Wednesday, August 3, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and in recognition of that I wanted to share my experience. 

Firstly my two children were born in different countries and that contributed to a different birth experience.  Also I believe being prepared for my second child also gave me a different experience - a better one.

Sophie's birth was not easy, I started having contractions one afternoon but they stopped and started until by the evening they were 5 in 5 minutes so we went to the hospital, got sent home and a few hours later about midnight came back.  The labour was long, we tried everything, pethidine, water, gas, epidural, drugs to speed up labour, manually breaking the waters etc.  In the end she became distressed and they decided to do an emergency c-section, after almost 24 hours since we re-attended the hospital she was born.  All in all, it was not a positive experience and I was in a lot of pain afterwards as you would with a c-section.  I tried to breastfeed as I had planned to at least try, but it wouldnt work and was painful and I got to the point that I almost didnt want my child near me.  I dreaded the next attempt at feeding time.  After a few attempts I gave up, maybe I should have tried longer but Im sure after the difficult birth and the way I felt after, to continue would have been damaging to me and my baby.  So I began bottle feeding and was relieved and started to bond with my baby. But at the time I was a little worried that I would not be allowed to easily make my choice, I was always hearing about women being 'pressured' into breastfeeding by disapproving midwives, which at the time added some pressure to make my decision.

My second birth was very different, my water broke before we went to the hospital and things progressed much quicker.  But there werent any options, here in Portugal it seems they put you on a monitor and make you lie on a bed and give you an epidural if you want, no gas, no pethidine, its epidural or nothing!  But it all went and she was born naturally after 8 hours.  This time again I wanted to breastfeed and they gentily helped me, once I was out of the labour room and had had some time to adjust.  And I had learnt some things from my first attempts with Sophie and it worked.  And I loved it, it was a great thing to do, so easy, so convenient.  I breastfeed for 9 months, (exclusively for 6) and would definately do it again. 

Both my children are fine, happy.  Breast is probably best but I dont feel I lost anything by bottle feeding my first child, nowadays bottle formula is so advanced that there probably isnt much difference between the two, except of course things like antibodies etc. 

Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to do but women shouldnt feel pressurised but they should have the help available - that is so important to its success.


  1. Very interesting, I had Funky Monkey in Spain, and received hardly any support. There was a La Leche league but not very accessible. Luckily I found it easy. I was able to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and then about 4 months after. I wonder what it would be like here in the Netherlands. I presume a lot of support seeing that you get a midwife in your home for the first 2 weeks or so every day.

  2. Hi
    Its not so much that I had more help in Portugal but it was different, more natural and I had my previous experience to help, things I could have done that may have made it more successful the first time around.

  3. My daughter was born in Spain too, came a month early and I hadnt even bought a cot never mind got my head around beginning breast feeding! She was a tiny 5lb, and next to my, er, let´s say ample bosom, it was less than easy to feed her! The nurses were unsympathetic, and I was raging with all the hormones I´d had pumped into me too so I just kept being given a bottle with a stern "se tiene que beber!" when she got more and more jaundiced. It was really hard work, I was surprised at how easy they were making it for me to just give up, but my saving grace were the other mums in the neonatal unit who shared tips about unknown gadgets (to me anyway, midwife-less and stuck in Spain!) such as breast-shields, and other such aids. About two weeks later we managed to lose the bottles and breast shields, and I managed until I went back to work after 6 months. I really believe mums should be allowed to feel ok with whichever decision they make, but that a lot can be achieved with the right kind of support too. My friends baby would NEVER take a bottle, and she was a nightmare at times. At least my daughter was happy with both as she had learned from the outset.

  4. Thanks for the comment Lindsay, good on you for perservering, not many would in that situation and to get a baby to go to breast after bottle, I dont believe is easy. Must have been very hard on you too, especially with the surprise of early labour.

  5. Hi
    I was trying to find anything for BF week here in Portugal and I came across this post and enjoyed reading it but feel the need to clarify something written at the end about Bmilk ´probably being best and that there isnt much difference between the two´. I also do not agree that women should feel or be pressured in to BF but if they choose not to then it should be an educated decision and not a misled one from friends telling them that formula is almost as good. Breast is definately best and there is no question about it as it is beneficial to both mother and baby. BF for at least a year lowers Mums chance of B cancer, it helps against PND and is saves money etc etc etc for baby, well where do I begin, nutrients are more bioavailable than artificial milks which is where it gets confusing when you read the labels on formula. BM changes according to your babys needs of age and time of day and even temperature etc BM is a living thing,protects the gut, lowers later alergies, less chance of obesity, diabetease, it has antiinflamatories, the list just goes on. Doctors havnt even harnesed the whole benefits of BM as they are so vast so to write that there probably isnt much difference in such a public place is simply wrong and irresponsible as it could lead to others thinking the same way. Even introducing bottles and dummies is wrong as it leads to malformation and growth of teeth and is proven to shorten BF in the long run. One thing is to feed your own baby formula for which I am not judjing at all but it is another matter alltogether and incorect to encourage others by telling them such rubish. I agree that there is little support here in Portugal but it is up to us as women to do our research and fight for our choices(including when it comes to our ideal birth) instead of blaming everyone else when it goes wrong. It is fabulous that you EBF for the first 6months but please do not compare BM to formula in that way. Joana IBCLC

  6. SORRY:::::may I clarify something I wrote, introducing dummies, bottles, shields unless necissary(cracked nipples and not for easier latch) etc is not wrong but does tend to shorten the time spent at the breast therefor lowering supply and women end up stopping earlier. I may sound a little fiery but am fed up of the uphill battle of people saying the same sort of stuff which leads to all those daft myths new mothers give into.

  7. Joana,

    Thank you for your comments and for giving me some information I did not know.