Monday, 4 April 2011

My Breastfeeding Battle

It's strange isn't it, when you become a mum and meet others, there are two stories you need to hear.

One, the birth, and two, their breastfeeding story. I find both so interesting, as not one is the same.

I've already shared with you my birth story, so how about the breast bit? Here goes...

I was convinced I would be a six monther. That's what the books told me to do, it was the best thing for Belle, so that was that!

I've got a picture of the first time Belle fed from me. I don't remember it as I had just come round from a general anaesthetic, which makes me sad, but she took well to it.

After a successful day and night of breastfeeding I was about to be discharged from hospital when they noticed Belle was slightly drowsy, and wasn't opening one eye completely. After a horrid foot prick test they told me I couldn't have been feeding her correctly as her blood sugars were low.

I was devastated. All through the night I had been asking them to check that we were doing it right, and they had said yes. I was so confused.

It was decided Belle would be cup fed to 'top up' the breast in order to increase her sugars. I was expressing on an industrial electric pump, if anything is going to make you feel like a cow it's one of those bad boys! She also had to have some formula.

Cutting a long story short, after 2 days and 2 nights of no improvement they tested her using an IV rather than the foot prick test. Her poor little feet, they had been battered and bruised, I'll never forget all those tiny little plasters covering her soles.

The test results came back from the lab, she was fine. Blood sugars were normal. Although we never got an official apology or explanation, they said that the machine being used for the prick tests may have been faulty and had been sent off the ward to be recalibrated. At that point I didn't really care, my baby was healthy, we could finally go home, albeit still slightly confused, did this mean I had been feeding her correctly the whole time?

She slept on the way home, and didn't seem to want feeding for a while. Once she did, she didn't want to stop. 10mins on 15mins off, for the rest of the day and evening. It got to midnight and she was screaming, so much so I rang the ward.

I explained the feeding pattern (as I had written down length, time and side of every feed) and she said it sounded as though she hadn't been taking anything. I went into panic mode, thinking I had starved my child and I was the worst mum in the world. She said try again and if that doesn't settle her bring her back. I had failed within 12 hours.

Thankfully one more go seemed to do the trick and she fell asleep for a few hours. I rang the ward back and they said a midwife would be sent round first thing.

I did nothing other than stare at her and pump for those few hours she was asleep. Praying that she had taken some milk. Praying that the midwife would get here soon. When she woke I bottle fed her my expressed milk, at least that way I could see she had fed something. Then the 10 minutes on 15 minutes off started again.

The midwife came at 9am and was greeted by myself, balling my eyes out at the front door. She watched me feed her, with a massive smile she said, 'you're doing fine honey'. Again I burst into tears, I was doing it fine. The angel sent from heaven midwife had set my mind at ease, I was doing fine.

3 weeks went by and Belle was feeding every hour, day and night. I was sore, sleep deprived, not enjoying my beautiful baby. We tried everything else before feeding when she cried, nappy, cuddles, too hot, too cold, the car, but every time, all she wanted was milk.

Within those 3 weeks I'd sent James to the kitchen to sterilise the bottles and get the formula several times, but with each, I'd run in crying 'no, I can't give up, I'll keep going.'

I went to the breastfeeding councillor and she showed me different positions to feed her. This didn't work, still she was screaming for food every hour.

We couldn't go out, I felt like a prisoner, we were stuck between the sofa and the moses basket. Feeding every hour.

It was suggested she was using me as a dummy, so against my will, we tried her with one. She just spat it out.

I was sad, I felt lonely. James was amazing but at the end of the day he had to go to work, and needed his sleep. So Belle and I stayed downstairs at night grabbing an hour between multiple, painful, tearful feeds.

By week five I gave in. I couldn't do it any more. I hadn't had more than 2 hours sleep at a time and was struggling with not only feeding but getting over the emotional trauma I had suffered from a difficult birth.

I beat myself up about it for months, I felt like a complete failure, a bad mother and a useless woman. I had tried so hard.

But now I stand firmly by my decision to stop breastfeeding. It was the right thing to do for my family.

I was a different woman, I was happy, enjoying my newborn like I should have been.

I know this is going to ruffle some feathers but I can't stand it when women preach about breastfeeding. If it works for you, congratulations, that's great, but just because you found it easy does not mean it's that way for everyone. Please do share, encourage and support breastfeeding, but do not judge.

I plead any breastfeeding preachers, just spare a thought for the women who tried, with all their heart's, but couldn't do it, for whatever reason. Please don't make them feel like failures, they are great mums too.


  1. This post made me cry because I didn't get breastfeeding established till week 6. They were 6 tearful sleep deprived weeks. Aaron had a tongue tie. The people who find it easy are often too quick to judge. We've combination fed since then. Nothing's ever made my milk compete with the bottle (I think he gets approx 2 oz from me) but we are still perservering and at 9 months he's still bf now. On there now in fact, while I watch the soaps :-)
    Thanks so much for sharing. We went through all the heel prick tests too. xx

  2. Thanks for sharing your story! I am 100% with you on this - breastfeeding is great when it works, but it is wonderful to have formula as an option when it just isn't working out for whatever reason. And it sounds as if you had a REALLY rough start, from your birth story. Thank you for sharing your breastfeeding story as well!

  3. I love breastfeeding! That said, I think that it's hard to breastfeed and it's not for everyone. You have to really want the cracked and bleeding nipples, the possibility of supplementing, breast infections...even when I thought after 9 kids that I knew what I was doing, number 10 just couldn't latch. We would sit and cry (both of us) while I tried to spray the milk into his mouth. After about a month we finally figured it out. No one should feel bad about their very personal choice to breastfeed or not. I'm glad you did what worked best for you.

  4. I had a tricky time with breastfeeding (although nothing compared with you) - to be honest I don't think I will be able to do it again. I kept going for 6 months but felt trapped and tied to the house and my 'breastfriend' feeding cushion. I tried my hardest and sought advice all over the place. I would have stopped sooner but we had a battle with the bottle. I would echo your view that breastfeeding is great but it might not be for everyone. Sometimes other women/mothers can be a new mums worst enemy without even meaning to be. K

  5. I also tried and gave in after 2-3 very painful/miserable weeks. Once I gave in to formula, my son got a much less stressed, much happier mom. There isn't one grand solution that works for everyone. Parenting is very individual and what is great for one family doesn't always work for another. Being a good mom means knowing what works for your family and what doesn't!

  6. It HAS to be true that only a happy mum can make a happy baby. Fcuk what everyone else thinks, you KNOW what is right for you and your baby. I get judged all the time because of my kids behaviour when we are out. I wonder if those people would be so quick to tut and frown if they knew they were picking on a single parent with two ASD kids. It's easy to correct other people's problems, isn't it......Keep doing what you do. You're a GOOD MOTHER and no one else's opinion matters.

  7. Just found your blog and wanted to say thanks so much for speaking up for all us ex-breastfeeding mums who tried everything but just couldn't make it work. It's such an emotional time and there is so much unhelpful and uninformed pressure to do this thing that's making life utterly miserable. Good to hear you came out happily the other side!