For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a Mum, and in all that time I honestly never considered bottle feeding as an issue. My gut feeling has always been that I would want to breastfeed my children and I’m happy to say that I successfully managed to breastfeed both of them (still am with my son). But what some people don’t always realise is what a difficult journey breastfeeding can be, even myself for that matter.
When my daughter was born I distinctly remember writing in my birth plan that I wanted her delivered straight onto my tummy and that I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible. How difficult could it be, my baby has a mouth and I have the equipment, surely you just stick their mouth onto your nipple and Bob’s your Mother’s Brother? Wrong! Little Bean was born straight onto my tummy as requested and then the Midwife who helped to deliver her asked me if I was ready to breastfeed, I said “yes”. The Midwife then went onto to tell me that I needed to massage my breast to encourage the colostrum (the all-important first milk) to flow, this I could do. Then came the hard bit, trying to get Little Bean to latch on. I’d read the books telling me that I needed to hold her tummy to Mummy and nose to nipple but try as I might I couldn’t get her to latch on. After 15 minutes of the Midwife manhandling my now very sore breast, finally Little Bean was feeding from me and it was the most emotional feeling in the world. I was already providing something precious for my first child.
Later that day, back on the ward I was told that I needed to feed her again and so I set to work following the guidelines I had been given previously. Some 24 hours later, spending time with 3 separate Midwives grabbing my breast and forcing my baby’s head onto my nipple still we hadn’t managed a successful feed. When Hubby came to see me at visiting time I cried, begging him not to leave me. Little Bean was screaming because she was hungry and then screaming even more because they suspected jaundice so did heal prick tests to be sure, even then I couldn’t get her to latch on because she was so stressed out. At this point I really considered just asking for a bottle of milk to feed my hungry baby but that’s where my personality kicked in. I am as stubborn as a mule, if I set out to do something I will complete it, no matter what it takes. At about 1am a new Midwife began her shift, she was an older lady and seemed very ‘motherly’, she sat down with me and Little Bean, talked about what we had tried already and then suggested I just lay down with Little Bean skin to skin and relax. We did this for about half an hour and then she returned and slowly moved Little Bean into position and rubbed her back, Little Bean began rooting again and this time found my nipple with ease, as she opened her mouth wide I pulled her towards me and she latched on perfectly. She stayed on for 45 minutes and looked totally milk drunk when she came off. I cried because I was so happy and then I sent Hubby a message to tell him we’d had success at 2am!
The next day we went home from hospital and all was going pretty well until day 4 after my milk had come in and I developed mastitis. I saw my Midwife the same morning and she said “oh yes, it looks like you’ve got mastitis” but that was it, no other words of wisdom. I felt like I was dying and my breast was so painful I didn’t know where to put myself. I spoke to my Auntie who’d had mastitis when she breastfed her children and she told me to have a warm bath and hand express as much of the milk off as I could. I did this and immediately felt relief in my breast. I was then able to get an emergency appointment to see Doctor who gave me some antibiotics which kicked in quickly and soon I was on the mend.
The first few weeks breastfeeding were hard, I named my breasts Daisy and Mabel because I felt like a dairy cow. Some feeds would go well, others would be difficult. I had an issue when Little Bean was 1 week old where I just seemed to be feeding constantly and I was exhausted. I spoke to my Midwife who, in response to any question I asked would say “it’s perfectly normal”. Every single thing that I asked her would be met with the same response. I asked for some help with Breastfeeding and she gave me a telephone number to call!?!? Hang on a minute, why couldn’t she help me? She was there in my house, she could see what I was doing but instead I had to phone someone and try to explain over the phone what was happening.
A few weeks later once I had been passed over to the Health Visitors I tried again, but was met with a similar stock answer to the Midwife “oh don’t worry you’ll be fine, its all part of breastfeeding” and given the same phone number!! WHAT!!! After that I pretty much gave up asking for help and found most answers on the Internet or through other breastfeeding mothers I had met.
In September 2010 when I gave birth to my son, I knew again that I would breastfeed if I could and thankfully all went well. He latched on first time and has been good ever since. He has been a very sickly baby and I worried that this could be due to a poor latch on but this time my Health Visitor offered to do an observed feed with me and she confirmed that he was latched on well, I just had to wait for his reflux to get better with time.
Shortly after my son’s birth I was approached by my Health Visitor to ask if I would be interested in training to become a Breastfeeding Counsellor with La Leche League. This seemed like a great idea because I felt support had been seriously lacking in our area when I needed it before. I attended a 12 week course with other breastfeeding Mums where we were trained on the ins and outs of breastfeeding. We completed the course in December and haven’t heard a thing since? We haven’t received our Graduation Certificates, our passes to say that we are ‘qualified’ to help with Breastfeeding and have been CRB checked. We haven’t received our mobile phone so that people can contact us for help and guidance. It is such a waste, there are 10 fully trained Breastfeeding Counsellors all ready, willing and able to help those in need and nothing has been done about it. What is it with our Health Service?
I firmly believe that more mother’s would be breastfeeding today if they had received good support in the early days. The choice to breastfeed is individual to each Mother but surely if she decides to breastfeed, the Health Service who are ‘so keen’ to encourage breastfeeding, should ensure that support is there when we need it?
Addendum to this post which was originally posted on Maternity Matters on 14th May 2011
This week I FINALLY received my Certificate to say that I had successfully completed the course.