As soon as I started telling people I was pregnant one of the first questions people (women) asked me would be, ‘Are you going to breastfeed?’. I found this to be quite a weird question but my answer was always the same, ‘I’m going to try’. I didn’t really know what they meant when they asked that question and I didn’t really know what I meant by ‘I’m going to try’. In my head it was going to be the most natural thing in the world and it surely couldn’t be that hard. Oh how naive I was.
The Early Days – Day One
Within an hour of Nolan being born he was plonked onto my chest and the midwife had him latched to me instantly. This breastfeeding lark was easy, why were people even questioning if I was going to breastfeed or not?
Fast forward 12 hours and I was in agony. Trying to get a tiny newborn baby to latch correctly was proving impossible and extremely painful. I persevered for the first few hours and even had a midwife hand express the colostrum from me into a syringe to feed to him. This moment was more degrading than having my vadge out to a room full of strangers. Unfortunately Nolan was born with low blood sugar levels so the midwives wanted me to feed him as often as possible to get his levels back up. No matter what I did every time I tried to get him to latch it hurt like Hell. The midwives kept asking if I could cope with the pain just a bit longer to get enough milk for him and I felt guilty for saying that I couldn’t continue. It was then decided to give him a small amount of formula via a syringe to try and get his blood sugar levels back up. Slowly his levels started to increase but I didn’t want to give him formula again. I wanted to feed him.
To get ourselves discharged from hospital I had to make a decision. Boob or Bottle. The midwives wouldn’t let us leave until I had either successfully breastfed him multiple times under their watchful eye or chosen to bottle feed him. I didn’t want to give up breastfeeding so a few different midwives came to try and help get him to latch. I was sat in a hospital bed with my boobs out being man handled by a stranger who was thrusting my child onto me. Another completely degrading moment. No matter what position we tried for latching I was still in agony.
The Early Days – Night One
My first night alone in hospital with the baby. I was exhausted and after a challenging day trying to feed Nolan I was on the brink of giving up. I tried feeding him again myself multiple times through the night but every time it was painful. Every time he cried for feeding I wanted to hide. I physically didn’t want to feed him. I was slowly starting to resent this little bundle in my arms for wanting to eat. The guilt that consumed me was nothing like I’ve ever felt before. I sobbed my heart out on a ward full of strangers because I was going to have to give him formula. At 4am I called the midwife and told her that I had made the decision to formula feed him and I asked for a bottle.
Looking back I can’t believe how upset I was. How I felt I had let my son down at the first hurdle. No. How I was made to feel like I had let him down. I hadn’t let him down at all. He was being fed. He was starting to thrive and his blood sugar levels rose enough that we were allowed to go home.
The Drive Home
On the way home from hospital we stopped at Boots to pick up some supplies. We bought formula, a bottle sterilizing set, nipple shields and nipple balm. Even though I had told the hospital I was going to bottle feed I still didn’t feel confident in that decision because I knew I would be judged for it. At home I was much more relaxed and using the nipple shields really helped heal the damage that had been done at hospital. I felt more comfortable trying different things at home without being watched and judged by the hospital staff. It still hurt but it was getting better. I knew his latch wasn’t right but I was reluctant to ask for any help as I knew that meant exposing myself to even more strangers. This was something I did not feel comfortable doing.
National Breastfeeding Helpline
After another sleepless night and a lot of sobbing from pain I decided to call the National Breastfeeding Helpline. I wasn’t really sure if they could truly help or not as it was just speaking to someone over the phone but what a difference that phone call made. The lady I spoke to chatted away to me for 20 minutes and pointed me in the direction of some latch technique videos and generally just listened and offered advice. I remember coming off the phone and feeling so much more positive and determined to keep trying.
The Health Visitor
Breastfeeding was now better but I was still resenting feeds sometimes when I was in pain. My Health Visitor has been amazing though. Every time she saw me she asked how the breastfeeding was going and she never ever pressured me into continuing if I didn’t want to. She gave me some excellent advice and told me to just take it one feed at a time. If I didn’t want to do that particular feed he could have a bottle. If I didn’t want to continue breastfeeding then I could stop.
I’m now combination feeding Nolan, he is majority breastfed and then has one bottle of formula at night which Gavin feeds him. I still don’t feel confident enough to feed him in public. Heck I might never feed him in public. It’s been a challenging six weeks but if there is one thing I’ve learnt from all of this it’s that it is my decision as to when I stop breastfeeding him. If I decide tomorrow I’ve had enough then that is my decision to make and mine alone.