I wanted to share my story with you to prove that if you can’t/don’t want to breastfeed it’s OK. You are not a bad mother, you are not damaging your baby irrevocably, you are just a Mum like any other, trying your hardest.
When Poppy was born (almost a year ago now) I had every intention of breastfeeding. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to because my Mum had struggled but I was very keen to give it my best shot. During our NCT breastfeeding class, our “teacher” made out that it would be the easiest and most natural thing in the world and painted a beautiful picture of our tiny newborns crawling up our tummies and latching on instantly. I remember leaving that class feeling so positive and excited only to have my hopes dashed when the reality was NOTHING like this idealised load of rubbish.
After an emergency caesarian and Poppy having to spend time in Neonatal, I was exhausted and my body went into a kind of shutdown. My milk just wasn’t coming in and as midwife after midwife squeezed and prodded my breasts I felt a sense of despair. What was wrong with me? Where was my milk? Why couldn’t I provide Poppy with the all important colostrum?
I am forever grateful to the midwife who changed everything for me by lending me a breast pump. Finally a tiny bit of colostrum was coming. (And when I say tiny I mean tiny). I’d produce it, put it in the smallest syringe you’ve ever seen and we’d dash down to Neonatal and give it to Poppy. I felt such a sense of achievement every time I managed to feed her even the smallest bit of that initial milk or “liquid gold” as so many people like to call it.
When Pops was finally reunited with us I tried and tried to feed her and she tried so hard too but she just couldn’t latch on and suckle hard enough. I’ll never forget looking into her little eyes as she tried to get my milk. She was so determined. As we stared into each other’s eyes I felt such a bond with her because we were both struggling together.
After four days, the only thing stopping us from going home from hospital was the feeding issue, so I made what seemed at the time like an almost impossible decision but that turned out to be one of the best of my life. We’d feed her formula, I’d carry on expressing and I’d also carry on trying to breastfeed. I’d get guidance from the health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist in a bid to crack this thing. I really want you to know that there is SO much incredible breastfeeding support for you outside the hospital. For many women feeding takes weeks to crack so don’t feel that if you can’t feed your baby instantly that you have failed. In fact, the chances are that once you are home you’ll feel more relaxed and perhaps more able to do it. Also, I truly believe that there is no harm in feeding formula while you sort the breastfeeding thing out. You hear all these stories of babies becoming dehydrated because they weren’t getting enough milk at the beginning. Don’t listen to people who warn you not to bottle feed. The main thing is to get them drinking milk to begin with.
Anyway, I tried SO hard to breastfeed. I used nipple covers, had an incredible midwife come and show me this brilliant technique which involved squeezing my breast so that the nipple area was the same shape as Poppy’s mouth and sought advice from just about anyone who would listen, but still we struggled and Poppy just wasn’t getting enough from me. So I made a decision. I wanted Poppy to have my milk but I just didn’t believe in my ability to breastfeed her. The only answer in my mind was to bottle feed her with my expressed milk and that is what I did… for six months. Yes, I felt like Daisy the cow but my goodness was I proud as more and more milk came in. Within a couple of weeks I was expressing enough to cut out the formula and sustain her with myself.
In retrospect if I had persevered with breastfeeding for a few more weeks we might have got there together, but the expressing technique was working so well by this point. It also meant that Mr UFM and I could share night feeds which was lovely for him (and for me)! I have no regrets. I sustained Poppy with my milk for six months and even though I sometimes felt envious of the bond that breastfeeding was giving my fellow mum friends and their babies, Poppy and I were bonding in other ways. We weren’t experiencing the stress that can come with breastfeeding and perhaps had a bit more time to snuggle and get to know each other in different ways.
The one thing that I recommend more than ANYTHING if you choose a similar route to mine is the Medela Freestyle. Double pumping saved so much time and my milk flow increased and increased. I bought myself a very sexy “breast vest” which meant that I could express hands free. This was a total godsend and I really can’t recommend it enough. The Medela Freestyle is expensive but is an exceptional product and whether you’re breastfeeding and expressing or just expressing, get someone to buy you one. It will make everything so much more manageable.
So there you have it….my (very long) feeding story.
And remember, whatever you do:
YOU ARE A GREAT MOTHER
YOU’RE TRYING YOUR BEST
YOUR BABY NEEDS YOUR LOVE MORE THAN YOUR BREASTS…BOTTLES ARE OK!
YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE