Following on from my last post on this topic, ‘Our Feeding Experience: Part 1’
, I thought it would be a possible help and point of interest to cover my experience of Breastfeeding. If anything, it’s worth some laughs so worth a read right?
As I have mentioned before, I had never really been that set on the whole idea of Breastfeeding. Why do something that ties you down, makes your boobs resemble a pair of tights with tennis balls in the feet and runs high risks of discomfort and cracked nipples? To me, for a long time, breastfeeding seemed unappealing and unnecessary.
Then I became pregnant and gradually, my feelings began to change. I started to bond with this little person I was making and at around 26 weeks, my breasts began to kick in with their special function and I began to notice them leaking at times, especially after a shower or a warm bath. To my surprise and awe, upon seeing and feeling them work so hard to produce this odd, sticky liquid, it affirmed to me (even more so than my ever expanding belly and the multiple kicks and flutterings inside it) that a woman’s body is capable of amazing and wondrous things…. And I suddenly felt I owed it to my physical self and our baby to at least give it a whirl.
I told myself that I wouldn’t put pressure on the whole thing… that I would give it a good go and if things didn’t work out then hey, at least I tried right?
Cue being induced 5 weeks early with Baby Bear and all my plans for a straight forward start to our future together being thrown upside down. Being faced with our baby being labelled ‘premature’ and having to spend 5 nights in hospital with him on a completely different ward looking pretty vulnerable and helpless made me suddenly even more determined to give him the best of everything, starting with his nourishment.
Now, I know formula has everything a baby needs and that if it didn’t, how come we have so many thriving individuals roaming out and about in the big, wide world? But I had heard that even the first milk produced by our bodies (the colostrum) is a bonus to baby’s health and development if you can get it into them.
‘So’, I told myself, ‘if I can’t snuggle with my Baby and help comfort him externally, I can at least work on giving him something he will benefit from internally…. not to mention there’s not really much else to do round here and madness might ensue if I don’t have control over something!’.
Therefore, I found myself every three hours, sat either in my creaky hospital bed on my ward or on a chair beside Baby Bear’s cot in the Special Care Unit, attached to an electric breast pump like a cow in a milking shed.
At first it was pretty hard work, having to keep an eye on time, feeling the strange sensation of my nipples being tugged and tweaked by this weird machine and obsessively watching and waiting to see how much would come out. It was slow in the beginning, but gradually things started to happen and my milk ‘came in’ over the course of 3 days, filling up the syringes (I kid you not, at first you only get a few precious drops of the stuff so syringes are required to store it all up) and eventually I was managing to fill up a few 50ml bottles at a time. Doesn’t sound a lot, but babies have vey small tummies so that amount is like a 3 course lunch…. with coffees!
I was completely bowled over by the pride I felt in each drop I produced. I felt comfort in knowing I was contributing to Teddy’s daily needs in some way and was proud that ‘the girls’ were managing to keep up despite being called up for duty over a month early.
One time, at around 4 am, I had dutifully woken myself up and sat on my bed in a little curtained cocoon, patiently and diligently expressing each breast for over an hour in order to produce a whole 1ml (!) syringe of colostrum. I padded out barefoot in my pyjamas, through the ward, into the lift and up to the Special Care Unit, grasping my ‘liquid gold’ (or as I saw it – baby’s equivalent of ‘fillet steak’) with pride as I walked in and made my way to the side of his cot. I then went to squirt said preciousness into his mouth…. only to misjudge through my sleep derived state exactly how hard to apply pressure to the syringe and promptly shot the entire lot over his left cheek and eyebrow!! My heart sank, Teddy flinched in surprise and I found myself sheepishly scraping the remnants into his mouth with his dummy. He seemed very grateful (if not a little bit eager for more!) and I realised just how important it was to me to be able to breastfeed him. It felt like my purpose.
As soon as he was strong enough to latch on, Teddy was breastfeeding off of me without any real problems at all. We had to allow for all sorts of tubes and sensors in the beginning, which made getting into position really tricky. Just bringing baby to nipple is hard enough without navigating your way around wrist cannula, nasal feeding tube and oxygen cannula!
One thing that truly helped was that Baby Bear has always had a strong sucking reflex. He has done since day dot… even on his scans he could be seen sucking away on the amniotic fluid or his hand or fingers. Upon being an hour old, Paulibear had to give consent for him to have a dummy, he was that eager to feed. It was just unfortunate that his lungs needed to catch up before he could do so properly.
The help and support from hospital staff and Paulibear spurred me on as well. It felt very natural having Teddy feed from me, but just like all new experiences, I had to build my confidence and technique so having words of encouragement and pats on the back were wonderful. Plus they were all great at passing me drinks/my phone/a muslin or two!
Once we were discharged from the hospital, I continued to breast feed Teddy for 4 more weeks, but he became plagued by acid reflux (otherwise known and GERD or GORD) and after many nights of him screaming in pain, helplessly listening to him regurgitate the acid from his stomach into his throat and being drenched in puked up breastmilk, I made a consecutive decision to switch to formula. I had researched the whole thing, and it is common knowledge that formula digests slower than breast milk, leaving Baby fuller for longer. It took a lot to reach that decision though….
We had spent night and day with a screaming baby, who was hardly ever content and could only settle whilst being held upright on our chest or shoulders. He was eating every 1.5 hours which left little time for me to sleep, eat or even brush my hair. Seeing (and hearing) him regurgitate and vomit his tummy contents was so distressing and hearing his cries and shrieks was simply heartbreaking.
It was a very hard decision for loads of reasons. So many emotions were gone through, so many theories considered. I didn’t want to stop, I absolutely loved the closeness between myself and Teddy during each feed and it just felt like the best feeling I had ever had. But now, seeing him struggle to keep his milk down and thrashing about in his cot, I couldn’t ignore it any more. I felt I was failing us all, giving up, jacking it in. I even felt that I was being selfish for needing a shower and an hour to myself to have coffee with friends.
But one night, whilst Paulibear was on a night shift and after having Baby Bear latch on for 2 hours just taking in a trickle of milk for comfort against the acid in his throat during a particularly nasty reflux episode… I reached the end of the breastfeeding road and literally could sense a crossroads. Continue as we were doing, and for what? Pride? I realised that was really all that was left, as it certainly wasn’t for Teddy’s wellbeing anymore… He was hardly at his happiest! So, continue down this bumpy track for the sake of being able to say ‘I didn’t give in’ – or bow out gracefully and try some formula?
Which is why I found myself, tearfully, making up a bottle at 3am. I cried as I mixed it, I cried as I fed him and I cried as I winded him. I felt redundant, a failure. As if I had let us all down. I remember hugging him tightly and saying how sorry I was for stopping and how I had done my very best. Then I looked down and saw this content little bundle, gently snuffling his way through a deep slumber after weeks of tossing and turning and arching his back through grimaces and frowns. I put him down in his Moses Basket, sighed with relief and gave in to sleep myself, hoping I had done the right thing.
Four hours later, we all woke up and I knew that I had. We’ve been on formula ever since.
|One content Baby Bear… he doesn’t seem to care where his milk comes from, as long as he gets it!
I am astonished at the change in feeling and perspective that I have gone through. From starting out at a ‘no way am I breastfeeding’ to finishing as a lover of it is simply crazy. I miss it everyday and expressed as much as I could even after switching baby to formula so I could freeze it and give it to him up to six months from now. Or if he doesn’t want it, at least we won’t ever have to worry about a milk shortage for tea and cereal… kidding! I even considered mixed feeding (switching between formula and breast throughout the day) but there just isn’t any point until his tummy is stronger. Any breast milk Teddy takes down comes straight back up again and we can’t bear to see him suffer anymore. Not to mention he’s got lazy with the breast feeding in the end. After all, the teat of a bottle is much easier to get milk out of than a nipple. He didn’t take long to notice that!
The main thing I’ve realised is that I haven’t failed from making the switch. Teddy is thriving, gaining weight, sleeping well, getting into a routine… where’s the failure in that?
It does mean a lot more washing up though…. more about that in my final post on this topic, which is linked at the end of this post.
But first, here are some tips and tricks I found helpful throughout my Breastfeeding days:
– Be aware that it is going to be quite a challenge. I’m not saying this to scare you or put you off, simply to prepare you for what lies ahead. Put it this way.. they don’t have support groups for Formula feeding do they? Yet breastfeeding has drop in clinics, lactation experts and endless amounts of online networks and fb pages. Wonder why eh?
– Remember that, like all things that require hard work, the sense of satisfaction and pride you get from being successful in your efforts is amazing. You will beam with pride.
– Get to grips with your boobs… literally. Massage them and squeeze them regularly to help encourage them in their job, to relieve some of the pressure and to prevent the development of a nasty breast tissue infection called mastitis. In the shower is where I found this easiest, with the help of heat and moisturising body wash.
– Talking of moisturising, apply nipple cream after every feed and express session. And don’t be fast to wipe off any milk that leaks or lingers as that in itself is a moisturiser…. My nipples never felt so soft! (Am aware that is an extremely weird… If a little bit awkward… sentence so, I’m just going to move past it…)
– Invest in good, supportive nursing bras. I bought a couple in Marks and Spencer and they were perfect. Comfy to wear and easy to gain access… which leads me to…
– Also invest in cross over tops, stretchy vests and button up shirts. Nothing like a skin tight, high necked, fastened at the back outfit to leave a breastfeeding mum up Milk Creek without a paddle!
– Don’t care two hoots about who is watching. Easy to say and so much harder to do, especially as I was surprised to find myself shying away from feeding in public (me! Who has been known to streak down roads naked for a laugh without a second’s thought!) but I read somewhere that focusing on baby and the fact that he needed me to do it made everything else obsolete and it really worked. Your baby is hungry, you feed him. Don’t apologise for doing something so natural and beautiful. I live in a place where a naked bike ride is acceptable but breastfeeding in Marks and Spencer raises eyebrows?? That is ridiculous and wrong. Soon enough, I got mine out with pride.
– Don’t ever think baby isn’t getting enough. Your body will always provide enough and newborn babies haven’t got the ability to over eat or to go hungry.
– Have patience. It might be natural, but it still needs to be learnt. We aren’t born walking are we?? Why should breastfeeding be any different?
– Snack. Loads. You’ll be hungry from becoming a cow anyway but don’t skip the opportunity to snack… even if all you want to do is sleep. Same goes for keeping hydrated.
– Prepare for the after pains of child birth to become more intense. Upon expressing in the hospital after labour, I was shocked at how painful the after pains were and expressing caused them to be very strong due to all the hormones that it produced. These hormones tell your womb to contract back into its original place… great for the figure, hard in the pain stakes. I managed with paracetamol and a lot of groaning but if you aren’t allergic to anti inflammatories like myself then get them down your neck!
– Don’t feel like you are a failure if it doesn’t work out. Trust me, conceiving and growing a child then getting them into the world is achievement enough. Breastfeeding is just a Brucie Bonus of the natural world now we have the option of formula…. don’t be so hard on yourself like I was. – Wear nipple pads… the ‘wet t shirt contestant’ look is over rated.
For the last and final post in this little series, follow on to ‘Our Feeding Experience: Part 3’
Thanks for reading!