Breastfeeding is actually a learned skill

by Claire G

I think I thought it would be a lot harder than it is. There’s parts of it that are very difficult, logistically.

You know, the practical juggling of having two babies, and having two older children as well, that’s the the difficult aspect of it. But breastfeeding wise, I haven’t found that particularly difficult with the two of them.

I do think it’s a massive benefit that I’ve fed the other two, and that I was going into it as an experienced breastfeeder.

It makes a big difference, knowing what a good breastfeed feels like.

You have to learn that you can’t really read about that and you can’t really guess it. It’s a learned skill. And I think breastfeeding in general, I think people underestimate how much it is actually a learned skill.

I think we’re sort of sold an idea that it’s this beautiful, natural, instinctive thing that you do from day one. And it isn’t, it’s a skill. It’s a skill for you to learn and for a brand new baby to learn as well, you know.

So yeah, having done it before, I felt I also went into it with quite a lot of confidence, because I knew I’d breastfed successfully before and so I knew I could. And I was confident that if I hit a glitch, I would know where to get help as well.

My eldest had really bad silent reflux. And that was an absolute nightmare. And it didn’t affect the feeding too much, although she fed a lot because of it.

Silent reflux is where they’re not sick. So it rises, and it doesn’t come out. So it kind of, it really hurts her throat, basically, you get like a double burn of [INAUDIBLE] acid going up, it’s really horrible. So they just have like, sort of a chronic sore throat. So they’re just very sad babies. So she would feed a lot. And, in hindsight, it was soothing, that sort of sore throat feeling. And I remember to start off, because everyone says, ‘Well it’s just colic, it’s just colic’ and I thought, right, I was trying to be very practical, I thought, ‘Right, well, if it is colic, and you’re just upset and there’s nothing wrong, then my job is just to try and soothe you. And if it doesn’t work, just hold you’. And breastfeeding was a big part of that, of soothing her and it didn’t always work. And sometimes nothing worked. But, for me, it was a it was a big part of that, really.

So I think that’s why I really stuck with it, because it was the one thing that did work. But then I suppose again about the confidence of having later children, when you’ve done something like that, and you’ve been through it, you sort of know, to be a bit more forward if you’ve got some issues and to sort of, you know – people fob you off a little bit – to sort of say, ‘No, no, no, this isn’t right. And this doesn’t feel right.’ And that’s really true, because when I was trying to say to people, ‘I don’t think this is right’, they would check the weight chart and say ‘Well, she’s she’s on the right centile. Check her over yet. No, she’s fine.’ Any you think, ‘Yeah, all those indicators are right and yeah, I’m glad you’re checking that there’s not a really serious medical condition. But I’m telling you that as the only constant observer of this child, it’s not right, you know.’

I was breastfed, but I think till I was about three months old, but interestingly, so I was I was quite poorly baby when I was born. So, I spent the first couple of weeks in intensive care and my mum expressed and I had expressed milk and then my mum fed me till I was about three months old, but we’ve all now kind of realised that we’re pretty sure I had silent reflux as a baby because I was a very, very screamy unsettled baby and my mum had quite a bit of postnatal depression because of that, and also because I’d been quite ill, and they were advised to switch to formula because all ‘that’ll make her settle and that’ll make her sleep’ and that’s what they did. Because you trust the advice you’re given.

And it’s interesting. I think my mum found it very interesting, seeing what we went through with Emily because to her it rang true as what had happened, you know, with me.

I quite like it because I quite like people to see breastfeeding in public. And I don’t mean that in an exhibitionist kind of way, because I’m normally quite an introvert, but I kind of feel like it’s all part of normalising it.

And our first outing was probably when she was only a few days old. And I think that first time I’d sort of done the drape a muslin here, and you know, create some sort of barrier. And I think that about five minutes I thought ‘this is so uncomfortable, I’m not bothered, move everything out of the way’. And yeah, no, I was never that fussed about feeding in public. It didn’t really bother me, because my child’s needs came first. You know, if I’ve got to feed, I’m not bothered someone sees me doing it. And I’m really not fussed if they’re uncomfortable seeing me do it either. And it’s very – feeding one child is – very, very discreet, generally. Quite often, you don’t notice unless you know what you’re looking for, you’re not going to notice.

Feeding two at the same time in public is not discreet at all. And I’ve had to do that a few times. I don’t do it so much now because they’re older and they don’t need to feed all the time. But there’s plenty of times I’ve had to feed both of them at the same time and about. Soft plays are actually quite comfortable, because you can actually sit on the floor and sometimes feeding sitting them on the floor is a little bit easier because you’re not manoeuvring a chair, and you can kind of sit with your legs crossed, that tends to make it a bit easier.

So, we live on the Wirral and I’m from Leicestershire, originally. So when I had the older two, we didn’t have any family nearby, really so we just kind of managed. But then just before these were born, my parents moved up, and they live about 10 minutes down the road. And that’s been a game changer that really has made a massive difference. I don’t know if we’d have coped without them nearby if I’m honest. It’s been really, really helpful.

So, on the Wirral there’s a really good, Wirral breastfeeding mothers Facebook group, I’m sure people have probably mentioned to you before.

There’s lots of very, very experienced mothers on there. So anything that’s posted on there, people post answers pretty much straight away. It’s really, really helpful.

I remember particularly with Emily, just reading other people’s experiences on there. And you think ‘Oh, right. That’s normal. That’s fine.’ And that was really, really handy.

Probably firstly, what I was saying earlier about not viewing babies as a homogenous thing. A baby is not a one term thing. Babies are tiny humans. And if you think about all the adults that you know, and how different they are, babies are just a small version of that. So, take advice very lightly, almost, you know, do whatever… do what works for you. It’s not really very specific. I remember someone saying to me when I had Emily, oh, and I was saying ‘I just need a manual, I need like a textbook to tell me what to do.’ And it was my Auntie she said ‘No, just use your intuition.’ And I remember thinking ‘Haven’t got any. I don’t know what I’m doing. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing.’ So I suppose I would say is, kind of, trust the process.

You will get there. You will get to know your little human and you will know them better than anybody else.

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