- Take paracetamol for the pain.
- Relax and take care of yourself – the housework can wait, you need to recover.
Mastitis isn’t the reason that we stopped breastfeeding, in fact it only made us stronger and once we were through it, my milk supply evened out and we carried on feeding with the Medela shields. I breastfed for 3 whole months until I made the decision to stop. There are a few reasons why we stopped breastfeeding, the main one being that it was exhausting and affecting my mental health. At first I felt guilty for even thinking about stopping because we had such an amazing bond but I soon realised that it is NOT selfish to stop for you. YOU need to do what is best for you AND baby, not just baby. I am a mum of two girls, my biggest is just a toddler herself and she needs my attention too. I found myself doing nothing but sitting on the sofa in my pjs all day feeding because my baby wanted to do nothing but feed. It wasn’t until I looked back on our weeks and realised that I had hardly payed my toddler any attention, not because I didn’t want to but because my baby needed me more. I would always try and include her in everything that I did but because her sister always needed feeding I found myself saying “Oh we can’t do that yet because your sister needs a feed” and it was all the time. I felt awful and the guilt was horrendous.
I was always anxious about going out, what if the baby screams the shop down and I can’t comfort her. What if she needs feeding and I have to feed in public? I was never a confident feeder, especially since we were using the shields too. I fed in the car a few times and once in a pub garden but other than that, I didn’t like it. It made my anxiety rocket. I would have to plan my days around the baby, I felt like I could never go out and not only was I suffering, but my toddler was too. It made me think back to my breastfeeding journey with my first, It made me wish that I had persevered and tried harder because back then I had the time to sit on the sofa with my boobs out all day feeding on demand but now I have two, I just don’t have the time. She became very fussy on the boob and it became frustrating for us both. She wasn’t sleeping well at all and neither was I for that matter. I didn’t expect her to sleep through straight away, she’s a newborn.. but I expected to get more than 1 hour at a time and it would be nice to be able to share the feeding responsibilities with my partner so we introduced 1 bottle of formula per night to help her sleep better, it worked so I then introduced a bottle around dinner time too so that I had the chance to actually cook my family a dinner and dad could feed her instead. This is where it started to go wrong, or right for that matter..
She preferred the bottle, she slept better, I slept better, the bond between dad and daughter became stronger as he could get more involved, I wasn’t as anxious about going out and everything was much better. BUT I felt sad, and wasn’t ready to stop yet. My supply dropped massively when we introduced the bottles so I only had enough milk to feed once at bedtime and once in the morning, this worked for a while but eventually my supply just disappeared, it was as if she was suckling and getting nothing at all, she got frustrated, I got frustrated and we decided the best thing to do was to stop. Once I made the decision to stop and saw how well she was doing without the breastmilk, I didn’t feel as guilty. I started to feel better physically & mentally, and she just thrived.
How I stopped breastfeeding
- I introduced a bottle at night – but continued to pump so I still had my supply.
- I then decided to introduce 1 bottle a day but didn’t pump, this was instantly a supply killer. My boobs were like rocks until the next feed but my body eventually got used to it.
- I made the decision to stop – I cut down feed by feed introducing one extra bottle at a time.
- Pump – If you feel yourself getting engorged, pump to let off the pressure, I know pumping increases your supply as breastfeeding is very much supply and demand however you NEED to do this in order to stay away from the dreaded Mastitis.
- Shower massage & hand expressing – This one sounds a bit funny but seriously, if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable, have a hot shower and massage both breasts, hand express in the shower and it should relieve the pressure.
Eventually once you have dropped the feeds, it will fizzle down to just one feed a day and then none at all. My milk didn’t completely disappear until a few weeks after I stopped, I still needed breast pads and I still leaked.. BUT it was much better and stopping breastfeeding for us, has been the best decision we made for our family. I think if something is affecting your health, whether that be physical or mental, you need to re-evaluate and weigh up the pro’s and cons. I hope this post helps you or somebody you know feel better about stopping breastfeeding if that’s where you’re at. There is so much stigma and so much pressure around how you should feed your baby but there shouldn’t be. You should do what is best for you, not anybody else.