I knew from the minute I took the pregnancy test that I wanted to breastfeed little Lottie. Ruby’s feeding journey was challenging to say the least, I was determined to be successful this time and fully prepared for any hurdles which needed to be overcome. The bond between mummy and baby is incredible when breastfeeding, you grow and nourish your beautiful baby in the womb for nine months and continue that loving care earth side. There is no greater feeling than being your baby’s sole source of food.
Part of my birth plan was to have Lottie placed on my chest immediately after birth for skin to skin. I loved the idea of doing the breast crawl (when the newborn travels to the nipple themselves) however she was born so quickly that all of this went out the window. She was whisked away for what seemed like an eternity but in reality it was probably minutes.
As with all newborns, Lottie wanted to be close to her mama after birth and throughout that entire first night. It was difficult for me as I was the only person on the ward breastfeeding, all of the other ladies were giving their babies bottles and they seemed to be much more settled than mine. Lottie was putting in her milk order though being constantly on the breast. I really struggled that night, she kept coming on and off the boob, never really properly latching. A lovely HCA spoke to the midwife to try and get me some help, I will always remember her kindness – she said “will you please go in to that wee girl she’s really getting it tough”. It’s very lonely in that hospital bay sitting in the dark with an unsettled newborn baby. You may be surrounded by other women but it genuinely feels like you are completely alone. The midwife came, she tried and tried to get Charlotte latched on – while she was with me and holding my breast and Charlotte she latched but was so sleepy on the boob, it was a stressful night! Morning brought a staff change over and the midwife who took over my care was a friend of a friend who had sadly passed away a couple of days previously. We spent a lot of time talking about our mutual friend and sharing stories of good times we spent with her. While chatting this midwife was incredibly helpful and honestly I believe if it wasn’t for her Lottie and I would have been in bother.
During Lottie’s baby check with the midwife (they take the baby away for this – horrific) she was diagnosed with tongue tie. The midwife explained it could be the reason we were struggling, we had an issue with Lottie’s latch on the right breast, she completely refused it so I had to pump that side to maintain the supply. She could only feed in rugby hold on the left side which was awkward! A referral was made to ENT, however we were discharged on Saturday afternoon so the referral wouldn’t be seen until Monday which sounds fine but when you’re in agony feeding it feels like a lifetime!
We got a phone call on Tuesday morning to offer an appointment for the following Friday. I begged the man for an earlier appointment, thankfully he squeezed me into the Thursday clinic which was already over booked. I told him my nipples would love him forever and he awkwardly said goodbye – couldn’t wait to get me off the phone.
On day three my lovely midwife came to check on both Lottie and myself, Lottie had lost 10% of her birth weight so the midwife had to “inform paeds and put a care plan in place”. The words ‘care plan’ made me feel like the worst mother in the world. When the midwife explained paeds “wouldn’t be interested” but she had to tick the box she wasn’t joking. She phoned over to the hospital and the conversation went “this is a community midwife out with a wee baby”, the nurse snapped back “we’re full”. After ticking this pointless box (they didn’t even ask the child’s name) we were advised to give top ups directly after feeds. I made the decision not to go down the formula route for top ups as I didn’t want to rock the boat so I used my nature bond silicone pump during every feed and fed the expressed milk in a bottle.
Day 5 Lottie was back to to 9% loss from her birth weight which was acceptable. I stopped top ups and continued my right boob struggle. The midwife was so helpful, she spend a long time getting me into different positions to try and get Lottie latched. Eventually she gave up and sent Neill out to get nipple shields, she arranged to come back later that day for another attempt (which failed).
I continued to offer the right boob at every feed, on the odd occasion Lottie would accept it but more often than not it would be refused. It wasn’t until the end of week 2 that Lottie began to accept the right side. I think a lot of the reason for our terrible breastfeeding rates is that women don’t talk openly enough about the struggles that we face. I have discovered through a Facebook group and also through talking to other breastfeeding mums on Instagram that most of us have similar struggles! There’s very little that can’t be overcome with enough determination.
Within a matter of weeks we were feeding pain free and able to feed in cradle hold which is much more practical while out and about. I honestly think if you are set on feeding, you will succeed – it’s mind over matter. Know that you may cry through those early toe curling feeds but it WILL get better; I promise. One day you’ll realise that you have both mastered the art of breastfeeding and it will become something you really look forward to rather than dreading the discomfort. Hang on in there mama, you got this!!