Thursday, 20 August 2015

I make milk. What's your superpower?

I breastfeed. I haven't always, but at this moment I do (well not right this moment, Miss DL is snoozing next to me). I absolutely LOVE it.

When I was pregnant with my eldest, I was 18 years old. I thought, maybe, I would give it a go, but to be honest I was never overly comfortable with it. I was aware it was better for baby, but that was as far as it went. I also knew I was breastfed as a baby, although the length of time I was fed for, I have no idea. Then following the rather traumatic haemorrhage I had after delivering Master D, where I lost 3litres of blood and needed fluids, blood transfusions and lots of doctors around me, I could barely lift my head up let alone feed a baby. My other half, J, fed our son his first bottle. 

I don't normally look like Morticia from the Addams Family!

With my second child, aged 21, I did want to try breastfeeding and felt that pull towards it a bit more, but again, nothing too strong. I felt I didn't have much support around me, pro breast feeder's telling me to do it, give it a go and see what its like. So again, after a less stressful birth, he had his first feed via bottle. Although his birth was a lot less traumatic than his brothers, the following months were like a living hell. What we thought was infantile colic actually turned out to be a lactose intolerance which wasn't diagnosed until around 4 months old. This time in my life was a very dark one, and one which led to my diagnosis of Post Natal Depression. But that's for another post.

Master D loved his baby brother

Proud Daddy with his two boys.

We thought we were done at two children, but in August 2014 I found out - rather surprisingly - I was expecting baby number three.

I thought it must be some kind of sign, this time I had to try breastfeeding. There was no formula bought this time apart from 2 small ready made bottles which were put at the back of a cupboard for extreme emergencies. But none taken into hospital at all. I was excited to try it this time. I was determined to at least give it a go.

Having discovered I had flat nipples, I invested in an amazing product called nipple shields. They are basically little silicone nipples that sit over mine and make it easier for baby to latch on to. I joined 2 breastfeeding groups on Facebook and took as much information in as I could. I was prepared. 

On the 9th April 2015, 4.45am, Miss DL was born into the world. Her first feed went ok, she didn't feed for long, and it was a little bit of a struggle to latch her due to my flat nipples. But I was assured by the midwives that I wouldn't need my shields as she had a strong suck and would, in effect, pull my nipples out when latched and feeding. Every few hours we would try to latch her and let her feed for a few minutes, or until she came off. She didn't seem to feed for long, or that often, so it was suggested that I hand express my colostrum into syringes for her. This I did, at first a tiny 0.5ml, then 0.8ml and finally 1ml at a time, she was syringe fed my 'liquid gold'.

I asked numerous midwives if her latch was ok and if she was feeding correctly, which they assured me she was. But it was painful. She slipped off regularly, and very rarely stayed on longer than a few minutes

one of her first feeds. Hours old.

We were discharged from hospital at around 7pm on 10th April, we got home, got comfortable and she was due a feed. I decided to try it out with my shields to see if she would latch better, and feed for longer. I was so glad I did, it wasn't as painful and she fed for a full 10 minutes. But unfortunately the damage was done. My nipples were red raw, cracked, and bleeding. The pain when she latched was excruciating, my toes curled and I had to breath in, count to 4 and out again. It was hell on earth.

Midwives came out to visit us, like they do, and watched her feed. They said she was doing ok, but to try and get her to feed for longer, and to make sure she was swallowing. She was having wet nappies, but due to her not having had a 'bowel movement' since her first meconium ones (which she did 3 HUGE ones I might add!) they were a little concerned. I wasn't. I had read it was quite normal for breast fed babies to go anything up to 10 days (sometimes more) without pooing, and we were only day 2. I was told they would call me on days 3 and 4 to check in, if she had done a poo, weigh in would be like normal on day 5.

It turns out, she didn't poo, and was weighed again on day 4. Miss DL had lost 15% of her birth weight (anything up to 10% is considered normal). My world fell apart. I was clearly doing something wrong. My milk wasn't good enough, she wasn't feeding/latching properly. What could I do?

We were admitted back to hospital where Miss DL was examined, her dehydration levels and Bilirubin levels were checked, and a feed (or 3 in our case) was observed. The paediatric doctor at the hospital was amazing. He was reassuring in the fact he wasn't worried, she was having wet nappies, her tone was ok, and after observing 3 feeds knew she had turned a corner with her feeding (yay to shields!) He let us go home, but we had to be weighed daily and she needed to do a poo. If she hadn't gained in 24 hours we were being admitted, and the possibility of her being topped up with formula was the "threat". This I did not want. I was told if we wanted to avoid this, I had to feed her every 2 hours, express in between, and top her up with that.

Over the next few days, I cried a lot, fed a lot and prayed Miss DL would gain weight. With daily weigh ins, the pressure of expressing to top her up so she wouldn't need formula or to be admitted again, very nearly tipped me over the edge. Thankfully I had the great support of J, who took over the role of housemaid, main carer of the boys and general dogs body whilst I concentrated on getting Miss DL back to her birth weight.

I thought we were getting somewhere, with 10g gain one day, 20g the next and then 30g, but the following weigh in, at day 12 she had only maintained. Although we had finally had movement in the bottom area - and boy was she making up for it - she still wasn't gaining. The paediatric doctor at the hospital was called again, and the tears began flowing. I had wanted to try this so badly, and I seemed to be failing at every turn.

The lovely doctor, thankfully, wasn't worried. She simply needed to catch up he said, her body is taking its time, that's all. But she had to be weighed again in 24 hours.

How was this giving her time to catch up? The stress they were putting me under as a newly breastfeeding mother was immense. I told them if she had gained in the next 24 hours they weren't to come back for a few days. They had to give us time. I was happy in the knowledge that her input was increasing - she was feeding more and for longer - and her output showed that. Her nappies were always full, and she was having bowel movements too.  Thankfully, she had. They weren't coming back for 5 days. Five whole days I could spend with my family without waiting in for people to come and prod and poke my baby girl.

From then on in, she continued to gain. Yes, it was slowly, but she was gaining. By day 26, she was back up to 6lb12. Still a little off her birth weight of 7lb5, but after gaining 5oz in 5 days, the midwife discharged us. Yippee!!! Hallelujah!

Miss DL wasn't back to her birth weight until she was 6 weeks old. We had to buy tiny baby clothes for her to wear as new born and 0-3 months drowned her. I had to change my diet, making sure I ate 3 meals plus snacks, no low fat foods, nothing too healthy. I could - and did - eat my weight in cake if I wanted to. I needed to make my milk as high calorie as possible.

Around the 6 week mark, we stopped using shields too. Miss DL was getting annoyed and knocking them off mid feeds, so we simply (or not so simply, the thought terrified me in case she stopped feeding properly and began losing weight again!) stopped using them. It no longer hurt for her to feed from me, and I was really, really staring to enjoy breastfeeding.

We are now 4 months into our breastfeeding journey. Last weighed at 16 weeks, Miss DL weighed 13lb13, and is now into 3-6 month clothes. She is definitely catching up and making up for the slow weight gain in the beginning. Her thighs are the chubbiest little legs I have ever seen!

The pure joy I get out of knowing, even after all of the struggles we had initially, that I have got her this far. Me, through hard work and determination. The rush of love that I feel when she smiles up at me mid feed fills me with emotion. I don't care that in the early days she was attached to me constantly. I used to walk around with her on my boob. I would push an empty pram as she would be feeding as I was shopping, or stood waiting for one of her brothers to come out of school or playgroup. I didn't care that I was getting funny looks because I was sat feeding my baby.

Who were they to judge me? They had no idea how hard I had to fight to get where I (we) was at that point. I was feeding my baby and that was the end of it. If I, someone who was never really comfortable with the whole breastfeeding "thing" can overcome it, then so can people who look at me funny for doing something so natural.

People ask me how long I intend to breast feed for. I had no timescale at first, I thought maybe until she was 6 months. Maybe when she started to wean I would stop. But at this moment in time, I cannot see me not feeding her. I will continue breastfeeding until the time comes that Miss DL wants to stop. It is her decision when she wants to stop as at the moment I have no desire to stop. Who knows what the future holds. But I know one thing is for sure, I damn well wish I'd have breastfed my boys.

Having had the struggles we had at the beginning, knowing how hard (and painful) it can be at first, but also knowing how easy it can become has made me want to help other mums. I have, this month, applied to become a Breastfeeding Support Worker with the Breastfeeding Network, something which I am so excited to do! I shall update you in due course with how I get on and if I pass the course. Eeek!



  1. Reading your blog has made me even more determined to breastfeed Dolly. 😁
    You've done amazing. 😘😀