Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding Day 3 ~ The Importance of Support



It took me 5 days in hospital to get my first one to feed. 5 heartbreaking days of me sweating in my dressing gown and slippers and watching all the other new Mums come and go. 5 days of pumping milk that my little man wouldn't take at all for 3 days, and at 4 days not from anything except a bottle or a cup. 5 days of watching him turn yellow with jaundice and begging for a wet nappy. 5 days of me sobbing and feeling a complete failure.

I was just 22 and had no friends who breastfed, and no family to call upon. My partner's Mother hadn't breasfed in the late 60's, it wasn't usual, so she couldn't help me either. Everyone could watch, but the help I needed wasn't available. I had my child on a Friday, and the one and only breastfeeding support worker only worked Tuesdays. There was no internet like there is today, all I had for reference was a badly photocopied pamphlet with line drawings.

All the midwives tried to help, but a lot of the advice was to just stop, give in and look after myself, I was falling to pieces and that was no good for my baby. I couldn't though. I WAS GOING TO BREASTFEED MY CHILD.

My partner of the time (the Father to my first 3 children) suffered from Asthma and I knew without any doubt that to breastfeed would help protect my child. I knew that in the long run if my child developed Asthma, I would live with my own feelings of failure forever. He was fantastic. He trusted I was doing the right thing and didn't try to deter me. I suppose he knew I would give up when I really had no choice and didn't want to crush me unnecessarily.

All the time there was one Midwife who was truly on my side and desperate for me to nurse. She had the weekend off, and I missed her so much for those 2 days. I felt incredibly alone, and so very small in that great big hospital full of people who couldn't put their finger on how to help. It was awful for her when she arrived at work on the Monday to find me still there and still unable to get my child to latch except for about 3 occasions over the whole 4 days. It really was hell.

By 2pm on that last day I was ready to give in. I couldn't take the punishment any more and my child was getting ill. I would pump and give him a bottle for as long as my milk would allow and I'd been warned this would likely be 6 weeks at best. I couldn't afford an electric pump, they cost hundreds at the time, so it would all be hand pumped. It was at this point of pretty much no return that my Midwife did a stunning thing. She gave me advice she was not allowed to give, she told me a secret. She told my partner to go to Mothercare or Boots and buy nipple shields. It was a last ditch effort, and one which would still probably only give us 6 weeks, but it was worth a shot and would be far easier than hand-pumping milk.
 
My bags packed for home, my partner came back within an hour and the Midwife took a shield and poured boiled water over it. I positioned it and brought my baby to me. What happened next was beyond my wildest dreams - my baby latched on and fed. No hassle, no screaming and crying, he just fed. I sobbed some more, repeatedly thanking her. I cried again as we left hospital, unsure of what lay ahead, but confident I could do it.

I knew that with the nipple shields my milk production would be reduced because of the lack of stimulation, and I wanted to be able to feed for as long as we both wanted, so, for the next 6 weeks I carried on feeding whenever my son showed an interest. My Health Visitor told me I was 'wasting my time' and that my milk would stop, it was pointless.

For the first week or 2 I expected to suddenly find nothing there, but there was always gallons of milk, I woke up in a puddle every night and leaked all the time. I began to get a little more confident and look to the future. I needed to get rid of the shields, the sterilising and carrying them about with me was frustrating and made it virtually impossible for me to ever feed in public. I started trying to get him to latch before positioning the shield. At first he'd only occasionally even try, but by 4 weeks had taken a handful of feeds without a shield. At 5 weeks he took 2 feeds running without a shield and I knew it was working. I was still feeding my baby and I still had milk. He was just less than 6 weeks when we stopped using nipple shields all together. It is one of the proudest days of my life.

I carried the nipple shields around with me for a few more months, but I never needed them again. I fed my child until he was 19 months old and loved every moment. He did develop Asthma briefly between the ages of 7 and 9, but since then has never had any more signs of any allergy. My 2nd child nursed from birth until 21 months, and my 3rd until 20 months. Neither ever had any Asthma, only a little Eczema which they no longer have.

Support in those early weeks is absolutely vital. I had a very good and obvious reason for breastfeeding and I wasn't going to give up. I felt completely alone and useless and I battled every step of the way. I had to fight for what I knew to be worthwhile, when everyone around me thought it was a waste of everyone's time. I never saw a breastfeeding support worker, even though I didn't leave hospital until after she should have been working all day. At the time there were no numbers to call, no support groups, no volunteers that anyone knew of. No internet to turn to. Without that Midwife breaking the rules and giving me her own personal advice from what she'd seen over the years, I probably would never have been able to put my child to the breast. I will never forget her, her name was Claire. 

My 5th (3) and my 1st (19)

To this day I have no idea why my first child was so stubborn in those early days, why he just wouldn't do what he was told. I guess he must take after his Mum....

In all I spent around 8 years breastfeeding and every moment was worthwhile. I made it, and looking back I will forever be proud of myself because I did it alone. Many, many Mums give up when they don't need to. There is support everywhere now and all Health Professionals have a duty to help you, including your Health Visitor Team, GP and Midwife. Groups and volunteers such as The La Leche League, The NCT, The Breastfeeding Network, Keep Britain Breastfeeding and Lactivist are all there waiting to listen and help. Don't be scared to ask.


There are loads of fabulous bloggers taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt including

Oh So Amelia
Faded Seaside Mama
Mama Geek
Life, Love And Living With Boys
Pobbing Along

Zena's Suitcase


38 comments:

  1. wow! I never realised you had such a difficulty with your first. you must have had so much determination to keep going with it, and the lack of support sounds pretty bad, alot worse than it is these days! I had difficulties with my 1st but unfortunately I never had the determination to get past it, as I just thought I couldn't - i think had I known more where to get breastfeeding support from, i might have managed it. but whats done is done so cant change that now! This is a great story you've shared to show how you can go from such difficulties to successfully end up feeding 5 kids all well over a year!

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  2. i think the first baby is always hard and being a first time mum is always not easy.
    I am so glad that when I have both of my children, the nurses are very helpful and help me along with breastfeeding. They give lot of support.
    (Due to poor health, I have to stop BF)

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    1. Each feed you can give is a great thing. If you have to stop, then at least you started. It's great you got good support at the beginning :)

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  3. What a great story and totally in contrast to my own where I used the Internet for support. Its saddening to think that even though your experiences were years before mine there is still a lack of support in hospitsls apart from the odd really lovely midwife.

    Thsnk you for sharing x

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  4. Stunning post Jen, it gave me goosebumps when I read it! I so admire your determination, I think sometimes that's what every mum needs to get breastfeeding established as I know that was what got me through to getting Bud feeding and gaining weight. Support is crucial, thank goodness for that lovely midwife.

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  5. My best friend is a bf counsellor so has been amazing, but a really supportive hubby is important too!!

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    1. Wow, how lucky for you! I agree about your partner - they can be 'make or break' very easily :)

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  6. omy goodness this had me sobbing! brought back all the memories. i too was in hospital for 5 days with my first born. she was tongue tied and refused to latch for 3 days. i had torturous moments with 3 nurses all stood round, one holding the babies head one holding my boob trying to get the baby to latch while she screamed her head off and i cried with her! until eventually a midwife came in and suggested the nipple shields. blummin miracle! Although my daughter never would latch without the shield. and sadly after 5 months she decided she wanted no more boobie!! but i was proud to have acheived that after all the initial worry and heartache! I have now just had my second daughter who had no trouble whatsoever in munching my nipple off ten minutes after arrival with no shield needed! (i had them at the ready just incase, i wasn't about to go through what i went through the first time!) i intend to feed as long as possible! i totally love it! My main support through it all is my partner Gary. He's ace, even though there's not much he can physically do to help feed, just having him there to do the burping and cheer me on is all the support i need. xxxxxx

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    1. Aww, I didn't want to make yo cry, but if it's any consolation I can't read it without crying either! I well remember the 3 Nurses jamming the baby onto your boob, and lying over them and all the rest of it. Well done to you for managing with the shields for 5 months - that is brilliant!
      Congratulations on no.2, may you have many happy months of feeding ahead of you :) x

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  7. Best supporter with 1st boy: my brilliant community midwife!

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    1. Community midwives can be an excellent thing, they really can :)

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  8. my baby probable also has supported, she was a natural it was me that was caggy and couldn't hold her the way I kept getting shown. I changed to feeding lying down until one night as I was swapping sides baby latched on and I was now able to feed sat up. I was so glad as it meant I could now feed in public.

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    1. Well done you! It certainly makes it far easier during the day! :)

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  9. Wow what a story, so inspiring! I too had to battle against the odds, with people looking on thinking why on earth is she doing that, but I too believe it's all worth it :) And I was lucky to be able to find good help at the right time.

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  10. You are a super star!
    my biggest supporter is my OH who saw me through the early nights with baby no 1 when we struggled with latch issues, and ended up referred back to the hospital for a feeding plan which involved a very difficult schedule of expressing and topping up. he also understands how important breastfeeding is for both mine and our childrens health.
    But I also have a community of women friends who have breastfed/are breastfeeding and its their support that gets me through the ups and downs.

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    1. Support is vital, it's such a hard thing to go through on your own.

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  11. My boyfriend and the pink ladies are my biggest supporters :)

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    1. That's brilliant. I hope it's still true now! :D

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  12. Well done to you & a supportive midwife who realised that not everyone is the same & each person needs to be treated as an individual.

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    1. Totally. These are bags of apples, these are people. They need to be treated individually :)

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  13. my breastfeeding supporter was definitely my mother in law. she was fantastic!

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  14. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story. It means so much to hear about someone struggling and carrying on anyway, especially when we hear so many stories about people giving up at the first hurdle.

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    1. Thank you. It really isn't always the easiest thing in the world, I think if people expect that then when it works instantly it's a bonus, and they won't just give as soon as it doesn't flow as it should :)

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  15. My supporter was a lactation consultant who diagnosed my daughter's tongue tie.

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    1. My 2 and 3 had tongue ties, and no.2 wasn't diagnosed until he was 2 years old!

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  16. My husband, he is always at hand with an endless supply of drinks and snacks

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    1. Bless him, what a great bloke. It's the woman who feeds, but she needs her assistants :)

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  17. So sorry to hear that you had such a difficult start with breastfeeding your first baby but so glad you had a great midwife who managed to help you to continue. What a shame there is often so little support in the early days when mums need it most. My eldest used nipple shields for over a year - it was the only way she would latch to the breast.

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    1. I think that the use of nipple shields is a much more accepted practice nowadays, and that's a really good thing. Well don on using them for a year! That's excellent :)

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  18. WOW! That is such a difficult thing you went through and to keep going is amazing. Your breastfeeding story is truly inspirational. I'm really glad, that occasionally a Midwife will go against regulations and provide real help and support. I think this post really shows what the right kind of helping hand can do. Lovely.

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    1. Thank you :) I was just so determined, I wasn't going to let it beat me, and I do look back there with pride. Support should be there for everyone who needs it x

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  19. What an amazing story of determination, because sometimes Breastfeeding needs just that. It's not always easy, it can be so emotive and a lot of mums give up. It's great that the level of support has changed so much, but I see some mums still to scared to ask for it. Thanks for sharing with #BFingDiaries

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    1. You're welcome, thanks for hosting. I think it's important to show that it can be done with a bit of determination, and afterwards it won't necessarily be the same with subsequent children :)

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