Little Sunday story time written by Ruby
My daughter was born on 24th January this year (2019), she is my first child. My labour was probably as straightforward as you could have wish for. At just over 38 weeks I had been having irregular contractions for a couple of days but was still only 3 cm dilated, so eventually the decision was made to brake my waters at the hospital at 3pm; within around half an hour the contractors were coming every minuet, last around 40 seconds, continually. With no time for anything but gas and air, Maisy was born at 6pm, weighting a healthy 7lbs 2oz. I didn’t really have chance to realise what was happening, as it all happened very quickly, but she was born naturally, healthy and no surgery was required after.
Looking back I realise how highly unprepared and uneducated I was about breastfeeding. It was always something I said I would try but didn’t put a huge amount of pressure on. I thought ‘how hard can it be, just latch her on’, how wrong I was.
She was immediately place on my skin and within around half an hour the midwife said we need to start thinking about feeding her. So with my mums help after a few attempts we were able to get her to latch and take a feed. I thought okay we are off to a good start. We were then moved to the ward, but by now it was around 10pm and time for the next feed. I lead in the empty ward, with my husband and our brand new baby, exhausted and totally bewildered with no midwifes thinking; what am I doing, what has just happened.
I could not get her to latch at all, she was becoming more and more hungry and frustrated and would not stop crying. I felt totally out of control and full of panic. I pressed the button to call a midwife. She came in, looked at me with this hungry, screaming baby and said you have inverted nipples.
I remember feeling really embarrassed and thinking how had I never noticed this, why had no one ever mentioned to me that this would be a problem for breastfeeding, what am I going to do, ect !
I think she could see the panic on my face and said we could hand express and syringe feed to calm her down; luckily I had a very good supply of colostrum so was able to express plenty and feed with a syringe to calm her down.
The midwife suggest using a syringe to try draw out my nipple, which we tried but it didn’t work very well.
We made it through the first very long hard night ,hand expressing and syringe feeding, whilst trying and mostly failing to get her to latch.
The next day a new midwife suggested nipple shields. Again I remember thinking ; what was a nipple shield , why had I never heard of this , why was it never mentioned before. I rang my sister and she was able to get some and bring them to the hospital.
The first feed with the nipple shield I was able to get her to latch after a few attempts and felt a huge feeling of relief. After a long 48 hours we were discharged from the hospital and we off home, still feeling very overwhelmed and bewildered but armed with syringes and nipple shields.
The next 24 hours were abit of a blur , she was latching with the nipple shields and still having some expressed milk through a syringe, then the health visitor came on day 3 and weighted her. She had lost just over 9% from her birth weight, just under the 10% threshold that required going back to the hospital. She suggested a top up after each feed with a bottle of expressed milk or she asked if I had considered formula milk; it was not really something I had considered and I felt like by using formula milk I would have failed at the first step in being a mum. She said they would be back in 48 hours to weigh again.
More determine than ever to make breastfeeding work we sat for the next 2 days and did what felt like nothing but feed, feed and feed some more, with the nipple shields and some expressed milk in a bottle.
Within the next day my milk came in; a feeling I could never have been prepared for. One evening after a long day of feeding I was exhausted and could not get her to latch with or without a shield, she was becoming more hungry and frustrated and I could not get her to stop crying. No matter how hard I tried there just didn’t seem to be any milk coming out, hand expressing - nothing, electric pump - nothing, hot compressed - nothing. I sat crying, feeling like I failed whilst agreeing to let my mum give her a bottle of formula, feeling like it was the end of the world. Looking back this was a big turning point for me. I realised that formula was not bad and in that moment gave my daughter what she needed and it also allowed me to get abit of rest and recharge ready for the next feed.
Thankfully after those 2 days she had gained weight; she continued to gain weight at each weigh in and we managed to get back to birth weight within two , long very very difficult weeks but we made it and were on the right track.
Now we were gaining a good amount of weight, the next challenge was trying to ween off the nipple shields ! I was happy to continue using them as I knew it was working but I always had this doubt in my mind that it made it more difficult for her to feed and made it very impractical to feed out and about.
So more determined than ever , one feed at a time, I would get her to latch with the shield , let her feed for a couple of minuets then remove them and get her to latch again. It took around 2 weeks to stop using them completely and was by far and away one of the hardest things I have done , it felt like I spent hours trying to get her to latch and doubted everything I was doing - surely a bottle was easier , surely it can’t be this hard, shall I just give her formula, ect.
She is now just over 5 months old and we are still breastfeeding on demand, with no nipple shields or top ups.
She doesn’t sleep through the night and still wakes for feeds, going anywhere without her still fills me with huge anxiety, she doesn’t have any proper ‘routine’, she had oral thrush, I’ve had mastitis , I’ve sat feeding her in a changing cubical and in public when I’ve felt like the whole world was looking at me ; but she has moved from the 25th to the 50th centile, is meeting all of her milestones, is happy , content and growing every day. We are still going strong and this journey so far has taught me more than I ever imaged.
On reflection part of me wishes I had been more prepared and had done more research before but I feel like the struggles we had made me more determined to make breastfeeding work, helped me grow a greater bond with my daughter and we have more knowledge than ever.