Wednesday 1 May 2019

The Breastfeeding Journey That Never Was

Breast is best. Fed is best. Bottles share the parenting load. Combo feeding is better in the long run.

When you're pregnant a lot of these statements are thrown around. Whether it be friends, family, your midwife or Barbara who lives down the road and you sometimes see in Tesco, everyone has an opinion on breastfeeding. Modern approaches, traditional methods, when I was pregnant with JJ I heard every single one of them!

But what if you want to breastfeed and you simply can't? 

A pile of muslins, breast milk bags, breast pump and bottles, the latter of which are all empty.

Many of you will read this and think everyone can breastfeed! It just takes support, knowledge and persistence. Well, that might often be the case but for some of us it certainly isn't.

When I was pregnant with JJ I was fully prepared and ready to breastfeed. I'd been to antenatal classes and paid special attention to the advice of the midwives, asked questions and made notes. I bought a feeding pillow, nipple cream, breast pads and feeding bras. I even practiced flopping by boob out under a blanket or muslin (at home, not in the middle of Lidl or Costa!). I was ready. All hyped up and ready for my breastfeeding journey.

But within 48 hours of JJ arriving it soon became the breastfeeding journey that never was. 

With the first few feeds going well I felt I'd got the hang of breastfeeding. Still bed bound after a traumatic labour and birth (and then unable to get out the bed as it was broken) breastfeeding helped me feel like a Mum. A Mum who was climbing mountains even after her kid have been dragged out of her. A midwife even commented how well I was doing after I'd 'been through the wars with a bad birth' and told me that many would move onto bottles so they have help when they returned home. 

I'd got this! I'd even picked my two favourite feeding positions. 

Then, during our second day in hospital things suddenly changed. As we settled in for the night I tried to feed my beautiful newborn boy but something wasn't right. The more he tried to latch, the more it went wrong. He would pull and pull to the point he'd have some much boob in his mouth he'd nearly choke. When I did think he was latched on, the pain was excuriating, and not just for the first 10 seconds like the midwives said it would, but the whole time. When he'd done he routed around for more like he was still hungry.

I paced the ward rocking him and asking for help and was simply told to 'keep trying' and 'but you were doing so well'. When morning came around both JJ and I were a mess. He was hungry and fussing. I was beside myself and sobbing. The mountain I'd climbed had turned into a pile of shit and I was sliding down it face first.

I rang my husband and he was waiting at the door when visiting started. He should have been there to take me home but instead he was trying to console me. As the midwives changed shifts a trainee noticed me wimping in the corner and came to check on me with her mentor. I expected a lecture, a 'you must try harder' but I didn't. Instead they dried my tears, mopped by brow and told to try JJ with a ready mixed bottle of formula. He gulped it down.

At discharge I was advised to keep trying to breastfeeding but the most important thing was to feed my now very hungry baby. It didn't matter if that was by bottle or boob, just get him fed, and I was slipped a bag full of ready mixed bottles to help me through the night. On arriving home we unpacked the steriliser and bottles a friend had pushed me to buy 'just in case'. I later declared my undying love for that friend! 

Tin of breast milk, scoop and baby bottle

The next day we received our first visit from a very stern looking midwife. The new Mum in me thought I was going to get a lecture, panicked and told my Mum and husband to hide the steriliser and bottles, along with the box of baby milk they were carrying around, arguing about how to make. But it was too late. The midwife was in the house and looking right at them. She asked 'what are you faffing around at, there's a baby waiting to be fed, make it up quickly' and sent them on their way with instructions on how to make it up. 

A quick check of both myself and JJ and we were told his latch was too strong, which she later proved by letting him latch on her finger and pulling him from a laying to an upright position. My boobs were a mess and bleeding and she reassured me I was doing the right decision moving him onto bottles, as not only was the hungry little bundle of joy destroying my chest, my milk supply would probably never keep up. 

From that moment on, albeit with a little bit of reassurance from my midwife, I no longer felt like a shit new Mum.

JJ, now 4 years old, is a great eater, will try anything and enjoys a variety of foods. So, many people say 'oh, you obviously breastfed then', some even gasp when I tell them he was bottle fed and ask how can he eat so well now if he didn't have the boobs!!!!??? 

My reply is simply that I fed him when he was hungry and that I did what was best for him.

Your breastfeeding journey maybe a little bit nonexistent like mine but it doesn't make you a bad Mummy. Making sure they are fed and nourished one way or another is what is most important.

Mummy Snowy Owl

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