Since we launched last year we have gained a lot more lovely readers and as such we are guessing there are quite a few posts that you will have missed from the early days. We are therefore choosing some of our most popular posts to share with you in a sort of ‘from the archives’ series. A spot of light reading if you like although possibly not always that light as Charlotte explains below. Enjoy!
Before I begin: It’s perhaps not wise to read this over breakfast. Or if you are in any way squeamish. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I knew I was going to endeavour to breast feed when I first found out I was pregnant with Mabel. After all as we’re told again and again if you can it really is the best source of nutrition for your newborn. I’ll just emphasise that point again – IF you can. Just because you can’t doesn’t mean your baby won’t be a bouncy healthy bundle of joy, and jog on to anyone who tries and tells you differently frankly. I know an equal amount of breast fed vs formula fed littles and there is absolutely no measurable difference in their wellbeing or development.
I suffer from hypersensitive skin. It’s been the bain of my life since well….I was a baby myself. One of the benefits associated with breast milk is the possible reduction in eczema related issues, I figured that for me personally it was worth giving it a go even if there was a very small chance it might assist in preventing my daughter from a terminally itchy epidermis like her Mama.
At 30 weeks pregnant I was already suffering from sore, cracked and irritated skin on my areola. By 33 weeks I was in so much discomfort I visited my GP. Having removed my bra and hearing her exclaim “Oh My goodness you poor poor thing!” I knew I had been underplaying the extent of my situation. Essentially my chest resembled the aftermath of what you may associate with major surgery of some kind – a bloody swollen mess. And I don’t mean swollen in a pneumatic sexy way, I mean as in battered, and somewhat mauled.
Have I put you off your toast and jam yet?
I have no idea why this happened to me particularly, I think it was mostly bad luck and the way my body decided to deal with all of the extra hormones and whatnot – i.e. by making my nips look and feel as if they were about to fall off. Chic.
One of the first things my GP asked was “Were you intending on breastfeeding?” (Look of fear and foreboding evidently etched across her brow) to which I replied “Well actually yes…..I really want to…”. She took a deep breath and told me that I shouldn’t feel inadequate if it was simply too painful. And then she told me to use Lansinoh HPA Lanolin multiple times a day (this stuff is magic, you should absolutely buy some – see my full review here.)
By the time my C-section date came around at 39 weeks I was in a significantly improved but still not ideal state. There was still some cracking and soreness – but to be honest by that stage I just wanted to meet my baby and was heaving around what felt like such a great big bump, my non compliant boobs had almost but disappeared from my radar.
Having been wheeled out of theatre on a new Mum endorphine and let’s face it Caesarean related morphine high, when the midwife asked if I was intending on breastfeeding I practically shouted at her “Yes YES!” (ie Give me my baby NOW!!!) and all podgy 8.7 pounds of my beautiful little girl latched on as if she hadn’t eaten for a week.
Well then, that was much easier than I had been expecting. Turns out Mabel was a hungry wee soul and I was able to feed her myself perfectly well. Or so I thought. You see, for that first 24 hours those pain killers were well and truly disguising well, the pain.
Due to the operation I was booked into stay in hospital for up to 3 nights. By mid afternoon on the second day whenever Mabel decided she wanted milk I was literally yelping in agony, I received plenty of assistance from my allocated midwife at that point but as there wasn’t an issue with attaching or indeed supply, there wasn’t a lot they could do. I was browsing on the internet on sites like kratomystic.com, daydreaming about a pain solution that I could safely take while the baby breastfed. This was not going to happen. By the evening I was becoming increasingly upset, and Mabel was by all accounts not very happy either – she wanted dinner, every hour on the hour and to hell with this wimpy useless excuse for a parent (because still on the recently-given-birth rollercoaster of emotions that’s EXACTLY what I felt like).
It was suggested I give myself a break for a few hours and a midwife would offer her some formula, I eventually agreed and won’t deny feeling incredibly low about the whole situation. I had to look away as she was fed from a small cup.
My knight in shining hospital uniform armour came the following morning in the shape of a very jolly and positive nurse who suggested she assist me in using a syringe to collect at least the all-important colostrum and feed it directly from the syringe to Mabel. It was at that point that I decided I needed to set myself some realistic goals and take it from there. I wanted to enjoy the first few days of motherhood and not be overshadowed by feelings of inadequacy and my ridiculous C cups that were in, or at least what felt like, worse shape than the generous incision that had cut through my abdominal wall less than 72 hours before.
The syringe method worked, and gave my body a much needed rest – as well as giving Mabel what she needed. The nurse also gave me some rather fetching silicone nipple protectors that made a significant difference to the pain element when I was feeding Mabel myself. (I later bought some from Boots but the hospital grade version were definitely better in terms of fit and durability so do ask for some if you find you are suffering from soreness.)
My first goal was a week – if I could breast feed for 7 days then that would be an achievement. With a combination of using the protectors, expressing (I used the Medela Swing Pump which I would highly recommend) and a bottle of formula every other night or so I reached day 7. I was happy, Mabel was happy and well…everyone was basking in the sunshine glow of our newborn baby.
Being not one to give up until I’ve succeeded (my husband will tell you this is both one of my best and worst traits – sometimes I really should consider the consequences of my somewhat steely determination) I then set myself a second goal – to breast feed for the duration of James’s paternity leave.
I won’t lie, it was a massive faff – all the protector and expressing sterilisation plus the fact we were using bottles and formula as well. But I made it to a fortnight and even though I was still uncomfortable it was bearable.
Without James around to help me it was increasingly difficult to juggle my rather complicated methods, I managed a further two weeks before we both decided it was time to call it a day. I was exhausted, sore and from our experience up until that point, knew that Mabel seemed to go twice as long after formula than she did breast milk. I desperately wanted a little slither of freedom back too.
Mabel continued to “search” when I held her for a good month or so afterwards and I can’t say I was fine about it because I wasn’t. It broke my heart every single time. And I was jealous when some of the girls from my NCT group continued to breast feed their babies – maybe I should have just tried a little harder?
As time passed I got over it. I loved being a Mum and Mabel continued to flourish and prosper. And I’ve heard about so many struggles since, none of us are ever alone in our often difficult journeys navigating parenthood.
Some might say I should have given in sooner and some might think I should’ve carried on regardless. I don’t regret anything I did, it was my choice. And if I am lucky enough to have a second child I would do exactly the same again – my best.
I would just like to say how incredibly helpful the maternity staff at Heartlands hospital were, there was never any pressure, only advice and genuine concern. Please do leave your thoughts and questions in the comments box below, and feel free to now tuck into your croissant…