I’m a mum of two.
Already knew that?
I’m a mum of two who doesn’t/couldn’t breastfeed.
Here is my journey:
When I fell pregnant with my son I was very keen to do everything by the book. After having miscarriages I wanted to be able to give my baby the best start in life.
During the final weeks of my pregnancy we attended NCT antenatal classes. The teacher was brilliant and championed the ‘breast is best’ message. I didn’t need convincing. The merits, in my mind, far outweighed the pitfalls.
I was determined to breastfeed. I bought breastfeeding books, a breast pump, Lansinoh balm and cooling gel breast pads. I didn’t expect an easy ride but I wanted with all my heart to succeed.
Then Big E was born. I had a forceps delivery which involved two epidurals, various antibiotics, diamorphine and second degree tears. We didn’t get the chance to feed until three hours after he was born. He didn’t latch on well but we persevered.
Once we got home he continued to have problems. He was jaundiced and losing weight. His latch was poor and he just screamed and screamed. Feeding would distress him more so. I was distraught and so was he.
The health visitor tried to help me with his latch. She also tried to hand express some milk but none came.
We persevered a few days more. His jaundice worsened and his weight continued to drop. The health visitor, knowing I wanted to breastfeed tentatively suggested topping him up with formula. I was unsure but was willing to try anything to get some food into him.
He guzzled his first bottle and within 48 hours had regained all his lost weight and his jaundice was gone. That was the turning point. We decided to not put ourselves through the pressure any longer and switch to formula.
I felt incredibly guilty but Big E was thriving and still is. We’d managed two weeks of breastfeeding.
Then 21 months later I became pregnant with Little E. I was determined not to let my first experience of breastfeeding stop me from trying again. I bought books, pumps, feeding tops, feeding cushions and invested my soul in being able to succeed.
Little E was born quickly and naturally. She latched on well within minutes of being born. Once on the ward the midwife checked the latch and was happy it was correct. We were discharged from hospital the next day and all seemed well.
Little E would cry a lot and fed what felt like almost 24 hours a day. I didn’t let that stop me going anywhere or doing anything. Two days after she was born I was breastfeeding her in Debenham’s Restaurant in the middle of Leeds. I was exhausted but determined.
Then we had her weighed. In spite of her constant feeding she had lost weight. All normal I was told. So, I carried on. The feeding schedule remained much the same and we had a slight weight gain but nowhere near back to birth weight, and but not enough to sign her off the midwife’s books.
We kept up our regime. Feeding round the clock. Her nappies were not very wet and her skin was dry. I was certain that we would have a gain at the next weigh- in even so.
It was another loss. This time she was to be weighed again within 48 hours. If there was no gain then the midwife suggested we may need to re-admit her to hospital. I sat and burst into tears. I remember the moment well. I said to the midwife that I knew I was pressuring myself and did she think I should top up with formula.
The midwife was great. She didn’t try and sway me towards formula, she just hugged me. She told me to do what my gut was telling me as I knew my child best. So, with a heavy heart I began topping up after each feed. Little E was 3 weeks old at this point.
Sadly none of the advice from any source worked for me. In the end the midwife said she believed we were looking at the fact that I wasn’t physically producing anywhere near enough milk, in spite of constantly trying to increase my supply.
Little E had her last breastfeed the day she was one month old. I had done my very best but my body let me down.
A few months on I still feel pangs of guilt but I look at Little E and she is healthy and happy and that is the most I could ask for.
So there you have it. Both my children were only breastfed for a short time. In my dream of ideal motherhood this was not the plan. But reality does not always play out how you expect or want.
How we choose feed our babies is a very personal and sometimes much agonised decision. It is a very emotive issue and each journey is unique.
I would encourage any new mum to try breastfeeding and I would certainly try again if I had another baby. And whilst I would definitely like to see a lot more support and information on a grassroots level for breastfeeding mums, I would also like to see more support and information for those who can’t or don’t.