Today I wanted to talk about my breastfeeding experience, I am hoping this post might help someone somewhere in some way. It’s something that I think mums (and dads) should talk about more; whether good or bad. How you are going to feed your newborn baby can be one of the most daunting things in the world, especially if it’s your first. There is so much added (and unwanted) pressure from family, friends, social media and society in general telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, when really all that matters is that your baby is happy and healthy and you are doing what works best for the both of you!
If you saw my life update post you will know that I had my first baby back in April. When I was pregnant I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a try. I was very conscious of the fact that it was likely to be really hard and that it doesn’t always go to plan. I tried to be really open minded. I wanted to persevere, try my hardest and not give up too easily, but also be happy to know when I had given it my best shot. At the end of the day I believe that ‘fed is best’ and I wanted to do what was best for both Finley and I.
Once Finley was born and we were back on labour ward, I tried to get him to latch for the first time. It went perfectly, however in one of the pregnancy books I had read (here are 3 I would recommend) I knew that didn’t mean it would be smooth sailing from there. It’s very common for babies to latch the first time and not know what to do the next time. I was very fortunate to have two fantastic nursery nurses who helped me in the first 36 hours after Finley was born. They were able to help me hand express colostrum to feed him and they were there for every feed to make sure I had the correct latch / position and I could not thank them enough. Their help really set me up for a good start.
Finley and I went home after 36 hours and feeding had been going well. On our first full day at home, I noticed a difference. Finley was feeding constantly, but seemed really unsettled and I just knew he was hungry. My milk had not come in yet and I knew he was struggling. The midwives came to weigh him, and he had lost 10.5%. It’s extremely common for babies to lose weight in the first few days, but this was quite a lot. I was absolutely heartbroken. I had tried so hard; it had seemed to be going well and I was so disappointed that I couldn’t give him what he needed. As he was over the 10% mark, the team were a little concerned that he had lost too much weight and may need to be readmitted to hospital. They put a little plan in place, which involved me doing everything I could to bring my milk in and to feed him at least every two hours and they would be back in 48 hours to re-assess the situation.
For me it was a long 48 hours of worrying whether he would be ok. He was feeding like a dream, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough. The midwives came back to weigh him and were so surprised to find that he had put on nearly 200 grams in 48 hours (apparently that is a lot for a breastfed baby). I cried with relief; I was so happy that we had done it.
Unfortunately, my breastfeeding experience doesn’t end there. The days went on and things were going perfectly. However, if you have seen this insta post, you will know that I suffered quite a bad complication after having Finley and spent the majority of the first four weeks of his life in hospital. This is where things started to get really difficult. I was so unwell that I couldn’t hold Finley, let alone hold him long enough to feed him. I started to get more and more unwell and it resulted in me needing treatment, which meant I couldn’t breastfeed or express any milk for him.
I was devasted, I had worked so hard to persevere with breastfeeding. Finley and I were a little team and we had done so well and muddled through together and just like that it was all coming to an end and he was being swapped to formula and being fed by everyone but me. I am not going to lie, I cried continuously. I felt like I was failing, and I couldn’t look after my own baby. After a difficult labour and being so unwell with the complication, I felt breastfeeding was the only thing that had finally gone well and now the choice was being taken away from me. Everyone reassured me it was the best thing to do in the long run. I needed to get better and be well again, so that we could go home and be together as a family.
On the third admission into hospital, I spent 10 days with a surgical drain inserted and having various types of medication, so I had to express my milk and throw it away. The night I was discharged, a pharmacist had cleared me to feed again and the midwife wanted to know if I would like to try and feed Finley again to see if I needed additional support when I went home. Feeding time came around very quickly and he latched on just like he always did!
We went home and had a few days where he was combination fed as he was so hungry and having a little bit of a growth spurt I think. Since then we have been able to stop formula feeding and we are back to solely breastfeeding. I could not be prouder of Finley for being patient with me and for feeding so well. We are a great little team and I am so grateful that we have been able to carry on.
I wanted to share this experience for various reasons. I would like to help normalise breastfeeding and for mums to know that even successful breastfeeding stories are not all rainbows and unicorns, for them to know that if they are struggling try and persevere and try your hardest, but also know that it’s completely ok to feed your baby another way. I would not have recovered if I hadn’t agreed to formula feeding whilst I was in hospital. As someone who has breastfed, expressed, formula fed and combination fed, I would definitely say fed is best! You should do whatever works best for you, your baby and your family.
If you are pregnant and would like to breastfeed or if you are struggling with breastfeeding I thoroughly recommend making the most of the support available, whether it be nursery nurses, midwives, breastfeeding specialists or groups. They were invaluable in my experience and I am so glad I was able to have their help and that I have been able to continue my breastfeeding journey.
What was your breastfeeding journey like? Let me know in the comments, I would love to chat with you about it!