When I was pregnant I never even considered that I may not be able to breastfeed.
When my first daughter was born the labour and birth were quite traumatic and resulted in an emergency c section. After a very quick look and cuddle, she was taken to the special care nursery and we were separated for quite a few hours. When I was finally able to see and hold her and have some skin to skin time it was only for a short while, in which she nuzzled around my breast a little, and then due to my health I had to be taken out of special care and so we were separated again.
Her very first feed was formula from a bottle given by a nurse in the special care nursery.
It broke my heart to consent to this, but I had a hungry screaming baby in special care, I was on the maternity ward and too unwell to visit her at that moment she needed a feed and we had been unable to get anything out of my breasts to allow syringe feeding. And so the bottle was given. At the time I had NO idea of the impact that this would have on our ability to feed.
Thankfully we were reunited the following day and we were not separated again. We immediately tried to establish breastfeeding but she never ever latched. Not once, not for a second, not even sort of.
No matter how hard we tried it just didnʼt happen. She fussed and screamed a lot, and we ended up having to syringe feed for the first few days and then pump and bottle feed her when she requiring more Volume. The whole time we were still trying to get her to latch on. I had nurses trying to help, lactation consultants giving me advice.
We did as much skin on skin as possible and I was trying so hard to get this little baby who wouldnʼt stop screaming to just latch onto my breast and feed.
Pumping was so difficult, as it isnʼt usually as effective as a babies suckle, and so I couldnʼt keep up with the milk she was needing. On top of the pumped milk, we were also doing formula top-ups. This continued on for about four weeks until one day I was so upset and beside myself with all of the pumping, the crying (from both of us), and my baby just didnʼt seem to want the breast, it was a very stressful time for us both.
I ended up calling my husband at work and told him that I couldnʼt continue on like this anymore and we switched her completely to formula.
My feeding days for baby number one were over before they even began.
Part of me was just so relieved to not have to spend so much time pumping and trying to get her to latch and feed, as it was very stressful for us both.
I started to enjoy my baby much more. For the next year, however, I carried so much guilt with me about my failed breastfeeding experience. In some situations, I was surrounded by mothers who seemed to be effortlessly feeding their babies, and it was so hard to watch them all have this beautiful bonding experience that I was unable to have.
I had never once felt what it was like to have my baby nuzzle down and suckle milk from my breast. I even found that sometimes I avoided certain places and people as watching others feed was such A painful reminder of what I was unable to do. Sadly I also experienced some judgements about “not sticking it out long enough” and giving up when “everyone finds it hard at first”.
Fast forward to my second baby. I was much more prepared and armed with knowledge. I saw a lactation consultant prior to my birth and I had tried to source as much information as I could. When my second daughter was born, my labour was going along swimmingly, then complications arose and again. We had a traumatic end of labour and an emergency c-section.
Thankful this time my baby girl was fine, she was placed in my arms and I was able to hold her while they wheeled me to recovery and there we had our first breastfeed.
I was so over the moon about it that i cried.
I was so happy that this little human was able to latch onto my breast and feed. I remember saying to my husband, “my child is drinking from my boob”! Our hospital stay was much different from the first time, no pumps were needed and no bottles, She just fed on my breast and I was so over the moon with how it was working out.
When we got home and my milk came in we started to have problems. She was fussing and her latch was now not the best. I sought help again and kept on trying to get her to drink from the boob. The pump and bottles had to come out for the first time around 10 days old as she wasnʼt getting enough from her ineffective suckling. She was fussing and unsettled and she was hungry. From that time on I continued to try and better our latch and feeds. I felt like a first time Mum, as the breastfeeding was so new to me. I also had a very energetic toddler in tow. which made things a little more harder as I couldnʼt just sit down with my newborn and focus on feeding during the day.
Despite our day feeding struggles. For some reason, she was a great feeder at night time.
I really loved our night feeds. It was so beautiful and special. I remember them so fondly. Peaceful and personal, just her and I, whilst my toddler was asleep.
The fussing during day feeding time never really improved and I was pumping most of my day feeds until eventually at around four weeks I just decided to pump them all and feed on the breast at night – as she was really good feeding throughout the night. When my daughter was five months old I got my fifth bought of mastitis.
It was around five weeks old that I got mastitis for the first time. Once that healed up, I developed thrush on my nipples. From then on I had a pattern of mastitis followed by thrush on my nipples. This pattern repeated itself until the fifth and final time when I went to the doctor’s surgery and almost passed out. I decided I couldnʼt do this any longer and so I stopped feeding altogether.
Again, I sent my husband out to buy a ton of formula.
My milk dried up and the cycle of mastitis and thrush thankfully ended. Again I had some guilt about stopping feeding, and sadness that we had so many issues. Second time around though, I felt so blessed to have finally experienced breastfeeding.
It wasnʼt as I imagined it, as I would have loved to have exclusively fed, and for much much longer. but I am glad that I did at least get to experience it, and for the little time I was able to feed, it was beautiful