Little Sunday story time by Rachel B
When i found out I was pregnant I knew from day one that I wanted to breastfeed. It was something I was always passionate about and I was frustrated with all the comments I received during my pregnancy from people saying ‘don’t just assume it’ll work out because I couldn’t breastfeed’ - this happened nearly daily and i began to question whether I actually would ‘be able’ to breastfeed, would I produce milk, would the baby refuse to latch on? A lot of self doubt led to a nervous start to our journey. Nonetheless I spent hours upon hours during my pregnancy researching breastfeeding, gaining as much knowledge as possible and reading multiple articles so that I could help myself to feel as prepared as possible to begin our journey. I was excited and feeling super confident. As soon as my baby was born, she was brought up to my chest and I asked the midwife straight away if I could try to latch her onto my nipple. And ahead we went; but sadly with no luck. My daughter was only a few minutes old so I believed this was probably completely normal; the doctors told me that due to the amount of intense pain relief I had been given during my 30 hour labour, baby would be very sleepy for the first 24 hours of her life so this was perfectly normal. Fast forward a few hours and we were taken down to the postnatal ward where a lovely midwife began assisting me with our first ‘feed’. She gently brought my daughter’s face up to my nipple and tried all the usual techniques to help her latch, but sadly with no luck. She lay sound asleep in my arms and wouldn’t so much as open her little lips. Again, I assumed this was normal given the advice given to me by the doctor. Before delivery I had expressed a few syringes of colostrum so at each failed feed, we gave one of these in the inside of her cheek so that she was beginning to take some fluid from me. Fast forward a couple of days, we were still in hospital and, heartbreakingly, my daughter was still having absolutely no interest in latching onto my boob. ‘You probably won’t be able to breastfeed’ - all the voices from the last 9 months rang riot in my head. I felt helpless and like I was failing her. Why didn’t she want me?! I felt heartbroken that I was missing out on these blissful precious first moments of my baby perfectly breastfeeding, something I’d always dreamt of. But I knew there was no other option, and as I cried to the midwife at 3.30 in the morning after numerous failed attempts to get her to latch on, she told me she had ‘one final trick’ up her sleeve. I perked up at the thought of any hope! She came back a few seconds later with a nipple shield. We stuck it onto my nipple and what followed was the most beautiful moment of my life - she latched on!!! She started sucking and finally started to draw up some milk - I cried with happiness! It was only for a few seconds but it was a huge breakthrough. Finally I believed my breastfeeding journey was going to work out.
The following day we packed up and were sent home. My daughter was still very sleepy and we set alarms every 2 hours to wake her for a feed. I dreaded every alarm as I knew what faced me was an often unsuccessful battle and I felt terrible. Every time I would get a fresh nipple shield out and bring her up to my chest following all the techniques I’d been taught, my partner desperately helping me to get it right, some attempts she would suck for a few seconds and then fall asleep, other attempts she wouldn’t even try. I was frustrated, exhausted and worn out, I just wanted a successful breastfeeding journey and couldn’t understand what was going wrong.
Fast forward one month, we persevered, stuck at it, cried A LOT of tears but we finally had a successful breastfeeding journey!! We still exclusively used nipple shields but my daughter had come on leaps and bounds, we had a quick visit to the tongue tie clinic which made some small improvements but she had finally learnt how to take my nipple and I realised that it was a huge learning curve for me as well as for her. It took me about 3 months to wean her off the shields, at first she wouldn’t even attempt to suck when the shield wasn’t there but I just kept trying with different positions including lying down on our sides and making sure she had a really deep latch coupled with a lot of patience, after a lot of failed attempts she finally began to work out how to feed without them there! We are now 14 months into a very successful and enjoyable breastfeeding journey and I am so so glad I persevered in those fretful early days as the results have been so so worth it! Our journey hasn’t been without hurdles as we have had a lot of difficulties to overcome during our journey; we have faced reflux, allergies, eczema, cutting each and every food out of my diet to try and find the culprits that were upsetting her and I have probably lost count of the amount of times I’ve been told to stop breastfeeding and just give a bottle to ‘make my life so much easier’ over the journey. But over the last 14 months I’ve learnt that breastfeeding is about so much more than just food for my daughter. It is comfort, warmth, a sleep aid, a safe place, a tummy ache soother, a cold reliever, a bonding experience or simply just somewhere for her to come when everything around her is becoming a little too overwhelming. My advice to any mamas who are struggling, who’s baby won’t latch on, who’s baby will only take nipple shields and who’s sick of sterilising them and faffing around with them in public places, would be to KEEP GOING, you can do this and you will do this! Nature gave us boobies to feed our babies and with a little perseverance anyone can get there! Your baby is learning how to adapt to their new home and their new method of feeding, so don’t give up, be kind to yourself, drink lots of water and eat lots of calories, and believe that you and baby will both get there with a little perseverance and determination!