I never really thought about breastfeeding when I was pregnant with my first child. I mean, I knew that I wanted to give it a go but that was pretty much the extent of things. I was young and without any other mummy friends to share their stories I just assumed that breastfeeding would come naturally.
In fact none of the aspects of my son’s birth came naturally. I reluctantly checked in to the hospital to be induced well past my due date. After three fun-filled days he still wouldn’t come out. Eventually I was staring up into the glare of surgical lights playing the lead role in an emergency C-section that I never planned on having.
The important thing was that he made it into the world safely. Once he was in my arms the midwife asked if I planned on breastfeeding. “Uh, yeah. I think so,” came my response.
Except he had not read the baby manual. There were tears and frustrations. His attachment was bad and he wasn't getting enough milk so he wanted feeding hourly. This was torturous because I was in agony, my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I was sporting a set of massive boobs that would make Pamela Anderson jealous but every time I tried to use them we would both end up screaming and crying.
I saw midwife after midwife, who all had different advice, which left me more confused. The way they explained breastfeeding made it seem like it was just so easy. I had strangers squeezing my boobs until I cried, I couldn't wear a bra but I was so engorged that my boobs were leaking everywhere. I hated it, I hated the whole thing and my inability to feed him properly was impacting the way I felt about this beautiful baby.
I distinctly remember one night about 11:30 pm I had been sitting in the chair with him for hours trying to get him to feed properly, he was screaming because he was hungry and frustrated at me. My husband was on the phone to the breastfeeding association desperate for some help in what we felt was a very isolated position. I felt like a total failure at motherhood and I hadn't even been in the job for two weeks. I was spiralling down, fast.
Trawling an internet forum I came across the name of a lactation specialist that did home visits. Since I came home from the hospital I had been driving from breastfeeding drop-in clinic to clinic, hoping that someone would magically have the answer for me - but each time I went I'd just get some half solution and a reminder to "come back if there are any more issues". I had enough milk but I just couldn't get him to drink it properly. I dreaded each feed.