'You'll never be able to breastfeed' a midwife said to me...
I always wanted to breastfeed, so I set out to learn what I could before baby arrived. I read books, I did a #breastfeeding course and my gosh I’m glad I did. SO MANY things I’d never have considered…I thought you’d just put baby to breast and they’d feed, right?! WRONG!
Breastfeeding is natural, yes, but not like breathing…more like learning to walk, it takes practice and persistence.
Our breastfeeding journey started in hospital. Due to the #pandemic my husband was made to leave immediately after I gave birth. So, when I got to the recovery ward on my own, I asked the midwives to help me initiate breastfeeding straight away and I thought we were off to a good start.
However, the next day I was told by another midwife that ‘I’d never be able to breastfeed on my own’ and my husband should immediately drop off supplies at the hospital… I ignored her. Baby was latching, I was fine (other than being furious at her comments). I was determined to prove her wrong!
I got home, all was okay, until my milk came in. Baby was screaming, my breasts were engorged and he just, wouldn’t, latch. I thought how the hell am I going to feed my baby. I cried, I panicked, I rang my mum…who suggested I tried the nipple shields she’d bought me, just in case!
Using the shields (felt horrible!) but made things a lot easier so I carried on…I had read about newborn feeding behaviour so I figured baby was just going through a whole bunch of cluster feeding…at our 5 day check I told the midwife about the constant and lengthy feeds (45mins -1 hour each time…). She pulled an awful face and declared ‘well that sounds excessive!!!!’ but didn’t provide me with any further support, advice or reassurance.
So, I carried on. Feeding, feeding, feeding round the clock. Until I got to week 6 and I was so sore, in pain, exhausted and distraught. I started to google what could be wrong (it’s never a good idea right?!). ‘thrush’ came up, I thought, could it be!? I haven’t got any of the other symptoms…so I decided to call the Breastfeeding Helpline for some advice. Well, that turned out to be the best thing I ever did. After a swift phonecall and a video later, my baby was diagnosed with a quite severe posterior tongue tie. A few days later we had it snipped privately, the difference in that first feed?! Wow!
The tongue tie practitoner said that I should be incredibly proud of myself for how long I had managed to continue breastfeeding for, and that the only reason baby hadn’t dropped weight because I was feeding him trickles of milk constantly around the clock. She also discovered he had a lip strain, which had also made it more difficult for him to effectively latch.
Those first few weeks were the absolute hardest, not to mention we were in the first lockdown and I wasn’t allowed to see anybody! I used to get annoyed when well intentioned ‘enjoy time alone in your new baby bubble’ comments were sent my way. It was a really intense time, breastfeeding can be SO bluddy tough with a heavy physical and emotional load.
I had to use nipple shields for a long time… I had a love hate relationship with them. I was grateful they allowed my breastfeeding journey to continue, but they were embarrassing (I felt as though I was failing in some way!?), I hated the piece of plastic separating us, and I was terrified of forgetting them at home if I did ever leave the house, or dropping them on the floor! I think I bought about 10 sets in the end, just in case! The constant sterilising was a slog, they made my nipples sore and there was absolutely no way I could feed discreetly with them!
For a long time I never thought I’d be able to feed without them, so when I managed to finally wean off them after a couple of months, I was SO proud of myself and my baby! After this, breastfeeding became a whole lot easier, and enjoyable! I loved the milk drunk smiles and that it solved 99% of parenting problems! The closeness, the connection, the powers of breastmilk for solving medical problems – it’s truly is magic.
Although it wasn’t entirely plain sailing…Teething isn’t fun…at first I felt like I couldn’t possibly carry on but after those first teeth cut through – it was fine, it quickly passed.
We continued breastfeeding for 13 months, I don’t think many people share the end of their breastfeeding journeys and this can also be a really complex time, so I will save this part of the story for another blog post…
During #worldbreastfeedingweek, I hope you can take away from my story that…
If something doesn’t feel quite right during your feeding journey, please don’t put off seeking professional support, or asking for a second opinion! The sooner you seek help – the better you will feel, and my gosh that is crucial – particularly in the fourth trimester!
Please be mindful of WHERE you’re getting that support/advice from. Sadly, not all midwifes are well trained in breastfeeding support, I would recommend you reach out to the following incredible organisations: The National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212; Association of Breastfeeding Mothers 0300 330 5453; La Leche League 0345 120 2918.
Please know that pain is NOT normal. It’s indicative somethings not quite right (whether that’s position, attachment, tongue tie – the list goes on).
Just because the hospital has checked your baby for tongue tie, doesn’t mean an adequate enough check has been done! Please head over to my Instagram @thebirthbase to read my recent post on this.
And lastly, whilst it’s so important that we normalise breastfeeding and help provide education as it’s so severely lacking in the UK…. It is ‘informed and supported’ that is best, in however you choose to feed your baby. All feeding journeys are valid and everyone is worthy of support and love. However you feed your baby, you are doing a grand job and you should be proud.
Interested in learning more about breastfeeding? My Hypnobirthing clients get free access to a pre-recorded online course on an Introduction to Breastfeeding! Get in touch to book your course today