Monthly Archives: June 2013
Nothing in the world compares to it. No man made product can ever compete. Formula doesn’t even come close.
It’s nourishing, life saving, illness fighting, priceless. It adapts to temperature, babies nutritional needs, germs in the atmosphere. It keeps babies alive when there is no alternative food. It’s custom made, tailored for every individual need. It’s completely free and wonderful for the environment.
There’s only one single thing on this entire planet that’s better. Something that we can all give our babies, even if we couldn’t provide breast milk.
Imagine you’re surrounded by expectant mamas. Keen to learn, hanging on your every word, thirsty for knowledge.
You can give them ONE good reason that they should breastfeed.
What do you tell them?
I’d tell them about breast feeding saving lives in a zombie apocalypse. I’ve read stories (although I’m unsure if they’re merely urban legend) about mothers sustaining their babies with breast milk for days and days, buried underground after a catastrophic earthquake. Starving and dehydrated, the few drops of breast milk that the mother could provide, kept the babe from death. So, if the zombies were to descend upon us, a government virus was to escape, those who once turned their nose up at my ‘extended’ breast feeding would soon be *begging* for a thirst quenching gulp of my very own gold top.
You never know, the magical healing powers of breast milk may even prevent those who drank it catching the virus and becoming zombies themselves. I’d tell expectant mothers about breast milk producing the right antibodies to fight the bugs in the air. I’d tell them that it’s just right, adapting to the temperature and climate. I’d tell them that it’s free, how wonderful it is to watch your baby grow and thrive on something that only you can provide.
So, even if you’re not convinced of the likelihood of an imminent zombie attack (more fool you…), I’m sure you can think of a million reasons why a pregnant mama should plan to breast feed.
It’s been a long week so far. I’ve been out to work and working from home, my husband has been away, I’ve been doing some peer supporting, housework, potty training, cooking…
It’s moments like this, as bedtime approaches, that my mind is confused for a split second.
For just a heart beat, I think I need to go to the kitchen, fetch bottles, position myself as upright (and as uncomfortably) as I can, and spend twenty minutes listening to the pump vibrate on the bed that I wish i was laid down in.
And then, I remember. I don’t pump in the evenings any more. And I feel my body flood with relief.
When I’m tired, and I hear my pillow calling (as you do…), I can just crawl up the stairs, slither in between the sheets and let my mind wander off into oblivion.
After checking Facebook, obviously.
Breastfeeding didn’t work for us for a variety of reasons. M was 10 days early, jaundiced, tongue tied, delivered with ventouse so very sleepy. I had a blood transfusion so had low iron, was very tired, and was struggling to cope mentally.
After cup and syringe feeding, a tongue tie snip, biological nurturing, nipple shields, skin to skin, a supplementer…M was loosing weight. So it was ‘give her a bottle’ or have another stint in hospital. After 6 weeks of trying, I finally called it a day and decided that M would get breast milk by any means. So my pumping journey began!
I could pump 2oz between every feed to begin with, with a Medela Swing, so I was prescribed Domperidone and started taking Fenugreek. I pumped at least once between each feed, and at least once during the night. Milk supply is highest between 1 and 4am.
It took 4 months to get rid of the formula, but my supply slowly increased. I struggled to keep up with M at first, who was drinking 7oz 4 or 5 times a day. But it kept gradually creeping up. Her formula feeds became less and less. I had to throw a half used box of formula away, it had been open so long. I bought ready made cartons, just in case I couldn’t pump enough. Pumping during the night meant I could keep up, as I pumped about twice as much milk during that time. It was time consuming, taking half an hour to pump 4 or 5 oz. But my double pump arrived and cut the time in half! Well worth the £200. I had a lot of support from my Mum during the day, so that I was able to pump without having to stop half way through to see to M.
My fridge was full of milk. It got to the stage where I was pumping milk to be used in 3 days time, so I started freezing some. I never thought I’d get there. My supply increased so slowly that I barely noticed it happening. I’d begun to give up on being able to just feed M breast milk. And suddenly, there we were. She hadn’t had formula in weeks.
I started working again part time, so I dropped to 4 pumps a day. In the morning, at 3pm, at bed time and in the early hours. It still meant that I could keep up with demand, with the occasional bag to freeze. M started dropping feeds, so I reduced pumps again, dropping the early hours session. I was concerned this would effect my supply, but with the other sessions and the Domperidone, I kept it going. On the rare occasion M slept through the night, I got a full nights sleep! No trip to the fridge on the cold kitchen floor and 3am chocolate digestives!
M continued to need less milk, so I dropped the 3pm pump. 2 pumps a day was working for us, I was still producing enough milk for her. I’m now down to one pump a day, in the morning for 25 minutes. I can pump 12oz of milk in the time, just the amount M needs. She has 6oz at bedtime, and often another 6oz during the night.
I’ve struggled with nipple pain, which was reduced once I bought a smaller pump breast shield size. I also have eczema, which will often disappear for weeks and then reappear. I’ve tried coconut oil, hydrocortizone and treating it for thrush, just in case. It quite often just disappears on it’s own. Pumping takes it’s toll, it’s not gentle by any means. I get deep cracks, almost as though my nipple will be sheared clean off my breast. Pumping with a nipple shield underneath helps when it’s at it’s worst. I’ve also had mastitis, which I avoided for the first year. It’s usually caused by infection getting into the splits, rather than a blocked duct. Antibiotics get to work very quickly and pumping as much as possible while using hand massage helps relieve the engorged painful feeling.
I’m so proud of myself for sticking it out this long. I hope to continue for many months too. I’d ideally like to pump as long as M needs milk, although I do have days when I’ve had enough. It’s less time consuming now, but such a faff. Washing bottles and pump equipment (which you can never get really clean…), taking it with you everywhere, and storing milk. Finding somewhere private to pump was a challenge, it’s much more conspicuous than a baby at the breast. The buzzing and flashing doesn’t help you be discreet. It’s expensive. I’ve spent at least £400 on pumps and equipment, and then there’s nipple creams, herbal supplements, prescriptions, storage bags… When I’ve been in pain, pumping milk that looks like strawberry milkshake it’s so bloody, waking to find a freezer bag has split, I’ve wanted to call it a day. But I’ve come so far. To quit now would be ridiculous.
I’m proof that you can go from virtually no milk, squeezing out every last drop by hand, to buying freezer bags to save some for later! I would never ‘choose’ exclusive pumping, but it is a viable option for mothers that have no choice. It’s a full time job at the beginning, but it does get easier. You get braver about going out, you still save money compared with formula, and baby still gets the very best food in the world.
I went into labour naturally, in the early hours of the morning on 20th July 2011, at 38+4.
I had been in bed for an hour when I had my first pains. I checked the time, 1.19am, and decided to empty my bladder. My mucus plug had come away.
the pains were frequent right away, every few minutes. I tried to go back to sleep, knowing that I’d only had an hour and would need the energy. I didn’t wake my husband.
After a couple of hours, I woke him for his help in setting up the TENS machine. By now I couldn’t sit still, i had to constantly pace the floor. My husband called the hospital, to let them know that labour had begun. The birthing centre was free. They encouraged me to stay at home and try a bath.
I took the TENS machine off and tried to get in, but I couldn’t lay still, I just felt i had to keep pacing, like an animal. I would walk around ours and the spare bedroom, crouching between contractions to get some rest. They were close together and intense. I started to vomit. We also inflated the birth ball, but i felt that i couldn’t sit down.
We called the labour ward a few more times. The birthing centre was now occupied. The contractions were only a couple of minutes apart by now. I began to want some pain relief. We agreed I should go in.
I struggled on the car journey there, unable to sit down. I arrived at the labour ward at about 10am. I gave a urine sample. There was protein in my urine. I was told they needed to break my waters to put a monitor on baby’s head. I also had an armband on to check my blood pressure as I was pre eclamptic. I was examined and I was 9.5cm. I remember the relief that I was close to the end.
My husband went to the car to get my bags, and I was kneeling over the top of the bed in the room alone when I felt the urge to push. I was told that I could only push for two hours, due to the pre eclampsia. My contractions began to slow down, so I was put on a drip to speed them up.
I started on gas and air, and things are more blurry from here. I was on my back, still trying to push. It was coming to the end of the two hours. A doctor was called. They agreed to use ventouse. My feet were put in stirrups and I was given a local anaesthetic and an episotomy. There were lots of people, bright lights, stirrups, intervention, drips, chemicals, all the things I didn’t want my birth to be.
M was pulled from me, I reached down to touch her. She was placed on my chest and I began to whimper. I was injected to deliver my placenta, although I had asked that this didn’t happen. My husband told me that we had had a girl.
My placenta was delivered and I asked to see it. They briefly showed me the dish and then took it away. I had wanted to examine it, perhaps keep it. M was then taken from me and the midwife began pushing on my stomach. I shouted that I was in pain and they told me to have more gas and air. The doctor began shoving handfuls of gauze inside me. I knew something was wrong.
The next memory i have is waking in theatre. I must have been told that they couldn’t stop the bleeding as I remember begging them to not give me a hysterectomy. My body went into shock, I was shaking uncontrollably. A woman was stroking my face, trying to get me to lay still. Two people were arguing about how to treat me. One was suggesting lots of fluid, the other didn’t want to as I was pre eclamptic. some blood results had gone missing, they couldn’t get blood for me quickly. I was begging to be put to sleep. They were trying to get me to stay still to put lines into me. I was moved to another bed, legs in stirrups. I was asked to sit to drink anti sickness medication. My TENS machine was ripped off me. A mask came down over my face.
When I woke, I was back in the delivery suite. My husband was there. M was in the cot by the bed, with a knitted hat on. My mouth was so dry. I had a catheter in, a blood pressure monitor on that went off every 15 minutes. I was offered a cheese sandwich and it was so difficult to eat.
I had heamorrhaged. They had hit the red button and the room had filled with people. M was passed to my husband. I was whisked from the room. He was left alone with M, watching the cleaning staff mop the blood from the floor. They had put me under to stitch up a fourth degree tear and give me fluid and stop the blood loss. A doctor came to see me the following day to make sure that I understood what had happened to me. High on codeine, I replied that I did and consented to a blood transfusion.
It’s only now that I look back at my birth and are saddened by a lot of what happened to M, my husband and I. Why was my husband left alone for so long, not told what was happening to me? Why wasn’t I encouraged to keep active so that my labour didn’t slow down? Why didn’t anyone read my birth plan? Why was I given the injection that I hadn’t consented to?
I will always have questions, and I’m sure most can’t be answered. My birth experience, and the ones that followed, mean that my husband and I aren’t planning any more children. I don’t want to risk another heamorrhage or post natal depression again. But I look at M, playing with her bricks or laughing at Iggle Piggle, and it all seems worth it.
M was born on the 20th July 2011. The birth was traumatic… episiotomy, 3rd degree tear, ventouse, heamorrhage, blood transfusion, stitches under anaesthetic. M was away from me for several hours, so we didn’t get the initial skin to skin that’s so important. Being reunited is a bit of a blur. I was attached to machines, I tried to take photos of her but they’re awful. I was on painkillers, my mouth was so dry. I remmeber eating a cheese sandwich and my husband dressing her. I can’t remember trying to feed her in those first few hours.
The details of the next few days are sketchy too. M was sleepy and jaundiced. She was woken to feed. Her latch looked right to me, from videos and images I’d seen when pregnant, but my nipples were bleeding on the ends, so something was wrong. M would scream when I held her and pull her head away from my breast. She only suckled for a few seconds at a time. I began hand expressing colostrum. I didn’t know how much was normal to express, but I was given the impression that I wasn’t expressing much. Just a few drops into a syringe. There were lots of different staff. I remember one named Debbie being helpful, but then the shifts would change and it’d be someone new. M was almost forced to the breast at times, screaming and red. I just wanted to sleep.
My mental health began to suffer almost immediately. I was anxious, with almost a constant feeling of having a panic attack. The second night I was to stay in hospital was when i really began to panic. I couldn’t stay on my own. My heart was racing, i was crying and frightened. I was moved to a private room so my husband could stay with me on the floor. I didn’t want M there. I didn’t want her anywhere near me. I just wanted to sleep, I deeply regretted my decision to have a baby. The midwives took M out of the room over night. Feeding her the little colostrum I could express with a syringe.
My Mum came on the 23rd. My husband needed support. I was ranting and frantic, he had watched me almost bleed to death. I didn’t want to hold M, let alone have the skin to skin time that may have helped us. I saw the mental health team, who prescribed something for the anxiety. It may have been Lorazepam. I continued to express what I could, but spent most of the time curled in a ball, crying.
I needed to get out of the hospital. The only way I could do that was to successfully feed M, one way or another. She continued to pull away from my nipples, which were still bleeding. I agreed she could have a bottle of formula. There are photos of me feeding it to her. I hate them. My discharge notes say that M is a formula fed baby. My dream was already over. I was allowed to go home. A friend had to go and buy bottles and forumla, I remember reading the instructions. 3 scoops of powder and 3oz of water. I was puzzled at the 3oz. M shouldn’t need anywhere near that much. But maybe that was the minimum you could make? I cried that this was to become my life.
I woke up on the 24th and my milk had come in. My breasts were rock hard and engorged. I hadn’t tried to feed her since I’d come home. My Mum had stayed to feed M over night, but I made one bottle of formula. The bottle was on the side in the morning when the midwife came. It was very thick, obviously made up wrongly. I cried that I couldn’t even make up a bottle right. I cried that I had to worry about such a thing. I was distraught that breastfeeding hasn’t worked, but with the midwife to support me, we decided that it wasn’t too late, I could give it another go.
The next few days blend into a muddle. I expressed with a manual pump. I fed M with a cup and syringe. I think we ditched the bottles. M was still very upset at the breast. My midwife was encouraging, but my main support came from a parenting forum. I learned about tongue tie affecting latch. I asked for M’s to be checked and an infant feeding specialist was called. Tongue tie was diagnosed, but I was told to establish breastfeeding first, to see if the tongue tie was an issue or not. The specialist helped me to biologically nurse M. She fed properly for the first time, although she would fall asleep at the breast and a there would be a lot of milk wasted from her mouth.
I spent evenings in bed asking my husband to run away with me. I wanted to leave M with my Mum. My husband wouldn’t come with me and leave her. He was choosing her over me. I’d have to go on my own. But where would I stay? I had no money. A b&b? I’d have to leave my mum behind. I was filled with desperation and so regretful.
M lost weight. My midwife called the paediatrician. I was told to top up with formula, or go back in to hospital. I couldn’t go back there. My heart was filled with dread at the thought of spending another moment there. The noise, the babies crying, seeing other mothers feed, seeing other mothers not willing to try while I suffered. Being on my own, poked and prodded, M screaming. I began to top up M with formula if she fed for any less than 25 minutes. Occasionally the feeds lasted that long, although M would be constantly on and off the breast, and her clothes would be soaked through with milk. When drinking from a bottle, I would have to squeeze her cheeks to get her mouth to form around the teat properly to avoid milk dribbling everywhere.
I began pumping. I read about Domperidone and Fenugreek on the parenting forum and began taking the maximum doses of both. I pumped every two hours, round the clock. I got a Medela Swing. The best £99 I ever spent. M would be asleep at night and I’d be awake. just me and the sound of the vibrating pump. I pumped so little to begin with that it seemed pointless, but I stuck at it. I continued to offer M the breast, we had hours spent in bed, but the results were the same. I’d feel awful guilt at making her cry and scream at my breast when a bottle would satisfy her so much more quickly.
I tried a strange gadget in an attempt to make my nipples as large as possible, in the hope that M would latch to them. I then gave nipple shields a go. They were fiddly and awkward. I couldn’t keep them on, even with medical tape. M would be flailing and knock them off. I’d throw them across the room in anger. M’s crying made me want to clamp my hand over her mouth. i just wanted it all to go away so that I could lay in bed and cry my heart out.
M became windy, taking in gulps of air as she drank from a bottle. She would bring her legs up to her chest, crying and screaming. She didn’t like to be put down, which made pumping impossible. I gave her a dummy. My midwife continued to visit, long after a mother would usually be signed over to the health visiting team. I was taking anti depressants, 20mg and first, then upped to 40mg after I looked into the medical cabinet, wondering what to take to end it all.
The infant feeding specialist was eventually called to see us again. She observed M feed from a bottle, as well as attempts to get her to feed from me. It was decided M would have her tongue tie snipped. It was booked for the following week. By then I’d begun offering M the breast less and less. Her rejection of me was heart breaking. At the tongue tie snip, I didn’t try to feed M after, but she immediately fed from a bottle. No milk was spilt. I couldn’t hear her taking in any air. The change in her was much more noticeable than I thought it would be. She could stick out her tongue! I hadn’t even realised that she couldn’t do that before.
M still refused the breast. She would suckle for a few seconds, but wasn’t patient enough to wait for my milk to let down. I bought an SNS. My Mum tried to help me use it, but it was fiddly and awkward. M would knock it off, frustrated that the milk wasn’t flowing as easily as she had become accustomed to. I didn’t ask for support. I got the impression that the health visitors around me had given up on the idea that M would breast feed. If I wasn’t pumping, or trying to use the SNS or nipple shields, or making up bottles and feeding M, I was crying. I spent every day at her house so that I wasn’t alone with M. Mum cooked all of our meals. I couldn’t even run my own home, let alone feed my child.
I called it a day at 6 weeks.
I will always regret it and wonder ‘what if?’. I should have tried for longer, I should have called on more help. I should never have agreed to give M bottles, I should have been strong enough to go into hospital. I should have insisted her tongue tie be dealt with sooner. If my body had been better at giving birth, I could have had lots of skin to skin. I should have done more research when pregnant. I should have stood my ground in hospital and told them to stop prodding and poking her. I should have paid for a breastfeeding specialist to see me.
All I had left was the pumping. I made it my focus. I was restricted to when I could go out, I was up in the early hours, even when M was alseep. I first went out with her on my own when she was 12 weeks old. But I couldn’t stay long, as my pumping regime was my priority. Amusing M while I was pumping was tough, I still spent most days at my Mums, with her cooking the meals.
M had her last bottle of formula at 4 months old. By then I had caught up and had enough milk to feed her breast milk full time. I invested in a double pump, meaning that I could cut my pumping time in half. I learned to adapt around it. I took the pump with me in the car on days out. If I forgot to take my Domperidone then I noticed my supply dip. I became more flexible with it now that not having enough milk wasn’t a worry. I could stay out for longer periods. I eventually stopped getting up at 3am. If M slept, so did I.
As M began to want milk less often, I dropped some pumps. But I still found myself with extra milk. I began freezing some. I couldn’t believe that I’d begun with a few drops of colostrum squeezed into a syringe, to having enough milk to freeze. 6 months had been and gone, my new goal became a year.
I started to suffer with sore and cracked nipples. The sharp pain of the scabs breaking open was excrutiating. I pumped milk that looked like strawberry milkshake. Lansinoh did nothing. I tried coconut oil. I tried thrush treatments to rule that out. A GP finally decided it was eczema. Hydrocortizone cream helped, but the dry, cracked nipples became a recurring thing every few weeks or so.
Once M turned one, I began to suffer with mastitis. Feeling fluey, with a red, sore, inflamed breast was tough. My GP suggested that it may have been my body telling me that it was time to stop. I was determined to continue. The longer I pumped, the more passionate about breastfeeding I became. I learned so much more about issues surrounded breastfeeding. Hindsight is a bittersweet thing.
I toyed with the idea of teaching M to latch at the breast. I’d read articles about adopted babies learning to breast feed at 18 months and it would make me hopeful. I occasionally tried to get M to latch on, usually when she woke at night so was sleepy. I didn’t ask for support with this, or even confide in those around me, I was embarrassed that I was still hoping. I knew it would seem ridiculous. She latched once, and suckled for a few seconds. I tried to savour every moment, knowing that it wouldn’t last. It’s my best breastfeeding memory.
M is 20 months now, and I continue to pump. I still suffer with eczema, it comes and goes. I occasionally get mastitis, usually when my nipples are cracked and infection gets in. I’m trying pumping once a day, in the morning, in the hope that my nipples will heal in between. I’m still taking Domperidone, and am weaning off the anti depressants. I’m training to be a peer supporter. I may not breastfeed in the traditional sense, but I hope that my experiences mean that I have something to offer.
I have days when I cry. I grieve for the breastfeeding experience that I longed for. It’s hard to see breastfeeding pictures. I love them, they’re beautiful. But my heart aches. My sister breastfeeds and I’ve found it hard, seeing her have the experience that I wanted, a natural birth, a successful breastfeeding story. But I need to turn the anger and sadness into something positive. I hope to help at ante natal classes, on labour wards, on parenting forums and through The Pumping Mama.
I hold onto two things. The first being that i did the best that I could at the time with the support and knowledge that I had available to me. The second is Psalm 30 v 5: ‘Tears may fall at night, but joy comes in the morning’. Hang on, don’t give up, there will always be a better day.