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Can I ask, how hard is breastfeeding? Honestly?

(155 Posts)
Firstimer2015 Tue 28-Jul-15 13:06:47

I'm overdue with DC1, so have been possibly stupidly reading online about bf to try and prepare myself for what's to come.

I'm not adverse to formula feeding at all, in fact I don't know anyone who has breastfed so ff is the norm to me. However, I decided months ago to give bf a try because of the health benefits, but also, mostly because I thought it would be easier.

I have an illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so I get tired very quickly (although I know anyone with a newborn baby would be chornically tired!). I thought bf would be easier, in that I wouldn't have to get up and make bottles, wait for them to be ready, steralise them etc etc, especially in the middle of the night. I thought I could just put the baby on my boob without having to even get up and it would be easier that way.

I'm having doubts now though. I knew before it can be painful if the latch isn't right so your nipples can be sore etc, but what I really, really didn't anticipate was how often babies feed! As I said, I've only ever been around ff babies, so I'm used to them feeding every 3 hours or so. I had no idea bf can sometimes be every 2 hours, and for hours and hours at a time (cluster feeding I think I read it's called).

It's just made me question my decision, as I thought bf would be the easier option (that is of course, if baby takes to it - have bought bottles just in case) but now I'm wondering if it's actually the harder option?

I just want to do best by my baby, but also I don't want to wear myself out so much that I'm unable to care for the baby properly, so just wondered what other peoples experiences are?

EeekEeekEeekEeek Tue 28-Jul-15 13:32:08

Well, there are a few pros and cons.

If you breastfeed, then yes, the interval is likely to be shorter. I've breastfed my 10-week-old DD since the beginning, and she currently goes 2 hours between feeds in the day, anywhere from 3-5 hours at night. Formula fed babies usually go a bit longer.

I get up to feed at night, because I'm terrified of falling asleep on DD, but I know many people who lift the baby into bed with them and breastfeed lying down, before returning the baby to its basket. This minimises effort.

On the other hand, feeding formula frees you up to get your partner doing half the feeds (I'm assuming he's around, apologies if not). He can get up in the night rather than you. Many people (myself and DH included) sleep in separate rooms at the start, so you can take it in turns to do the night feeds and therefore get at least 3-4 decent nights' sleep a week.

I don't have any experience of formula feeding so can't comment on the amount of effort involved in sterilising etc. Sure someone will be along shortly to help!

EeekEeekEeekEeek Tue 28-Jul-15 13:36:15

As for the soreness issue - yes, many people find it does hurt. I found it very sore for a couple of weeks, even with a good latch. What I'd say is that if you're committed to giving breastfeeding a go, give it a go for longer than the first couple of weeks and don't give up because of soreness unless it's very severe. It got better for me after the first couple of weeks, with the help of nipple shields, and now it's completely painless. I'm so glad I persevered.

Get some Lansinoh nipple cream! It's magic.

happymummyone Tue 28-Jul-15 13:42:37

Hi, I'll be as honest as possible about my own experience BF my DD. it hurt from the first latch, they say it shouldn't hurt if you get it right but I must have not done it right because it hurt a lot! For two solid months it was really painful and my then partner and my parents all suggested I stop but you know, I'm stubborn, so I powered through and it got easier, then painless, then effortless. If she cried, needed comfort, whatever, I would feed her and I honestly didn't mind it being so often because it was so peaceful. I had to stop BF when she was around two because she learned to just get them out herself and I wanted to reclaim them as my own! I'm 31 weeks with my 2nd and hope to breastfeed again, as honestly, I remember thinking, thank god I don't have to stumble downstairs and make up a bottle at 4am, I could sleepily feed baby to sleep then quietly lay her down without having to get out of bed, lovely smile

Duggee Tue 28-Jul-15 13:43:00

Honestly I'm some ways it's harder than ff for the first 6-12 weeks. But not always. Bf babies feed little and often and stop when they are full or slow the suck down so they are comfort sucking not feeding. Whereas with formula feeding the stomach stretches quicker as milk comes out even through comfort sucking. And yes they do cluster feed through growth spurts but being your first just pop yourself in front of the tv or lie on your side in bed and snooze and problem solved!
After the early days it's so so much easier! No sterilising bottles, no planning your trips out around where you can heat up bottles. No stressing that you've run out of sterilised bottles and baby is screaming for a feed. Stick it out for 12 weeks and you'll be so glad you did.

horseygeorgie Tue 28-Jul-15 13:57:47

I'll be as honest as I can be here.
I BF for 9 months and It was incredibly difficult. The first 4 days were the hardest experience I have ever had in my life. She wouldn't latch on and we couldn't 'get it'. I hated being in hospital so I stupidly lied and told them she was feeding fine. I have a MW friend who came to help me and thank God she did cause it was the most awful thing ever! Eventually she sat me down and said 'its just boob in mouth. Thats all it is'. I was completely over thinking it and the HV wasn't helping with talk of angles etc. We cracked it then.
Tbh it was never comfortable in all the time I was doing it. I had to have everything a certain way and hold boob the entire time otherwise it just hurt too much. I have always been sensitive so that didn't help! I stopped when DD started teething. I felt guilty but couldn't bear the pain anymore. I didn't even express as she refused to take a bottle the entire time.
It is so much easier that bottles re sterilising and night feeds and I am so glad I did it but I'm not sure I could go through that again.

I think there is a huge amount of pressure on women to BF and I would recommend trying it for a good few weeks and stick at it. I wanted to do it so desperately but that was me. No harm ever came from bottle feeding if you want to do that there is no shame in it.

NickyEds Tue 28-Jul-15 14:00:24

I mix fed ds (now 19 months) and found ff much easier. I'm currently bf my 10 day old dd and I'll be honest with you; this part is hard. It's 13.50 now and I've fed my baby 8 times since 8.30 this morning. On day 3 she fed on and off (more on than off!) from 11pm until 5am trying to get my milk in. She's gone 3 hours once or twice but every 90minutes -2 hours is more normal outside cluster feeds when it's more often. My nipples have cracks in and are sore. will get easier. Bf became pain free with ds after a month or so.

How about giving it a go and seeing how you get on? Reading as much as you can before hand will help-I was clueless with ds. I'm aiming to mix feed dd too once my supply is more established or I just can't cope with ds andbf.

Bf is easier in the night (although it does always have to be you!) but I never found ff ds to be a faff. Sterilising is just washing up plus a bit really and pre made up cartons make feeding out and about much easier. When bf ds I always had to account for the fact it might take an hour if he was fussy whereas if he had a bottle it took minutes.

horseygeorgie Tue 28-Jul-15 14:04:42

Oh and time wise, DD fed every 1 1/2 hours or so to start with but spent a LONG time on the boob!
It probably isn't as bad as I made it sound rereading it. I DID enjoy it, if everything was going well it was peaceful and wonderful beyond anything.

Oh, don't believe the lying gits who will tell you it is great for losing weight! Sitting on my backside BF for hours had the complete opposite effect on me; I put on 2 1/2 stone!! But then I am inclined to pile it on anyway!

BumWad Tue 28-Jul-15 14:07:27

I have a 9 week old and I have found the actual breastfeeding very easy. The latch has not been painful.

My biggest bugbear however is that my baby suffers from severe reflux and therefore I have to administer quite a few meds which makes it difficult with breastfeeding. Also as baby is constantly sick he is feeding more to compensate.

I am having to express and give a bottle with his medicines so in effect I am doing double the work, breastfeeding directly and having to sterilise bottles/pump etc. I have wanted to give up many a time but apparently breastmilk is better for reflux babies.

So on the whole minus the reflux I would have chosen breastfeeding anyday.

53rdAndBird Tue 28-Jul-15 14:09:26

It can vary hugely. I had a relatively easy time of it - baby latched on fine straight away, a little bit of pain but mild and short-lived. I know friends who had a much rougher time, though.

Mine did feed very often, which for the first few months was for about 5-10 minutes every hour during the day. She also cluster fed in the evenings quite often for the first 10 weeks or so. But honestly, this was a lot less hard than I expected it to be - I just sat on the sofa a lot watching box sets (we got through I think four seasons of ER) or reading a book/phone/kindle while she fed.

The hardest thing for me was dealing with all the well-meaning but contradictory advice. Books telling me she should be feeding every 3 hours, health visitor telling me she couldn't possibly be finished after 10 minutes, relatives going by advice they got in their day which was to distract/bounce/jiggle the hungry baby if it was 'too soon' for another feed, any time she was unhappy it getting blamed on breastfeeding - "maybe it's something in your milk? Have you tried giving her a bottle?" It got a lot easier when I decided that since she was putting on weight fine and was perfectly healthy, I'd just feed her when she wanted and roll with it.

WorldsBiggestGrotbag Tue 28-Jul-15 14:10:27

Congrats Nicky, glad to see you've had your baby!
Ok... My experience. First time round it was tough for the first few weeks with cluster feeding and sore nipples. A dream after that, until around 4 months when I needed DD to take a bottle and she wouldn't. A positive experience in general though, and was looking forward to feeding DD2 who is now nearly 3 weeks old.
This time has been completely different. First 48 hours were just one long cluster feed. She would literally only come off the breast for about 10 mins every 4 hours. Nipples cracked and bleeding. Day 8 I thought I had mastitis so went to the walk in centre, and was immediately taken to hospital via ambulance with sirens blazing. Turned out I had severe mastitis which had developed into sepsis. Spent 72 hours in intensive care on IV antibiotics (baby stayed with me and I fed through it). I've been home just over a week now and just finished my antibiotics and it's now starting to feel 'easy' again!

53rdAndBird Tue 28-Jul-15 14:11:03

Oh, but I should mention in fairness that the first two nights in hospital were rough. She fed almost all night and wouldn't be put down. Not sure how much that was bf-ing and how much of it was just DD's personality, though - she was a very velcro baby.

horseygeorgie Tue 28-Jul-15 14:11:33

They all do such different things don't they! I loved the fact that it was such a brilliant soother. If she was crying for any reason or no reason, the boob sorted it all out! Wonderful.

Getting all broody over here

ShanghaiDiva Tue 28-Jul-15 14:13:50

It was painful in the beginning, but fine after 2 weeks or so. Once you get into the swing of it, it's really easy, especially when you are out and about. The cluster feeding can be frustrating, but I just sat in font of the TV. I wasn't really sure how it would go in the beginning as my mum and mil both used formula so they couldn't offer any advice. However, all went well and I bf both my dcs for 12+ months. Good luck!

WorldsBiggestGrotbag Tue 28-Jul-15 14:16:32

Ps cluster feeding is much easier with your first baby as you can just settle down on the sofa with snacks and a box set. Finding it much harder with a 20 month old to entertain too!

TheOddity Tue 28-Jul-15 14:18:51

If you are like me, you will have 12 weeks of hell breastfeeding, stubbornly press on through and then miraculously find yourself out the other side with a co sleeping baby who can always be calmed with boob. Once you get over the pain and cluster feeding, the problem becomes how to ever wean as babies love it like a drug!

Silvertap Tue 28-Jul-15 14:20:29

Here is my story:

Bf ds1 - first 4 nights were awful as I was recovering from an emcs - purely due to exhaustion and milk coming in. I had my mum on had to bring him to me and she'd burp/change him. I won't lie. It was was hard but certainly not impossible. It never physically hurt me. The next 4/5 weeks ds cluster fed in the evenings from day 6pm - 10pm. I sat on the sofa and fed him and ate. Again, it never hurt, this was fairly easy. By 6 weeks it was a breeze. He slept 4-6 hr stretches. Small 4 month sleep regression (waking for 1 feed) but by 5 months was regularly doing 7-7.

I'm currently feeding 9 month old dd. she has 3 feeds a day, sleeps 7-7 and has done since she was 8 weeks old.

I have loved breastfeeding my kids. I'm very proud I kept going and I found it very easy. Both times I've lost weigh dead easy too which is a bonus.

Go into it with an open mind and a smidgen of stubbornness. Best advice someone gave me was never give up on a bad day.

Good luck and whichever way you feed your baby it really won't matter in the long run!

juneau Tue 28-Jul-15 14:21:08

My experience (I BF both my DC), was that as long as you have lots of help and support to get it established (i.e. the first month), it IS easy and that once you're up and running with it its definitely the lazy woman's choice! No sterilising, no going downstairs to fix bottles in the middle of the night, etc.

You do need support though - to get the latch right, to establish a healthy supply, and to feed for long enough on each side to make sure the baby is emptying the breast and getting the rich 'hind' milk that helps them to feel full and get enough nutrition.

A good lactation consultant or breast feeding support group will give you all the help you need. I saw a LC the first week with DC1 and then the La Leche League were my go-to resource. The Breastfeeding Book by Dr William Sears is also very helpful for trouble-shooting at home or in the middle of the night. Good luck!

ButtonMoon88 Tue 28-Jul-15 14:21:32

I enjoyed breastfeeding, a lot!

I was very relaxed about the whole BF/ff debate, all that mattered to me was that baby was feeding. From the get go she latched on and fed for 45mins+ at a time. This was incredible, but tiring, and sometimes boring (mn massive will shoot me down!) it was sore at first, but not unbearable. I wore nipple guards and I also expressed, which helped massively. Incidentally baby also took to bottle instantly and I think that was because I had used nipples guards a few times... No such thing as nipple confusion with my child!!

I think as a parent the best thing you can do is find a way of being happy and relaxed, if you are those two things, so will be your baby x

AvocadoLime Tue 28-Jul-15 14:22:07

It's harder than FF for the first month(ish), then it becomes much easier - but you need to commit to the first few, possibly difficult weeks to make it to then.

I'll be honest, and this is just out of the people I know, all of the women who said 'I'll give it a go' stopped soon after their baby was born or at least mix fed. The few women who EBFed past 6 months (I think I know 3, including myself) were all very pro breast feeding from when they were pregnant. So I think you need to be decisive and go in with a determined attitude if you want to make it work.

I went in completely naive to the early difficulties. It's horrible when your baby won't latch and you worry that you're starving them, and for some people it does hurt, which is upsetting because of the guilt of dreading feeding your baby as well as painful. So I do not judge women who choose to swap to formula.

Fluffy24 Tue 28-Jul-15 14:22:14

I had didn't have any of the pain, cracked nipple's etc and found the actual feeding straightforward. It is very time intensive though and for the first three months my baby seemed to be permanently attached - but it was wonderful being able to spend that much time with him which might not be feasible with subsequent DC and whilst I wondered if I'd ever be able to be away from him for more than an hour at a time I don't regret it.

As he's got older BF has been very handy as we don't need to take milk with us everywhere and at night it's convenient too as you can feed almost instantly when they wake and don't have to wake up fully like you would if you were holding a bottle.

I imagined that as we started weaning and needed less feeds I'd BF during the day and get DH to help with formula at night but we actually do the reverse as night BF is so convenient.

I always took DS back to bed to feed him but had a very fixed routine of having extra pillows so I was sitting up, and when I put him in his cot and went back to bed I'd put them on the floor - worried I'd fall asleep and squash him otherwise!

Artistic Tue 28-Jul-15 14:23:19

I have exclusively bf both my DD for 6 months. But unlike my first whom I continued to feed until 14 months, with my second I have rapidly switched to formula & completely stopped at 9months. I found be easy to manage, but it made me put on weight & also made me feel bloated & lethargic.i was much less energetic & always tired perhaps because of the constant drain of
Calcium & other nutrients from my body (despite supplements).i think you should try it & see for yourself. Whichever helps your fatigue to stay controlled should be the way for you.

RhubarbAndMustard Tue 28-Jul-15 14:24:20

I don't have much experience with bf. I did for 3 days, but for a whole host of reasons we then went on to bottle. For us, it was definitely the right decision. We were able to split the feeds and sleep in shifts.

The sterilising was a bit of a pain, but if you buy plenty of bottles (around 8), then there is always one that will be ready and the electric steriliser we used only took 30 mins (I think?).

When you are out and about, you can use pre-mixed formula. My DS had no problem drinking the formula without it being warmed. I could tell exactly how much he was drinking, he went for longer in between feeds and compared to my bf friends, he slept much longer (but that could just be down to him). You can also now get those machines that make the bottles up in a few minutes at exactly the right temperature.

I'd say the main downside is the cost of formula really and the bottles and other equipment.

MerryMarigold Tue 28-Jul-15 14:26:16

I had CFS, with my first son and my twins. (I am better now). I breastfed them all. I will not kid you that it was easy, but I think it's different for different people. For me it was a lot easier second time round, but even then I'd say it took a couple of weeks for one of my babies to get it (he was ill when he was born so it took longer and was frustrating for both of us).

I had to be committed to it, and to be honest, once the initial hard bit is over, it probably is easier in terms of leaving the house etc. You don't need to remember all these bits and bobs and have a huge bag of supplies.

Also, I found the hormones really helped with my CFS and actually suffered a lot more when I stopped breastfeeding. They also helped my mood generally. There's a lot of feel good hormones going on there!

OhGood Tue 28-Jul-15 14:26:47

I think you're over-thinking. Newborns are so totally unpredictable and each baby/mother/baby-mother combo is so different that there is no way for you right now to plan how best to manage your chronic fatigue system and your newborn.

I say, if you want to breastfeed, go for it. It will be very hard at first while you are both learning how to do it, so make sure you have LOADS of help lined up from midwives and also you know where to go for help afterwards (local breastfeeding clinic?)

Eat well, drink lots of water.

Good luck!

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