Thursday, 23 June 2011

Breastfeeding Awareness Week 19th-25th June 2011 - My Journey

I thought that it would be very appropriate to cover Breastfeeding Awareness Week as although it isn't something that I do anymore, I still think that it is very important and more people need to be made aware so it is something that I support.

I always wanted to breastfeed, even before I had Zane, I just felt that it was the right thing to do, a mothers milk is superior to any other so I was determined. It also goes along with my philosophy of "what would cave woman have done?", we have evolved from her so she can't have been going wrong for us to still be here. I thought it was as simple as latching baby onto boob and off you go, it may hurt a bit at first but that was normal, I didn't do any research.

When Zane arrived after a very traumatic birth for the both of us he was sent straight to SCBU. He was very drowsy from the birth and the drugs and wasn't at all interested in a feed. The nurses tried to get him to latch when he stirred for a fleeting moment but it just wasn't happening, he wasn't the slightest bit interested. Throughout his first night I slowly made my way to SCBU from my ward to try to feed him every time he stirred. He still wasn't interested so I enjoyed the cuddle. The SCBU nurse was insistent that he needed a feed quickly so I needed to make a decision on whether or not to give him some formula when he next woke. I asked what effect that would have on breastfeeding and she explained about the gut flora changing and never being the same again. Instant guilt trip, let you baby starve, or make it so that he no longer has a virgin gut, and could have nipple confusion, it was either or, we couldn't let him wait to feed on his own accord. I decided I didn't want him to starve so give him formula if he woke. I felt awful going against everything that I had planned for and it was the start of so much confusion surrounding breastfeeding.

Over the next few days the SCBU nurses tried their best to help me, some were lovely, some were forceful. There was no privacy for me to try and feed. I was given a screen around us so that I could feed but it was useless because of how the room was laid out the other parents who were visiting their babies were either side of me. I am such a prude, I could never do that it a room full of strangers, never mind some of them being men. I carried on persevering as well as topping up with formula which he gulped down. The whole time I was expressing on the ward. I was told to do it every three hours to get my breasts into a routine. The pumping machine I borrowed from the hospital was very loud, and I was the only person in the room who was breastfeeding and pumping so I felt out of place,  and nervous of waking everyone up in the middle of the night because of the noise. It was also so depressing to pump for ages and only get 10ml. I felt useless and like I couldn't sustain him, along with the disappointment of my birth being what I would have never expected. My head was a mess and my hormones were going crazy, all I could do was cry. I will never forget how pleased I was to see my Sister In Law and my Nephew when I felt my worst. After a cuddle and a talk I felt a little better and she gave me more confidence to get out of there! I was fed up of hospital, and I didn't know why I couldn't leave. After my visitors had left I approached a midwife who said that I couldn't leave as they had concerns about his feeding. I felt even more useless, like I was failing my son because I couldn't feed him.

The next night I couldn't stand to be in hospital any longer and broke down to Gary. He had brought me some hot chocolate to cheer me up, so he sent me for a bath and made me a chocolate for when I got back. After that he said that we had got to try harder to get Zane to latch. He told me to lie down and try that position and would you believe it, he latched straight away! I was elated, and Gary went to fetch a midwife to check that everything was right. The next morning we went home at long last after 5 days in hospital.

That wasn't the end though. Once home it was just as much of a struggle, he would only feed lying down, and I was trying to be superwoman with an episiotamy, so I found it stressful lying down for a long time when I could have been doing something else. I carried on with expressing rather than being persistent with exclusively from the breast, which the visiting midwife wasn't happy about, instead of taking her advice I started hiding the pump when she came.

After 6 weeks of exhausting colic, Zane started to have green mucus in his nappies. I couldn't take the stress of breastfeeding anymore and after visiting the doctor to discuss the nappy problem I changed to exclusively formula feeding. It took a while but after trying a few brands the nappies got better and the colic disappeared. Looking back now I wonder if something I was eating was affecting his digestion.

I had feelings of guilt changing to formula but there was less of a weight on my shoulders so after a short while I was happier and could get my head round other things. I believe breast is best, but formula saved my sanity when I needed it the most, so I would never say formula feeding shouldnt be so common.

On reflection I wish I had of stuck with breastfeeding, but at the time I couldn't, my mental health was suffering because of it. If I were to have another child I would still breastfeed, but I would do a lot of research and get a support system in place before the birth so if I had any questions or problems I had someone to speak to.

I think breastfeeding awareness shouldn't just be dedicated to one week of the year, I think mothers to be should have a mandatory breastfeeding lesson before the birth and after so people are more informed and they can be put straight about the breastfeeding myths that exist.

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