Before I had W, I was given lots of breastfeeding advice… Mostly that it was likely to hurt, wasn’t always easy and that I should stock up on nipple cream and cabbages😉
I thought I’d give it a shot but was quite pragmatic that if I couldn’t do it I wouldn’t be overly bothered – I didn’t put myself under any pressure to do it. As it turns out, W was a dream to breastfeed – his journey was so straightforward that my best friend who’s also a breastfeeding peer support says i was only 1 of 2 people she knew that hasn’t faced any issues with breastfeeding. Another peer support friend was also amazed at how easy is had it, and even admitted to some jealousy over it! (Breastfeeding does that to you ;))
First few days of breastfeeding
So cue baby S and I planned to breastfeed again. However, baby S had other ideas. Straight away he didn’t seem to latch on properly, but I was woozy from blood loss so it was all a bit of a blur. During our hospital stay I got a couple of the midwives to help me with his latch, and we also expressed colostrum and gave it to him via a syringe.
I could have stayed in til I knew that breastfeeding was established, but I wanted to get home… You know how it is!
The first night home was horrendous. S screamed a lot. Screamed when I tried to latch him on, screamed when he wasn’t latched on, etc.
When my midwife came over the next day, she again helped with his latch and also suggested hand expressing… And sent a breastfeeding specialist to see me the next day….
This lady said my positioning was all wrong, and helped me with that. She suspected I was finding it harder second time around because my last memory of it was with W when he was much bigger than a newborn…. A newborn needed much more guidance!
At this time my milk had come in so it was much easier (so I thought!!) S was still taking a long time to latch every time and usually crying/screaming every time but eventually would settle down and start suckling. In hindsight I don’t think he was ever latched on properly as he still wasn’t putting weight on.
First two weeks of feeding
For his first two weeks I had either a midwife or breastfeeding support visiting every other day to weigh him and when he was still -10% at 2.5 weeks they suggested I see the specialist boss lady at a breastfeeding support group.
I arrived early and glad I did as they put me on an extreme pumping plan for the weekend and watched him latch, before lots of tearful, stressed-out, sleep-deprived mums turned up wanting help and probably feeling like failures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen/felt such raw emotion in one room.
It’s a hugely evocative feeling when you’re struggling to feed your baby. I’m so, so glad I had managed ok with W because I kept thinking ‘I’ve done it once, if I can’t do it again that’s fine!’ Whereas I dread to think how I would have handled all of this as a first time mum.
After a full weekend of breastfeeding, expressing (using the excellent Medela Swing pump) and bottle-feeding expressed milk, S had gone and lost further weight and was down to -11%.
I physically couldn’t do any more than I had been doing.
I said to the specialist straight away that we were going to have to introduce fomula, as I couldn’t do any more and I was getting concerned about his weight. She agreed with me, and told my other half to get me a bottle of wine while he was buying formula as I deserved a night off!
They were all at a loss as to why he kept losing weight as he was pooing plenty, and seemed to be latching ok, but as I said earlier he must have not actually been taking much in when he was latched on. One of the ladies did say it might be a ‘small mouth, big nipple’ issue!
6 week update: Where are we now
So after 2 weeks of breast milk, he’s now been on pretty much 6 weeks of formula. I’ve been trying to express enough to give him one bottle of expressed milk a day, but my supply has been drying up… I know I can get it back by increased pumping etc… I need to make the time for it!
I’ve tried a few times since to get him to latch on again but he hasn’t seemed overly bothered. Now he’s used to bottles I’ve bought nipple shields to try and fool him into thinking that my boobs are bottles but again need to make the time for it on top of his actual bottle feeds… I don’t want to do when he’s hungry and needs his food ASAP but then if I try when he’s not hungry I suspect he won’t bother trying!
It would be lovely (for me!) if I can get him to breastfeed again, and I’m sure it’s possible with perseverance, but if he doesn’t, he doesn’t and at least we tried.
And that’s all we can do right? Is try. I blogged about it before.. I’m 100% pro-breastfeeding and think everyone should try.
But now I fall into this pot of people for whom it doesn’t work out… So how do I feel about it?
The emotions behind not breastfeeding any more
- Gutted, but I can’t let it get to me, I’m not going to dwell on it
- Surprised – having done it once, I assumed second time would be easy. I suspect most people struggle first time round, not second!
- Jealous when I see anyone breastfeeding but I just have to remember that I’ve been lucky enough to do it once before, stress-free
- Grateful for all the support that was available to me. I think Cardiff and the Vale NHS trust do a pretty good job, I had support in hospital, at home and they run three drop-in groups every week. It’s really important with all the austerity funding cuts that these services aren’t cut.
- Thankful for the wider support whether that be practical and moral support from peer-support friends or speaking to other people in Facebook groups who were having similar issues… As always.. A problem shared is a problem halved
- Relieved that S took to a bottle easily (as that can be a struggle to so many!)
- Pleased that I can wear what I want (although I still default to my mummy-esque baggy t-shirts!)
- Glad that other people can help with the feeding. (Especially handy with a toddler in tow!!!)
- Tired and sleep-deprived, i’d say that night feeds are much easier when you’re breastfeeding as you don’t need to worry about making up bottles/how long bottles have been made up for… Oh and it’s bollocks that all formula fed sleep longer – S still wakes up every 2-3 hours
- Guilty – I think subconsciously I used to look at mums bottle feeding their babies and wonder why they weren’t breastfeeding. I’ve learnt the hard way that however someone is feeding their baby, we have no idea what struggles they might have had to get there
- Selfless – I could have kept on perservering with the latch issue, but it would have been for me, not S. He needed feeding up. He took to the bottle straight away, and is thriving on it.
- Bonded – when moving to bottles of formula I worried I’d never bond with S like I did with W. I needn’t have worried. When I cwtch S in tight and his big eyes are looking up at me, I know we’ll be OK :)
So there we have it. Two baby boys, two very different breastfeeding journeys. I might not be lucky enough to breastfeed again but I’d encourage everyone to give it a try. By sharing my stories I hope I can help to normalise breastfeeding in Britain – we need to see it, talk about it, support it!