Breastfeeding la la land

04/04/2020

I didn’t have the easiest of labours, I had an emergency caesarean that resulted in my baby and I being in intensive care for a few days and in hospital for almost seven days.  I exhausted, in pain, scared, disorientated and fiercely protective of my baby boy,  having an emergency C-section never crossed my mind and made me feel like a failure, it wasn’t my choice, I didn’t understand why my body failed me!

The feeling of failure stayed with me for such a long time, perhaps it is still with me and that’s the reason why I am always trying to overcompensate.  Somehow feeling like I failed helped me focus on breastfeeding, after all I didn’t want to feel like a failure twice.  I say this because breastfeeding has been one the most challenging things I have ever done mentally and physically.

Let the milking begin

Sadly, I was unable to have skin to skin with my baby straight after delivery, I was out of it but when I did it was amazing, straight away I was told to put my baby on my breast and then the fear kicked in, my baby looked frail and he had needles and cables attached to him.  I was trying so hard to enjoy the moment but in reality, I was crumbling with fear.

Two days later we were moved to a different ward. I was really excited as moving out of intensive care only meant that things were getting better and although baby Oscar remained very unsettled, I was excited as we were one step closer to going home.

Baby Oscar continued to cry all the time, nurses were constantly on my back as they felt that my milk wasn’t enough due to the strong antibiotics and pain killers I was on, I was continuously told to bottle feed in what I felt were pretty brutal ways, on one occasion I was told to put my baby first, it was so upsetting and confusing as doctors encouraged me to breastfeed and reassured me my baby was ok but nurses had a different view.  Luckily the breastfeeding team came to see me and I was encouraged to continue and not give into bottle feeding unless suggested by a paediatrician.  This advice gave me hope.

Baby Oscar continued to cry often, he was always hungry. Whilst in hospital, I joined breastfeeding classes and had one to one help with breastfeeding.  The breastfeeding team were supporting and encouraging, not just about continuing to breastfeed but about doing what is right for me and my baby whether it involved breastfeeding or not.

I was finding breastfeeding really painful and baby Oscar continued to feed often and really cry, I was in hospital with not much moral support… I was exhausted!  During one of my sessions with the breastfeeding team they noticed that baby Oscar was not sucking how he should but because we were still taking painkillers and antibiotics it was difficult to assess if my baby was tired or there were other issues.  I was told that things should get better, so I continued to breastfeed through pain, but to be honest I was in so much pain all over my body it was difficult to know where the pain was coming from.

Six days later we were discharged, I was so happy I could be with my family and have more support, and Finally start enjoying my baby! Everyone at home was so amazing and loving.  I felt better instantly, at least mentally which gave me added strength. I continued to breastfeed as the days went on, my breast got larger and hard, my baby continued to feed all the time sometimes even every 30 minutes (cluster feeding) … I wanted to give up… all the time.  My nipples were so sore, the skin was becoming red and raw, initially nipple balms helped but eventually nothing worked, my breast felt like they were on fire and I didn’t know what to do.

My little man continued to cluster feed and be unsettled.  Five days after being discharged out of desperation I contacted the breastfeeding team, I couldn’t take the pain any longer and needed hope that things would get better, I didn’t want to give up breastfeeding.  After going through how baby Oscar was feeding the lady on the phone thought that Oscar was tongue-tie and arranged a home visit for the following day.  My local breastfeeding team were amazing, it was confirmed Oscar was tongue-tie and shortly after I was referred to a tongue-tie clinic as an urgent case, nor my baby, my nipples or my mental health could take it any longer. 

I chose not to say too much to my family about how I was feeling, my husband caught me crying a couple of times but I dismissed it as just being tired but in reality, I was embarrassed to say anything. I felt that Oscar was not even two weeks for me to even think of giving up or make such a fuss after what we had just been through furthermore if I told anyone I would make the pain and discomfort real and that would make me crumble… I didn’t want to feel like a failure again.  

I didn’t hear anything for three days in regards baby Oscar’s tongue-tie, trust me those three days felt like an eternity.  Baby Oscar was feeding every 30 minutes, my nipples were cracking and my body was in pieces! Cluster feeding and lack of sleep were making me exhausted and let’s not forget hungry, I was so HUNGRY!! luckily my mum was there to ensure that I had everything I needed and more (food wise) for information purposes, I put on a lot of weight during this period.

So, I decided to call the tongue-tie clinic, I was assured that I would get an appointment within days, this was a Thursday… Monday came, no appointment, I was at breaking point.  I called again and broke down, I remember begging for help on the phone, I couldn’t do it anymore! I couldn’t take it anymore however I had to wait a few more days.

To top it up whilst waiting for baby Oscars appointment I had to see the midwife to see if baby Oscar had regained his birth weight…. Nope he weighed less, I was made to feel awful, I would never forget the midwife words “we need to find out what you are doing wrong” this was despite the fact of the midwife knowing that I had an appointment to get baby Oscars tongue-tie fixed, my heart hurt. I was sad.

Finally, the day came! We were getting Oscars tongue-tie cut, the only challenge to the process was not feeding baby Oscar for two hours, he was feeding every 30 mins otherwise the process was super easy, smooth and fast.

Once the tongue-tie was cut I needed to breastfeed Oscar straightaway, I felt the difference instantly! Baby Oscar fed for longer than five minutes and slept for a few hours, this had not happened before!  I was warned that the tongue-tie can grow back if babies are not attaching properly, I was extra cautious when feeding.  I was surprised how fast my breast healed, a few days later the soreness was almost gone and Oscar continued to breastfeed for longer periods and sleep for four hours at a time.

Due to the cluster feeds I experienced, my breast were really full, boarder line engorged which made feeding difficult, for instance the flow would sometimes be too much for baby Oscar and he ended up coughing or struggling to swallow the amount of milk he was getting and my breast were sore because they were so hard and my nipples were tight making it difficult for baby Oscar to latch on.

Luckily my mum came to the rescue and suggested that I do warm compress on my breast before feeding, it worked a treat!  Also, hot shower worked really well, they softened my breast and helped my nipples making it much easier for baby Oscar to feeding

It took three months before I was almost pain free, nipple cream and food became my best friends. I’ll be honest food helped me, it became my comfort as breastfeeding always left me tired and hungry.  During the most challenging parts of breastfeeding my family and husbands support were so important but what made the biggest difference to my mental health was other mums from social media platforms, the support and tips from other mums were a blessing and helped me not feel so alone.

As time progressed I fell in love with breastfeeding more and more, it’s such a special time for just you and your baby… I loved studying my baby’s tiny little features whilst feeding him and the happy hormones breastfeeding release seriously made me high!!

After the initial struggles which lasted approximately 11 weeks, it is safe to say that I would do it all over again, it was all worth it! Breastfeeding has been so rewarding overall not only towards the bond between my little man and I but also for my mental health.

The way my son looks at me once he is latched on make me feel alive every time.

Until next time, stay kind, stay beautiful x

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