Little Sunday story by Charlotte E.

For most of my pregnancy, when people asked me if I intended to breastfeed I would answer "yes if I can". But at around 7months pregnancy my best friend was in the middle of producing a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, "Breastfeeding Uncovered" which incurred lots of thought provoking conversations. After lots of discussions about the NHS' breastfeeding support, formula, and society's pressure on mother's (however you choose to feed your baby) I became convinced I was going to breastfeed. (If you haven't already please do check out the programme and its' sequel, The Big Formula Scandal, its very interesting for all mothers or mothers to be I would say!)

At around 37 weeks I began using the colostrum collecting kit my midwife had given me and found a weird sort of satisfaction in cosying up in my armchair with a brew, a good film and getting to work. Seeing the little golden droplets come out was amazing but there was definitely a knack to getting it safely into the syringe and stored away!

The birth of our daughter at 40+4 weeks went pretty much as planned, 12 hrs from start to finish with her being put on my chest. I was totally overwhelmed with emotion and before I knew it our wonderful midwife was putting Rosemary onto my chest to latch, as per my birth plan, from what I can remember she latched on straight away and was munching away with a strong jaw clamp. Not at all what I thought it would look or feel like. In hindsight and having spoken to other mums, how smooth the delivery went may have had a lot more to do with us having a good start as the happy hormones were flourishing.

We had to stay in over night for observation as Rosemary did a big poo as she came out. The first night on the ward was really quiet but by the next morning just having two more beds taken up made such a difference and the stress of every feed infront of other people started to kick in. At one feed with a midwife at my side we struggled to get her onto my left side. Again in hindsight I dont think she was actually that hungry, hence the vocal protest on her part, but this was enough for this midwife to add to my notes "hasn't fed on left" which amped up the pressure.

6hrs later we were still stuck in hospital waiting to be signed off by the pediatrician and still struggling on the left. We tried nipple shields, rugby holds, nipple stimulation and lots of different hands and chat. I was really flustered by this point and just wanted to go home desperate not to spend a 2nd night in.

I had gotten Rosy on the left once for a very short feed but as no midwife had seen me it "didnt count"! My mum was equally as fuming. The midwife said I should stay in another night to get more support to crack the left, but after speaking to my husband and mum we all agreed I would it easier at home. The midwife really made me feel awful and said she wouldn't feel comfortable signing me off not having seen me feed on the left and she didnt want to be held responsible if we were back in hospital on 48hrs with a hungry baby with jaundice. This really annoyed me and made me desperate to go. However by this point(7pm) the night staff were getting ready to start and they do a handover which meant it would be 9pm at the earliest I could leave.

By 10.30pm we finally got our paperwork back we all piled in the car to drive home in the dark with our newborn.

The first 2 nights were horrendous. I was latching on fine but as soon as she fell asleep on the boob I assumed she was done. I had no idea I needed to keep rousing her to keep feeding to ensure she was full.

2 nights later lots of tears and milk I, my husband and my mum were on our knees. We were desperate for the day 3 midwife visit and kept ringing the hospital to find out where in the due to arrive . 7pm and we meet Rachel. Amazing, supportive, just lovely Rachel. She praised me on my latch, on both sides (2 fingers up to the hospital midwife) and showed me little tips and tricks to keep baby awake during a feed and the best trick of all, rolling a muslin up under my boob to create a prop so she could stay on more comfortably.

Fast forward to day 5 and I was back to worrying if we were getting it right. It hurt a bit but eased after the first few sucks but had no other clues how we were doing. The hospital check up (heel prick and hearing test) was another game changer. Rosy had already exceeded her birth weight! I forget the figures now the midwives work off to gauge how well baby is gaining weight post birth but I certainly remember this was an achievement due to the shock on their faces!

Fast forward again to Day 8. We were on cloud 9 riding the happy hormones, Rosy would sleep in her next to me cot and did a few 4hr stretches at night. BAM! Hello Mastitis! Again, another thing I never knew about. I stupidly thought, boob swollen? Put ice on it. Dont do it ladies, I effectively solidified the already blocked duct and I was in agony and feeling the fluey symptoms. After 2 weeks of antibiotics, cabbage leaves, hand expressing (as my nipple area was too swollen to latch) and hot water bottles it finally cleared. Unfortunately we both forgot how to feed on that side and my supply had massively dropped. Every feed was hard work again whereas my other side was perfect.

Rosemary is 9 months old now and she has fed off one boob ever since and is flourishing as a very chunky baby. I felt very strange about one boob, I definitely can get lopsided and I am super aware of the signs of mastitis now as I am worried if my "good boob" packed up we would be in a pickle. But another lovely midwife reassured me at Day 12 that this is no reason to not give my baby everything she needs and one boob is more than up to producing the supply she demands.

I go back to work in 3 months and need to think about dropping day feeds but I am hoping to keep the bedtime, night and morning feed for as long as she wants them.

Breastfeeding is complex, challenging and one of the most wonderful part of mothering. I couldn't imagine not being able to feed her and feel very lucky for all the support at the crucial moments I received. If you are struggling or doubting, reach out to your midwife team, health visitors, support groups and of course, Little Peach 😊