Even before I fell pregnant, before I'd even met my husband in fact, whenever I thought about my family and having babies, I just knew I would breastfeed. It was never a question, I never considered any other option. I knew that my body would produce milk especially tailored for my baby and I assumed that breastfeeding would just come naturally.
So on February 16th, 2017, when the little love of my life was born and he didn't drag himself up my chest and latch on perfectly the way I had been shown in the antenatal class video, I panicked. They focused so little on what happens after birth; all I did see was that babies will instinctively breast crawl, latch on, and ba-da-bing ba-da-boom, you're a breastfeeding mum... But it's not that simple for most people. Although Logan did latch eventually, not that long after birth really, I was told "he's latched perfectly" by numberous midwives. But my nipples became sore and cracked, they looked blistered, feeding Logan was painful enough that I cried through most feeds. Sometimes, we'd struggle to get a deep latch, or a latch at all. The midwives visiting our home weren't concerned and they didn't take me too seriously because "he looks like he is latched well" and they said it was absolutely normal for the soreness to be there, and that was that. I convinced myself I was just a worried first-time mother who was being silly over nothing. And for a short time after being dismissed from the midwives' care, things did seem to improve.
After about a month though, it started getting more and more difficult. Logan would scream and cry whenever I put him to my breast, even though he clearly wanted to latch on and feed, it could take anywhere between 5 minutes and 1.5 hours to get him to calm down and get a decent latch. Once he had latched, he would stay on for no more than 30 seconds before coming off and starting all over again. This would happen a few times at least before he'd finally settle on the boob, and if you walked in at that point, you'd have no idea what struggle had just taken place. He looked content, happy. It was heartbreaking because he obviously wanted my breast milk, he wanted to be on the breast, but for some reason he just couldn't. He was struggling and despite my best efforts, I wasn't able to magically make it happen.
Throughout the next 1-2 months I visited multiple breastfeeding clinics around Sussex, spoke to as many health visitors as I could get in contact with, visited the doctors, went to all my local weighing clinics to talk to midwives and health visitors there, but no-one was giving me the help I needed. "It's a leap, it's a phase, you need to try this position or that position, you're just tired, work on the latch, maybe your supply isn't good... Pump and bottle feed, give him formula instead, give him a dummy, he's not really hungry... I was ignored because Logan was gaining weight, wetting his nappies, and otherwise he was clinically well.
One day, Logan started point blank refusing the boob, he wasn't feeding at all and nothing I did could convince him. He stopped wetting his nappies and I knew that meant he was dehydrating. We called 111 and was told to get to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton. We did, and he had some routine checks and we were told he's fine and we could leave, but I refused. He clearly wasn't fine. I asked for a pump so I could relieve my breasts which were rock hard and painful to touch. The nurse left the room and returned with a bottle of formula. I balled my eyes out. I didn't want to do it, I refused. My heart has always been set on breastfeeding, and I absolutely was not prepared to give up, I just couldn't. The nurse was less than sympathetic, she made me feel like I was just being silly. She tried convincing me that it was for the best that I give him the formula, "you can always try to breastfeed again at a later date. Maybe you can combination feed." NO. It was not going to happen. I emptied my breasts and continued offering them to Logan.
We ended up staying the night, he had some blood taken, and we were again told that he's fine. After a night of regular check ups, I asked the nurses if Logan could be checked for tongue-tie. They didn't and we left. Our battle continued.
I eventually couldn't take going to clinics and being ignored anymore, so I did a bit of research and learned that the NHS doesn't routinely deal with tongue-ties in babies over 1 month old, but I found one hospital that would. I went to the doctor and asked him to refer me, and he LAUGHED at me. He told me I was being ridiculous. I left in tears, feeling humiliated and stupid.
I decided I had no choice but to pay for a breastfeeding counsellor. We were not in a position where spending that money was easy, it was a strain and we suffered for it, but in terms of breastfeeding, it was what we needed. The breastfeeding counsellor asked some questions, listened to my story, did a unbelievable quick assessment and confirmed my fears. Tongue-tie. She was unable to give an official diagnosis, but did refer me to a private clinic that dealt only with ties.
It cost a lot to get the appointment to have him assessed, and it took an hour and a half in the car to get to the clinic, but once there, his tongue-tie was confirmed. 80% posterior tongue-tie. Thankfully, once diagnosed, they were ready and able to get it sorted there and then. We were warned us that is usually takes 2 snips to release the tie, so I prepared myself for the crying and having to wait longer to comfort him. Everything was ready and it was time to cut it... There was an audible ping! It took one cut, and his tongue pinged free. I grabbed him and put him straight to my boobs to comfort him and stop the bleeding. The lady who cut it was surprised at the ping, in her many many years experience, she'd not had that before.
We had to do some exercises/stretches multiple times a day for a couple of weeks to encourage movement and to prevent re-attachment.It was recommended that we do them 4 times a day, but I did them more than that as re-attachment scared the pants off of me! I did the stretches before most feeds for a few weeks. There wasn't an immediate improvement but it did start to improve slowly.
I also wondered if Logan was allergic to something coming through my milk, so I decided that one by one, I would eliminate an allergen from my own diet and see if that had any affect. I started with cow's milk... And thankfully didn't have to continue through my list. Cow's Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA)... Oh the joys! From then on, if I accidentally had something containing cow's milk, Logan would be in agony for a few days. He would scream and cry just like before, and it was heartbreaking to say the least. He would have very loose nappies, and his reflux would get really bad again. (I forgot to mention this earlier, it's one of our first ever problems that we could identify - reflux. Logan suffered terribly with it. Apparently, most babies grow out of reflux by 6 months... Logan was 11 months old before I noticed it disappearing. It would cause horrible pain for him. He slept on his tummy for as long as I can remember as it was the only way he could get any peace and sleep. On his back, he would arch in pain, struggle to fall asleep, and wake up countless times because of the pain.)
On top of those issues, I had another one that helped with none of those! Oversupply and heavy let-down... Logan would gag and splutter during every feed. My breasts produced more milk than he needed, and as soon as he latched on to feed, letdown happened almost immediately and it would spray out super quick. He struggled to keep up with the flow, but he tried his best. As he got older, he dealt with it better and now he's a pro. My supply has settled finally, but it took far longer than people suggested it would!
So yeah, it took 3 months for us to figure out that all of these problems were problems. I'm just glad we did, even if it took so long. There were so many days I considered that I may have to quit breastfeeding, but I didn't, and I am so SO proud of myself for it. I found a strength and determination inside myself that I never knew was there.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't always come naturally... Don't give up. I didn't. And here we are, Logan is nearly 17 months old and I see no end in sight for us.