Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Breastfeeding - My Experience

I wasn't sure whether I would blog about breastfeeding as it seems to provoke a lot of opinions, and sometimes very passionate responses, but I feel like I need to share my experience because of the isolation I felt.

Whilst I was pregnant, I always said that I'd give breastfeeding a go but wouldn't let myself get bullied into it if it wasn't working out. Myself and my two brothers were all bottle fed and I've never had an issue with formula feeding babies.

It became quite apparent early on in pregnancy that breastfeeding is very high on the NHS' agenda at the moment. We were bombarded with leaflets, DVDs, posters and info at every appointment from day 1. To be honest, we felt it was a bit over the top and if anything pushed us a little in the other direction out of principle. 

The only time we were offered any information on bottle feeding was in one antenatal class on request. Even then the midwife wasn't very keen on giving much information and it was a 5 min explanation compared to the other 1 hour and 55 mins session on breastfeeding. The quiz we did on breastfeeding was one of the most biased things I've ever read as well!

It's very easy to see how mums can get railroaded into doing something they aren't 100% sure that they want to do....


In saying that, I did want to give it my best shot and about 10 mins after I had Isla the midwife put her up to my chest. She took about 30 seconds to figure out how to latch on but managed to get in the right position pretty easily. Unfortunately, it was complete agony from the start. The midwife kept saying 'she's in the right position, you're doing so well, it'll stop hurting in about 15 seconds' but it just didn't stop hurting. I found it easy to tell when Isla was hungry but couldn't tell whether she was getting enough milk from me...


Overnight in hospital I carried on trying to feed her by myself but it was so sore I kept calling the midwives in to check that she had latched on properly. They say the pain is usually caused by the baby not latching on properly. 99% of the time she had latched on properly so I'm not sure why it was hurting so much. They just kept telling me it would get better.

I went home the following day determined that it would stop hurting if I just carried on but unfortunately each feed got worse and worse. Over the next few days it got to the point where I was crying every time I knew I had to feed Isla and throughout the actual feeds as well. I felt like such a failure because it felt like everyone around me was breastfeeding and I clearly couldn't manage.

Then my milk came in which was 100 times sorer than I thought it would be! I thought after giving birth with only gas and air that I could handle any pain life threw at me but the pain of your breasts being so full and solid was too much when the rest of my body was still in pain from giving birth.

I ended up going in to our local maternity centre for help and sat with a midwife for a couple hours to try and figure out what was going wrong. Unfortunately she just kept repeating what I already knew, man-handled me a little and tried to hand express some milk for Isla. I left not feeling like I had got to the root of the problem at all. 

We carried on for another few days and then it was my mum (who was staying with us at the time) who suggested we consider bottle feeding instead. The husband felt the same and he said it broke his heart to see me so upset at every feed. 

I honestly feel like it ruined my bonding with Isla for the first week of her life because I was so terrified of feeding her. It made me feel like I couldn't do anything right, I didn't want to hold her, bath her, change her or anything because I felt like I didn't deserve to. I consider myself to be a pretty strong willed person but when it came to breastfeeding I just went to bits and stopped thinking about what was best for me and my baby and focused on what I thought everyone else thought was best. I felt like I'd be judged if I went onto bottles. It was a really horrible, isolated time. I know a lot of people say if you persevere for a while it gets better but I couldn't take that risk because of how it was affecting our bonding.

When we did make the decision to go onto bottles I went back into the maternity centre and was absolutely dreading it. I was expecting a lecture and to be forced back into trying again. My mum had said before we went to make sure I was ready to say I 100% wanted to change onto bottles and to stick to my guns.

In the end we had a 1.5 hour conversation with 2 midwives who could't have been more supportive or honest about it all. They were saying that at the moment breastfeeding is a health initiative within the NHS and bottle feeding involves a lot more steps in order to be sterile. So the focus is on breastfeeding so that people who perhaps would be unable to keep up the proper sterilisation process are protected more.

They were saying that in our culture where we have the means to sterilise bottles etc then it should be a 50/50 choice whether you want to breast or bottle feed.

They made the point that we get given so many choices throughout pregnancy with which scans to get, what birth to have etc but it often feels like there is no choice with regards to feeding.

One of them said the main thing is for mum and baby to be happy and we clearly weren't so bottles were definitely the way forward for us. 

She also, controversially, said from her experiences she isn't completely convinced about all the benefits anyway. Out of her 5 kids, the only one who has any health issues is the one who was breast fed exclusively. She also mentioned that in order to reap a lot of the benefits mentioned in the information on breast-feeding, you'd have to breastfeed for up to 5 years! I know this is just one midwife's opinion but it was really interesting and refreshing to hear the other side. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Since moving onto bottles, we've also discovered that Isla has a rather small mouth which might have caused issues and she is a very very greedy baby so there's no way I'd have been able to keep up with her demand for milk without having her attached to me for most of the day! It also allows other people to bond with her through feeding (dad especially) and allows us to keep track of how much she's having.

I have the utmost respect for mums who do breastfeed and I will try again if we have more kids in the future but I am happy with our decision for Isla.

As you can see, she has no problem with the decision either...



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5 comments :

  1. First off congratulations on the birth of your daughter, I have been behind reading and blogging but I did catch up on your previous posts.
    I appreciate your labor and delivery story (I'm due in two weeks) and I really respect you writing this honest post on your experience with breast-feeding. I, like you, have plans for trying breastfeeding but am going in with an open mind knowing it might not work for me and my little one. I agree with you that right now nursing does seem to be the only option the medical community wants us new moms to consider- it is the same here in the US.
    You gave it your best shot and you should be proud!

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  2. Love the balancing act piccy by the way!!
    I think I was extremely lucky because the more and more posts I read about breastfeeding bullying, the more I realise that I never was. In fact, i believe they could have persuaded me to breastfeed if they had really tried!
    Funny you say about the controversial health benefits as I have friends who have a mix of breastfed and bottle fed babies and they happen to say the same thing re allergies and health issues. Bizarre!
    Thanks for linking up to #babybabble lovely, I look forward to seeing some more great posts! Xx

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  3. I decided to breastfeed but I'm glad I wasn't bombarded with information and getting pushed into it. I decided to try it out myself, and thankfully it worked out for us. I only got asked in one midwife appointment if I had considered how I was going to feed my baby, and I said I was thinking of giving breastfeeding a go, then I was given information about it.
    Well done for trying and moving on when you realised it wasn't working.
    Isla is a little cutie and I love the pictures :)
    #BabyBabble

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  4. Great post! I blogged about this horrendous pain related to breastfeeding. .i feel that if the professionals acknowledged the difficulty and pain then at least we know its not us! Check out my blog post on it www.mymummydiaries.blogspot.com

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  5. Just read this post in light of the #brelfie #bressure craze. Your story is so similar to mine. I'd initially decided to keep an open mind but found that once I'd given birth to Taylor I really wanted to breastfeed her and sort if felt it was my duty as a mither to ve able to provide for her that way. Like you I was also pressured into believing that breast is far superior by the NHS and who doesn't want to do their best for their newborn? I had 10 days of complete agony, bleeding nipples etc and saw breastfeeding experts who did just keep reiterating the benefits etc and not really helping. In fact I felt more of a failure after meeting with them. Introducing the bottle was such a relief a changed everything for the better. Both mum and baby so much happier. I never wrote a post on this but it was refreshing to read yours. Thanks so much for sharing x

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