Pen Pal: 24HR All You Can Eat Buffet
This week’s Pen Pal post comes from Heather, mama to ten month old River and Marketing Director when not on maternity leave. Sharing her busy time boobing, finding their own norm and learning to go with the flow of a demanding feeding schedule. Her story of learning to trust her own mama instincts resonates with us, enjoy the read.
After five weeks of breastfeeding I was ready to give up. My nipples were purple and blistered. River wanted to feed 40 times a day, 42 actually. I know this because I religiously used an app to track every feed; a truly awful mistake that made me paranoid, obsessed and bamboozled. Some of the feeds were five minutes, others were two hours. I cried through them all.
The Red Book defined ‘feeding well’ as 8-12 times a day, so when the health visitor asked about River, I expected more of a reaction than a tick in a box. I used my limited knowledge of cluster feeding to help shake off the doubt when I heard of other babies feeding patterns.
At five weeks old, River was diagnosed with a tongue tie. It explained everything: the jelly tot nipples, the constant feeding, the gassiness, the slipping off the boob. It was snipped and I felt a huge weight had been lifted, finally there would be time in the day where a boob wasn't out. I'd be able to leave the house. Things would be better.
The pain reduced as the latch improved. So she just had to learn to feed efficiently. I was told it would take a couple of weeks before feeds would drop off. I patiently waited it out, recording each feed, trying to kid myself things were getting better, pretending that her feeding cues didn’t mean she needed a feed. Trying to go just another 5 minutes. It was ridiculous. However, we were sleeping better, we had started safe bed-sharing which saved my sanity and probably my marriage.
Then there was the incessant googling: 'baby won't stop feeding', 'constant breastfeeding', 'low milk supply symptoms', 'low breast milk storage capacity'. A spiralling paranoid hole. I couldn't find anyone anywhere whose baby fed as much as mine. Convinced something was wrong as my baby got older, bigger and the 'she can't be hungry AGAIN' comments came thick and fast. But she was hungry again and again, piling on the weight stretching up to the 98th percentile.
My paranoia mounted as healthcare professionals suggested River may have silent reflux or a cow's milk protein allergy to explain the excessive feeding. I went on a dairy exclusion diet for two months, which made no difference (except my skin looked better - every cloud!). I was pushed to wean her at 16 weeks - I didn't, I'm too bloody minded, so I waited until 6 months. No one said, chill out, this is totally normal.
After five months of going bananas with a baby constantly attached to me, I stopped counting the feeds, I just sort of went with it. For a total control freak, this was a big commitment. But life, just like that, got a million times better. River was healthy, happy and normal for her. Gradually the feeds dropped to half hourly, then hourly by six months. Maybe I needed to go through the furious night time internet searching, but acceptance was the only way forward, allowing me to start enjoying breastfeeding. So yeah, it's annoying that my boobs are pretty much always out, but on the flip side it's a magic miracle worker for sending my baby to sleep and spending ten minutes on Instagram.
Ten months in and my girl still feeds like a newborn, wanting a boob every hour or two (sometimes three!). And, if I'm honest, I wish she wanted it more, but these days she's more interested in chewing the TV remote.
My ‘take home’ message is; if your baby feeds a lot, stop obsessing over the last feed and enjoy the next one. Delete the baby tracker app. That reminds me, I must go post a scathing App Store review.
Thank you Heather for sharing your story. If you feel you have something to get off your chest then please drop us a line, we would love to hear your voice.