I have always thought I would breastfeed, probably even before I was pregnant, so when I did become pregnant there was no doubt in my mind that this is what I would be doing. I follow lots of mummy bloggers on all the various social media channels and most champion breastfeeding and make it look very easy. I knew that it can be hard and painful in the first few days however I don’t think anyone actually ever does tell you the extent of how hard it can be and the pain you can go through. I know there are people out there who can breastfeed with no problems but for those who can’t (as I discovered in becoming one of them) it comes as a shock and with lots of feelings of guilt and failure.
The night Pippa was born the midwives came round and told me it was time to feed my baby. They assisted in positioning and getting her to latch on, which she did with relative ease and then they left me to it. It was painful and felt rather strange but I was happy that she was sucking away, getting the all-important colostrum, or so I thought. Then as she came off I noticed that actually, she hadn’t been latched on at all and was simply sucking on breast tissue, leaving me with a delightful love bite next to my nipple!
Over the next few hours and days I persisted with the constant on-demand feeding and although it was so painful I was safe in the knowledge that it would only last a few days and that when my milk came in it would get easier. By the time my milk came in which was about a week later, I was in agony. This was also when my baby blues were at their worst which I think was made a whole lot worse by the problems I was having breastfeeding. The constant feeding had left my poor nipples in a state and they were filled with cracks. My right nipple looked like it was about to fall off the crack was so deep and was now looking yellow and pussy whereas the left was bleeding.
It was discovered after a week that Pippa was tongue-tied which can result in a poor latch which can then subsequently result in very sore nipples and trouble feeding. Various midwives and health visitors came and assessed her latch but all agreed she was sucking fine, her latch was very good and my milk supply was in abundance. Where the problem lay was her actual feeding. She was very fussy, taking ages to latch and stay on the breast and would then pull off and cry and throw herself around, arching her back mid-feed then we would battle with each other, me trying to get her back on (fighting through the pain each time) and her pulling off. Most of the time, both of us were in tears, me from the sheer pain and frustration, making me physically heave sometimes and Pippa from I didn’t know what at the time.
I would cry all day and night and dread the next feed, making me feel anxious all the time and scared to go out in case Pippa needed feeding. There was no way I could feed in public, the whole process was nothing like they show on the tv or in pictures! I would pretty much have to get topless and the both of us would be soaked in milk and tears! At one post-natal clinic, a woman with a baby not much older than Pippa just lifted her top, popped the baby on and ten minutes later he was off. Not a sound from either of them. This then resulted in me crying in the waiting room!
The nights were the worst, (the tiredness didn’t help), and I would regularly have a break down saying that I couldn’t do it anymore and on a couple of occasions Harry had to step in and say enough is enough and decided to give her a pre-mixed formula that we had bought for emergencies (these were a lifesaver!). But once morning came I would be feeling guilty and going through the whole breastfeeding battle again. Amongst all this I also developed mastitis in my left breast which added to the trauma!
At exactly two weeks after her birth, after a horrendous night of tears on both myself and Pippa’s part, I made the final decision to stop breastfeeding. I felt so so guilty and upset about it (I still do now 2 weeks later…having a few tears just writing about it) but I decided I would express and mix with some formula feeds to ensure she was still getting some breast milk. The first time I expressed was just a bottle of bloody milk which I couldn’t face giving to Pippa, although she had been drinking it directly from my breast the day before! But once my breasts started to heal, expressing was much less painful and I was producing heaps of milk which also helped.
As much as I felt guilty, almost immediately I felt a massive weight had been lifted and the pressure was off. That same day we ventured out for the first time to get Pippa registered and I didn’t feel the anxiety I had been feeling before and even managed to feed her (with a bottle) in public. Something I never thought I would be able to do.
The next day we went and saw a tongue-tie specialist (slightly too late) and she taught me a much better way to get Pippa to latch, something I could have done with in the beginning. However as I was now no longer breastfeeding and Pippa’s latch and suck was good it was decided to leave her tongue as it is.
We have since discovered Pippa has silent reflux so feeding is still a massive challenge with her crying, pulling away and arching her back in pain – just as she did on my breast. However this time it’s just that bit easier as I’m not spraying milk across us both every time she falls off. I have tried four times since to get her to breastfeed again as I would love to go back to it as I still feel guilty about it daily and miss that bonding. However it is still a battle, mostly due to her reflux so until we get it under control I don’t think I will try again and I’m amazed that some women continue to breastfeed with a baby with reflux!
So I just wanted to write my breastfeeding story as it’s not very often you hear or read this side and I have another mummy friend who experienced the same issues as me so it can’t be that uncommon! The guilt is just horrible, even though I am continuing to feed her breastmilk I would love to exclusively breastfeed but it seems it’s not for everyone.