little Sunday story time by Bex
As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew that I wanted my baby to be breast fed, in all honesty I never considered anything else to be an option. Breast milk is made by us to support, nourish and comfort our babies, so why not use it? Fast forward 9 months, after 46 hours of no sleep and powerful contractions my baby came into this world, a beautifully healthy baby boy. I was exhausted but so happy. Cradling him in my arms I was told to feed him, I had no idea what I was meant to do and sort of pushed his head into my breast, he opened his mouth and sucked a bit and then promptly fell asleep. This is where our breastfeeding journey began.
My son slept for the first few days of his life. No matter what we did to try and keep him awake it didn’t work. In the hospital they tried all sorts of positions and tips, still the baby slept. At home we just thought our baby was super content. On day 3 he cried all through the night, I fed and fed him but there was no milk. The next day my nipples were raw and bleeding. A breastfeeding community support worker came round took one look at a crack round the base of my nipple and said “that needs to heal otherwise its game over”. Over before it had started! I was plummeted into a world of confusion, I couldn’t express, there was no milk to give, we had to rush out to buy bottles and formula, my heart ached but not as much as it did when my baby screamed. We gave him formula and when my nipples had healed sufficiently we went back to breast feeding him. My breasts never got full, never leaked, were never sore, my milk came in drip by drip and when my baby got weighed his weight had dropped by 11%. “You need to top up, a lot” the midwife advised. As new parents we were scared, so we topped up.
When my son was 3 weeks old my original midwife returned from leave and promptly referred him to a feeding clinic to check for a tongue tie. We went and a posterior tongue tie was diagnosed and fixed. Was this the answer to all of our problems? We kept our fingers crossed. The next week he got weighed and he had lost weight.“Top up more” was the advice we received. We battled on trying to balance breast and bottle.
At 6 weeks he regained his birth weight, at 7 weeks I was told by a health visitor that he was too small. When he cried his tired cry she told me he was starving and forced me to breast feed him in a church hall, in front of a room full of strangers. He screamed and screamed, I told her he was tired she disagreed and told me I should always feed him when he cries. I walked out. What were we to do?
He looked healthy, bright inquiring eyes, got a good set of lungs, strong and so alert, to us our baby was fine but according to a graph in a red book he was under weight and unhealthy.
When my baby was 9 weeks old he started to reject my breast I contacted Maria from Little peach in desperation, she got back to me with amazing tricks, we started doing paused bottle feeding and invested in a Medela Calma bottle, it worked, we were so relived. Then the worst day of our journey came, my beautiful baby boy out right rejected my breast, the tricks had stopped working. I was taking Fenugreek to boost a very depleted milk supply, massaging my breast before feeding and expressing after and in between feed. I felt so desperate, my partner was in despair wanting the control of formula but also wanting my dream of breast feeding to happen. Was I being selfish mum for putting us all through this or should I give up? I was in turmoil.
I called a lactation specialist (Clare) and she was able to come on that day. She set in place an action plan, to express after each feed for a day and to take Domperidone. I was dubious, I dislike taking medicine even when I’m ill so taking an anti sickness drug for its side effects didn’t appeal to me at all so I decided not to make the call to the doctors.
The next day Clare came round and it took my mum, Clare and myself and hour and a half to get my son to latch on, it was horrendous but he did it in the end. Clare introduced us to our supplementary feeding system. It was a faff and formula went everywhere but my son was feeding from me happily for the first time in days. I dreaded the next feed, going through the screaming and crying again but it was fine. Watching my son feed so peacefully made me call the doctors and get an appointment, my fire to breastfeed was rekindled and I was determined to try everything I possibly could. I marched into my appointment with lots of information. I knew I would have a fight on my hands as GP’s have been advised not to give Domperidone as it can have cardiac side effects. I was lectured to by the Doctor who said Breastfeeding is not the be all and end all and that what my baby needs is a happy mother and that my struggle to breast feed was making me stressed so we should move to formula. This only strengthened my determination and I left brandishing my prescription.
A week after the rejection we have halved the amount of formula Larson needs and in morning feeds he has none at all. He happily feeds from the breast and he is a completely different child. He is calmer and more content than ever. This of course could be a direct link to my happiness levels increasing but what ever has happened things are looking up.
Our journey is not at an end but it is looking more hopeful than ever before. We have learnt so much on our way, nipple shields, supplementary feeding systems, fenugreek and Domperidone have all helped us on our way but most of all it has been the expert help that we reached out for.
I wrote this three weeks ago and with one this and another I didn't send it to Maria, in these 3 weeks we have been doing lots of feeding. At first I thought we would be able to exclusively breast feed but now I have had to come to terms with the reality that I will never be able to do this. This realisation has been really hard, I know I have to use formula as I don't make enough milk, there are so many emotions involved with this. I feel incredible sadness and guilt and I worry all the time but worst of all is the jealousy I have of mothers who can breastfeed. When I first started this process I said to myself when we are exclusively on the breast I will buy some specific breastfeeding tops but now I feel like a fraud buying them. I don't feel that I am a breastfeeding mother or a formula feeding mother. I feel somewhere in between and it feels lonely, where do you go for advice? We rarely see people breastfeeding in public but when was the last time you saw someone using a supplementary feeding system? My breastfeeding journey has not gone to plan, its not what I dreamed of but it is our reality and I have accepted this. So now instead of hiding I breastfeed in public using the supplementary feeding system. Breast and formula my baby gets fed while I enjoy the feeling of him being so close.