When I was pregnant with Lottie, Mr M and I briefly discussed feeding and what we would do. It didn’t seem like a big issue at the time and our general consensus was that I would try to breastfeed and if it didn’t work, we would bottle feed.
There was no drama, no worry, just a simple decision that although we thought breastfeeding was the ideal, neither of us was hung up on it.
When the story about women feeling under ‘bressure’ broke in the news, I even blogged to outline a similar viewpoint. I believed there were more important things to worry about and that in the 21st century, formula is so advanced that we really don’t need to worry about bottle fed babies.
I was invited to attend an antenatal breastfeeding workshop and while it was all very pro breastfeeding, obviously, I still didn’t feel any pressure. I felt the session was very one-sided and was interested to hear that the children’s centre where it was held actually had targets for how many mothers they were required to get breastfeeding.
Fast forward to Lottie’s birth and the entire issue was turned on its head.
After an emergency forceps delivery, Lottie and I were kept on the ward for a few nights. I had lost a lot of blood . But the main reason I was kept in was that the hospital ward was point blank determined to get Lottie breastfeeding.
Sadly due to Lottie’s birth, we missed the immediate skin to skin contact and opportunity to allow her to find the breast, as I was in theatre and she was with her daddy.
When I was wheeled into the delivery room, MW2 (the midwife who had overseen the second part of my labour) roughly shoved Lottie onto my breast without even asking how I wanted to feed her. To be honest, at that point, I think we were both far too exhausted and emotional for it to work.
MW2 showed no support and no real patience and walked away leaving Lottie and I trying our best without a clue what we were doing.
When we were moved up to the ward, I cannot fault the breastfeeding support we were given. There were nursery nurses on hand constantly, who were kind, gentle and patient. We saw an infant feeding specialist, who was just lovely and really tried to help, but Lottie wasn’t latching. We were struggling to get her mouth to open wide enough to get on the breast properly.
While everyone was lovely, supportive and kind, though, there really was no other option offered except breastfeeding.
And it became an obsession.
I felt like a failure as I hadn’t been able to deliver Lottie naturally, and I think being able to breastfeed became the one thing I could control and the one thing I felt I could do to make it up to my baby.
On the first night, she had eaten nothing in 14 hours, so we syringed my colostrum and fed it to her to ensure she was getting the nutrients she needed.
I was told from the next morning onward that I could go home as soon as I had shown the nurses that I had Lottie latched properly.
Mr M and I ended up arguing on Lottie’s second night in the world as I was so desperate to go home, but Mr M wanted me to stay and get the support that was on tap in the hospital. He could see how intent I was on breastfeeding and was supporting me the best he knew how, but I longed to get home.
Finally we managed to get a half latch with a long session with the infant feeding specialist and I was set free.
Looking back, I could have gone home when I bloody wanted to, but it was such a one way street with the lovely ladies in the hospital, that I couldn’t see the bigger picture. I felt totally one tracked about this feeding issue. The IFS had referred us to a specialist to check Lottie for tongue tie as she suspected that was the cause of her inability to latch.
The appointment came through for the day after we had got home (impressive speed) and so we trudged off to the hospital. The car contained a battered, bruised anxious mother, a perfectly content baby, who was being fed expressed breastmilk and formula, and a weary father.
She didn’t have tongue tie. Thank goodness. But as the delightful specialist pointed out, we were still without a cure for the lack of Lottie’s latch.
As the next few days passed, Lottie and I became increasingly fraught about the situation.
If I’m honest, the pressure I felt somewhat tarnished our initial days with our daughter.
It took up so much of my thinking that it became slightly obsessive, and I’m sure that the more I worried and obsessed about it, the more Lottie picked up on it and the harder the situation became, but I couldn’t get out of that cycle.
The climax came when we were trying to latch when Lottie was about eight days old. She was getting frustrated because she was hungry and she started to cry and bit down on my nipple.
It hurt so much that I leapt up a bit and ripped the stitches on my episiotomy.
So we were both sobbing and Mr M had to take the baby and I realised we couldn’t go on like that. I called the local children’s centre as I knew they had said they would help if they could.
The lady I spoke to was absolutely lovely and obviously picked up that we were all quite distressed and she helped get a support worker out to us the next morning.
When the support worker arrived, I dissolved into tears and she sat with me discussing the situation for a while.
The single most helpful and supportive thing she said was that we had to do what was right for our family. Something that family and friends had been telling me all along, but somehow, a professional telling me suddenly relieved all of the pressure.
She then tried to help me get Lottie to latch and confirmed my worries – she just wasn’t opening her mouth wide enough to be able to latch. She is a little lady and sort of tries to sip with her little lips pursed.
The pressure was off.
Mr M and I had a long chat and decided to carry on expressing as much as I could, but to feed it via a bottle.
What difference does it make really how that milk is administered?
Yes the ideal is to breastfeed, but if it doesn’t work for you, there shouldn’t be this pressure.
Surely our emotional wellbeing was as important as winning the breastfeeding battle?
When I look back on the entire situation, it saddens me that no other professional opened up the other options to us.
Nobody told us that it was OK if we couldn’t manage it.
Nobody gave us that get-out clause and we were stuck in a pretty upsetting, stressful situation without being able to see a get-out.
Somehow I had become a vulnerable individual, which isn’t me at all. I needed someone to allow me to take the decision to give up, whereas I would usually be more than capable of making that decision myself.
I will be forever grateful to that support worker as she allowed me to fully enjoy my baby again and to relieve the stress and worry I had been going through and had been putting my husband and baby through.