Breastfeeding Struggles - Part two

The second child!

When I had my daughter in March 2011, it was an extremely busy night at the hospital. So busy in fact, that they closed the labour ward to new admissions not long after I arrived. Likewise, they also shut the maternity ward not long after we were admitted.

My daughter arrived very quickly. So quickly, I literally had to catch her to save her landing on the floor. Luckily I am not bad at catching! She was in a bubble. Her waters were intact around her and she had the cord wrapped tightly around her neck twice.

From the start, we encountered breastfeeding problems. She didn't get to feed until about an hour after birth due to stitches and a pesky placenta. Her first latch was awful (so bad that she created what looked like another nipple beneath each of my existing nipples) but the midwife was busy so didn't have time to help me. She introduced me to another midwife who she said would come back and talk to me about breastfeeding and pelvic floor exercises, but I didn't see her again.

I was transferred up to the maternity ward where the midwife said 'well you've had one child so I'm sure you know what to do'. I specifically requested that the breastfeeding specialist midwife come to help me but again, I didn't see her. I was discharged after about four hours on the maternity ward. 'It's your second, you'll be fine' seeming to be the general consensus.

The feeding problems continued at home. She couldn't latch. She screamed. I cried. My son cried. My husband cried. The midwives started by encouraging me. Then, when things continued not going to plan, they downright told me I HAD to breastfeed as it was the only thing good for my baby. My son got chicken pox when she was a week old and the midwife told me 'if you stop breastfeeding, she will get chicken pox'.

I expressed breast milk and bottle fed my daughter. She still struggled to latch on teats. If I had speed-dial on my phone, the midwives would have been on it. I rang the midwife in tears one day at the my wits end. My milk had dried up through the stress of everything. She told me that I must continue to try to feed, I needed to sit in a dark room, with my baby and think about my baby and my milk would come back quicker. I rang a breastfeeding counsellor (through the NCT). She came within a few hours. She was my saviour. She stayed for five hours. She helped with latching problems. She held the baby whilst I fed my son his lunch. She hugged me when I sobbed uncontrollably. She told me to bottle feed her formula.

WHAT? I hear you cry. Yes. The breastfeeding counsellor from the NCT told me to bottle feed my baby formula. I cried for two weeks afterwards. I felt guilty, sick, heartbroken and utterly devastated. But I knew she was right. I was so unhappy during the first month of my daughter's life and I thought awful thoughts that tore my mind apart. When I started bottle feeding, I slowly began to feel like me again. I could ask for help and my husband could help. My son stopped crying whenever he saw me feeding his sister and our household began to feel happy again.

When my daughter was two months old, she was diagnosed with silent reflux. I have since read different research which suggests small babies (she was 6lb 5oz), babies born quickly, and babies born with the cord round their neck are more prone to reflux. She may well have struggled with breastfeeding because of this, but it was never suggested at the time.

I occasionally still feel guilty that I breastfed my son for six months, and my daughter was only breastfed for a week, and fed breast milk for a further three weeks. But then I remember how dark those times were, the shadow of my former self that I became, and I realise that I did the right thing.

Breastfeeding promotion is so in your face, so anti formula feeding that it is hard for new mothers to make an informed decision about stopping breastfeeding (or not even starting). We know what is 'best' for our babies but it may not be possible to give it to them. Had my daughter been my first child, I probably could have expressed for longer with her but she wasn't, I had a two year old who also needed my time in a period of huge change for him. I feel confident that I tried everything I could to endeavour to get breastfeeding to work and I only gave up when there was nothing else I could do. I definitely wasn't prepared for the overwhelming guilt I would feel at my decision though.

Breastfeeding does not always work.
It is different for each child.
This is not your fault.
You should not feel guilty about it.