I was 21 when my first son arrived. I was finishing university and my husband and I were settling into living together. I read Every. Single. Book…about pregnancy but I never read about the birth or about breastfeeding; I assumed I would just know what to do.
Eleven years later, I’m older and wiser . I had a lot more power than I realised. Now we are surrounded by so many empowering messages about child birth and breastfeeding it just wasn’t like that when I began my family.
Daniel decided he was arriving just over three weeks early, my waters broke in the house and we made our way to the hospital, I was at 3cm; that’s where I stayed for the next 19 hours! Baby started to get distressed and we had a very rushed & frightening section to get him out.
I honestly remember so little, baby was given to my husband and they had to leave while I got stitched. When I finally got a hold of him I was exhausted, shaking vigorously and everyone left me , to make phone calls. All I could think was please someone come back and take this little being, I’m going to drop him because I can’t stop shaking.
We tried that night to get Daniel to latch but he couldn’t, the midwives told me he was struggling to suck because he was that little bit early, so we expressed using a machine but the colostrum was lost init. They said he needed more and that we should feed him formula using a preemie bottle to stimulate the back of his throat to suck. I continued to try to express in the hospital but quite frankly I was treated really poorly, left when I asked for help & I really hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I think I was in shock.
Daniel only had 3 days of nourishment from me and he went onto formula.
My second pregnancy two years later I waned to be more prepared, I wanted a VBAC & I wanted to breastfeed.
Again I went into labour myself this time 10 days early; I tried for a VBAC but I stalled again and it just didn’t happen. I was insistent though that if it came to a section I wanted baby to be given to me! Not dad and the baby had to stay with me , unless something drastically went wrong. All this happened and oh boy it was beautiful.
The section was fine, not as rushed, I wasn’t as exhausted. We had skin to skin immediately and he latched so well. I felt like wonder woman, motherearth, it was perfect
It lasted just over two weeks before my cracked nipples that were bleeding so bad that when I finally did express it was like strawberry milk. The damage was done & I quit. Jacob got formula. I was gutted.
Nine years, one ectopic preganacy and one miscarriage later we were blessed with the beautiful Reuben. This time I would breastfeed!! I was going to do it.
And I tell you what the difference in the information available and support in nine years is astronomical. From breast feeding support groups, the internet has so much valuable info, from articles to facebook groups to amazing youtube videos on different holds and latches. And everywhere the same thing is said, the latch has to be right. I must repeat this to myself every single day.
Reuben was no easier a birth, just like his brothers, he arrived early. Again I insisted on skin to skin straight after the section (It was a planned section this time) Our anaesthesiologist wasn’t great, she got annoyed because Reuben was crying quite a lot in the first couple of minutes, but she had handed him to me wrapped in blankets and I wanted him on my chest. She suggested giving the baby to daddy to settle him; my husband at this point was already helping me unwrap the blankets to put him on my chest. As soon as he got there he relaxed. I think the girl was just a bit inexperienced, I don’t think there was any malice in her suggestion.
Reuben stayed on my chest fro the next 8 hours if not more. We latched and unlatched and it was beautiful. His latch is ferocious but can be lazy especially on my right side. I have a lot of milk and the flow on that right side is especially fast and sometimes I think that because it is right there he doesn’t get deep enough and that has caused a great deal of damage and can still be sore when I’m engorged in the mornings.
Reuben had jaundice that required light therapy and because he was struggling to latch for any great length of time I hand expressed my colostrum and the nurses fed him with a syringe…this still annoys me. Despite me asking continually why could I not do it they never let me. When they have jaundice you need to try and flush it out so feeding frequently was especially important.
When we got him home my milk came in, and getting him latched was really hard, often I would sit for 20 minutes with my milk spraying everywhere while he opened his wee mouth so wide but never got that latch that he needed. We hand expressed and pumped to try and get him on but in the end had to start to give him a bottle of EBM. I really was losing hope that I was going to fail again.
By day 4 the pump wasn’t pulling the same amount of milk out and I told my husband if he doesn’t get back onto the boob our journey will be over. We got him in football hold, my husband dropped a couple of drops of colostrum into his mouth and I latched him on. He was tricked but it worked! That feeling of your baby emptying your breast when it is so full is the best feeling on the world
Our journey has been full of obstacles; Reuben needed an operation at 3.5 weeks old for a condition called pyloric stenosis. We had thrush three times and more cracked nipples (salt water soak is the best) and blocked ducts (Leicithin tablets, recommended by health visitor) I’ve had my first full week with no painful blocked ducts!! This is amazing. However I have to say I am so proud of him and when I look at his 19 chins and big chunky legs I think wow. I made them.
If I think about what made the difference between Reuben’s breastfeeding journey and the other two boys I think support. I had all the knowledge with Jake but I couldn’t apply it very well. With Reuben I had an AMAZING health visitor, who literally checked in on me twice a week from he was born until he was 17 weeks old, that was probably because he was sick but she was so pro breastfeeding that her encouragement was incredible. My girlfriends all started their families recently and my very best friend in particular successfully breastfed her daughter and had great tips and was really encouraging. Then you have instagram etc full of wonderful women feeding their babies and you feel inspired.
None of this was the case when I was younger, my health visitor didn’t help and I was too embarrassed to ask was the pain normal.
The beauty of having all these avenues and areas for support is that with breastfeeding there is never any one right answer. You can have an issue and you can ask the exact same question to several people and you will get several different answers, you can find a resolution that suits your baby. There are no absolutes.
I set out to make it to 6 weeks, I’m now at 20 weeks and I’m so very happy to have nourished Reuben the way that I have.