First let me give a spoiler: Baby M is 2 months old and she has been exclusively breastfed from day 1, but it hasn’t been easy. We haven’t had thrush and I haven’t had Mastitis (and crossed fingers I won’t) but we have had a whole range of problems and a lot of pain.
Before Baby M was born I didn’t know if I would be able to breastfeed because I had my breasts lifted 10 years ago. I was really happy when she fed successfully during skin to skin and I thought everything would be ok. Over the next day and a half the midwives gave me advice on how to get Baby M to latch on properly and we managed ok. Until my milk came in.
A couple of days after Baby M was born I tried to feed her at night and couldn’t get her to latch on. Being unable to feed your baby in the middle of the night when there is no support available is very stressful. My OH “J” was really fabulous, he helped look on the internet for help and we very nearly caved and gave Baby M some formula. In the end J hand expressed some milk for me and she latched on. Looking back I think my milk had come in and she was struggling to latch on to my engorged boobs. The following day we managed to feed without problems.
The next night I struggled to get Baby M to feed again. Again with the benefit of hindsight I suspect that this was because my boobs were fuller at night and harder to latch on to. In the morning I called the community midwives for help and amazingly one came over within half an hour to watch me feed and give advice (the midwives in my area are fantastic). She recommended holding my boob in a kinda squeeze to help Baby M latch on, which seemed to work.
For the next few days we managed to feed ok.
At a week old Baby M went through a growth spurt. This meant she was feeding “constantly” as I described on twitter at the time. This started Saturday evening and my Sunday night my nipples were in agony. By Tuesday I was struggling to feed her because it was so painful. I remember crying with pain whilst she fed.
I remember one night when she was regurgitating milk (she’s sick a lot) there was blood in her vomit. This really panicked me until I realised it was my blood from bleeding nipples.
Several people suggested feeding Baby M formula during this hard week for me, but I couldn’t do it. I had set myself the challenge of breastfeeding and the idea of giving up made me feel like a complete failure as a mum. I completely support people who choose to feed their babies formula for the many good reasons they may do this, but I just couldn’t get my head passed it being a failure for me. I suspected that if I gave her one bottle of formula it would be the start of a slippery slope.
In a conversation with a midwife (I’m surprised they didn’t get sick of me) they suggested I try nipple shields. I know the use of these can be controversial, but for me they were a life saver as they allowed me to keep breastfeeding, well on one side anyway. On the left side she could feed via the nipple shields without me bleeding. The first time I fed her on the right side with the shield I looked down and there was loads of blood everywhere: in Baby M’s mouth, around her face and all over me. I decided I couldn’t feed her like that so for the next week I fed her exclusively from the left side (via the shield) and pumped and dumped on the right. I didn’t want to risk introducing a bottle so I poured the expressed milk away.
To be continued...