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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