I’m not sure anyone will be particularly interested in my brief breastfeeding journey; but I’m going to post it anyway as it might help someone out there. It’ll help me, writing it down.
If you’ve read my birth story you’ll know I was induced for Pre-E which ultimately ended in an emergency csection due to baby in distress (cord wrapped about his neck). At 9pm I was wheeled out of the operating theatre and into recovery. I was mostly out of it to be honest, with the 6 billion medications they’d given to me, but my husband was told to leave and get some sleep as he wouldn’t be needed. This was a big mistake. Ladies, if your husband (or mother, or birth partner of any description) is allowed to stay with you then have someone there.
After my husband left my baby was unceremoniously plopped on my breast. I had 6 IV’s in at that point and couldn’t move my arms very well – I also couldn’t feel anything from my boobs down in the beginning as the spinal had worked a little too well if anything. Despite me being rather useless and in a haze, he latched on perfectly and had a very strong suckle. Ha, I thought to myself, this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be! Jinxed.
Every two hours that night I was woken up and baby put on my breast where he would suckle on each boob for 20 minutes solid. By the morning my rather sensitive nipples were already slightly chapped and bleeding, but I used Lanolin Cream which I’d researched in advance and it helped a lot. I’d come fully prepared with breast feeding bras and tops, nipple pads and creams.
By day two – I’d been moved to the regular maternity ward and could just about get out of bed, although I still had the IV’s in – it was obvious something wasn’t working. Baby was screaming constantly. He was always wanting to suckle and always upset afterwards. I’m not sure he’s getting enough milk? I whispered to a midwife but she reassured me it was fine. Tiny stomachs, colostrum, all the reassuring words.
It wasn’t fine though. Husband and I made the decision to give him a formula bottle as we felt he was starving. When I manually manipulated my boobs before or after a feed – nothing was coming out. Not even a drop of colostrum. I asked a midwife and she agreed to do it for me, so I endured 30 minutes of a complete stranger squeezing my already engorged, sensitive boobs. She got two drops of colostrum and had to agree that was not enough. “Do this every 2 hours and it’ll come.” I was reassured. My husband thought that boob squeezing was an excellent past-time and all too happy to help.
Here’s a picture of Ben feeding baby William at 5 days old in the hospital!
I had sepsis then and I was quite ill for a while – things got worse before they got better. We were still squeezing away and having him latch but the formula was now full time. Instead of a squawking, red faced angry little potato, the formula gave me a serene, sleepy baby. I felt a great deal of guilt over those first few days – when he must have been starving and trying so hard to get a drop of food. I also felt guilt over giving him formula! Hello brain? Can I win here?
When I went home at 10 days I still hadn’t produced any milk. I went out and bought a breast pump and started pumping and woooo some drops of milk! I’m doing it! I’m creating food! Both baby and I had a cold from the hospital (yeah, a cold with a csection scar and a newborn baby isn’t fun) and I was terrified it was going to turn into something serious for him. So I was just so amazingly relieved that I was getting some milk out with those precious antibodies that everyone always talks about. I was like gollum, hunkered over my breast pump whispering come to me my precious milk and handling the bottle afterwards like it was made of solid gold.
One night I fell asleep after pumping and didn’t put the milk in the fridge. Throwing it out made me ugly cry for an hour afterwards. I’d worked so hard for it and I’d wasted it with my own stupidity! My son needed it! How was I fit to be a mother? Postpartum hormones are ugly and no joke.
I pumped every 2 hours including 2 night pumps (when supply is supposed to be highest) and I was getting 50ml a day, max. At this point he was eating 600ml of formula a day. You don’t need to be a genius to see those maths don’t add up.
The midwives visiting after birth were very supportive, giving me tips about tea to increase my supply, about an alcohol free beer that apparently would double things, about hot compresses and massages and staring at pictures of him as a newborn if he wasn’t in the room. Nothing worked. I pumped for 4 weeks and my supply never increased. With effort I could tease that mouthful out but I never experienced the “let down” of proper milk flow, just drops.
I began to hate the pump and dread being hooked up to it. My son didn’t even enjoy my breastmilk particularly and wouldn’t latch anymore – he was firmly attached to his bottles and thriving on them, jumping up massively in weight. I was feeling trapped to the pump and stuck in the house. At my 4 week health visitor check she told me I might want to think about stopping – that I’d done my best but I had to think about the bigger picture and it was obviously getting me down.
So I made the decision. No more breast milk, no more being hooked up to the milking machine morning, day and night. I felt a massive amount of guilt. It was irrational, I’d tried my best and I really had given it a go. I have PCOS and reading up on it, it can be a reason for low or no supply. I had a CSection which can interfere with milk supply, I was induced early, so my body never reached a natural term and then the sepsis can’t have helped. There are so many reasons that weren’t my fault… yet still, that illogical guilt with a hint of anger remained. I chucked my pump in the bin in a mini tantrum and it felt very satisfying. Begone, evil milk machine!
In the weeks that followed we started going out and about and my husband took over a night feed getting me more sleep. My mood improved drastically and everyone commented how much happier I seemed.
5 months later and I’ve embraced it for what it is. Feeling guilt or regret over the way things worked out are negative feelings I don’t need in my life.
I didn’t have a natural birth. I don’t feed him naturally.
It doesn’t matter in the end – I have a healthy, happy baby boy and that’s all that matters to me.