Good Intentions – A Journey Through Breastfeeding

by Insomniac Mummy on November 11, 2009

Want to know something about me?

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.

In my desperation to keep the top ups as a temporary measure I contacted La Leche League, used Kellymom and even had a phone consultation with controversial Clare Byam-Cook.

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.

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Ellie is a working mum. In her spare time she spends far too much time waffling on the internet. She's a Twitter addicted Facebook fanatic, and an all round social media butterfly. You can also find her on Google + as Insomniac Mummy. She once walked across England and is planning on walking 100K in one day in May 2014 for Cancer Research. All she really wants is a good night's sleep...

Drop Ellie a line, if you like!

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Coding Mamma (Tasha) November 11, 2009 at 2:37 am

You poor thing. It sounds like you had a terrible time and I'm so sorry that you didn't get to have the feeding experience you wanted. As you say, though, in the end both of your children are healthy and happy. Not that tgat will completely stop the feelings of guilt, of course. You did amazingly and tried so hard – I really feel for you.

Thank you for sharing your story.

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Heather November 11, 2009 at 5:32 am

You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. nothing. nada. there is nothing 'wrong' with bottle feeding, children grow up just as happy and healthy. the most important thing is that your children are well and so are you.

I can completly sympathise at trying and failing to breastfeed and feeling preasured/guilty to keep going or feeling like you are 'giving up' or 'failing your child' somehow – I managed 8 weeks and whilst the milk was flowing it was doing awful things to my emotions and mental health on top of the new baby syndrome. so I switched to bottle and you know what, they are now 3 and 1 and it is something that absolutly never crosses my mind. they are no different to other kids, it affected them not one jot.

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BNM November 11, 2009 at 7:49 am

This is so much like my story – Bel was born after ventouse and forceps, I had so much drugs in me I couldn't feel the contractions and I didn't hold her until after they manually removed by placenta ( not good!).
I was determined like you to try but I couldn't get her to latch on, the midwives managed it but then she'd suck her tongue and come off after one suck.
My bad point came when one midwife came up to me said there's no way you can breast feed, you have inverted nipples and sent my husband to get breast shields.
I got very emotional until a lady in the bed next to me talked to me – this was her 4th child and she said that I needn't punish myself that all hers were bottle fed and it wouldn't kill them. I was so tired that she suggested getting the midwives to have Bel for a bit so I could sleep. Whilst she was there they topped her up with formula and after a huge conversation with my husband we decided to go down the formula route
With Car I had decided things would be different, but after an emergency c section I feared the worst.
But she would latch on and feed and I was happily feeding her until I came home and couldn't cope with ensuring that Bel didn't feel left out, with the fact that I'd been sent home early( long story) and was just emotionally and physically drained.
Like you I had a long talk with my midwife who said that she didn't want me to feel pressurised but that I had two choices – 1) to carry on like this until Car settled into a pattern or 2) to bottlefeed. She again didn't pressurise me to keep on breastfeeding and was very supportive.
I do envy women who have breastfed succesful and every time I see someone do it I have a pang of guilt but I know that I have two healthy girls who are happy and well.

Hugs from fellow bottlefeeder
BNM
xx

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Jordan November 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

A very moving story & i am also sorry that you didnt get to enjoy it the way you wanted too.
You've got 2 healthy, happy children now though – what more could you want. Big congratulations for doing that, and getting this far!

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siobhan November 11, 2009 at 8:55 am

I've got tears in my eyes writing this. I had a lot of difficulty in the early days with both my children and did have to consider the fact that maybe it wasn't working. The thought of not being able to breastfeed was heartbreaking. People just do not realise what an emotive issue it becomes for the mother.

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TheMadHouse November 11, 2009 at 9:28 am

I too had issues with regards to breastfeeding and yes people were quite nasty about my failure, but you know what nobody can beat me up better than I can myself. I didnt need their opinions on why breast feeding was best, I am educated enough to understand that. I believe that us mums should support each other and stop passing guilt onwards. I hope that you learn to stop feeling guitly, as I am sure you did what was best for you and your family at the time.

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The Dotterel November 11, 2009 at 9:39 am

Sally – healthy, happy and eleven years old and having had only her second day ever off school ill last week – was breast then bottle-fed. Charlie was breast-fed a little longer, but then topped up with formula. I think it's far more common than many will admit. I understand that any amount of breastfeeding will pass on the helpful antibodies. If it isn't enough, it doesn't matter. The fact we can formula-feed (as well as heat our houses, give kids vaccinations, treat diseases) should be a cause of celebration.

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Emily O November 11, 2009 at 10:18 am

It's incredible how bad you can feel about breastfeeding. You did the best you could and that's all you could do. I remember my ante-natal teacher telling us all to breastfeed but never once mentioned it could be difficult. When I experienced problems feeding my first (similar to you: bad birth, sleepy, jaundiced, weight loss, needed topping up with formula) I thought I was the only person who'd ever found it difficult. More hands-on support is definitely needed. Midwives were too busy to help in hospital. There was a breastfeeding clinic but it was 15 miles from where I lived. My so-called NCT breastfeeding counsellor gave me some hopeless advice over the phone and then said she was too busy to help any further. Don't feel guilty about it, there are enough things for us mothers feel guilty about as it is!

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Josie November 11, 2009 at 12:31 pm

No guilt, no no no. You did your babies proud. ANY breastfeeding as an achievment – you don't get extra kudos for doing it longer. Healthy babies and happy mummys are far more important than anything else. You did the best you could, you did more than your best you did brilliantly. Sometimes with all the good will in the world it doesn't work out but that is not.your.fault.

I'm glad at least you had a supportive midwife to make things easier for you. So many women don't and either stop when there are other options or made to feel guilty when they run out of options.

Proud of you. And sad for you. But more proud than sad xxxxx

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Christie - Childhood 101 November 11, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I agree, more quality information needs to be made available for mothers and there is no excuse for there not to be.

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ShutterBetty November 11, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Thank you so much for this post and for the comments thereafter. Yep, same thing happened to me. In the end, the best thing for our baby and my sanity was to move to bottle. Once the decision was made it was like a huge weight of my shoulders. I could finally feed our son without getting worked up and crying, and he could feed without the problems he was having latching on. The pressure to 'keep trying' was enormous, but like yours, baby had lost weight and was dehydrated. We managed about 4 weeks of breast (2 of those expressing) before going 100% bottle. I wish I could have breastfed (as indeed I wanted to too – bottle was not an option when I was pregnant), but alas it was not to be. The whole family became instantly more laid back after the big decision, and I believe it was the right one for us.

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Prem2Pram November 11, 2009 at 12:39 pm

You shouldn't feel guilty, you did everything you could, it just wasn't meant to be and in the end what matters is that your baby grows up happy and healthy.

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MrsW November 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

No1 had a bottle in her face an hour after I gave birth, No2 I breast-fed for 14 months, No3 I had to switch to bottles after trying to breast-feed him for a fortnight and failing. Options are good :)

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Cafe Bebe November 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm

You've inspired me Mrs! I shall write about my experience which is so very similar…I won't be afraid to write it now.
Love and hugs…
Karin

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Liz@Violet Posy November 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I had a similar situation after a 27 hour labour emergency c-section, my body had gone into shock an no milk came out at all no matter what pumping, poking & prodding we did between myself and the midwives. Then Lily was taken ill with Group B Strep and rushed to SCBU so between that infection, jaundice etc any chance of her every bf was gone as the nurses had to feed her when I wasn't there and they didn't use any of the tiny amounts I managed to express out. At the time I felt awful, but now just grateful she's alive and a tall skinny healthy child, in hindsight things could have been a lot bleaker.

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Ninimpg November 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm

You've written the post I was hoping to get around to – but much more eloquently than I could! I hope you've realised from all these supportive replies that your babies are all the better for having a mum who made the right personal decision for her and them. My story was similar. While pregnant, I planned on breastfeeding – buying all the supplies, reading all the books etc. to the extent that I didn't even read anything about bottle-feeding in case it would sway my resolve. As an added complication, I work in the healthcare field and spend a lot of time advocating breast-feeding to pregnant women.
As it turned out I had quite a physically traumatic birth with third-degree tear (the worst kind). After initial difficulty with small mad latching on, he took to the breast well but would take hours to feed. I would have an hour of rest before being up again to feed him. And due to my tear I couldn't sit so had to feed him lying down, in the quiet of the bedroom upstairs with plenty of tme to ruminate along with my not-so-friendly hormones. I was up most of each night feeding too. Finally after a month where my wounds weren't healing due to multiple infections, our health visitor was the first one to mention – "Would you not think of giving him a bottle as well so someone else could feed him and you could rest?" Up to that point, I couldn't even bring myself to say it – it felt like such a faiure. But when someone else with experience suggested it, it felt, as somebody else said, like a weight off my shoulders, like I had been given permission I couldn't give myself. So from there, we added the bottle. I continued to combine, gradually increasing his bottle feeding, for another few months until we weaned him completely. It was only when I started to get some rest and the stress lifted that I physically could heal and steered me off the slippery slope of depression.
One thing that really bothered me was the lack of information at our ante-natal classes on bottle-feeding – thank God for my mum!
At work now, although I would still encourage each new mum to give breast-feeding a try, I also emphasise that even a little is good, so not to be too hard on themselves if they need to add a bottle or stop altogether.
Thanks for the great post! Hugs to your babies.

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Alison November 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I really feel for you. I agree with you, this is such an emotive subject. It's just one more thing to beat mothers over the head with a stick about. I had one very determined midwife who took the time to coach me otherwise I wouldn't have persevered and was in floods of tears the whole time about it with the baby getting more and more stressed. The support is so often not there. In your case, you did everything and more you could have done but you couldn't through no fault of your own. Don't feel bad!

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Jo Beaufoix November 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Ack I just wrote a huge comment then lost it. SO annoyed at myself. Brilliant post, similar to my own experience in so many ways. In the end, the health of the Mother and child should come first on every occasion. If a baby is not being nourished it will not be healthy. If a Mum is not able to breast feed but feels guilt ridden and exhausted, she will not be healthy.

More support is needed for those of us who've had breast feeding issues, and also for bottle feeding parents, as Miss M could not breast feed, but then struggled with bottle too.

Brilliant post IM. Well said.

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Melodie November 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I just wanted to post some info for your readers. Since you had book and a midwife you likely already know this but for some moms milk can take up to a week to come in. It is normal for a baby's weight to drop in the first few days. It's because your breasts are only making colostrum, not milk. A baby's weight is supposed to drop. No health care professional is doing you or your baby a favour if they suggest you top up with formula in the first week. I don't mean to make anyone feel bad if they wanted to breastfeed and were told by their doctor/midwife or a nurse that they couldn't, but the majority of health care professionals lack breastfeeding education. They get swayed by formula companies and they just don't know any better. Their knowledge of breastfeding is based on what they were taught by their mentors who may have learned what they know years ago or assume knowledge based on personal values or myths. No one is immune to bad information. Breastfeeding is an elective for health care professionals! Not mandatory!
I write this in hopes that anyone who reads this might question or refuse a HCP's insistence on formula or who fears a drop in weight is a sign of poor health. It's not. It's normal for ALL babies.

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Insomniac Mummy November 11, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Thanks for all the comments :)

Melodie, thanks for your comment. I am fully aware that it is normal for babies to lose in the first week. What is not normal is constant weight loss, dry skin and dry nappies. I was speaking of my journey.

I physically wasn't producing the milk to feed my children. I tried alot of different advice and approaches but in the end my children needed feeding.

What I would like to say is that there is not a one size fits all solution to breastfeeding problems. All the well intended advice and information in the world is sometimes not enough and everyones journey is unique.

None of the heathcare professionals I have dealt with have ever tried to sway me to formula feed, quite the opposite infact. They aren't even allowed to talk about or give advice on it which leaves alot if women who formula feed (either by choice or neccessity) in the dark, not knowing if they are doing it correctly.

I would encourage any mum to breastfeed, seek advice quickly if needed and persevere. But, if all else fails and you choose formula there should be no reason to feel guilt or remorse for doing what you feel is best for your own child.

:)

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MIndful Mum November 11, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Hi Insomniac Mummy, My little one is nearly nine months and it took me a long time to get over not breastfeeding him exclusively after 4 weeks. It is so hard. I did have a good milk supply but found it agony. He constantly fought me at the breast and I hurt so much I couldn't cuddle him or take a shower. I normally have a good pain threshold, I gave birth without any pain relief not even a paracetamol or gas/air. I found breastfeeding more difficult than giving birth.

Like you I would advise other Mum's to try to breastfeed too. It just didn't work for me.

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Mum with carrot in her hair November 11, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I had similar problems. I thought breastfeeding would be the most easiest and natural thing in the world. After a difficult delivery, failed ventouse and forceps I wasn't allowed to hold my baby straight away as her head was so sore and tender. 8 hours after she was born I started to breastfeed but from day one Little Legs just wouldn't latch on properly. Every attempt to feed her used to end up with both of us in tears. The day I got angry with her was the day I said no more and switched to formula. It was the most difficult decision I have had to make but one I should have made weeks earlier. You made the right decisions for you and your family and you should feel proud. Thanks again for dealing with this sensitive issue x

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rosiescribble November 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm

You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I gave up after 3 weeks and didn't feel bad about it at all because I knew it was for the best. My daughter spent 2 weeks in SCBU after she was born. I breastfed her but she struggled to feed from the start as she was so sleepy. She had to be given an NG tube in addition to my feeds. In the end it was better for her health that she was bottle fed, and since then I've never looked back. She is 6 now and thriving!

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cowgirl in wellies November 11, 2009 at 9:02 pm

You've had so many long comments I haven't had a chance to read them all, but I'll still put my two cents in. I'm with you. Try it and if it works go for it. If it doesn't know you've done your best and your baby will be fine. I had one that breastfed for a year and one that couldn't breast feed and so my milk dried up after 3 months of expressing. It's nature and, while it can be coaxed, it can't be controlled.

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Laura C November 11, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Fab post hun! Your story is so similar to mine with my first including the delivery! What women need is to be told whilst they are pregnant how difficult establishing breastfeeding can be! It is exhausting both mentally and physically! With my second I aimed for breastfeeding again and got myself clued up as much as I could. I got so much conflicting info from the midwives, I chose to go with gut! I'm with you that you should definitely try the breastfeeding but if it doesn't work out for you then that's what formula is there for. It's not poison!

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nappy valley girl November 11, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Excellent post. So many people find it really, really hard. My sister was completely unable to breastfeed her son – he just wasn't interested in the boob. Her second, a girl, was completely different and gave her no problems. Which just goes to show that there are many different factors at play.

Personally, I found breastfeeding incredibly hard and stresful with my first child – I did eventually crack it, but only after many, many sleepless nights. And if I'd had mastitis, like so many of my friends, I think I would have given up there and then. There is definitely a breastfeeding mafia that would have you think that it's all easy and that it's your fault if it goes wrong – but as all of your commenters have shown, it just ain't true.

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April November 11, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Now that I've struggled with breast-feeding myself, I will never judge another woman for using formula. In the end we were able to persevere because of a great lactation consultant and going to BF groups regularly, but it was so hard sometimes! You've done your best and your kids will turn out great!

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Smitten by Britain November 12, 2009 at 1:44 am

Hi Mummy,

I think you deserve an award. Visit me and see what I have for you.

M. x

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Andrea November 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Great post. My first two were exclusively bottle fed…too long and detailed to go into but the eldest is now 13 and the middle one 8. Both intelligent, healthy and strong boys. My third I breast fed without a hitch for 6 months, and you wouldn't know which of the boys had been breast fed and which hadn't. Every baby, let alone every mum is different. THE most important thing is that baby and mum are happy and healthy and if that means bottle feeding then so what? I agree with many of the comments here that there needs to be more help, advice and support for mums who find themselves having to bottle feed. Maybe us bottle feeding mums should start a support group! :)

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Expat mum November 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm

I wasn't able to breastfeed any of my three although I tried and tried. The lactation nurses at the hospital were downright mean. The babies were latched on properly but it was so painful (always) that it brought tears to my eyes, and they clearly weren't getting anything. I even rented an electric pump. With my third child I got 2cc's in 20 minutes of pumping. I'd love to know why this was, but the fact that I never had to buy bigger bras during pregnancy was probably a red flag.

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Eoforhild November 12, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

I'm still struggling with the fact that I never got breast feeding established nearly 6 months later.

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notsuchayummymummy November 13, 2009 at 11:59 am

Brilliant post. I personally had a fabulous experience breastfeeding & was devestated when Sam decided to self wean at 6 months. He was then on formula full time. He had been having 1 bottle of formula a day since he was 3 months old & it never did him any harm.
There shouldn't be any guilt in doing whats best both for mums and babies and it annoys me when people pass judgement. What were you supposed to do? Let your baby starve?
We should celebrate the fact that in the 21st century we are able to make these choices. We should also celebrate the fact that you have just created a perfect, beautiful child. Does it really matter how they are fed? Will they be asked at their interview for university and turned down because they weren't breastfed until they were 2? Course not.
I wish all mums would just support each other rather than playing the 'I'm better because I breastfeed for ages' card. You did fantastic & I hope you're done with the guilt.

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worldofamummy November 13, 2009 at 7:22 pm

I think that this one of the hardest things for all of us. With my first I had a hellish delivery (shoulder dystocia) and got a third degree tear. I tried to latch him on while they were examining me to decide if I needed to go to theatre but he wasn't interested after such a hard welcome to the world. When I was in theatre an hour later Ben started wailing for milk so the MW popped out and gave him a bottle while I was sutured.

I was determined that it didn't matter but two weeks later we were in hospital with him dehydrated and losing weight. I don't think my milk came in properly after all the stress and I spent a miserable couple of months trying to keep the hospital ordered formula top ups to a minimum until I threw in the towel.

I think that any breastfeeding is brilliant but that a happy healthy mother looks after a happy healthy baby and that nobody should be made to feel bad for not being able to keep breastfeeding for as long as they want.

Thanks for this post – it helps to know that you aren't the only one. x

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Lorna November 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Give yourself a clap on the back for persevering and I'm glad to hear you had good support from midwives etc. The important thing is that you have 2 healthy and happy children and you have bonded with them.
I loved breastfeeding and my 2 fed till they were 2. At times I wished they would wean!. Unfortunately we can't have any more children and are looking at adoption so am doubly glad I had that positive experience. But what is important is you are relaxed and your kids are happy so please don't feel guilty. So many women in Ireland don't get to have positive expereinces re midwives and feel cheated, so many others see bottle feeding from day one as the norm.

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Mwa November 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm

You're so right. I always think there is too much pressure on young mums towards the breastfeeding. If you're having trouble, the last thing you need is to feel guilty on top of that. Most of the previous generations were raised on bottles, and they're all fine. (I was lucky enough to manage okay, but I weaned before six months, feeling that was best for me.)

Big kiss for this post.

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