As you will know this is my second bout of antenatal depression, I have been here before with my eldest child, Izzy, and I’m interested to see whether things pan out in the same way. So far things seem to be same, the same pregnancy issues (hyperemesis, restless legs, insomnia, crippling heartburn etc), I am the same shape in terms of my bump at the same stages (if slightly bigger in the bump department but that is to be expected after what my stomach muscles went through with Izzy!).
So I’m wondering, will breastfeeding be the same?
I kind of always knew I would try breastfeeding, my Mum breastfed me and was an advocate of the benefits but also realistic about how hard it can be (she had double mastitis with my sister and had to give up due to the nature of the drugs at the time, thankfully the medical world has moved on). Her realism helped me so much through the early days. Before my NCT classes I’d never seen a baby being breastfed except in books or on TV shows about motherhood. Our teacher had a 14 week old daughter and would feed on demand throughout the classes, that was a massive boost to witness because I witness how to be discrete, how to hold the baby etc. Seeing how relaxed V was feeding her baby girl gave me the confidence to give it a jolly good go.
Of course I was worried about the effect the medication I was on would have not only on Izzy but also my milk. My GP and midwife went through it in detail with me explaining that because the baby (as she was referred to then) had been exposed to the medication for most of her gestation, milk transfer being minimal, it was the best option to wean us both off the drug slowly when we were ready. Another boost to my confidence.
So Izzy was born and in delivery we had a nice long feed, she seemed to know what to do very well! Once we got home things got more difficult however. I’d had a very long, painful labour with a cascade of intervention ending in a ventouse delivery. This had naturally taken its toll on my body and feeding turned into a nightmare for the first few days. I couldn’t get comfortable enough to get in the right place for the latch so my nipples ended up cracked and bloody and I was very close to packing it all in for the sake of my sanity. Then my Mum turned up, she was staying with us for a week when my husband’s week of paternity was up (he took a week’s annual leave the week after my Mum went home to spread things out). She sat with me during every feed, showed my that I should ignore the “tummy to tummy” advice because the size of my breasts made it impossible, taught me to wait for the gape rather than shoving her on and told me that we’d just get this feed over and see how it goes. In short she was amazing. I eventually healed and grew to love breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding releases the “love hormone” oxytocin so with each successful feed I felt better and better. My midwife could not believe the difference in me when she signed me off the the health visitors. I do feel the combination of the calming of the pregnancy hormones plus the oxytocin release helped me personally to overcome the depression and prevented post-natal depression rearing it’s head. Of course I was still on medication at this point which will have undoubtedly helped too. I am very very lucky to have experienced this in such a positive way.
I soon discovered that the support my Mum was able to give me is not usual or common. So many women are left to try and figure out breastfeeding with limited support or guidance and that makes me so sad, that these women want so much to successfully breastfeed but our stretched NHS means the support just isn’t there. Then an opportunity came my way through the BfN to train as a breastfeeding peer helper, in short to be able to do for other women what my Mum did for me. I jumped at the chance!
I am now a qualified peer helper with the BfN and help run a drop in group in our local area for Mums. I hope that we are making a difference to those who attend our sessions and knowing that I have all these women to call on if I run into difficulties this time around, after all there are no guarantees because I’ve successfully breastfed once that I’ll be able to do it again.