One I fell pregnant, the girls GREW and I no longer fitted any of my bras or clothes. I knew I wanted to breastfeed from the start. I wanted the boobies to have a chance to prove themselves. So a couple of hours after The Toddler was born, I had the opportunity to try it.
My boobs started to leak colostrum at about 34 weeks. I remember being sat at OHs mothers house having a conversation at the dinner table and not realising that I should have been wearing breast pads. It was a very obvious mark on my t-shirt which left booby had obviously delighted in embarrassing me with while everyone else tried to eat their dinner.
Most of you are that the first ever latch.. well, it HURTS. Mainly through inexperience. Babies are born knowing how to suck, but not latch, although the act of skin to skin contact and feeding is much more important than the latch in that first feed. However, a newborns suck reflex is immense. The little buggers clamp on and hold on. They also have really hard gums and don’t know not to shut their jaws. So the first ever feed for me…ouchie. It was also fairly delayed with the Toddler because of some complications in her labour. I was moved to the ward after the labour and all its following events and told to feed her at 6am and then left to it.
Cue insecure mother mode.
6 am rolled round and I called a MW to help me get her latched on. No one (including me) was aware that I had quite seriously hurt my tailbone during the pushing. This would add to my discomfort over the following 8 weeks and would result in my basically being sofa-bound. Anyway, we got her latched and fed and they put her in bed, then called breakfast. I was so tired and distressed that they ended up taking her in the office and said they would bring her back when she needed feeding. This would allow me time to get some sleep.
While she was in the office, they did her hearing test and initial paediatric assessment, which raised a few concerns. The most prominent of these being that she was jittery on handling which can be indicative of an underlying problem. The jittery-ness turned out to be low blood sugar. She was at 2.7.
This was the first hit to my breastfeeding confidence. I had to get her blood tested every three hours before feeding and after a feed, I was being encouraged to syringe her formula. I had never wanted to give her ANY formula but I was being encouraged to do so as a remedy. Turns out, she wasn’t very good at taking the formula and was much happier nursing so this idea was soon dropped. O was determined to keep feeding her myself and her blood sugar crept up. My nipples cracked and became very sore. After two days in hospital, it was almost unbearable and I couldn’t tolerate anything on my boobs. I began walking around our room (by this time there was another lady and baby in the room with me) with no top on, only covering up to go to the toilet. I had gone from hating my boobs and never wanting anyone to see them EVER to showing them to just about anyone who cared to look and a few who accidentally got an eye full.
One the Monday, Breastfeeding Babes came to our room to promote their service. I owe A LOT to these dedicated ladies. and would recommend them wholeheartedly
I wandered round to their room and sat while they talked to me about feeding and made the Toddler and I 100% comfy using stacks of pillows to prop us into the perfect feeding position,
It was one of the calmest feeds I’d had. Well, it would have been if I hadn’t overheard the heartbreaking story of one of the other women in the room.
She’d had a partial mastectomy but they had left enough tissue that she should have been able to feed. Add to this that her baby had severe tongue-tie and wasn’t thriving and you have a mum who is desperate to do ANYTHING to feed her baby. I felt rather out-of-place hearing her story. The worst issues I’d had were cracked and bleeding nipples.
Feeding once I’d been discharged meant taking off any clothes on my top half and latching the baby on as best I could. The damage to my tailbone had pretty much immobilised me and i spent most of my time on the sofa, top naked, propped up on 4 cushions.
Day 5 and welcome to engorgement. I was being an idiot and despite having been prescribed painkillers i hadn’t taken them. So when my poor boobs trebled in size and became rock solid, it hurt. A lot. I couldn’t latch the baby on and I was ready to give up. I cried. I phoned my midwife and cried some more. She ended up coming out to see me at 11pm to show me how to manually express so i could at least get baby on. I thought i was failing at feeding my baby and that she was going to starve as a result of my failure. Luckily, engorgement didn’t last for very long but I was about to hit another problem…
The Toddler had colic. Quite severe colic. We thought there may be something wrong with her as screamed a lot and ate. It was suggested that my supply was poor, therefore my baby cried and fed more often than she should. Being naive about supply and demand and just how much a newborn can and should nurse I began to doubt the booby ability again. I had visions of her wasting away through starvation because I was determined to feed. I was refered to the community nurses, but they confirmed it was unlikely I was having supply issues as The Toddler was gaining weight steadily and thriving. I walked away with a diagnoses of post natal depression.
Then I had a burning white hot pain in my left nipple. I dreaded feeding on my left side because the pain became excruciating. Righty was fine and could have more than easily handled the load but the risk of blocked ducts and mastitis in lefty was more than i could tolerate. A visit to the Drs revealed I had thrush in my nipple. The Toddler also had it in her mouth which meant that every time she fed we were reinfecting each other. My whole boob began to itch and throb between feeds. It almost ended my breastfeeding career. I bought nipple shields but never used them. I did, however find that pumping on the left side was a lot less painful than letting baby feed, so I worked in a routine of feeding and pumping. I kept this up until we were both free of thrush and I was able to latch her on again. OH would then feed her the expressed milk from a bottle.
Ay about 7 weeks, I began to feel like I was getting the hang of it and having passed the 6 week mark and what turned out to be the worst hurdle, my breastfeeding career began in earnest. I got to a stage where I no longer needed to strip to be able to feed and exposing myself became a thing of the past. I fed at mother and baby groups (where breastfeeders were in the minority and I don’t think in the months I went there I ever saw anyone else open up a mummy milk-bar), I fed at pubs, at parties, in cafes, where ever she needed to be fed. I don’t think I have any friends or family who haven’t seen my girls.
I did get fed up of being tied up at parties and stuck to the floor where ever I went with a baby attached to my chest and I did, on occasion, feel like I didn’t do anything other tha feeding. Because of this, we began the weaning to solids process at Christmas.
Part of this process was the introduction of formula as I was due to return to work and wasn’t sure I would be able to pump enough to feed her when she went to the childminder, so we started a mixed feeding routine at about 5 months.
She was 7 months old when I returned to work and I wa still nursing morning, afternoon and evening. I was also replacing bottles with nursing if I was available and nursing constantly if she was sick. If she asked to nurse, she got it. There was no point in restricting her.
The night of the last feed, I put her to my breast and began singing her night time songs. She was 15 months old and I was around 4 months pregnant. The pain was instant when she latched. She suckled for a couple of minutes and then pulled away smiling. She began singing with us and watching us, preferring this to the offered boob. I decided to stop.
I was ambivalent about my decision. Part of me was excited to be able to have my body back, although I will never be able to sexualise my boobs again. The other part was saddened and as I watched my friend feed her newborn the month before Oscar was born, I felt a pang of jealousy and couldn’t wait to feel the small jaws chomping again. Thus my decision to feed Oscar was made…