Before having children, I always believed that I would be an exclusively breastfeeding mum. It would be absolutely unacceptable to expose my child to the poison known as formula, after all why give this foreign substance if breastmilk is sooo much better, right? Mums who ‘chose’ to give their children formula were insane. It was easier to breastfeed both health-wise and economically (its free for goodness sake!). As well as this, women who breastfed felt the beautiful rush of love for their baby and a connection like no other, looking down into their beautiful eyes for the first time whilst they suckle on their breast on the hospital bed straight after delivery. Newborn babies smiled up at their mother (yes, they smiled and they were only a day old, thats how amazing it was!) and rested their cute little hand on their mother’s breast and sighed in relaxation. A mother’s milk flowed in abundance; she always had more than enough when her baby needed it and it would pour out like a beautiful white fountain. I was in awe of mothers whose babies would cry and they would just plop them on the boob and complete silence would follow. This tranquility would continue for a whole 2 years. I wanted to be just like them and was sure that with just a teeny weeny bit of effort I could achieve this.
And then, I had children.
Before I start telling you the fairy tale versus my reality I just want to say that this is my story and not necessarily the case for everyone (although, based on speaking to other mums, many have had similar experiences). Some mothers are able to live the dream that I have outlined above so if you haven’t had children yet, don’t let me put you off. Also, just to warn you, this post is a lot more sombre and serious than my previous posts.
So lets get stuck in.
Did you know that in order to get the white fountain of milk pouring out of your bosom the baby needs to latch onto your breast correctly? And did you know that not all babies know how to do this? I didn’t. So you can imagine my surprise on the hospital bed when I was given my DD and proceeded in living my dream of a lovely first breastfeeding experience, only to find that she wouldn’t open her mouth. Apparently this was normal, and I was told to just keep trying. So I did. After all, breast is best!
The next day, after still dealing with a non-existent latch, I was invited to a breastfeeding class on my ward, which turned out to make me feel even worse.
“Yesterday, I was doing skin-to-skin with my son and he crawled up to my nipple by himself and latched!”, one mother told the group smugly whilst holding her baby.
There were lots and lots of stories being told of mothers who were happily able to feed their babies. Meanwhile my husband and I were sitting there trying to rock mine quiet because she was hungry. I remember thinking ‘what is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this simple thing? Am I a bad mum?’ And this is where the disease or ‘Mothers Guilt’ began to rear it’s ugly head (I’ll be doing a separate post on this truly ugly feeling that ALOT of mothers feel). I had to keep trying of course. Breast is best!
When the latch finally came into existence between me and my DD, it was excruciatingly painful and this is due to the latch being incorrect. But I didn’t have the option of giving her ANY formula. Breast is best! So sore, cracked, purple bloody nipples was what had come of it, and no matter how many midwives I visited and breastfeeding cafes I went to (I really did travel far and wide) it didn’t seem to fix the issue. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was obvious my DD was hungry, and that I was spiralling down a dark road emotionally. But I couldn’t give her ANY formula. Breast is best!
A bad latch is bad. If the latch isn’t done correctly it can not only cause you severe pain (and insanity in my case), but can also obstruct milk from getting to your baby effectively. So when I had the SAME issue with my SS and pushed through, I ended up with blocked ducts (meaning the milk was not sufficiently being removed by him) and then mastitis (an infection caused by the blocked ducts) and thereafter a bed in the hospital (that I had to stay in overnight without him 😔). My fairy tale as you can see began as not a fairy tale at all, but a nightmare.
A GOOD LATCH.
A good latch is good.
With my DD, I visited a vast amount of experts (midwives, doctors, lactation consultants) to try rectify my breastfeeding issue. To no avail. This failure, coupled up with my raging hormones, caused me to be a complete psycho. I was crying all the time (I’m NOT a cryer usually), to family, friends and even strangers. I cried to a receptionist once who worked in a Children’s Centre that I had come to in order to register my DD’s birth after telling her my whole story (she didn’t even ask me to tell her, I volunteered the information after the poor woman simply asked ‘how’s it going?’). It was terrible. But I had to keep going. Breast is best!
Two weeks later, my cousin (a mother) came to see me after I cried to her on the phone (I really was embarrassing, I know). She waltzed into my room (I was crying at the time because my DD was due a feed. KILL ME please) and proceeded to pick up my DD, position her correctly on my breast and, lo and behold, a fantastic latch was formed. Just like that. To give you an idea of exactly how I felt in that moment, picture this: multiple rainbows, laughing children, a song and dance about happiness, confetti, balloons and some sunshine (sounds dramatic but after weeks of struggling, this was the moment i was waiting for hence the unrealistic OTT metaphor). It was painless and very relaxing and my DD seemed sooo content. But of course reality soon reared its head and after my beautiful, kind, amazing, fantastic, marvellous cousin (I was actually inlove with her) left, the latch was never quite the same. Good but not great. Alas though, such is life. Better than before was better than nothing so I accepted it and continued to feed my DD this way.
For those of you wondering, my cousin is just an ordinary mum like me who went through something very similar. This taught me the value of another mother’s opinion. Its all well and good speaking to the experts, but sometimes in necessary to seek help from someone who actually directly understands you and has had similar experiences to you.
BREAST IS BEST BUT…> Although I had initially solved the latching issue with my DD (my SS is a whole different story but for the purpose of not making this post longer than it already is, will save that story for another day), I did eventually opt for mix feeding her both breast and formula. This was due to me nervously taking her to get weighed every two days and finding that she wasn’t gaining enough weight. Unfortunately I just didn’t seem to have a sufficient milk supply and she never seemed full after a feed.
It is said by most health care Professionals and mothers who successfully breastfeed that ‘you have enough milk, your milk supply operates on supply and demand, so keep feeding your baby and you will see an increase’. Well I challenge these same people: if I was constantly breastfeeding, power pumping throughout the day (which is pumping for a whole hour at a time) and took all the supplements that apparently aid milk supply, and STILL found little or absolute no improvement then how can this be true for everyone? I do believe scientifically that milk supply increases if the demand does, however stress can stop this from happening and my sadness at giving my children formula (because breast is definitely best and they deserved the best) was causing me to experience A LOT of stress. It took me ages to accept that formula was going to be part of their diet but eventually I had to. So if you are a mother who wants to tell another mum that she is wrong to give her child formula because she does have enough milk, or that she didn’t try hard enough, then think twice: you don’t know her struggles and these comments can really sting.
Maybe I was wrong to mix-feed and should have drove myself to insanity and keep trying. But as I’m writing this post I’m observing two happy, healthy children that , I think, love me quite alot 😊.
I hope you enjoyed this post and that some have been able to relate. I recognise the length is quite long but I felt like this is such an important topic to write about 🙈.
Share if you like!