Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My Breastfeeding Journey

This is my 3rd post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt and this week's theme is "Support".  At the end of the post you can enter a competition to win a nursing vest with built in support (courtesy of Boobiemilk), but first I'm talking about the amazing support I had which means I am still breastfeeding my 9 month old daughter.

I first breastfed Baby M in the delivery room shortly after she was born.  We were in hospital for 2 days and during that time she fed little and often. Our breastfeeding relationship got off to a happy start and the midwives said she had a good latch although I had pain for about 20 seconds when she latched on.

First Touch

When I was pregnant I had no expectations about how long I would nurse for because I didn't know if I would be able to.  I had a breast lift nearly 10 years ago so I didn't know if my boobs would work.  When I discovered they did I was determined I would nurse my baby, at least for the first 6 weeks.  Then the problems started.  

We first hit a problem when my milk came in after a few days. Baby M woke in the early hours for a feed and I couldn't get her to latch on.  My breasts were hard and engorged. After a very long hour she was finely persuaded to nurse.  Over the next week there were times when I struggled to get her to latch on, probably when my breasts were fuller.

During her first growth spurt at around one week old a new problem emerged: my nipples got increasingly sore and eventually chapped and bloody. One nipple had a crack down the middle, the other had several chunks missing from it. Sounds sore? It was. Instead of putting Baby M to the breast whenever she was upset it became a last resort.  I only offered her the breast if she hadn't been fed for 2 to 3 hours (well that's how often babies are fed formula isn't it?). She spent a lot of time crying over the next few weeks when she almost certainly just wanted to nurse.

I dreaded when she would want the next feed, I would flinch when she was about to latch on and I often sat in tears while she nursed because of the pain.

No one ever identified anything wrong with Baby M's latch or position.  The only reason anyone could suggest for my mutilated nipples was the frequent feeding during the growth spurt: my nipples had got damaged and didn't have time to recover.

After a suggestion by a midwife I started using nipple shields on one side and pumping exclusively from the other to maintain my supply.  After a week I was able to feed again from both sides and over the next week I gradually stopped using the shields.

It was months before I was breastfeeding without pain.  After my nipples healed I started getting pain in other parts of my breasts.  No one could identify what that was caused by either, although it might have been due to scar tissue. It wasn't as bad as thrush or mastitis and it was nothing compared to the pain I had been feeling.

So the first few months breastfeeding were difficult for me, but I got through it due to great support and despite all the pressure I put on myself.  Apart from the occasional bite or scratch Baby M and I are now very happy with our breastfeeding relationship.

Baby M breastfeeding at around 6 months old
My biggest support has been from my husband.  It can't be easy seeing your partner in so much pain, but he has always supported my decision to breastfeed.  He has helped me by cooking dinner most nights, spoon feeding me at times (literally), bringing me drinks, not expecting me to achieve anything other than childcare while he is at work, looking after Baby M so I can have naps and sleeping on the sofa during the worst nights so Baby M and I have the bed for ourselves.

That first night when I couldn't get Baby M to feed my partner got up with us. While I tried to persuade Baby M to latch on he looked for help.  In the middle of the night:

  • He looked on the internet for helplines, but non of them were open 24 hours.
  • He tried to get the breast pump I had borrowed to work (neither of us could manage it)
  • He tried to work out how the steriliser worked so we could use the 'in case of emergency' cartons of formula.  We eventually gave up on this too.
  • Finally he found instructions online on how to hand express and he expressed some milk for me into a measuring jug.  

After removing a bit of milk Baby M finally managed to latch on.

My mum was a great support in the early days too.  She was there in the delivery room while I was in labour and she helped encourage Baby M to latch on for her first feed.  She also came over several times in the first few weeks when I cried down the phone and she held Baby M while I got some much needed sleep.

Our local midwives (in Loughton) were great.  One morning I called them when yet again I couldn't get Baby M to latch on and someone came over within half an hour.  I also remember crying down the phone to a midwife saying I felt like a failure as a mum because I was struggling to breastfeed.  The midwife firmly told me that I wasn't and told me off for thinking it. When I was struggling they suggested it would be ok to use formula, but when I told them I didn't want to they supported that decision.

The last group of people who kept me going are my twitter friends.  I've credited them before on this blog for their support which kept me going on the longest, loneliest nights, but they are definitely worth mentioning again. Mama's all over the globe (and a few Dad's) offered me support and advice when I was very close to giving up. When things were going well they kept me entertained during long night feeds.  They continue to be brilliant now when I've had no sleep and I'm close to despair (although rarely about breastfeeding these days).

Using hashtags such as #bfing, #bfcafe and #zombiemoms helped people find me, but I think there are some people out there that just search for any mention of breastfeeding and offer support to those who are struggling. I now have a brilliant group of twitter friends who I can share the highs and lows of being a mum with.


I would strongly recommend identifying support before you need it.  Make sure your family and friends know how you feel and what they can do to support you.  Read the other posts for the Keep Britain Scavenger Hunt this week to find out where you can get support from.  Here are 5 blogs to get you started:

Circus Queen
Really Rachel
Fi Peacock
A New Addition
Breast 4 Babies

The other support that is essential when you are breastfeeding are good nursing bra's.  My bra size near the end of pregnancy and in the first few weeks was different to what it has been for the last 8 months. I ended up wearing some cropped top style ones for the first few weeks and then went out and got fitted for some more supportive bra's when I was up to going out.


As well as organising this scavenger hunt Karen from Boobiemilk shop and blog is offering a nursing vest to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below and confirms their entry via the Rafflecopter widget.  Boobiemilk have a range of nursing bras, sleep bras and nursing vests as well as other breastfeeding accessories.  To ensure you get a good fit she offers unlimited free exchanges on the bras and vests.  If you are lucky enough to live in or around Kent she will even come to you to provide an in home fitting service, this is ideal if you don't have a comfortable bra to leave the house in.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

34 comments:

  1. My biggest supporter has to be my husband, he knows how tired I get breastfeeding through the night and never moans when I ask him to burp or change the baby.

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  2. My partner I think - my dad is also very supportive @MummyFever

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  3. My biggest supporter has been my mum, she has and remains brilliant and gives plenty of encouraging words and support.

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  4. Our local NCT breastfeeding counsellor who is a friend too.

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  5. My husband and mother in the beginning were great. when Froggy couldn't attach sue to tongue tie mum had the pump ready while hobby funneled.the boobs into his mouth so there was some soft tissue. they supported me when.his constant feeding became habit to sleep with boob in host mouth all night. at 16months we're still feeding and i love it.

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  6. I'm due to give birth in approx 6 weeks time, firstly want to say thanks for an informative and reassuring blogpost. My
    Midwife has offered me loads of advice as I'm very keen to breast feed and was worried I might no be able to. She's been very reassuring. X

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    1. Reading so many people's responses I think the biggest message is that if you are unlucky and have problems then get help and stick with it. The mum's that have got through any issues have gone on to have long and happy breastfeeding relationships

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  7. Your story is so similar to mine it's amazing! I found it really painful for the first few months despite knowing she was latched on properly and regardless of everyone saying it shouldn't hurt. My midwife saved us by bringing nipple cream and suggesting nipple shields. I could have kissed her. My husband has been amazing and although he was really upset the first few weeks to see me sob every time I fed the baby, he let me stick to my decision to keep trying. We are still feeding really well now at seven months. Great to hear there are other people with a similar experience. It does make you feel like a failure even though you know you're not. Thanks!

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    1. No mum is a failure, but it is so easy to feel like one. Congratulations on reaching 7 months and thank for the comment

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  8. my health visitor ruth has been amazing and suppported me through it all!

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  9. My husband is absolutely fantastic and always takes care of everything around me when I need to breastfeed

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  10. Goodness! You really went through the mill at the beginning. Despite the midwives saying your latch looked good, they should have referred you to a lactation consultant since there was obviously something not quite right still for you to experience pain and nipple damage.
    Your husband is an absolute gem and I am really lucky too that my family have all been really supportive of me breastfeeding :)

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    1. Thank you. I suspect there was/ is some problem as she spits up a lot too, but we are getting on ok. I know a lot more now than I did 9 months ago and I think I would have asked for more/ better help

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  11. Your story is scarily like mine, except all the hospital did was recommend formula! I persevered and sought help from the birthing centre and in our fourth month it finally stopped hurting. We nursed until he was 17 months and self weaned. I'm now bfing my second son (4 months) and it is so different...although the hospital is still the same :(

    My biggest supporters? My husband and babies. He knew how much it meant to me and never mentioned giving in once.

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    1. Thanks for sharing. It's good to know that things can be very different with subsequent babies

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  12. My Biggest Breastfeeding Supporter has got to be my Husband. I never managed to nurse my first 2 children but wanted to give it another go with our 3rd. He was there for me and encouraged me to carry on (if I wanted to). Couldn't have done it for 14mths without his support.

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  13. My mother in law - she's a pro after Breastfeeding her 3 boys :)

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  14. I'm lucky to have a supportive partner - he doesn't overtly give support but he lets me decide what I'm going to do, and then just goes along with it because he knows it means a lot to me.

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  15. I'm loving all these supportive Daddies. It just shows how important partners are.

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  16. My husband is my biggest supporter - he has done so much for me!

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  17. my hubby ,, hes just amazing its hard being in a wheelchair but hes always around to help

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  18. It may sound a silly person but it was my mother-in-law as she was so supportive from the off i don't have a mum around so she has been the next best thing,When it felt like it was getting to much she persuaded me to carry on as its a great way to spend precious time with my baby :)

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  19. My Partner, my eldest fed for an hour every other other in the early days and he would do everything including cutting all my dinners into bitesize sizes so I could eat one handedly and fed baby x

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  20. I'm quite near you in east London and I really wish someone did a similar measuring service around here! Such a good idea.

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  21. Samantha Holloway21 June 2012 at 23:07

    My mum and dad are my biggest breast feeding supporters.

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  22. My partner, he is the best :)

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  23. My biggest supporter? Me I think. This time around I've had confidence in myself to feed which is handy because it has been a lot harder this time and without my own willpower I'd have given up very early.

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  24. My biggest supporter is my baby daughter!
    She is my driving force , even in he hard times xx

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  25. Husband. When feeding a toddler, supportive people change to oddly disapproving. Hubby has remained steadfast in his support for me and baby girl as we continue our very successful breastfeeding relationship.

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  26. Samantha Bowes25 June 2012 at 21:57

    My hubby was the most supportive first time round and I know with a 3 year old this time round he'll have his hands full almost as much as me. Surprisingly my next best cheerleader was my mother in law who was always amazed at my bfing relationship with my daughter.

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  27. My friends have been fantastically supportive and i think it makes such a difference to confidence with breastfeeding to see other mums feeding their babaies too.

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  28. Your husband sounds just like mine he was amazing support alway knowing just what to say and looking for answers and trying his best to help in anyway he can and i know he will be just as great this time around when bump decides to arrive just as he has been throughout my pregnancies. I feel very blessed to have him and i am so happy for posts like this that shows things that can happen as its not all plain sailing for everyone so thankyou for sharing :)

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  29. my hubby has been great and always keen to pass a drink or a snack and is a bit jealous and awestruck

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  30. My husband, after a NHS Antenatal class he is probably one of the most pro breastfeeding men out there, he's fantastic.

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