Our Breastfeeding Story

Our Breastfeeding Story

Let me begin by saying that I wanted to breastfeed. I really did. Before Noah was born I researched breastfeeding, attended NCT classes, learnt about positions, bought nursing bras, supposedly did all the right things because I believed that I was going to be a breastfeeding Mum. Sadly things didn’t quite work out that way.

If you’ve read my post on Noah’s birth (which you can find here) you will know that things didn’t go particularly plain sailing. Unfortunately I had a post partum haemorrhage which led to me losing 1.5 litres of blood. So I really didn’t feel that we had the best of starts in terms of getting our breastfeeding bond and my supply established. One of the things that bothers me the most is, Noah was born at 20 minutes past midnight and I didn’t even get to try to feed him till mid morning the next day. Now I’ve no idea if this is normal for when a baby has first been born, but I never could shake off the guilt that he went without food for so long. I don’t remember much of those early hours due to feeling out of it from blood loss, and when I was finally with it, I was too absorbed in getting used to being a Mum for the first time, to query back to those early hours.

Our first attempt at breastfeeding that morning didn’t go too well as I just couldn’t get Noah to latch properly. So instead we tried some skin to skin, which I have to say, I adored. Just feeling his little body warm against mine was heaven. I remember looking down at his tiny face and thinking “This can’t be real. I must be dreaming. How can he be ours?”. I don’t fully remember when our next attempt at feeding was but I do remember that I finally managed to get him to latch on which was a huge relief, albeit a painful one. And that was my general experience of him latching throughout our short breastfeeding journey. It was always painful and I never felt like he was quite latched on properly, despite being reassured by midwives and health care assistants on duty that Noah had a “good latch”. I discovered months later that he had a lip tie so maybe that affected his latch…who knows!

Our second full night in was very difficult. We were still in hospital and Noah pretty much cluster fed non stop. Now at this point I had no clue about cluster feeding. I hadn’t been warned of it in my NCT classes (not to my recollection anyway) and I hadn’t come across it in any of the books I had read. Maybe I’d read the wrong ones. But all I had heard was that initially the baby would feed frequently, as much as every 2 hours for up to an hour at a time, and that sleep would be extremely broken. This I was prepared for. What I did not expect was the hours of continuous feeding non stop. By the time 6am came around I’d had about 2 hours of sleep all night if that and I felt exhausted. And Noah still seemed to be hungry even after feeding non stop for all that time, switching from breast to breast. I asked the midwife on duty if this continuous feeding was normal only to be met with a curt “Yes it’s what they do. You’ll get used to it.”. That was as much of an explanation as I was going to get out of her. I felt her tone came across a bit “well duhhh what did you expect?” which upset me a little as, as a first time Mum, I felt clueless. Here I was scared that my baby wasn’t getting enough milk and that I was unintentionally starving him and all I wanted was some reassurance.

But we persisted. I kept just hoping that things would improve and that feedings would get less painful as time went on. Lanisoh nipple cream became my best friend. I was applying it after every feed in the end, desperate for some relief.

We were discharged home when Noah was 3 days old and things continued in pretty much the same vein. During the day Noah was pretty sleepy but the nights were relentless. He would feed continuously from around 10pm till 3am and finally he’d fall asleep, only to be back awake again an hour later. My nipples were sore and bleeding and mentally I felt broken. I felt weak-minded. I knew having a newborn would be tough but this felt like something else. I think what got to me the most was the pain my nipples were in. I would dread the sting of Noah latching on and I’d wince as he’d suck. I had hoped to enjoy the experience of feeding my son but instead I came to resent it.

I turned to anyone I could think of for help….community midwives, my Mum, friends, online communities but I just ended up swimming in conflicted advice. I tried expressing which I found surprisingly easy. This gave me a temporary boost as I thought I’d maybe found an answer to the agonising nights! I would express a bottle of milk that I could give Noah in the night if he was stuck on cluster feeding, just to give me a reprieve. Only to read online that this wasn’t advised as the baby cluster fed for a reason and it could affect my supply. I felt deflated. I purchased nipple shields to help with the pain and bleeding, only to read that these were no good as they would confuse the baby. During the odd night I caved to a bottle of formula when, after hours and hours of feeding, Noah just wouldn’t settle. A few oz of formula and he’d be out like a light. I just felt like he wasn’t getting enough from me. I was reassured continuously that this was all normal, as it probably was, but mentally I was not coping. I had considered combi-feeding for a while until my supply came in fully but was told by a midwife that this would “damage my baby’s gut”. It was the final straw. I felt like there was an obstacle to any idea I had just to find some slight relief.

I felt so depressed. I knew the early days would be difficult but I felt more and more like I was resenting Noah for simply wanting to do what we are all programmed to do, eat. I went back and forth on what to do and I felt so confused and conflicted. In the end I decided that I couldn’t take anymore. I was nearly 2 weeks into breastfeeding and I didn’t feel like my milk was fully in. Noah’s weight gain was going ok but my breasts just never felt full. Again, maybe this was normal I don’t know, I had no frame of reference. But all I knew is I felt like Noah was never fully satisfied on my breast. He rarely seemed to finish a night time feed looking full. Ironically though, daytime ones seemed ok, which I still can’t figure out.

So, after 2 weeks of breastfeeding, I decided I had had enough and we switched to formula. I cried buckets that day. I felt devastated, like I had failed Noah and I wasn’t worthy of being a Mum. And if I’m honest that feeling stayed with me for a good few months at least. I felt so jealous of anyone that had managed to push through and breastfeed and of people that had had no issues. It wasn’t their fault, I was being completely irrational, but I just felt so envious. After spending years struggling to conceive, this had been one thing I had really wanted to do for our much wanted, miracle baby and I felt like I’d let him down. I still battle those feelings occasionally and he’s nearly 2 now.

But, importantly, I have come to learn I didn’t fail him. I did what I felt was best at the time. Breastfeeding was causing me to sink into a deep depression and, at that point, I’d had to weigh up the benefits vs the impact on my mental health (and on my family) if I’d had a relapse into depression. There were times when I deeply regretted stopping and other times when I felt it was the right decision for us and I still go back and forth on that. I don’t think I’ll ever have a concrete answer in my head. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I have learnt something though…and that’s to listen to my instincts. If we are lucky enough to get pregnant again, I do plan to try to breastfeed again. But this time I am going to take the advice (unless medical) with a pinch of salt and I’m going to listen to my instincts. Because, at the end of the day, we have them for a reason. There’s a massive part of me that feels that if I had done that to begin with and expressed if I wanted, used nipple shields if I wanted and even occasionally combi fed if I wanted, that maybe I’d have continued breastfeeding longer. I could be wrong but my guts tells me that that would’ve been the case as I’d have been relaxed and confident and doing things MY way. So this is the approach I intend to take next time. I will do what I feel is best at a given time and I will go with the flow. And it may work out, it may not, but I will try.

Our bond remains unbreakable regardless. Breastfeeding doesn’t make the bond, parenting does.
Noah’s Birth

Noah’s Birth

Between getting plans rolling for our frozen embryo transfer next May and the news that we are expecting a new baby in the family, I’ve been thinking back a lot to when Noah was born. To give a bit of background to his birth, when I was 36 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis. This led to the decision for me to be induced at 38 weeks….

On the morning of 22nd December we excitedly and nervously headed to the hospital for my booked induction. I’d hardly slept the night before due to a virus and a fever so I was already exhausted and we hadn’t even started the induction yet! At around 9am a midwife examined me before inserting the pessary and we were surprised when she told us that I was already 1cm dilated! We hoped that this was a positive sign for a smooth induction and, with that, the pessary was inserted. And so it all began.

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I was still feeling pretty poorly from the virus so, following the pessary insertion, I decided to rest for a few hours. Around lunch time I prodded Jamie and told him that we ought to try going for a walk to get things moving, so we headed for a walk around the hospital corridors. As we walked I could feel a few twinges and hoped that this was things beginning! Evening came round quickly and I was starting to feel contractions more frequently. I tried timing some and found that they were coming roughly every 5 minutes. I felt so excited that things were happening! Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before we met our baby boy! Unfortunately we had to change wards due to staffing issues so we were temporarily placed on the postnatal ward. But it couldn’t be helped!

At around 8-8.30pm, Jamie had to leave. As we were still on the ward, partners weren’t allowed to stay past visiting times unless the mother was in established labour which, at this point, I wasn’t. As I kissed him goodbye I felt so afraid. Being in labour for the first time is so daunting, let alone the thought of having to do it overnight alone. He made me promise that I would text him if anything changed and, with that, he was gone.

Slowly the contractions grew stronger. At 10pm I thought that I should try to get some rest but, as I tried to lie down, I knew that I wasn’t going to get any sleep. I began timing contractions again and they were around 3-5 mins apart lasting a minute at a time. They felt pretty intense. The midwife on duty gave me some paracetamol and codeine for the pain but it didn’t really do anything. At 2am I went to the toilet and felt a “gushing” feeling followed by a trickle of fluid. I knew it was my waters. I was also bleeding. I went to the midwives desk and was handed a pad to put on so they could see if it was indeed my waters. Within a few minutes the pad was soaked. As was my nightie and my socks. Yep there was no doubt. It was my waters.

After my waters broke the contractions felt like they’d ramped up a gear. I gave up timing them and focussed on trying to cope with them instead. But in an antenatal ward with sleeping women this was incredibly difficult. I spent most of the night sat on the edge of the bed trying not to make a sound through each contraction as I didn’t want to wake the ladies that were sleeping. I just wanted to cry. I was offered more paracetamol and codeine but, at this point, it was useless. I needed something more but they couldn’t offer me anything else until I was in the delivery suite which had no free beds. My only comfort was I could hear the lady opposite me in a similar position, having also been induced that morning, and I thought to myself “well at least I’m not completely alone in going through this”.

Finally the morning rolled around and Jamie arrived. I had texted him when my waters broke but he slept through the sound of his phone so, upon waking at 6am, he’d read my text and panicked. However, he’d had no call from the hospital so figured things couldn’t have progressed that much. He strolled into the ward looking all fresh and rested and, I’m not going to lie, I wanted to punch him. I felt like hell, was exhausted having not slept in 24 hours and the pain was just intense. “How do people do this with no pain relief?” I thought.

To make matters worse we had to transfer back to the antenatal ward. So there was me, contracting away, trying to walk down the corridor to the ward next door, having to pause for contractions, all the other patients gawping away. Talk about feeling like you’re in a goldfish bowl!

Once we were settled back on the antenatal ward, one of the morning midwives suggested that Jamie took me for a bath and I jumped on the idea! I’d had a bath the evening before, when the contractions were only mild, and it’d helped a lot so hopefully it would do the same now! And it did. It didn’t take away the pain but dulled it somewhat. I’d really wanted a water birth but couldn’t because of the induction so this was a close second. I could’ve literally bitten Jamie’s head off when he told me I’d been in the bath a long time and ought to get out in case anyone else wanted to use it. The first bit of relief I’ve had in hours and you want to take it away from me?! Ok then….. As he helped me back to my bed, one of the midwives spotted me struggling to walk with the contractions and felt it was time to examine me again. To her surprise she discovered I was already 6cm dilated! I felt pretty proud that I had gotten that far with nothing but paracetamol but I definitely felt ready to be moved now!

Around 11am there was finally space in the delivery suite and so, with great relief, we were transferred. We were admitted to the suite by a lovely young midwife and I started on some gas and air as she got me hooked up to the monitor. I’ll be honest, this is where I get fuzzy on timings. I tried my best to manage contractions with the gas and air but they were just getting more and intense and I literally felt like they were coming one on top of each other, I was just getting no respite. I persisted with the gas and air for a while and honestly loved it. It felt like getting tipsy on a couple of glasses of wine. But it wasn’t cutting it for me. After a while I reluctantly requested an epidural.

I had been determined before the induction that I would try to manage on just gas and air. I really didn’t want the restrictions that an epidural would bring. However I had always planned to be open to my feelings at the time and I just couldn’t cope with the intensity of the pain. So I had the epidural. I kept saying to my midwife and Jamie that I felt like I’d failed as I’d caved to an epidural and they kept reassuring me that, no, I was doing a great job but I felt like I was doing it all wrong. Which, looking back, is ridiculous. There’s no wrong way to give birth. All you can do is take every moment of labour and birth as it comes and deal with it as it happens.

After the epidural was administered by the anaesthetist, my midwife examined me again and found that I was 8cm dilated! I was elated. The pain was gone, I felt able to relax a bit and the end felt near! However, my progress began to slow and when I was examined a while later I was stuck at 8cm. Therefore, they decided to start me on a drip to speed up the contractions. Luckily the drip worked and before too long (at least that’s how it felt) I was ready to push.

My legs were lifted into stirrups to help my positioning as, although I had tried to let the epidural wear off a little ready for pushing, my legs were still pretty numb. I waited for guidance from the midwives and pushed when they told me to. Hilariously all I could think in that moment was that it felt exactly as friends had told me it would…..like I was doing a giant poo! I had been pushing a little while when Jamie said to me “come on you have 15 minutes to get him out before it’s Christmas Eve!”. I’m not ashamed to say I may have deliberately squeezed his hand harder than necessary after that. It was 11.45pm. Where had the day gone? It’s weird how time just seemed to have become irrelevant when I was in labour. All the hours/days just moulded into one in my head. It hadn’t even occurred to me that it was nearly Christmas Eve. So for a while longer I pushed and finally, after 45 minutes of pushing, Noah was born at 20 minutes past midnight weighing 8lbs. He was a Christmas Eve baby! The best Christmas present ever.

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Suddenly, what felt like a split second later, the emergency buzzer was sounding. I was haemorrhaging. I knew from my past experiences of working in hospitals what the sound meant and wasn’t surprised to see the room suddenly flood with doctors and midwives. Jamie, however, was more in shock and looked, well frankly, terrified. Still with Noah in my arms, I called him to me and told him to look at our son. And we did. We stared at his beautiful face, little hands and feet whilst the medical team did what they needed to do to stop the bleeding. He was the best distraction.

After what felt like forever, I was stitched up and the bleeding had subsided. I had lost 1.5 litres of blood. Feeling dizzy, I asked Jamie to take Noah as I was scared I was going to drop him. He put on his nappy and baby clothes with the help of the midwife and Noah was settled into his hospital crib. I couldn’t get up due to the ill effects of the haemorrhage and the fact that the epidural was still wearing off, so I was laid on an inco paid and told to rest. They were going to let me stay in the delivery suite for the rest of the night and then I would be transferred to the postnatal ward in the morning. Jamie opted to go home and get some rest and soon Noah and I were left alone.

What upsets me is I don’t have a huge recollection of what followed that night until= the morning. I remember waking to Noah in the night and trying to get to him forgetting that I had no underwear or pad on and a midwife had to come and help me back into bed. She reminded me I needed to ring the buzzer if I required help and left. Jamie returned in the morning and I had a shower and tried to give Noah his first breastfeed. He struggled to latch so we decided to try again later. I have no idea to be honest if he was fed anything in the night or not and that is a huge source of guilt for me. I think he slept the whole time as he was pretty drowsy from the labour, but the fact that I can’t fully recollect, still continues to bug me.

At around 11am on Christmas Eve we were transferred to the postnatal ward from which we were finally discharged on the 27th December. I had required a blood transfusion on Christmas Day and Noah needed IV antibiotics. So we spent our first Christmas in hospital!

But it was worth it.

I was completely in love.
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Everyone says before you have a baby how surreal the experience of giving birth is and it is so true. I couldn’t believe he was finally here. That wriggly, kicking baby in my belly was here and he was gorgeous. And I can’t wait to, hopefully, some day do it all again.