Before you read on I feel the need to forewarn you that this is a breastfeeding post. The reason being that as a new mum I’ve felt there so much of a stigma and pressure attached to breastfeeding. There so much about breast is best vs fed is best, breastfeeding in public, support or lack of support, pressure to breastfeed, pressure to bottle feed and judgements about whether you are or not. I’m not in anyway going use this post as a way to promote breast or formula feeding, I just wish to share my journey.
I must also add, that during the process of establishing breastfeeding I was lucky, I’ve hit stumbling blocks and although it felt like every hurdle I overcame I was faced with another, my difficulties are nothing compared to what some mothers go through. Nevertheless, from day one I loved breastfeeding my daughter and thrived on the bond it created between us making each little hiccup worth battling against and even though we’re not quite there yet, I’ve still the determination and passion to keep going.
So after what felt like the longest pregnancy ever (my daughter arrived late after I was induced) my dear daughter was placed in my arms for her first feed. A midwife aided me in helping her search and get latched on, it was a bit hit and miss at first, but I was chilled and between us we got there eventually and my daughter was happily suckling. Looking back, it wasn’t perfect, it was comfortable for us both, she was calm and appeared to be getting what she needed, so we were off to a good start. I’d been given some advice by the midwife some of which I remember but quite frankly I’d just endured 14 hrs of being induced, 12 hrs of labour and then 9 mins of childbirth, my long awaited baby girl was here and me and husband had a lot to take in.
I had to stay in hospital for a couple of days and was visited on the ward by a breastfeeding champion as well as several midwives, all of which checked my latch and observed feeds and I was commended on how well me and baby were doing at breastfeeding. My confidence grew and I felt on top of the world, I was feeding and nourishing my child whilst bonding and loving her in one of the most natural ways possible..Bliss!!
We got home and things appeared to still be going well, she was cluster feeding, calm on the breast, I was offering both breasts each feed, returning to the last fed side when appropriate and following all the advice given during my antenatal class. I went through engorgement and let down pains, sore nipples from the new experience-all the crappy, painful bits no one tells you about, but was constantly reassured that this was all normal and I just needed to ride it out, she was feeding well and the visiting midwives and health visitors were happy.
I had a nagging doubt though, I wondered if something was wrong, was she getting enough, was she latched right? I kept getting told I was just fretting and everything was fine, she was almost back up to her birth weight and the midwife discharged us, the health visitor came the very next day and once again confirmed everything was fine and that she was happy with the number nappies etc and that my latch looked good, she would see me again when she was 8 weeks old.
That nagging doubt disappeared and we sailed on in our breastfeeding journey, however I couldn’t help but think she was a bit dinky another week or two down the line. Coming from a petite family I didn’t worry too much, she was bright eyed and bushy tailed and feeding loads!!!
Then some really signals hit, I was suddenly in pain and she was 5 weeks old, we couldn’t still be settling in etc surely? I went to see the nurse practitioner who told me once again not to worry diagnosed and infection and gave me some cream but I still wasn’t quite convinced. Shortly after my daughter had funny green nappies, so I asked for advice and my GP told me it was nothing to worry about just a change I’d made to my diet despite the fact I’d not changed anything. I was still concerned so went to my health visitor drop in clinic who weighed her and simply told me she was a petite baby with a slow gain and to come back in a week.
I walked away feeling terrible, my daughter wasn’t right and I just knew it. I knew it wasn’t serious (as in get her to A&E quick serious) she’d be medically assessed and was perfectly healthy, her sparkly blue eyes were happy and she was hitting new milestones like smiling, focusing on us, reacting to sounds etc. However, something was wrong with her growth and feeding at 6 weeks she surely shouldn’t be taking so long to drink her milk from me. After 2 days of being passed from pillar to post, a lady from the La Leche League advised me to get her assessed for a tongue tie because our latch and positioning was good and I was doing everything right. Several phone calls, NHS staff, an inappropriately speaking ward clerk and a few expletives later, I had an appointment with a lactation consultant at my local hospital.
What a wonderful woman! I spent 3 hours working on tweaking our positioning and latch as well as her clipping my daughters posterior tongue tie. I walked away with a plan, supplement with expressed milk to get her weight up, practise these new to techniques helping encourage my daughter to improve her lazy suck (which was a result of the tongue tie) and come back for follow up appointments to look at how things are going and improve them further. How much better did I feel? Oh and my daughters weekly weight gain had improved by 6 times as much!!
Really it was as simple as that, someone checking and clipping her little tongue and then taking the time to thoroughly look and make some small adjustments to our feeding technique. Ok things aren’t perfect yet, I’ve still to go back for my follow up appointment and keep practising these tweaks but at least my journey looks a bit more of a straight road now.
I guess what I really want to emphasise for any new mum with this is that breastfeeding isn’t easy and although is the most natural thing you can do for your baby, it doesn’t come naturally, it takes time, effort and confidence to get there with it. My journey was better than I know other’s have been and I know I’ve faced some negativity from “anti-breastfeeders” as well as supportive comments friends and relatives who’ve kindly tried to reassure me that I could put her into formal and it wasn’t failing. I’ve come too far though, both my daughter and I are too into the bond and closeness and comfort it have both of us so we just need to keep learning how to make it more successful and we seem to be in the right path.
So if you want to breastfeed, remember it’s a skill you and your baby have to learn, don’t give up it takes time, ask for help, seek out a good lactation consultant, go with your instinct and if you need to, supplement, express, bottle feed, formula feed or whatever, just do what’s right for you. Most importantly though, don’t let anyone fob you off when you know something isn’t right and don’t let anyone push you into to anything that you know isn’t right for you and your baby. A fed baby is best, a healthy, happy, growing baby is best and mum knows how to achieve that in the best way for her and her baby. Because mum always knows best!