Celebrating National Breastfeeding Week 2021
As part of National Breastfeeding Week 2021 we wanted to open our blog to share your breastfeeding stories!
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Topics Covered in Our Featured Story
-Breastfeeding and Returning to Work
-Breastfeeding Toddlers and Children
-Issues Faced and Overcome
-Ease of Breastfeeding
-Travelling and Breastfeeding
-The Six Month Myth
-Breastfeeding Barriers & Recommendations
Sinéad’s Breastfeeding Story – Part 1
My breastfeeding journey began long before I even became pregnant! I was breastfed by my own mother. She wasn’t overly opinionated or pushy about it but anytime the topic came up it went without saying that I would breastfeed my own babies – it was the logical, practical, natural choice, in her opinion. We knew we were breastfed (all four of us… some woman!). However, she told me the story many times of how she went to one breastfeeding group where she saw a toddler run up to his Mammy for a feed and that was the first and last breastfeeding group she ever went to – extended breastfeeding was not for her! And it is not for everyone and that is ok.
I have often thought back to where my interest and curiosity for breastfeeding came from and it all began about a year before I became pregnant with my first baby. A colleague in work became pregnant with her third child and I just couldn’t get enough of her stories – pregnancy stories, labour stories, and breastfeeding stories! I was transfixed from the beginning. She loved talking about it and I loved listening and learning so it was a win-win.
I have a vivid memory of one day when I visited her house shortly after her baby was born and mid-sentence, she raised her hands to her breasts and winced! She went on to tell me how fascinating a woman’s body is and how her breasts signal to her when her baby is hungry!!! What?! I was in disbelief…surely, she was away with the fairies and had convinced herself that her body had some magical telepathic gift?? A couple of years later, I learned that my friend was telling the truth and that in fact my breasts did indeed signal to me when my baby was due his next feed and I became aware that this sensation had a name, known as ‘The Let-down’, a feeling I would only become too familiar with in the years to come!
When my day came, on the 13/9/2015, my beautiful baby boy was born and our breastfeeding journey began. While I was pregnant, I went through all of the same excitement and nervousness as I am sure every other mother goes through. And one thing was for sure, I was going to breastfeed and to do my best to make it work. I heard all of the stories of situations where it doesn’t work and I tried to go easy on myself and think…look…if it doesn’t work at least you’ve tried. But always in the back of my mind I had another voice telling me I was going to make it work. I was determined. I have no idea where this passion came from. My only experience of witnessing a mother breastfeeding her infant in real life was a couple of brief occasions I saw my colleague from work breastfeeding in her house and the one time I saw my sister-in-law breastfeeding.
I decided to attend a breastfeeding workshop held by my maternity hospital just before my first baby was due – the timing of which I found to be brilliant – as all of the advice was fresh in my mind the following week when I gave birth. I found the postnatal care in the hospital very good. It was the most amazing experience in the hospital for 3 days with nothing to do except get used to breastfeeding. I was lucky that I had a relatively straightforward birth with no major complications. I found the recovery period for those three days entirely necessary, however, even after an uncomplicated birth. I also used this precious time to ask as many questions as I could of my post-natal care nurses. and found them very helpful.
I arrived home on a Wednesday and I had heard about a local breastfeeding group in my town run by public health nurses. I wasted no time and attended that first Thursday morning. I knew if I was going to make breastfeeding work, I was going to have to get as much help as possible as I’d felt fairly clueless. Every Thursday for 6 months I didn’t miss a session and every week I came with a notepad of questions that I had accumulated during the week.
The beautiful thing about the group was that I didn’t always have to ask my questions. Very often other mothers were asking the same questions and there was a real sense of support and solidarity from that group that I had rarely experienced before. I would almost liken it to the brotherhood I imagine soldiers feel returning from battle. Here we were, all of these new mothers going through the same thing at the same time that was utterly life changing. I am still very good friends with two of the Mammies that I met at that very first session.
Having a coffee together downstairs after every session helped the bonding experience! I think I relied on those sessions quite a bit because none of my three siblings or close friends had any children before me. Other than that colleague in work, I had no friends living close by that had previously had kids. If I ever asked my mother a question about breastfeeding, she would always say that she couldn’t remember, which is fair enough, I sometimes struggle to remember things I did with my first baby 6 years ago, never mind getting her to recall situations over 30 years ago!
As I was breastfeeding, I did all of the night feeds. However, I am pretty sure even if I was bottle-feeding, I still would have done all of the night feeds as my husband was working long days, with a long commute at the time and I was on maternity leave so it made sense that I was to be the one to get up in the middle of the night. He was a very good help in other ways and would always change nappies/burp etc. in the evenings and weekends. He fully supported my choice to breastfeed and wanted to help in any way he could to ensure it worked for me.
Our baby had what we were told was called ‘The Witching Hour’. Basically, he cried solidly from about 6pm until 12am. This made breastfeeding a real struggle. I felt clueless as to how to help him. Sometimes he would feed lots in those few hours. Sometimes he would pull away and not want to feed and I couldn’t find anything else that would soothe him. He would arch his back with wind that never seemed to come up or he would pull off quickly leaving a spray of milk all over me, himself and the couch!
I was lucky that I had a good supply of milk but it unfortunately meant that it was too much for him at times, as well as too fast and caused a lot of wind! All of the programmes/movies/ads with mother’s breastfeeding in them always seemed to be so peaceful and serene. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
In hindsight I think maybe I left it a bit late for getting my baby into a nap routine. I think he was overtired in the evenings and if he had slept in a more regulated way during the day it may have helped. Either that or it was a ‘Growth-spurt’ ‘Developmental Leap’, or ‘Teething’… the list goes on and on of possible reasons as to why my baby might have been crying.
Some nights my head would go into a spin thinking about why he was crying and doubting myself every step of the way as to the solutions I was trying to find! In the end, after 3 babies, I think breastfed or bottle-fed, babies are babies and will cry for any number of reasons and you just have to be patient, keep going, keep your spirits up and believe that it will get easier! And so, I continued to breastfeed him for 15 months! I went back to work when he was 12 months and continued to give him a feed every morning and every evening for 3 months and then I stopped at 15 months in the hopes that I would get pregnant again.
Once my postpartum bleeding stopped at around 6 weeks, my menstrual cycle did not return for the entire year until I stopped breastfeeding! In fact, it never returned because we got pregnant with our second baby the first month my ovulation restarted so I never had a bleed that month! Later on, I heard about mothers who had successfully breastfed while pregnant and sometimes I think it would have been nice to experience that, but I don’t know if my menstrual cycle would have ever restarted had I not stopped breastfeeding so maybe it was just not meant to be…
Editor’s Note & Breastfeeding Resources
Please note that breastfeeding stories shared on our blog are meant for the purposes of sharing personal experiences only and should therefore not be used as a substitute for expert care like that available from International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). A full list of Ireland’s IBCLCs can be found via the Association of Lactation Consultants in Ireland’s website here.
Equally the opinions expressed remain that of the storyteller and, therefore, it should not be assumed that Well Fed Photography or its subsidiaries share the expressed opinions of the storyteller.
Thank You for Sharing Your Story
We’d like to thank Sinéad Uí Chiaragáin for submitting her story for our readers to enjoy.
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