The breastfeeding thing – possible TMI warning!

Okay, so I’ve mentioned having problems with feeding before but not gone into much detail – this is the detail, hence the Too Much Information warning!  I wasn’t going to eleborate but was asked to write it up for an academic study so thought I might as well include it here too in case anyone is interested.

Here goes –

When Owen was born, six weeks ago, I remembered being told at breastfeeding class that it was beneficial to feed in the first hour.  As we’d been left alone in the labour ward I thought I’d give it a try, and was thrilled when it worked.  However once we got to the ward I couldn’t get him to latch again, even with help from the midwives.

The next morning I’d still not fed him so a midwife expressed my milk and fed Owen with a syringe.  This was the start of a frustrating battle, with neither of us really knowing what we were doing. 

We did manage to feed a couple of times and we were sent home feeling fairly confident.  However when the midwife came to the house she realised his weight was not going up.  It hadn’t fallen past the allowed 10% but wasn’t rising.  As a new first time Mum this was devastating, I wanted to be a good Mum and wanted to do what was right but it just wasn’t working.  Owen was too hungry to sleep and too tired, through lack of energy, to feed.  He would also get really excited or agitated when put near my breast and toss his head about – none of the babies in class had done that, they’d all opened their mouths and latched perfectly.  We were trapped; and I was getting so exhausted that it was affecting my milk production, which hadn’t had a chance to even get established.  I was told to get formula into him immediately or he’d need to be readmitted to hospital.  It would also take the pressure of feeding him off me and relieve the anguish so that hopefully I could express milk for future feeds.  So began another tiring cycle of expressing and cup feeding, a process that took about 90 mins, and would need started every 3 hours.  At least the wee guy would sleep now though, especially as we’d give him formula last thing.

That first weekend my midwife was on holiday so I saw 4 different ladies, each with their own (often contradicting) ideas and suggestions to get him feeding.  One suggested breast shields, wee silicon gadgets for ladies with cracked nipples so the baby wasn’t feeding direct.  Fortunately these worked first time!  The next 2 feeds Owen latched and fed properly and I was thrilled and excited.  Then he got lazy again and wouldn’t latch, but would still use the shields.

So I kept trying but he wasn’t keen, I’ve only had him latch a couple of times since.  However the important thing is that he’s gaining weight, sleeping, and keeping happy.  Shields may not be the “proper” way but they work for us so that’s all that matters.  We do often leak some during feeds so need to use a cloth and sometimes still end up with me having a wet waistband on my jeans and him having wet sleeves.  I doubt I’ll ever feed in public but I can express for trips out and give him a bottle, now he’s old enough to not have to be cup fed!  My milk is so well established that he only occasionally gets formula now, just nights when he’s having a growth spurt and feeding every 2 hours as we both need more sleep than the hour you snatch between feeds.

That’s “how its been going”, as for “what has been helpful” – well the support of my husband, Mum and friends have been the main thing.  It’s amazing once you mention having problems just how many other people have had too.  Before I had Owen I thought it was a natural and easy thing to do – well I’ve seen various ladies doing it effortlessly in public and that’s how it looked in the class too.  There was mention of the possibility of mastitis or cracked nipples so I was prepared for those but I really wish they had pointed out that it can be hard to get established.  I realise that the main battle is to get women to want to breastfeed but I would think that those who go to a breastfeeding class have already made that decision so why not be honest and up front with them so they can mentally prepare themselves?  The worst part, for me, was feeling like a total failure and utterly useless – I didn’t know this was actually quite “normal” and a lot of women have problems to begin with – it didn’t mean I was a bad Mum.

But I’ve drifted to “what was difficult”.  Back to helpful – my husband was the one that was there encouraging me and trying to help with positioning.  He also kept me well fed with lovely nutritious food so I had the energy to go on.  The midwives were all helpful, although it was confusing with them all suggesting different things, and some were disapproving of other’s suggestions.  I also attended a breastfeeding clinic at the hospital with a midwife and an NCT councillor which gave us several new suggestions to try, and let me see there were other Mums struggling too.  I had to demonstrate us trying to feed and it wasn’t helpful when the midwife watched Owen tossing his head about in front of my breast, then laughed and said “yes I see your problem.”  He can’t have been the first baby ever to do this!  It was one of my friends who actually made the straightforward suggestion of holding his head still as I put him to the breast.  That helped, a bit.

The most helpful thing was my final acceptance that breast shields worked for us and that I don’t care if some people don’t approve.  Hopefully at tomorrow’s weigh in Owen’s weight will be back up to the centile line it was at when he was born.  That is all that matters in the end.

3 Responses to “The breastfeeding thing – possible TMI warning!”

  1. Shirley says:

    Breast shields are an invention because there was a need!
    I thnk you’ve done brilliantly, and I know lots of women who have given up long before. I had problems with son born on the 97th centie and dropping way below, however having had a child already, I knew nothing was wrong and told health visitor to bog off! He never did regain his ‘line’ but was happy and healthy and walking at 8 months.Some so called ‘professionals need lessons in shutting up and listening! You do it your way sweetie and blow everyone else!

  2. Lyn Drummond says:

    It’s all coming back to me now! I found breastfeeding hard last time round, and I’m going to give it a go again this time. What was interesting is that my midwife told me the other week that I did well perservering for the amount of time I did because Daniel was born a)prematurely b) by c-section, so your milk doesn’t come in automatically in quite the same way as if you’d given birth ‘normally’. It sounds as if you’ve been doing brilliantly. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve already given Owen the best start possible!
    On a separate note Maria – can you tell me the make of sling you’ve got – I noticed Bryan wearing it in one of your photos and it looks exactly what I’m after this time round…..35 weeks today for me!

  3. stupidgirl says:

    Sling is the Premaxx from here –
    We’re not that keen on it though, bends his neck a lot and we’re sure we’re following the instructions right.