Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How I overcame my struggle with breastfeeding.

After the shock of giving birth I think I was expecting a slightly easier time in the weeks following. I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes I was prepared for sore bits, sleepless nights, baby brain, only ever having one hand free. However I was not prepared for the agonizing pain of severely cracked nipples & the stress of the struggle. Breastfeeding is natural, any woman can do it... can't they!? I remember during my 6 week struggle with breastfeeding thinking that I would give birth 10 times to be able to feed my baby without pain! On hindsight no I wouldn't, but the on going pain and heart ache of not being able to feed my baby successfully was bar far much harder than giving birth to her!

For the first few days of Josie's life feeding was quite easy. I put her to my boob every time she made a noise & the milk came in on her second day. My nipples were big and awkward, Josie had a tiny mouth and was quite a lazy sucker. The result was a very bad latch, severley cracked nipples and failure of the letdown reflex.

My sister was still feeding her little one and for a couple of nights I stayed with her so she could help and nurse Josie for me. I was only nursing from one nipple at the time as the other was too damaged and needed time to heal. Without time to build up my milk supply one breast wouldn't have been sufficient and I was desperate not to give formula! However I couldn't live for ever at my sisters and my baby continued to loose weight. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had to introduce a bottle to keep her fed. I was so disappointed it had gotten to that but at the same time at the same time so relieved she was getting a proper feed! I consoled myself with the thought of the sooner she gets big and strong the sooner we'll crack the breastfeeding! So that was the start of the breastfeeding, expressing (by hand as my nipples were too painful to use the pump) & bottle feeding. I was so envious of other women saying how easy it was to be able to just pull their babies into bed at night & feed them! I had to get up, go down stares and set myself up with: cushions, foot stool, breast sling, lanolin, water. Then, attach, re-attach, re-attach, stop, deep breath, re-attach. After about an hour i'd express, top her up with a bottle & back to bed to snatch a little sleep before it all started again...

I cried everyday for about a month, my poor partner thought I was having a major break down! Anyway I continued to seek help, I visited a feeding clinic twice and had numerous visits from a fantastic midwife and health visitor that were so supportive. I had information through the post from Le leshe league and other organisations. I spoke to other mums and soldered on. During the hardest moments I even though 'what if I gave up, what would that mean...', then I saw myself in the future sat on a bench by the river having to reach for a bottle, & I could't bare the thought, I'd be ashamed to be seen 'not breastfeeding', so I never gave up.

After the longest 6 weeks of my life I was left with just a mild burning sensation & it wasn't long until that had faded too. I could finally enjoy my baby! I felt so free, I could go out with out panicking that Josie would wake and need feeding. I could go out without having to pack a bottle (just in case). Finally I could feed where ever I wanted and however I wanted, truly amazing!

I'm still breastfeeding now at 10 months and have no intention of giving up soon. I can see myself feeding until Josie is about 15 - 18 months. It is such a wonderful thing, knowing that she is getting the best possible start in life.


  1. The photo shows myself (middle), my sister (right) and a friend breast feeding at a garden party.

  2. That's amazing that you persevered through all of that. I wonder why we often find it so hard to breastfeed? I don't think tribal women do, do they?

  3. They defiantly do not have as much trouble, in fact their failure rate is almost none. BF is so much to do with the way of life, children grow up surrounded by breast feeding women. How often does a child here see a latching baby here...? Almost never! I will be touching on the subject and the lack of BF in our media in the future.

    A thought, wouldnt a 'flash mob' of breast feeding somewhere like padington be great!? Boobies in the media for the right reason!

  4. Congratulations on managing to get through what was a difficult time. Your blog resonates with me as I also had a great deal of difficulty establishing breastfeeding with my baby. I suppose there were two major differences though. Firstly I had expected it to be tough, having known people who had found it very hard. Secondly, you had the family support of your sister, which must have been invaluable. I had no support (other than professional, which I sought out far and wide and was so so grateful for) from my family, and in fact they were more encouraging of formula than breastfeeding. I found it REALLY TOUGH for the first eight weeks, and didn't find it 'easy' or particularly natural feeling until about 4 months, but as with you, it was so important to me that I persevered. My LO is now 6 months and I intend to continue until at least 15-18 months, or quite possibly longer.

    I had to use formula milk in the first week or so as my LO had bad jaundice and we were in hospital. I needed to 'top up' his breastfeeds with formula to flush the jaundice out (the hospital were very supportive in my expressing so I could gradually move to using expressed milk only to top up his breast feeds and we were exclusively breastfeeding by the time we left). Having had this experience, and more importantly knowing others who have been unable to breastfeed (despite desperately wanting to and their dedicated perseverance) I do think it's important not to jump to the conclusion when you see a mother bottle feeding that she 'chose' formula. You may have felt 'ashamed' had you not breastfed (and indeed I myself would feel extremely disappointed) but we shouldn't shame others for bottle feeding (particularly when we are ignorant of their individual circumstances).

  5. Hi....I see what you are doing here...but publishing comments such as “'what if I have up, what would that mean...', then I saw myself in the future sat on a bench by the river having to reach for a bottle, & I couldn’t bare the thought, I'd be ashamed to be seen 'not breast feeding',” is very distressing for people like myself.

    I was going to bf...why wouldn’t I? I also knew that it wouldn’t be easy because of the difficulties friends have had.

    What I didn’t know, or expect is that I would be transferred, by ambulance from my lovely birthing pool at our community hospital to be given a spinal block and an emergency c-section. Everything that could have gone wrong did. I was bleeding out, my husband was pulled, by his arm and given the baby and taken from the room. All he could see was blood and thought that I was going to die. I couldn’t walk...barely move and I didn’t eat for 3 days or sleep for 60+ hours...but I bf my baby. I was told that I had “perfect bf technique”. However, when she was weighed on day 5 she had lost more than 20% of her birth weight and we had to top up on formula.

    I then went into a cycle of bf, formula top up, express – that is all I know how frequently newborns need feeding. For 40 minutes of express I was getting 5ml. After a fortnight I was exhausted.

    She still wasn’t putting on enough weight. So...we had to make a decision. Do we let her starve (as it was obvious there was no milk in me) or do we put her on formula? Of course, her health and wellbeing came before my desire to bf my baby. I had no engorgement or pain.

    This was the most heartbreaking decision I have ever had to make....but she had to put on weight.

    I read your blog this morning and it’s brought back some very unhappy memories of what I went through. I do see what you are trying to achieve, but please be less narrow-minded and don’t assume that all bottle fed babies are bottle fed through choice.

    Having read your blog, I have spent parts of today in tears, recalling how horrid that time was for me, my husband and our beautiful baby daughter.

    I do hope you keep this post on your blog and show your understanding for women like me who had no choice.

    If I had been a tribes, my baby or both of us would have I guess bf wouldn’t have been an issue.

    Good luck with your blog – I wish you and your family well x

  6. How come we never talked about this! I went through exactly the same thing with Leon -- I had blood blisters around my nipples. It was a terrible phase. I used auto-pump. Everytime when I just started expressing milk, it was as if Leon could sense it, he would start hawling with anger and hunger. Then my milk only came ever slower. His crying used to (still do)put me in such a state.

    But I continued to beastfeed him till he gave it up as he enjoyed solid food so much, when he was 11 months old. For me, bottle feed was not an option.

    He is now strong and healthy. I can't help but think 98% is down to my milk. :-)

  7. Thank you for everyone who has commented, as my partner put it, I have 'action on the blog front!'.
    Louise, I am sorry reading this upset you, thats the last thing I would want. It sounds like you had a traumatic time and you tried your best with the feeding.
    I would never assume that all bottle feeding mothers are doing so out of choice. I feel like the tough time I had made me even more understanding of the fact that a woman can put her heart and soul into BF and even then sometimes it just doesn't work out. It is true that I would be ashamed/embarrassed if I were to bottle feed in public, but that is just me. I was explaining my thought patterns during that time & why it was so important to me not to give up. During my struggle I said on numerous occasions to my sis', my mum and others that I would never again judge a woman for giving up, because I then knew how frikin' hard it can be.
    I don't look at the woman sat in public bottle feeding & make any assumptions but I do notice the few women I see breast feeding and think how lovely it looks.

  8. I also think it is worth noting that overall only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months. This is data from the 2005 survey, 2010 survey I have had trouble getting a break down of, maybe the info is not yet available.