This is a story I rarely tell because it still upset me even 2 and half years on. J’s entrance into the world was early…only by a week but thanks to a bump to the bump leading to reduced movement and low fluid levels I was induced.
I had decided to breastfeed and express. I have M.E so I want a bottle option for if I had a flare up. That way Daddy could feed him too. But I still wanted it to be breastmilk so it seemed the perfect option.
I ended up in theatre having a spinal and J being delivered by ventouse. Makes me cross my legs just thinking about it. His head got stuck in my pelvis so it was all stations go!
Anyway, once J was out I was shattered. I had cuddles and skin to skin, then had a sleep. I asked a nurse about when I should feed him and was told that he’d let me know (helpful advise for a first time Mum). When J cried and cuddles and nappy change wasn’t fixing it, I asked for help to feed him. I said I wanted to give breast feeding a try.
The nurse/staff member came back with a leaflet and a syringe. She told me to read it and ‘give it a go’. I asked for help and was told ‘I’ll be back in a bit, I just need to go help this first time Mum’…wtf was I? I was a first time Mum, by myself as it was outside visiting hours and no idea what I was doing.
I read the instructions and was trying my best to stimulate my breast. I put J in different positions and yet nothing happened. I tried to massage my breast and use the syringe to gather anything that came out…only it didn’t.
J stopped crying, pretty sure he saw my stress and decided to give me a break. We had cuddles instead. The member of staff came and asked how I was getting on. I said nothing was happening. She told me to persevere.
By the time hubby came I was stressed beyond belief. If breastfeeding is so natural then why wasn’t it happening? Why was nothing coming out and J not latching?
J was also getting stressed and hungry. I ended up asking hubby to go and ask for a bottle for J. He hadn’t fed, not once and his needs came before my pride. The staff member tried to ask us if we wanted to breastfeed but by this point we just wanted him fed.
We were asked which formula we wanted-I didn’t know. I hadn’t thought of formula as I wasn’t expecting to need it. Giving J that first bottle I had so many emotions. Part of me thought I had failed. I couldn’t do what so many mothers over hundreds and thousands of years had been able to do. I was angry at the lack of support. I was a first time Mum. I was scared of every sound J made, I was in pain and everything was new. But I also smiled as he sucked away and seemed happy. He was so content afterwards…he was actually a very quiet and chilled baby. That worried me…everything worried me, haha.
The F.A.B team came around. They popped their head around the curtain to say hi. I was so happy as I thought I could finally get some 1:1 help. Instead she said because he had a bottle she couldn’t help me till later now and she’d arrange for someone to see me at home. Off she went and spent an hour laughing and encouraging the lady opposite me. I just cried.
No one from FAB team returned despite my 3 day stay. No one contacted me or came to see me at home. After that moment I decided that I would have a few more goes myself and listened into the advice she gave others. J just wouldn’t latch and nothing came out of me.
So I figured, sod it. No one was going to help me so I decided to end it there and permanently bottle feed. To be honest he didn’t drink a huge amount from the bottle either but it was something.
On my last night in the hospital a LOVELY midwife came to introduce herself. She’s the first one to do this and she was so kind and caring. She listened to me and seemed genuinely interested in J. She picked him up for a cuddle and agreed that he was a quiet baby. She then asked to take him for a quick test at SCBU.
It turns out J was jaundice. This is why he was so chilled and quiet, and why he wasn’t getting into feeding or latching. I was relieved as it wasn’t me. I wasn’t failing as a mother. J was just under the treatment level at that point.
I carried on bottle feeding and the day after I was released from hospital we ended up back in for light therapy as his jaundice had gotten worse. I look back at photos of before and after treatment and the colour change is amazing.
After his therapy he ate like he’d never eaten before. He fed well and often (although we soon found he was allergic to cows milk protein but that’s a different story).
J is a happy and healthy 2 year old. He has the usual colds and viruses but has rarely been ‘ill’. He is active…very active and seems to never run out of batteries. However, I will also feel like I have failed him. I will always feel that sting in my heart every time I see a breastfeeding post on social media, or a breastfeeding family when out and about. I felt so jealous seeing my sister in laws breastfeeding my niece and nephew, but at the same time I was so happy for them.
I will never be able to get over how poorly I was treated in the postnatal wards. How neglected I felt and forgotten. I was lucky to have a fantastic midwife (who typically was on holiday when I was in labour, despite her strict instructions before she left that I wasn’t to do that) who really helped boost me up once I was released. I just try to remember the saying ‘fed is best’ and that I did do my best.
When I have my next baby I will be shouting from the roof tops until someone helps me. I will not be a quiet first time Mum anymore, I will be an established Mummy Bear who knows what she wants and will get it.
Thanks for reading. It’s actually quite therapeutic to write it down. Looking forward to hearing your views and stories this #nationalbreastfeedingweek