In the last 18 months Ive actively become involved with establishing my local breastfeeding support group at the local children’s centre and have recently completed the Association Of Breastfeeding Mother’s Mother Supporter Module, I’m just waiting for the results now. I even got screen for donating to a milk bank which unfortunately due to bad weather and logistics didn’t work out. But ultimately I’m proud of myself for my breastfeeding success. Ultimately breastfeeding I think is personal to the individual and there is no right or wrong way to breastfeed or length of time you should breastfeed for. Its your body, your choice but having support and places you can go for information and to meet other breastfeeding mother’s really does make a difference to your experience.
With Breastfeeding Awareness week fast approaching (19th June to 26th June 2011) I thought I’d share my experiences of breastfeeding. Bare with me though as its a long one and not nice in places!
When I found out I was expecting my eldest son, once the initial shock had worn off I was adamant I was going to breastfeed. I remember sitting in an antenatal appointment and being asked if I’d decided how I was going to feed baby when he/she arrived. I proudly told the midwife that I was going to breastfeed of course! She asked why I was going to do so and I told her that my mother had breastfed four children and I didn’t want to be fussing with bottles and formula etc. Four months later after a long labour resulting in an emergency c-section, I was so overcome with tiredness and the buzz of having a baby but quickly asked for help to get my son to latch on. What a good boy I thought as he latched on first time without much encouragement, this is going to be a breeze! Twenty four hours later once I had been moved on to postnatal from high dependency I started feeling really sick and started vomiting. Try as I might I couldn’t stop and to make matters worse every time I held my baby to feed him it made me vomit. I didn’t know what to think and neither did the midwifes or consultant, I was reacting to the epidural I had had for the section or did I have an infection. Endless rounds of bloods were taken. This wasn’t supposed to be what having a new baby was like surely, I remember drifting off to sleep and then being woken by my then fiance asking if I wanted to feed our son. I remember smiling at him and saying take me home please and trying to take the baby from him, then the next thing I remember waking up again with a student midwife sat next to me with the baby. She explained I’d passed out again and that the consultant was coming for a chat. Then I noticed she was giving my baby a bottle. What?why? I couldn’t understand why she was giving my baby a bottle, I was breastfeeding. She quickly explained I had been really ill and that I hadn’t been able to feed baby myself for the last couple of days so the decision had been taken to give him a bottle as he needed to be fed. Disappointed just didn’t cover the way I was feeling at that moment. The consultant arrived and continued to explain I had been asleep off and on for the best part of 4 days and hadn’t been able to tolerate any fluids or solids. I then had to endure a nasal gastric tube to see if that would remedy the problem. What a horrific experience. Laying there in bed I felt so useless, here I was having had a baby five days earlier and I didn’t remember much about it and to top it off there was this resentment that he had made me so ill. That evening when my fiance and his brother came to visit (his brother is a microbiologist but had been away when Id had baby) My brother in law told me I had to keep something down or I wouldn’t be allowed home and that because I wasn’t married to his brother he was getting very little information from the staff about the situation. That was it I got the ward telephone and rang my parents who lived an hour away, my mum was shocked when she heard what was going on, she know Id been ill but didn’t realise the extent of the problem. While my mum contacted the consultant (mums a now retired nurse) my brother in-law suggested things I should be able to drink and tolerate. Then finally after almost a week in hospital I was going home. The breastfeeding advisor had visited me before I was discharged and talked me through the process of re-establishing breastfeeding once home, great I was going to be able to breastfeed after all. Within an hour of getting home I was tolerating solids and felt human again all be it traumatised from the whole experience. My mum arrived the following day and set about trying to help me breastfeed but despite her and my efforts my son just did not want to fed. After a further week of trying endlessly to breastfed, sore, cracked nipples and a very fretful baby I reluctantly admitted defeat. My fiance tried to reassure me it wasn’t my fault and that our son needed to be fed but deep down I felt so devastated Id failed at breastfeeding and giving my son what I believed the best start. So as you can see not a fantastic experience of breastfeeding.
When eight months later I discovered I was pregnant again, a sense of dread filled me, surely I wouldn’t have the same experience again? One thing I knew though was that if anything did happen this time I was now married so my husband would be able to have more control over the situation compared to last time. I had fantastic midwifes who spent hours reassuring me everything would be okay and that I had the same chances of being able to breastfeed as anyone else. My husband was not to sure but kept quite, he knew how determined to breastfeed I was this time. I opted to try for a vbacmother-in-law and asked her to come and see me. By the time she arrived half an hour later I was so worked up, trying not to be sick which believe me took some doing. With the help of my mother-in-law I managed to discharge myself that day and get home. Just like the first time within an hour of getting home I was feeling myself and eating/drinking without vomiting. Relived is not the word and the added bonus I had done it, I was still breastfeeding my son. Over the following weeks I discussed my birth experiences with both family, friends and midwife/health visitor and I came to the conclusion I just did not do well in hospital! Anyway I quickly settled into breastfeeding, although I had a few experiences of sore and bleeding nipples, oh and mastitis which I’m very proud to say I managed to fed through without the aid of antibiotics. I continued to successfully breastfed my second son until he was 18 months old when he more or less self weened. This second experience was so much closer to the one I had imagined when I was pregnant with my first son. I loved the feeling of cuddling up in bed with my son and feeding him while watching TV or just having a cuddle together. I discovered that co-sleeping with my son made breastfeeding at night so much more manageable and also meant I didn’t disturb my husband getting in and out of bed. We took all the precautions for co-sleeping to ensure our son was safe. Then when he was ready to stop feeding we did, although it just happened to co inside with our moving back to west wales and my returning to work. To be honest it couldn’t have been a better time to stop breastfeeding.
I’m currently still breastfeeding my youngest son who’s 23 months old and all is going well despite a few people telling me enough is enough now! This time I had a elective c-section due to my previous two and all the way through the pregnancy I told everyone I saw that I would be discharging myself 24 hours after birth due to previous problems I had experienced. All assured me that would be fine, so I relaxed and tried to enjoy the pregnancy as much as possible. What a different experience the actual birth was compared to the first two, so calm and relaxing. I tried to relax and enjoy my new son while on the high dependency unit and spoke to several midwifes and consultant to remind them I was discharging myself after 24 hours. Then the following day while everyone was being moved to the postnatal ward it became apparent they were going to move me too. I spoke with the midwife in charge and explained I was discharging myself which she was not happy about. At which I was left on the high dependency unit while expectant mums were arriving for their planned sections,without any help and made to feel I had done something wrong. My husband and older sons arrived to meet their baby brother for the first time and wanting to get us home to find me distressed and in pain. The consultant arrived, the same one I had seen throughout my pregnancy and tried to make me feel guilty about leaving despite having told me it would be fine previously. There was no medical reason to keep me there and my history showed I had experienced complications from remaining in hospital so why couldn’t she let me go? Anyhow I’m procrastinating now, apologies… I managed to get home that afternoon and continue breastfeeding which was my ultimate goal. So now I’m 23 months in this time and little man is showing no sign of stopping anytime soon! Myself and my husband joke about it going to be something out of the Little Britain sketch at this rite! Sometimes I do think I’m going to wean him off the breast but these are times when I’m exhausted or run down. But once settled in bed at night having a cuddle and little man feeding happily to sleep I think why stop, he’s content and healthy and I love having the excuse to stop and just sit with him while he feds. After all I’m not harming anyone am I? I know my husband often remarks to both our son and I, asking when will he get my breast back! but is there really any need to yet?