Monday, 13 August 2018

My breastfeeding journey

My children

You might say my breastfeeding journey started with Squidge was born, in October 2014. It'd never entered my head that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed, I honestly never realised that could be a thing. I'd bought a bottle and a steraliser, but that was for expressed milk, although stupidly I'd bought 12 bottles (why on earth did I buy so many?!).

When Squidge was born we had skin to skin about 10 mins after, he had to be resuscitated first as he didn't breathe on his own, and he remained very blue. But after a few mins he was absolutely perfect and ready for his first cuddles, and I was ready for my first cuddle as a mummy. After maybe 30-60 mins (I honestly can't really remember how long) the nurse told me he needed to feed (especially as I had gestational diabetes), I said I wanted to breastfeed, she tried to get him to latch but couldn't, so she expressed some milk from me and gave him that in a syringe.

Off I was wheeled to the ward, where we had another couple attempts to feed, again unsuccessful. They handed me a load of syringes, and off I went, spending every waking moment through the night frantically expressing and making my nipples super sore, so he could have my colostrum. They checked his blood sugars, and they were frighteningly low. They said I had two hours to get his sugars up, or he was going to be taken to the special care baby unit (SCBU). They brought down a heat lamp and put that over him. He had my colostrum, but it was deemed not enough to bring his sugars up, and the midwives gave him formula via a cup. Up his sugars went, and SCBU was avoided. Fantastic. 

Breastfeeding Dot in the woods, black and white

A day or two later we were sent home, having never had a successful breastfeed, despite that being my chosen feeding method. I wasn't given any details of support groups, or anything like that. After getting home, hubby rushes out to buy a load of ready made formula. Despite my best intentions, I wasn't going to let Squidge starve. It's not like I didn't have any milk (that came in on day 4), but he wouldn't latch, every time I brought him to the breast he screamed and screamed and screamed and it didn't stop until he was fed a bottle. I tried for weeks, and we never had so much as one full successful feed.

A breastfeeding support worker did randomly turn up at our house the day after we got back, which was great, she got him to latch, with the use of a nipple shield, but it was only for a minute or two. That was it. I felt so awful. I was expressing every 2-3 hours, but not getting much milk each time, so whereas I wanted him to be fed my breastmilk and only topped up with formula, the opposite was the reality. After 6 weeks, my milk completely dried up, I sobbed my heart out. I felt like I'd failed him, and in all honesty, I still feel like that. I know I could have tried harder, and I should have, but I didn't, I gave up.

Fast forward 2 years and 10 months, and lovely little Dot arrives. This time I'm adamant I'm going to make it work. Dot is born, and plonked straight on my chest for skin to skin, and after 2 mins whisked away for some suction, and brought right back (we sadly didn't get the delayed clamping I wanted, but that's ok). He stayed cwtched up to me on my chest for what felt like hours, it was wonderful, I drank in every second of it (even while I was being stitched up). I expected a midwife to come and weigh him, but I think they were busy. About 3+ hrs after he was born, I buzz a midwife and ask for him to be weight so we can feed him. They weigh him (8lb 10.5 oz) and with that my inlaws arrive. A support worker walks in with a bottle of formula, and before I knew what was going on, he was being given his first feed. Formula. 

Dot breastfeeding, close up

The next day or so are a bit of a haze. I can't even remember how long I was in hospital for. I do remember being given a private room, and really struggling to get Dot to latch on. I had midwife after midwife come in and tell me he had to be in the rugby ball hold because I had big boobs, but it didn't work, he hated it. I tried lying down, that didn't work either. Eventually while there we had a couple successful small feeds, but I wasn't confident I was leaving hospital as a breastfeeding mum. He'd had a lot of formula top ups, but I was still determined to make breast work. Every feed I tried, and each time it got a little easier than the last, and slowly over the course of the next few weeks, we dropped the formula top ups from just being around midnight and 3am(ish) or if we were out and about, to none at all, he was now an exclusively breastfed baby. But it wasn't without it's trials.

About two weeks into our journey, I developed horrendous pain in my nipples. I felt like I was passing shards of glass every time he fed. My left nipple was cracked and infected, and my left breast was in agony, it was red and very hot to touch, and so so so tender. After getting home from the hospital, a local breastfeeding support group text me with their number. I called them as I was in so much pain, and within an hour someone was out to help. I had blocked ducts on top of the other issues, but when I expressed off the left breast, no milk came out at all, not even one drop. I went to the Drs and was diagnosed with mastitis and given antibiotics. It cleared up pretty quickly, but as the pain had been so bad, and my ducts blocked, Dot wouldn't feed on the left, and as such, my supply in that breast dropped (and has never recovered).

It's now a year on (give or take a day or two), and we're still going strong. It's been a tough journey, even recently I'm battling pain in the right nipple as his latch is still shallow (lazy) and his top teeth are grazing my nipple, but we persevere. He doesn't sleep through the night, he wakes to feed every couple hours, and you know what, I couldn't care less. I love the bond we have, I love feeding him, I love knowing the nourishment he gets from it and the comfort. I don't plan on stopping any time soon, I'm happy to take his lead, he'll know when he's ready and when that time comes, we'll stop.

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Saturday, 4 August 2018

Why saying 'Fed is Best' is dangerous | World Breastfeeding Week

As a disclaimer before we get into this, I am NOT bashing formula feeding. I formula fed Squidge after failing to breastfeed, I own that I did that, and I’m not ashamed. How a mother decides to feed her baby is her choice, and shouldn’t be made to feel bad for her choices, whether that’s formula or breastfeeding, and believe me, both get made to feel bad by others.

Me breastfeeding Dot in the woods

It’s no secret that Britain has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the entire world, not just the developed world, but the whole world. Just let that sink in for a moment. A country that is wealthy, well educated, with a free health service, most things we could ever want, yet we have some of the worst rates for breastfeeding.

Fed is best


Ok, so I used to totally agree that what’s most important for a baby is to be fed, and I still don’t really disagree with that. But the whole ‘fed is best’ movement or approach is damaging to breastfeeding. Lets face is, fed is required, babies have to be fed. What is best, scientifically is breastmilk. Again, not bashing formula, I’m just stating facts. If you look at the list of ingredients on a carton of formula, you’ll see lots of vitamins and minerals, it’s a synthetic mix of dried milk with added nutrition, it will meet your babies needs.

The breast is best movement isn’t about shaming bottle feeding mums, it’s about promoting breastfeeding as the norm, quite simply it IS what is best for baby. 

What a lot of people don’t seem to realise, is all the super amazing things that are in breastmilk, naturally. As well as amazing things like stem cells, they are also full of antibodies which help your baby to battle illnesses. 

"Breast milk contains more than 200 known beneficial elements, with more being discovered all the time. For example, researchers believe that a recently discovered fatty acid in breast milk promotes the growth of a baby's brain and retina and may even enhance cognitive development. Many of these elements, including infection-fighting white cells, can't be manufactured." - Babycentre

Me breastfeeding Dot

'Fed is best' encourages switching to formula

I’ll give you a scenario. Imagine a mum who’s struggling to breastfeed, her baby is 6 weeks old and cluster feeding (absolutely normal). Mum feels like because the baby is on her breast all the time, that she’s not making enough milk. Baby is being fussy when coming off as baby is also getting comfort from the breast, and going through a developmental growth spurt (leap), making them extra fussy too. Feeling like her milk isn’t enough, in desperation she reaches for some formula, gives baby a huge feed (at this age the formula box recommends a 4-5oz feed, whereas on the breast baby would be getting about 1.5oz per hour), knocking the baby into a deep sleep. This affirms her fears that her milk isn’t enough (which wasn’t actually the case), and slowly starts to transition to formula, her milk starts to dry up. Mum feels like she’s doing the right thing for her baby as baby is now less fussy and filling up more, and getting more sleep. But all along, it was just a growth spurt and baby wanting to be close to mum.

The issue here is education. Lack of knowledge. When I had my first, I had no idea about any of this, I had no support, wasn’t a member of breastfeeding support groups to help me learn about all this. I expressed for 6 weeks until my milk dried up, Squidge never had a successful breastfeed, despite trying. If knew then, what I know now, I’m almost certain I could have made it work.

We need to be supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed and not encourage them to switch to formula because it’s ‘easier’ or more convenient, or because others have an issue with it. Breastfeeding should be the NORM, but instead it’s socially frowned upon and whenever us mums do talk about it, or show pride in it, formula feeding mums tell us it makes them feel bad, or that we’re shaming them, when in actual fact, we’re just trying to promote breastfeeding (and not shame bottle feeders).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to talk about this without fear of a massive backlash. I’m already bracing myself for the backlash this might get, but I feel so strongly that we need to talk about it in a non-confrontational way, so I’m talking about it anyway.

What experiences have you had with breastfeeding?

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The Gruffalo's Child | New Theatre Cardiff

Today has been a rare treat, a mummy & Squidge day out together. Seeing as he's nearly 4, he feels the right sort of age to start to enjoy the theatre. We've taken him to a couple productions before (Goldilocks ballet & Ben & Holly) but that was a year ago and he was really too young to enjoy it.

So when The New Theatre got in touch to invite us along to review The Gruffalo's Child, we jumped at the change! As Dot is only 11 months old he is totally the wrong age to go - if he was younger, he could have just lay in our arms, or older, he could enjoy it, but he'd have just wanted to get down and walk/crawl. So just Squidge and I went, and made a proper little trip of it.

We started off heading out at 9:30am, with my fresh driving independence (passed 7th June), I drove us to the park & ride that's 20 mins away (to save us parking and driving into the city centre), and we had a fun little bus ride into town. From there we went straight to the Theatre, picked up a little stuffed Gruffalo's Child (£12!), some sweets and headed to our seats.


The stage looked fantastic, simple, but practical and enchanting. The woods backdrop reversed to reveal the Gruffalo's cave, and the tree's you can see moved about the stage as well. We waited patiently for the show to begin.

Up until this point we'd been big fans of The Gruffalo, having read it to Squidge as a bedtime story for years, but we hadn't read The Gruffalo's Child. I'd headed over to Asda on Friday and picked up a copy, we read it lots before the play so it felt familiar.

The show kicked off with three actors who play all the characters (I wish I had photo's here to show you!), and their costumes were great! What I really liked is that through story of the Gruffalo explaining to The Gruffalo's Child how he'd met the mouse, it was like a recap of The Gruffalo story.

There were lots of songs and audience participation (which Squidge tells me was his favourite part (clapping slow, then faster!)) which help keep the kids engaged. I loved the bit with the fox as the music went all ska-like.

The show itself lasted an hour with no intermission. Personally, we'd have preferred it to either be shorter, or have an intermission as Squidge really struggled when we got to about half hour in.

The show was great, well produced and entertaining. The only thing that would have improved it for us, would have been it being a little shorter.

Once that was over, we headed to St Davids 2 to get Squidge some ice cream, we were heading to the Gelato place, but as we got there it had gone, and in it's place was a Thai-style ice cream place, I gave him the choice of that or a Krispy Kreme donut, he wanted ice cream.


After that I took him for another surprise, to the Build-a-bear workshop for his first bear. I told him he could pick any bear he liked, and he went straight for Skye :) We accessorised her with some clothes and her jet pack, and carried her home, Squidge absolutely adores her :) 


After that, we headed straight home on the park & ridge bus, absolutely shattered, but happy :) 
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*The tickets to the Gruffalo's Child were gifted for an honest review
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