Breastfeeding journey

World breastfeeding week gave me the motivation to write a post about my experience with breastfeeding, but I I’ve only just felt ready to post it. Nothing in this should be taken as a slight against women who choose not to breastfeed. As long as your child is getting food it is no one else’s place to comment.

I knew before I had Arthur that I wanted to breastfeed. In fact it was one of the only things I did really know. I didn’t delude myself that it would be easy but I didn’t think for a second I wouldn’t be able to do it.

I have inverted nipples which I was assured by my midwife wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately she was wrong, and the few days I had to spend in hospital after having him were mainly spent with a healthcare assistant manhandling my boobs trying to get him to latch on and hand syringing the colostrum for me.  Manhandling isn’t a good phrase, because they were absolutely brilliant with helping me but it was a constant battle with the latch. Arthur got more yellow and slept all the time (who knew that was wrong!) and eventually the midwife came in and said he had to have formula. Queue first major mummy breakdown of feeling like a failure as I had to watch her syringe my baby whilst my useless boobs were sat there.

We left the hospital armed with formula bottles and my stubborn side fully intending to never use them but to master what apparently should come naturally to women. Or should I say most women, because it certainly did not come naturally to me.

I continued my latch battles which were accompanied with tears and various cushions as we tried every position possible. Midwives came round daily to assist us, I started pumping, I could get a latch with a midwife there and Arthur slung round my body in the most unnatural position. When Chris and I tried to recreate this on our own….no chance!

Then my sister in law in Switzerland talked to me about nipple shields. I decided to give them a go….I was at the try anything stage or I was about to give up. And, they worked! Arthur was able to use the silicon nipple to draw out mine and it was the most amazing feeling…I was finally feeding my son. He put on some weight, got back to birth weight and we were discharged to the Health visitor. My Plymouth HV team were absolutely amazing but they did tell me I shouldn’t use the shields if possible. I was finally getting through days without crying and Arthur no longer needed formula and I expressed as well. The nipple shields were not going anywhere.

At 8 weeks though he stopped putting on weight and we watched him fall down the weight percentiles in the red book of shame as I called it. The doctor advised me to give formula, the HVs gave a lot of support in helping me maintain breastfeeding and we started the stress of weekly weigh ins. It was quite honestly horrendous and I was fortunate to have amazing friends who supported me through this. I also linked in with NCT breastfeeding specialist who gave invaluable advice. Some people told me to just give him formula, but for me it wasn’t a case of ‘just’. This was my one wish for me and Arthur, I couldn’t ‘just’ give up on it. We were back to daily tears as I felt like such a mummy failure. People would say ‘you’ll look back on this and realise it’s not such a big deal’ and I wanted to scream! This was a huge deal, I had people telling me he was ‘failure to thrive’ even though he was meeting every developmental milestone,  people telling me to give up on breastfeeding that it wasn’t ‘worth it’. I was being given support yet I still felt so alone. Sat feeding him at night in the nursery wondering what I was doing wrong, yelping in pain every time he pulled the nipple out. I realised I needed a break though so Chris started to give an evening bottle.

We went back to hospital to see a paediatrician and for us this was our first turning point. She told us that he was perfect, small yes, but perfect. Nipple shields weren’t the Devils work, formula wasn’t required if I didn’t want to and although he was dropping percentiles they were not classifying him as failure to thrive. He just couldn’t drop below the bottom one.

Weekly weigh ins continued, there were still tears but we managed to cruise along the line, never quite dropping below. I had a good friend who struggled as well and she was amazing support for me and hopefully me for her…..nothing like talking about cracked nipples over tea and cake as we winced in pain every time they latched!

I tried to stop using the shields, but we had limited success, he was too used to them. I took him to my chiropractor who did cranial massage for his sucking reflex. Not sure if it was a coincidence or if it really helped. Because at 5 months we had the most amazing breakthrough. He completely rejected me with the nipple shield I thought this was it, I was finally going to have to admit defeat. I sat holding my screaming baby as Chris made a bottle when suddenly  Arthur launched for my nipple and latched on. Since that day we haven’t looked back and at one year old he’s still a boob fiend.

This was by no means an easy journey but it is one that I am so glad I continued with.  I regularly questioned whether I was right to be so stubborn, and for me the answer is yes, but for some of my friends who were having struggles it was no.  Neither is right or wrong, it’s what’s best for mummy and baby.

I would urge any mother who is struggling with breastfeeding but wants to continue to look up the support available in their area; latch on groups, health visitors, NCT support, and the national breastfeeding support line all helped me. I personally didn’t find Facebook groups or chat rooms helpful at all. But different things work for different people. Women should be encouraged to do what is right for them and given the support in whatever decision they make.

Just not sure on how/when to stop!!!

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Items which helped me:

  • silver cups were amazing, they sit over the nipple under the breast pad and naturally soothe, no need for lanolin. (www.breastangel.co.uk)
  • MAM nipple shields
  • hot flannels
  • tea and cake
  • a comfortable chair for the nursery
  • Comfortable bras! Treated myself to a pretty milk one as well as comfy basics
  • Reuseable pads (I found these better than disposable ones)

Quite Frankly She Said Sunday Best

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14 comments on “Breastfeeding journey

  1. I’m nearly in tears here, so glad it all worked out for you on the end. You are so great to have persevered against all the odds. I’m a midwife myself and I really struggled with breastfeeding when I assumed it would be ok because I knew the theory. How wrong was I! I’ve also written a blog post on it but I ended up moving to formula in the end (and the guilt nearly killed me). Thankfully my baby is now 6 months and thriving so I’m all good now. If I had another baby I would definitely give it my best shot again. Sorry about the essay! This is my story : http://www.irishbabyfairy.com/breastfeeding-journey-of-a-midwife (feel free to delete link before publishing comment). #SundayBest

    1. Oh thank you for reading and commenting. You shouldn’t feel guilty at all, you’ve done what’s best for your baby and you. Think mummy guilt is one of the hardest thing to cope with. Xx

  2. Thanks for sharing this, reading whilst breastfeeding my 6 months old. Laughing at the red book of doom! I completely freaked out when we dropped one line, never mind to the bottom, so can’t even begin to imagine the sleepless nights you’ve had. I’m so glad you had the strength to continue and found your turning point. Mine was about four months and sadly so many mums journey’s end well before this. I’m hoping to be one of the 1 in 200 mums who reach 12 months, that’s my next target. For anyone reading this. Never give up on a bad day. This was my journey to 4 months: http://www.mumworthy.com/2016/06/28/why-would-anyone-breastfeed/ #SundayBest
    Natalie x

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Hope you had a good feed, well done for persevering with it. I am so glad I did, love the cuddles and feeds we have still xx

  3. Well done you! How wonderful that he finally took to the boob without shields and that you brilliantly persevered! It’s all too easy to give into your baby formula. I remember well the weekly weigh-ins,boob handling by strangers, the feeling of isolation. My 2 boys were tongue-tied so we also had very painful feeds and weight loss. I carried on too. I’ve written about it on my blog. My youngest is 22 months and he is still a bobbie monster…no idea how to stop either! #SundayBest

  4. Wow what a journey you’ve had! I struggled to breastfeed my daughter but it’s going really well with my 7 month old son so I understand how difficult it can be and how guilty you can feel. I’m so glad you managed to persevere and get through it though. & I love that you cite tea & cake as items that helped you..never a truer word was spoke! x

  5. I’m so glad it worked out for you in the end, nipple shields were also what helped me and my youngest to get through and make breast feeding work…they really should be recommended more! I had never even heard of them! Thanks for joining us at #SundayBest, hope to see you again this week! x

    1. I completely agree that they should be more widely recognised and advised! Switzerland has one of the highest breastfeeding rates in Europe and mothers are given them in hospital! Xx

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