I started my breastfeeding journey when pregnant, moaning at my mum for trying to encourage me to breastfeed for at least a year. I would say things like “I’ll give it a go but if I can’t do it then formula is fine” or “if I can, 4/6 months is probably all I’ll do”. 10 months later and my views have totally changed, I should have realised to have support like that is quite rare and I should have appreciated it more. I didn’t know how hard it would be, and I didn’t expect to have such determination to breastfeed for as long as possible. I really don’t see us slowing down any time soon.
Our Nina was born on her due date in October last year, weighing 11lb, 7oz’s. After 5 hours of pushing fully dilated she was born via forceps as she had shoulder dystocia and was stuck in pelvis. Our first feed was an hour after birth and it went very well. She then fed every hour/ 2 hours for the next 48 hours. By day three I thought things were going well however Nina was getting very sleepy and I was really struggling to get her to latch. After a day of struggling at home we went back to the maternity ward where she was given a glucose top up and some formula. At the time I ABSOLUTELY hated the thought of her having anything but my milk (colostrum) I had decided that I wanted to feed and that was it, and now I am failing because she won’t latch onto me, I felt like a bad Mum and that everything I was doing was wrong. We ended up being in hospital for 3 days as Nina’s weight loss had dropped to 11% from her birth weight. The midwives and I worked on latching, and after every feed I would pump milk then give her this mixed with formula if needed after the next feed.
Day 4 my milk came in and things started going up hill from then on. Nina was feeding really well and by the end of day 5 we were home again. Nobody tells you just how emotional you are going to feel after giving birth. I was an absolute wreck, I felt like I was failing my daughter. I felt like my milk wasn’t good enough, that she didn’t want me, she preferred the bottles and that it was all going wrong. My husband was SO supportive and kept encouraging me to carry on.
By the time Nina was a week old, we were still giving Nina expressed milk top ups after every feed but thankfully no need for formula as I was now producing enough milk, and I definitely felt it! My boobs were MASSIVE! But now a new challenge had come, Nina wouldn’t take the bottle after each feed. We had a lot of advice from various members of the maternity department but we followed some advice from an expert which came to our house, and this was to give Nina bottle before breast whilst she is hungry. In theory this sounded like such a good idea as she would be really hungry and then take it easily. However this meant that Nina would from that point not latch onto me at all, I then proceeded to pump every feed entirely and give it to her in a bottle for the next three days until we tried some Mandela nipple shields and she FINALLY latched onto me. That feeling I can still remember now, I cried such happy tears.
By the time Nina was 11 days old we didn’t need to give bottle top ups any more and we could really focus on our breastfeeding journey, perfecting our latch and enjoying this precious time.
Nina used the nipple shields until she was 9 weeks old. I kept trying her every now and then without them but as I have quite flat nipples she struggle to get her little mouth around them, so my guess is that once she was older her mouth got bigger and she was able to take a deeper latch from me without the shield. One day I tried her without, and she latched to my amazement, we had gotten so used to using it that I really didn’t think it would ever change. Her latch wasn’t great but she was definitely trying. From then on I took two days of not leaving the house and really helping Nina to figure this one out, a lot of nipple cream was involved but we finally got there. I was so proud of us!
All was going so amazingly, I absolutely love breastfeeding and the bond it gives us. It’s so easy to feed out and about, not needing to make bottles up in the night or to cart the kit around with you all the time. However all of the sudden around 4 months, we were hit by a massive brick wall sign posted “teething”!!!!
All of a sudden we had arched backs, pushing away, screaming, laughing and recently biting!! Most of the time I can calm her by singing her favourite songs and patting her bum. However Nina does go on quite a few nursing strikes and has probably done around 3 big ones in the last 5 months. Every time I pull my hair out, every time I push both of our patients to the limit as the stress of her not feeding consumes me. Our most recent feeding strike happened 2 weeks ago, at around 9 months. We went on holiday to a caravan, I stupidly did not take my breast pump or any bottles with me. And in this week Nina learnt to crawl (backwards) sit up from lying down, pull herself up using furniture and wave, along with being away from home over night for the first time her little brain went into over drive and she point blank refused to nurse. She went from 4 good feeds a day to some days only having 2 small feeds. I was so stressed by the situation that I kept trying to make her feed but they are so right in what they say “you can’t force a breastfed baby to feed!”. By the time we got home she still wasn’t feeding. I ended up calling a breastfeeding helpline as i was so distraught in the thought of her no longer nursing any more! I wasn’t ready to give in. Following their advice I spent the next morning completely topless and it worked an absolute treat! She fed four times before midday! And now I think she feeds better than before we went away.
I can’t in any way say our breastfeeding journey has been easy, and I won’t lie to anyone and say it has. But it has been so so worth it. To know the milk she is getting is practically magic, tailored to her every need. It’s on demand to whenever she wants it, and as quickly as it takes to get my boob out. She is immune to nearly everything I am, and gets so many nutrients that a bottle of formula couldn’t never even fractionally compete with.
I will feed nina for however long she needs it, and I will continue to feed every child I have in the future. I should have listening to my mum!
For all you new breastfeeding mamas out there, it’s going to be a tough journey, but my god it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do. Enjoy those cuddles and soak in that oxytocin feeling the whole experience gives you. You will literally feel like your heart is going to jump out of your boobies!!