It’s been ages since I wrote here, well since I wrote at all! I’ve been writing my own personal diary for my little one, so while on a flight from work last week I took the chance to write a bit more, this time about breastfeeding. So I thought, why not share it? So here it goes
I’m not sure exactly at what point I’ve decided that I wanted to breastfeed you, but once I’ve made my mind after a lot of research online, I was totally into it. I guess in a way was because I was reading all about hypnobirthing but also because I thought it would be the most natural thing to do and would reinforce our bond as mother and baby. I did the classes – which made it all look so easy (point the nipple to the baby’s nose, wait for the big yamn and then go for it). While pregnant I would massage my breasts and even try to hand pump. Corina (the midwife) told me I could try to collect the colostrum (the first time milk which is really fat and rich and literally gold like!) in case you couldn’t be fed from me for whatever reason. So there I was, taking any shower chances to try to pump. One month before you were to be born the gold juice came out but I didn’t found a way to store it. Was just happy that I could produce milk and was ready for you. Started to sleep with pads as I would leak. 2 weeks later it stopped leaking and I couldn’t hand express anymore. I could have used that as a sign that something was wrong (that and the increased sickness) but until your due date I was clueless. Funnily enough on the morning you were born I told Corina I was leaking again and that was sign. You were born less than 1h later (c section but oh well). Interestingly enough I was starting with contractions too. Amazing how your body gives to many signs of things changing if only we could read them. In a way I also wished I could read your cries although know I kinda recognise the differences of some of them. Really looking forward for you to speak and tell me what’s going on or even tell me what are you thinking about.
Anyway back to the breastfeeding business. I knew I was committed to do whatever it takes to get going. You see your grandma was told that her milk was weak and that she had to give me formula. She didn’t had other info or Internet to check it. So the more the reason for me to carry on.
You seemed aligned with me as I woke up with you already feeding from me. I felt so lucky that at least one of us knew what she was doing. Corina helped a lot with my wish to do skin to skin and bf as soon as possible. You were so starving from the 4 weeks of poor food supply that you even try to feed from daddy as he was the first to hold you (can you imagine that, from those hairy nipples yuck). When we went home, powered by the 1st days baby blues, you were feeding loads. You barely lost any weight at all and were doing great. But then a growth spurt came along (I will explain about what a growth spurt is at some point) and everything changed. I also had panic attacks and insomnia and didn’t slept for a good 3 or 4 days at all. Everyone was so worried about me! Eventually I did fell asleep and had a dream which I wrote on a notepad as it was so nice. But then the breastfeeding problems started to materialise. I had pain pain and pain and you would take sometimes a full hour feeding. I was told I should feed based on your cues for it but that meant all you did was feed to throw it all up a few minutes later. I changed you a million times a night. Also I had my nipples in blood and they were completely torn apart. Corina told me to try the nipple shields with caution as they generate nipple confusion ij the early days and they lead to a drop in supply. So between nipple cream, nipple shields and no nipple shield I was going on. Eventually Cherryl (the other midwife supporting us) thought that I was doing everything right so she decided to put a finger in your tiny mouth to see the tongue movement and she said most likely you had tongue tie but she would prefer an expert lactation consultant to check it. I was puzzled because I asked a few times at the hospital and they’ve said you were fine. They made me feel I was a stupid mum and I couldn’t just follow a simple nose to nipple but in the end they had not examined you properly. It made all the sense in the world! This was it, my little baby had tongue tie, so you were struggling as much as I was to feed. The expert confirmed what Cherryl had already said and did the tongue release with scissors straight on the spot. You went straight to the breast and I just felt good. The pain was gone!
I thought it would all be sorted from that day onward and that it would finally be easy. But your colic and what I’ve discovered through Cherryl reflux were there to stay. So you see they say bf babies suffer a lot less from colic and reflux than formula fed because you swallow less air. But in case of tongue tie this will not hold true, so you can see how I had high hopes this was salvation but no. You were in pain, crying all the time, arching in pain. After reading a lot on the matter I’ve decided to carry on bf and stop dairy. Now, try to cut dairy from your diet (well hope you don’t have to) there’s milk everywhere!!!! I was reading every label before I could eat something. Then I was also cutting chocolate and coffee (surely you know how I love both) and tomatoes (my Mediterranean diet out of the window) and any acidic foods and fruits. But nothing was helping out. I had pressure from friends and family to put you on reflux formula but I knew that could make it worse and I didn’t wanted to stop. I was willing to do the sacrifice. I’ve spent almost 4 months like that but nothing was helping. Also had a food diary but couldn’t find any specific triggers. I was crying every single day. I felt gutted I couldn’t use this special time of having you 24h with me. I was depressed. But not even that was enough to stop me. Then you started to refuse feeds and I had to pump to feed you. I still remember starting to pump at 18h to have your milk ready for 19h as you were uber fussed by then. Oh my dear, you couldn’t sleep and you were in pain so no wonder!!! Having to pump was dropping my supply. I was also pumping in the morning to save for when I was going back to work at 6 months. I felt like a mini cow! There was milk everywhere! In the first few months I had lots of milk, as soon as you would get anywhere near me milk would come up as if you were in a shower. Oxytocin doing its magic. I could even feel the milk coming up when it was time for you to feed. Or if I wouldn’t feed on time my boobs would be enormous and rock solid, I can tell you that hurts!
Because you discovered the bottle (first time I think you were over 3m, they advise you to avoid bottle until the supply is well established and to avoid nipple confusion) and you’ve got lazy. Why would you have to suck hard if from the bottle it would just come without an effort. Obviously being my daughter you had to be a lazy but. Another reason for me to end in tears as I didn’t wanted to stop. I was not willing to lose this war. I would have you on my arms playing with you with boobs out until you would latch again. So I’ve managed to carry on.
At 5.5 months we finally saw a gastro paediatrician and she told us to go back to a normal diet and for me to just try the thickener. I was so stressed at that point as you were losing weight. I felt that my boobs were failing me and I was thinking that maybe I was being selfish for wanting to carry on bf.
So there I was back to pumping so had the thickener. You were feeding every 3h and it was taking me a good 1h to pump so you do the math. At 6 months, right as I was back to work you’ve started to barely throw up and recover weight. The reflux battle was won (but not the sleep one)! But being back at work was a challenge for our bf journey.
I had to pump for 1h30 initially and the milk started to drop…. The first time I’ve pumped at work I’ve managed 360ml, then it was around 200 ml and then could barely achieve 120ml (1 feed) and my frozen milk supply suddenly was gone. At around 8m you had formula for the first time at the nursery. I felt so sad that my milk was no long enough for you.
I felt so powerless…. I’ve kept on pumping in the office after lunch. Meaning I would breathe my lunch at my desk to save that time for pumping. It was hard to manage between meetings. At your birthday I’ve decided I had enough of pumping as I hated it. Also you should be moving over to more food and less milk. You still had 1 bottle of formula at the nursery but oh well. At night it would still be boobs out.
Just right after that I had to spend my first night away from you for work. It’s just so hard. Your heart almost stops knowing I wouldn’t be able to hold you or even see you. I know it was just 1 night but it was hard. Plus I was worried on the impact on my breastfeeding journey. The first time I left the pump at home so spent 1h pumping in the shower before bed and the same when I woke up. My flight got cancelled and I’ve ended up in tears in the airport. I’ve cried for a good whole 30m until I had another ticket to go back home the same day. I just couldn’t control my sobbing. I had strangers telling me it was just a flight, that we would be back the same day. How could they know?? It was my first time away from you. Couldn’t bear the thought of another night without you plus I was in so much pain as my boobs were engorged. I had no clue it could hurt as much as it did. When you started feeding from me that night I felt so grateful to have you in my arms!
Fast forward, you are now over 16 months and I still feed you. People are amazed I still feed at this point. But I’m sad because I barely have any milk. I feed you before bed but barely anything comes. You pull my top down and you want it but then you get cross that nothing comes. If I had pump some drops come out but I wonder if you’re just playing or actually feeding anything. We have to give you a bottle before bed because it helps you sleep but I want to stop it in the next 2 months. Not sure how long I will be able to say I still bf but hope we can carry on for another 2 months. Would love to reach 2 years but doubt that. I just feel proud of our bf journey together. I feel quite passionate about it because I had to work really hard to keep it up. No one tells us how hard it is! I was not prepared for all I had to face. And worse, there’s barely any support. I’ve relied on internet forums and my own research to keep it up. A lot of mums don’t even know about tongue tie or baby reflux (well even some doctors don’t seem to know much about it).
I’ve felt I’ve learnt a lot. I’m still online to support other mums where I can and I feel quite protective towards them.
One point I’ve missed. Breastfeeding in public. Initially I felt awkward like any mum would but then I was like I couldn’t care less. I would try to cover you with a scarf but you hated it, so I’ve stopped. Being quite shy it’s quite funny I’ve accepted that boobs could be out and could be seen. But if you needed feeding I would feed you right where I was. You wouldn’t feed quietly and would keep on moving legs in positions that I doubt even yoga masters could achieve so boobs would be out. Your dad would be more embarrassed than I was. It was a natural thing to do so I’ve ignored any potential looks. In the house I was also walking quite often with boobs out. It feels quite liberating actually.
So yes, aside from how hard it is, then theres the whole bf in public debate!
I’m hoping if I’m alive to see grandchildren (geez, now I’m feeling uber old!!!) I will be there to support you no matter what choice you do. Because this is a journey you can’t really do alone!
Love you loads