My breastfeeding story started when I was a little girl!!! Why? I hear you say, well, I crazed my parents for a baby-doll when I was little and lucky little-me got one for Christmas. I don't think I was older than 5 years old. My mum then said to me that she thought my baby was hungry....so......instead of reaching for the plastic bottle (which came with the dolly) I lifted up my top and clamped the dolly's face to my chest! Now how did I know to do that? I was bottle-fed, as were my brothers and a lot of my friends. I guess my instinct told me that's what I needed to do. From that moment on, I knew if I were ever to have my own baby, I would breastfeed it. It just seemed like the normal thing to do!
Wind on many years......I find myself married.....after that, 2 years of trying for a baby......finding myself pregnant 7 days before starting fertility treatment! Hurrah! Lucky me again!
Having a close-knit social circle of friends who've ALL breastfed their babies for at least 2 years each (one friend feeding both of hers for 4 years each) and my brothers whose wives all breastfed their children (my nieces and nephews) too strengthened my feelings that breastfeeding a baby is indeed the normal thing to do.
After a 2.5 day labour and emergency section my beautiful baby girl arrived safe and sound, weighing a respectable 7lbs 10ozs! All the way through my pregnancy I was convinced I was having a boy, imagine my surprise when a girl was presented to me!! I wasn't even ready with a name. Though apparently my Husband was.....he named her on the spot! I agreed through my groggy drugged-up haze!
I wasn't able to have her straight after being born as my surgeon was trying to stop me bleeding heavily and everyone was ushered out of the room. Once in recovery some time later she was wrapped and cosied up under my arm and we were wheeled down to the ward. Sadly I wasn't encouraged to offer skin-to-skin, I wasn't encouraged to feed her at all. I'd not slept for 3 days and I'd just lost a lot of blood so I was feeling totally wiped and feeding her wasn't even on my mind! Anyway, I rested for a while then said to Husband that I'd like to have a go at feeding her. He passed her to me and I tried to get her attached. She was so full of drugs that she wasn't interested. I had NO idea what I was doing and there was nobody around to help. I managed to get her to take some after much jiggling and we continued to do this for the next 3 days.
By day 3, I was so sore I couldn't bear it. I asked for help but the midwives gave me lots of excuses why my nipples were sore....."you're nipples are too pink..."......"you're baby's mouth is too small..."......."you're nipples are too small....."...."it's supposed to hurt for the 1st week or so...." and all they did was watch me cry.
I got discharged on day 4 with a poorly fed, sleepy and yellow-ish baby. I believe anyone reading this will have an idea about where this story is going......
Now, I think I may be of a minority here but I seem to have the best mother-in-law a person could want. Both her babies were traumatic emergency sections and she breastfed both of them for a year each. She sat in bed with me for 4 hours once we got home and encouraged me to keep going with the breastfeeding. My own mum suggested bottle-feeding. I recoiled in horror with tears streaming down my face.
After a few more days, the skin on my nipples started to disappear in favour of lots of blood. My health visitor came over and really tried to help me but to no avail.....my baby started crying and she picked her up as I still couldn't walk properly after my surgery. At a glance she noticed my baby had a very short tongue, calling it a "tongue-tie", I had no idea what that was, she said it doesn't usually cause any problems, thus leaving me feeling as if this pain and misery was ALL my fault. Of course, I know now that NONE of what had happened to me was my fault.
I carried on like this for the next 4 weeks, my baby only now back to birth weight and not gaining much at all, nappy-output was virtually non-existent too. On Mothers' day 2008 I couldn't take any more pain and sent my poor suffering husband out to buy formula and bottles. I was devastated. I couldn't believe that I'd failed at giving birth and I'd failed at feeding my baby. I was a big, wobbly-bellied failure. I count myself very lucky though that I didn't slip into a deep depression. My health visiting team praised me for the breastfeeding I'd done but I still felt useless. My baby was bottle feeding and I hated it. It wasn't normal and I was very scared that she'd end up poorly from it. My friends were kind to me but couldn't help as they'd all had smooth breastfeeding experiences and none of them had any idea why I have having such a hard time. I felt like a freak.
That was it, bottle feeding from now on...........or so I thought! Six weeks later I took my gorgeous little baby to be weighed at my local clinic and she was doing great! I was pleased. On my way out I bumped into my HV who asked how I felt about bottle feeding now. I burst into tears and said "I hate it!". She mentioned to me that it may be possible for me to stimulate my milk production again, although it may be a long shot. I was surprised as I didn't know anyone could do that. She asked me to think about it, but I didn't need to think about it at all! A CHANCE! A SMALL CHANCE TO FEED MY BABY AGAIN! I did consider very briefly if I'd be able to suffer pain and disappointment again, though I figured I may regret it if I never gave it one last shot.......
So, I dragged my Husband to our local breastfeeding support group at the local clinic and explained to the peer supporters my situation and they were more than willing to help me try and get my milk back. I was elated! I couldn't believe these lovely ladies wanted to help me! They all sat with me and explained about positioning. I mentioned that my HV said my baby had a tongue-tie and they said we'd cross that bridge if we came to it and that we could just start with the basics 1st. My heart was racing with nerves and excitement! Anyway, they suggested I see what my little one did if I offered her the breast. So I did, following the instruction on careful positioning. SHE POPPED HERSELF ON MY BREAST AND STAYED THERE FOR AGES!!! She took it like she'd never left it! My milk production was zero at that point so we talked through methods of increasing the stimulation my breasts get and therefore it may have an impact on milk production. I was desperate to get going! I went home armed with info and a new found confidence!
Once home, whilst I set my husband to work in the kitchen making up her next formula feed, I popped her on both breasts. She took them both. No pain, no soreness and no blood. I couldn't believe it. I read through the info whilst she was at the breast and decided I would stimulate and hand express, use my electric pump and have a go with a supplemantal nursing system whenever I could, day and night.
It worked. After 5 days of putting her to the breast, using the SNS and stimulating my breasts (goodness only knows what people walking past our house and looking in thought!), I expressed and a few drops of milk came out! HURRAH! I called my friends and family and wanted to jump on the roof and scream with delight! From that moment on my ickle baby decided she wanted more and more booby and a lot more frequently and my appetite soared. My awful, painful periods stopped too! Over the coming weeks she gradually reduced the amount of formula she consumed until we were making up just one tiny ounce! Pointless! We threw out the formula with glee! Fortunately, her tongue wasn't causing any issues, probably because her mouth was bigger and she was able to take in enough breast tissue to prevent damage.
My HV team (yes, all of them!) and the peer supporters all kept an eye on my welfare and my baby's, and constantly kept up with how I was feeling, really boosting my confidence and reassuring me that all was going great, keeping me thinking of what was in her nappy rather than how much she was consuming.
When my ickle-pickle was 7 months old, breastfeeding on-demand and enjoying some food, I was asked to train as a peer supporter myself. I jumped at the chance. My training started and I couldn't believe there was so much to know. My peer supporters knew a lot but I had no idea they knew THAT much! I completed my training and started helping out at the group I was attending and over the next few months the original peer supporters dwindled leaving me and one other mum (who's now a good friend) from my course to run it ourselves. That was over 2 years ago and in that time my own little one finished breastfeeding at 15 months. "No booby Mummy" was my response after every offer of some milk. I'd successfully breast-fed my baby (eventually!) until she didn't want it anymore. I was so proud of myself.
I'm now doing the next level of training so I'll be able to work on the Breastfeeding helplines and I'll also be able to raise the amount of support I can offer including hospital visits and ante-natal groups. Our drop-in groups have gone from strength to strength, getting busier and busier and we're able to reach, help and support a lot more mums. I feel very lucky to be where I am now, a gorgeous, healthy, hardly ever ill 3 yr old girl and lots of lovely like-minded mums surrounding me.
Thank you Armadillo for giving me a chance to let people know that relactation is certainly possible and not out of reach and as we all know- essential in disaster areas and poverty-stricken countries where infant mortality can be drastically reduced.
I owe it all to my peer supporters, my fairy god-mother HV and that bloomin' baby-doll I crazed for when I was a small child!!! I wonder what happened to it........
Emma Cracknell. Proud Mummy of Holly-Willow (named by Daddy!).