Our Breastfeeding Journey
Featuring Laura – mumguilt.com
There wasn’t really any question of me not breastfeeding once my baby was born. I have never been someone who would sneer at someone for choosing not to, but the benefits outweighed the negatives as far as I could see: free, convenient, always with you. I attended NCT classes and listened with interest to the breastfeeding talk but I didn’t really have many questions. I understood that it might be difficult at first and possibly painful but once you had established a good latch you were away. One of our group had purchased some ready made formula on the recommendation for a friend just in case there was a problem with breastfeeding. My husband and I decided to do the same thing ‘just in case’. I’m a teacher; I like to be prepared.
However, it is safe to say I was in no way shape or form prepared for breastfeeding. He found it so hard to latch that the pain I experienced wasn’t from him sucking too hard, it was from the midwifes squeezing my boobs to try and entice him into taking them. They kept encouraging me to hand express so that he was getting the colostrum at least and that might encourage him to latch on. No matter how hard he tried though he could not get the hang of it, and after 30 minutes of this he would have to be cup fed formula. It was disheartening as I assumed it would be much easier. After being in hospital for 24 hours we were given the all clear to go home if we were happy to continue trying once we got there (I told them I wasn’t giving up). When we got home he wouldn’t even feed from the cup so we had to syringe feed him. It turned out he was jaundice so back to the hospital we went for another night. This time they lent us an electric pump to get things moving and I started producing more and more milk. We purchased one as soon as we could.
For the next week, I persevered with trying to latch him on and expressing as much as I could. My sister-in-law had suggested using nipple shields to see if they would help. I couldn’t seem to make them work so after a lot of frustrated (and hormonal!) tears we went to our local clinic to ask for advice. They showed me how to position my son and the nipple shields correctly and for the first time he started to feed. I was so relieved that I cried again in the middle of a crowded room with one boob hanging out. As you do.
I had read all about cluster feeding and baby increasing milk supply by feeding lots so I basically spent the next week with him attached to my boob. When he wasn’t attached, I would pump to help increase quantity. There were times that we had to top him up with formula as he was screaming in frustration and my milk just wasn’t enough.
Unfortunately, when my health visitor came to the house to weigh him we discovered that he hadn’t put any weight on. Being a smaller baby (6lb 4oz) this was a concern as he had dropped to the 2nd percentile. She asked how feeding was going and I told her there were times I was feeding for two to three hours. This combined with him not putting on any weight prompted her to suggest I breastfed for thirty minutes (15 on each boob) and then topped up with formula.
I can’t really describe the feeling of relief I felt when she said this. It was as if it was the permission I has been waiting for to give formula. I had struggled with a screaming, frustrated, hungry baby for two weeks while I basically sat half naked, crying but didn’t want to feel like a failure and give up. I now know (in my unemotional state) that I was neither a failure nor giving up. But having a professional say that it was okay to go down this road was the best thing that could have happened to me.
So, we continued like this for about 10 weeks. At night, we give formula and in the day, we did both. It meant my husband could help with the feeding and he didn’t come home to me crying every day saying I couldn’t do it. I continued to express every so often but I never got very much off. I think because we never fully established breastfeeding my supply never got up to the level that my baby needed.
When he was 10 weeks old he was growing well and back to a healthy weight. And was no longer willing to struggle with the breastfeeding before getting his bottle. He pretty much stopped feeding from me at this point. It was too slow and too much effort for him when he could get it so easily from a bottle. So, I made the decision to stop breastfeeding altogether and switch to formula. And I am happy with my choice. More importantly, so is he. I am comfortable that he got the ‘good stuff’ from me and could gain weight.
My advice to new mums would be to ask for help as soon as you can. Don’t struggle on in silence, or be forced to give up because it isn’t working even though you don’t want to stop. The health visitors were brilliant in helping me and I am so thankful that I went to see them so early on.
My other piece of advice would be if you are unable to (or choose not to) breastfeed you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. If your baby is fed and is healthy that is all that matters. It is such a personal thing and no-one else’s business but yours and your baby’s.
You can find Laura’s blog over at: www.mumguilt.com