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Share your experience - Lisa D's Story

Isla Breastfeeding
I didn't read anything about breastfeeding before I had my first baby.  I just assumed it would happen easily, and didn't really involve more than getting your boobs out and popping the baby on. I never thought about all the anxieties, mostly irrational, about my ability to feed my baby. Most things simply didn't occur to me until I actually breastfed.

I got off to a bad start with an unexpected c-section. Drugged, exhausted, somewhat in a state of shock, I suddenly had a newborn baby and holy crap, he wants food and I'm his only means of nutrition. I couldn't position him comfortably and balanced him precariously on a nursing pillow while attempting to avoid putting pressure on my scar.

He doesn't just latch on and feed; he sucks for a minute and pulls off screaming. And by the gods, what the HELL is this awful abdominal pain I'm feeling whenever he feeds? I'm in so much pain, I'm only on paracetamol (because morphine makes me want to throw up), and I can't sleep because I'm stuck in a hospital ward with five other mothers and five screamy babies. In the middle of the night, Jack keeps waking up to feed and I have no idea how to get him latched on. The midwives are so overworked that all they can do is come to my bed, plug Jack in, and quickly dash off to the next person. I don't know how they got him latched on and I'm terrified to move in case he detaches himself and I need to ring that goddamn bell again.
In the days that follow, he continues to latch on (painfully) in very small spurts every couple of hours, screaming between feeds. I don't know what I'm doing wrong and I don't know who I can speak to about it. Whenever Jack cried for a feed, I literally felt ill knowing that I'd have to endure a toe-curling latch and yet another unsuccessful feed. I watched the clock, horrified that two hours had passed so quickly, knowing that another feed was coming.

At two weeks, a health visitor (relocated now, thankfully), advised that I "top up" with formula. I gave Jack his first bottle of formula and it broke my heart. I rang Paul at work sobbing; I couldn't do something as basic as breastfeed, and the guilt was incredible. Supplementing, of course, led to supply issues and by two months, it became necessary to stop breastfeeding completely. Not having to breastfeed any more was actually a relief.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was determined to learn as much as I could about breastfeeding and spoke to my independent midwife about needing support, especially in the first weeks. I went over everything that happened with Jack and chatted with mums in "real life" and online. I felt so much more prepared, but more importantly, I felt like I had an arsenal of information and support.
Mia's birth was infinitely easier than Jack's, with no major recovery issues, and this undoubtedly made a difference to breastfeeding this time around.  Also, not having that first time mum learning curve helped. I was more confident and trusted my instincts. I breastfed Mia until she self-weaned at 19 months (when I was pregnant with my third baby, and I think my supply had dipped as Mia kept saying "Gone!" every time she
latched on.) I breastfed Isla until she was 14 months old; it went swimmingly right from the beginning. And for this, I'm very grateful. And very proud.

This is why I jumped at the opportunity when the health visitor suggested that I take a course to become a peer supporter. I knew what it was like to have no one to speak to and to have no confidence in my own abilities, and I knew what it was like to formula feed. I hoped that this would help me give unbiased support and that being a "been there, done that" mum might make mums who are struggling feel a little bit more comfortable talking to me.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Lisa :)

    Looking back now, do you feel if you had got better support with Jack they could have helped you resolve the pain etc? Was "top up" the only suggestion/support you received?

    It's fantastic you went on to breastfeed two subsequent babies and you are definitely right to be proud - I know a lot of mums are put off from trying again if they have such a hard first experience.

    AA

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  2. My pleasure!

    Yes, more support would definitely have made a massive difference. Basically, I told the HV that I thought my supply was low and her immediate response was "top up with formula", including a recommendation for which brand to use!! In retrospect, my latch must have been wrong (cracked nipples, Jack had bad wind, frequent feeding and seeming hungry in between feeds, etc.) so a little help would have gone a long way. Also, and I didn't figure this out until baby #3, I get a very painful letdown sensation during the first couple of weeks. Some women get tingling or pins and needles, but I experienced very sharp, toe-curling pain that would go away as soon as the baby got the milk flowing. It only lasted two weeks, and only happened during letdown. So it also would have been useful to know that some women can have pain like this during letdown that might not be due to latching problems - and more importantly, that it was pain that would go away!

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