Call me ignorant, I figured when my son was born I would just pop him on my breast and he would do the rest! It didn’t quit go that way, being my first child I hadn’t really had a back up plan should I struggle. I only had a small manual hand pump and that was just so I could express so my partner could feed. I had no formula, no sterilized bottles ready, no nipple shield’s, however I hadn’t even hear of nipple shield’s by this point! I went to all the breast feeding classes, and walked away thinking all I need to do is position baby right and your good to go! They didn’t tell you a back up plan, or provide you with other options in the classes. So this is how it went for me.
The first time I put baby to feed, he did 2 sucks and stopped completely. The first midwife came in and made sure I was positioning him correctly, showing different positions and techniques yet my adorable bundle would only do the maximum 2 sucks and stop. The midwife said he was a lazy baby and until he learnt properly suggested to hand express to ensure he was still getting fed. She gave me a small syringe I would hand express and suck up what came out through the syringe. A long process and not fun! she told me to do this every 3-4 hours no earlier. Baby should feed better when hungry. The second morning a different midwife came in to see me as I was trying yet again on the breast, yet my adorable son wasn’t having any of it, 2 sucks and release. She was mortified that I explained the first Midwife told me 3-4 hours between feeds. She recommended when ever baby cries I should feed him. So there started my confusion on when I should be feeding him. Well she tried yet again with positioning etc, however she gave me a little sterilized jar to express into and then I would suck up my milk through a syringe to feed. Quicker yet still not what I was expecting. It shouldn’t be this hard I thought. I was starting to feel concerned and upset that my baby wouldn’t feed, whats wrong with me? what am I doing wrong?
On the afternoon of my second day in hospital I had a 3rd midwife come in extremely hands on, trying to express herself, positioning baby herself and yet again offering different and conflicting advice from the previous 2 midwives. This just about did me in, I was extremely confused, frustrated and upset. I was none the wiser as when to feed, how much to feed and knew no other options besides formula, which was discouraged. I was told keep persisting, don’t give up! I felt like I was letting my son down. I kept all my tears hidden until I was alone with baby, I would then hold my son tears flowing and apologizing for not being a better mum and saying I was so sorry I wasn’t good at feeding him properly. I was afraid if I cried in front of a midwife they would think I had postnatal depression. Such a silly thing to think really as had I of told them my worries they may have offered different advice, who knows. I should have told them I was upset by my struggling. I just didn’t want to show it.
So my partner came to visit, and I talked to him about how confused I was feeling by all the different advice and struggling, and I just wanted to go home and try and figure this out by myself. He said if that’s what I wanted to do and if I think that’s whats best then sure. So I arranged to be discharged the following day. Now if you have read my previous post you will know how difficult it is trying to get from Guernsey back to Sark, although I only needed to catch a boat this time, I had to feed baby right before we left so I would make the journey home in time for his next feed as it would be at least 21/2 hours before I would arrive home. However before I left the hospital the “expert breast feeding midwife” who can solve any problems came to visit me. She tried every trick in her book, every position, every technique she knew but my son was stubborn doing his 2 suck minimum and in the end she had to admit defeat. Her pearl of wisdom before leaving, “don’t give up, keep persisting.” At this point if I hear this saying anymore ill crack! so she leaves, and I’ve finished hand expressing and syringe feeding my son, got him changed and were packed ready to go when a final midwife comes (yet another midwife I have not seen before) in to go through discharge papers and ensure I was OK to go. I got chatting with her explaining my issues when she told me about nipple shield’s, there like a teat you put over your nipples which assists baby sucking. They are mainly used for mum’s who find it very painful breastfeeding, but she said these were great in helping baby learn to suck properly…. why had no-one mentioned these before? Straight to boots (a UK chemist) before catching our boat. I brought 2 packets, 4 shield’s in total. There only a short term solution until baby learns to suck properly. Once home I put them in the sterilizer and put them to the test, they were the miracle I had been waiting for! My son was happily sucking away like a pro! Between feeds I would manually express so I had a bottle available when needed, or for my partner to feed. I still however was none the wiser on how long to feed baby. I don’t think I was feeding for long enough because my son seemed to want feeding constantly and was restless between feeds. I didn’t know I was supposed to keep track of the last breast he fed from and alternate, I was completely clueless. After about 2 weeks on the nipple shield’s, they stop sticking and would get stuck to baby’s face whenever he would feed. I couldn’t just pop to boots to get more as it required a 1 hour boat trip. I managed to get some online from amazon, however, they were expensive and just didn’t do the job. Timmy didn’t like them. So the next stage started. He still wasn’t doing more then 2 sucks on my actual breast, so i would express, feed, sterilize, *Repeat* this was right up until 2 months, it was tiring, exhausting and just hard work. But i was determined to stick with it, mainly out of guilt as “Breast is best” and all that. One day Timmy started sucking correctly, out of the blue one day decided he would get his act together….FINALLY!!!!! However, it was short lived, I got mastitis. Anyone who has ever had Mastitis knows how painful it can be. I felt full of flu, and every time I let Timmy near my breast I would be in tears of pain. The doctor gave me some antibiotics and encouraged me to continue breast feeding through the pain….I tried I just couldn’t, and expressing was even painful. That’s when I decided enough was enough, it had been 2 long months of “trying”. I spoke to my partner as he had seen my struggling for the past 2 months, he agreed if switching to formula was what was best for me and baby then that’s what I should do. As long as Timmy is being fed and he is not hungry and is happy then that.s all that matters.
So as you can see, breast feeding was not easy for me first time around. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones where there baby just latches on and goes for it. I gave it a damn good go, and I cant even tell you the guilt I felt from switching from breast to formula, I cried a lot. There is so much pressure on mums to breast feed, I felt like a failure when I switched to formula, even though my son was happier after every feed and going longer between feeds the guilt remained. The pressure to breast feed is unbelievable, Of course I think it should be encouraged because as they say, breast is best, however it is not easy and it’s a deeply personal decision every mother needs to make for herself and the best interests of their baby.
xx Candice xx