By Tracey-Lee Du Plessis

It’s breastfeeding week and the topic “breastfeeding” is such an important one for me especially now more than ever being a first time mommy. Yes, I actually have some perspective.

I love this picture… This picture reminds me of the absolute sacrifice, my tears, doubt and feelings of success and mostly, internal pride.

Let me tell you something breastfeeding is NOT easy… Why didn’t anyone tell me this when they were asking me “So… Are you going to breastfeed your baby?!” and “I hope you going to breastfeed your baby!” like the pressure from society isn’t enough to deal with you get handed this tini tiny bundle and the BOTH of you are just supposed to know what the heck to do…

I had a roller-coaster ride when it got to breastfeeding. My little guy (Seth) 12 hours after delivery ended up in the NICU. He was connected to very fragile IV lines under a UV light and I was told to limit handling of my baby… SAY WHAT?! I had only had the opportunity for a few feeds to TRY breastfeed and much to my serious disappointment I was told to express and Seth would be bottle fed and the rest via his NGT (nasogastric tube).

Like every new mom your milk doesn’t come in for a while. So there I am attached to this awful nipple gronching/pulling device with baited breathe waiting for any bit of milk to flow out of these rock hard boobs! Tears rolling down my face feeling like a failure because I can’t get more then 10ml at a time.

The next day The Dr said we needed to top up with formula… “Oh heck NO” could this get any worse. I went with it because in the little bassinet lay my entire world and whatever he needed and was advised I listened and followed suit.

A few days later I was told I could try breastfeeding again… At this stage, its day 4 in hospital my nipples are cracked from expressing and Seth’s first latch is a killer! I persevered and each feed he happily munched away but I was dying from the pain. I lasered my nipples (yes physiotherapy can help heal those bad boys of yours) and applied nipple cream as often as I humanly could because “BREAST is BEST!” PFft. 

Day 10 we were discharged from the NICU Horaay! Finally, I’m alone with my little guy in our environment and settling in well so I thought… Seth had his check up and he wasn’t gaining weight. Flip it man! Sitting in the consulting room I heard that dreaded word again “formula”. I was told by the Dr to breastfeed and top up with formula. This was a frustrating process.

On route back home hubby pulls into the shops I walk in and buy a tin of formula and as I walk out I feel like I have shame written across my forehead. I had that scene image from Game of thrones “Shame, Shame, shame” 

I persevered though this setting my alarm for every 3 hours to feed Seth offering him the boob and then topping up with formula.

I started expressing and slowly managed to offer Seth expressed bottles and not formula. Small PERSONAL victories. Slowly, slowly I was winning and I was getting to that point of exclusively breastfeeding my angel. Yay me!

But my 4 months maternity leave was up and back to work I had to go. Expressed milk it was again… Seth took to the bottle like a fish to water he would alternate between bottles and the boob like a star but then one dreaded week he just went on a boob strike… What the heck really? 6 months in I had done it managed to get my boy on the “good” stuff and now he is refusing it?! Really! WTF. Luckily this didn’t last that long. Phew. 

He is 7 months old now and we are happily on the boob while enjoying the exciting new adventure of starting solids.

A long winded story I know but in the end my child is thriving regardless of being fed via breast, bottle, NGT, breastmilk or formula. Yes it’s breastfeeding week and am I proud that I tugged along? Yes! BUT what I learnt is that FED IS BEST if you a mamma wanting to breastfeed, struggling to breastfeed don’t give up keep trying its NOT EASY, you will find your groove and if your groove is a bottle of expressed milk /formula and your baby is HAPPY then that mamma is amazing and ok. 

I am personally proud of myself for being steadfast in my decision and sacrificing my expectations to face reality and to overcome the difficulties that breastfeeding can bring about, it’s not like the textbooks or like the glamor magazines, but it is an incredible experience and it’s been worth it every step of the way. 

Happy breastfeeding week, well done to those mammas who did it or doing it and for those who aren’t celebrate the success of your child thriving because for goodness sake remember this, FED IS BEST.

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