Hello and welcome to the first instalment of 'The Baby Feeding Series' that features real stories from real parents who have experienced how hard and baffling feeding your baby can be. I want this series to be a place where parents can share their own experiences in the hopes that other parents who are struggling can feel less alone. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world but it's one of the most rewarding jobs too and so I want to share their stories. I have shared a brief snippet into our feeding journey and one I am more than sure that will continue throughout the series but for now I am very excited to introduce Beth from A Blonde and a Baby.
I was so excited when Beth got in touch and kindly offered to share her breastfeeding experience with her little girl, which wasn't the easiest journey. But it was so lovely to see that it became the experience that she wanted with her daughter in the end. I hop that you all enjoy reading Beth's breastfeeding journey as much as I did and don't forget to share her post if you do. Thank you so much Beth for taking part in the first guest post of 'The Baby Feeding Series', and so without further ado...
A breastfeeding journey...
Looking back on my breastfeeding journey, I know it sounds cliché but I can only liken it to a rollercoaster. When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I attended the breastfeeding antenatal class, but didn't take much notice.
You just stick the baby on your boob, right?
The First Feed
As the midwife gave Lily to me (between me throwing up, and suddenly having a massive hot flush and stripping off all my clothes) it was time to feed her. The midwife simply told me to put her on my breast. So I did. No thought for positioning, or latch. Lily and I gave it a go, the blind leading the blind comes to mind. It felt a weird sensation. And sort of hurt. She managed a few sucks and that was that.
The First Week
Over the next few days the pain I felt whilst breastfeeding became increasingly worse. My nipples hurt badly and were red raw. Lily had not been latching correctly and I didn't know that until it was already too late, she had destroyed my poor nipples. Not only that but my milk then started to come in, thick and fast! I have a medical condition which causes me to have an oversupply of milk (not that my specialists told me to expect this!!). It meant that I had loads more milk than Lily could take, so I got engorged. Massively engorged. I was told not to express because that makes the body produce more milk, as it's a supply and demand type deal. So I kept my boob boulders milked up, and hoped they would settle down.
It was about this time that my Mum suggested nipples shields. "What are they? And what if it means Lily won't drink as much milk?" I questioned very sceptically. But at this point I was desperate for some relief. As soon as those silicone beauties were on my boobs and Lily had a feed the relief was amazing. For the first time since I started breastfeeding I could actually relax and breathe during a feed, rather than holding my breath and clenching my toes waiting for her to finish.
It was a game changer.
A Turn For The Worse
Just as I started to think this breastfeeding thing could actually be OK, things went dramatically downhill. It was a Tuesday morning and I woke up as normal feeling maybe a bit tired, but hey I was a new mum! I was due to see the Health Visitor that day so I needed to get up. Feeling sleepy and with Lily still dozing next to me I snoozed my alarm and went back to sleep. My other half Joe beside me. When I woke up 10 minutes later I knew something was wrong. I felt freezing cold yet my body was sweating. My breathing was rapid and my heart was racing. I felt panicked and weak. My legs wouldn't move, even to walk to the toilet. I didn't have the energy to get out of bed. My temperature was sky high and I honestly thought I was dying.
Petrified, I asked Joe to call 999.
Mastitis and Me
The ambulance arrived and three strapping men came in. They asked me how I was and I started sobbing. I was so scared and all I kept saying was "I need to feed my baby". I was worried they would take me away from her, and then how would she feed without my boobs there! They reassured me that wasn't going to happen and took my vitals. They quickly concluded I needed to get to hospital fast. I found out later they were worried my body wouldn't cope with the journey to the larger hospital 45 minutes away, so they took me to a more local one to get me stable. In resus I was wired up and given fluids to re-hydrate me, paracetamol to reduce my temperature, and antibiotics. "What's happening?" I asked the nurse.
"You've got an infection, but we don't know where yet."
It was then that I showed the nurse my sore swollen breasts. My boobs had red tender patches on them, and they were so painful. It was an incredibly bad case of mastitis. An infection in the breasts brought on by milk getting clogged in the ducts and becoming infected.
A Learning Curve
After a week in hospital back on the maternity ward with Lily by my side, and after UV antibiotics followed by oral antibiotics I felt much brighter. Not only that but the nipple shields had done their job and my nipples were no longer sore. Lily had learnt to latch correctly and things were looking up. Once home I knew in order to avoid getting mastitis again I would just have to express a little bit. It was a steep learning curve but eventually I got the hang of how to avoid getting too engorged. without increasing my supply.
It wasn't totally smooth going from then however, as I still ended up having mastitis three more times in the first 6 months. I felt like I was constantly on antibiotics and worried about the effect they would have on Lily. However the doctors reassured me that it was fine, and only a very very tiny amount of the anti-biotic gets in to the breastmilk.
Our Happy Place
After that dramatic first 6 months I finally fell in love with breastfeeding. It was mine and Lily's happy place. Where she would snuggle up in my arms and we would have that bonding time. Knowing my body was providing her with all the magic nutrients she needed. Seeing her little milk drunk face was the best.
Breastfeeding became as easy and pain free as breathing. I finally got how amazing it is.
In the end all the pain and stress was worth it, and I feel proud of myself for persevering through the hard times. At times I did feel like giving up. There were so many tears. But in the end it all worked out. I am very stubborn and determined when I want to be, and I'm so pleased I was when it came to breastfeeding. If people ask me about breastfeeding despite what I went through, I remain positive about it. Yes it is hard to start with and it can take time to get the hang of, but it is so worth it.
Will I breastfeed again if I have another one? Absolutely.
My name’s Beth, I’m a twenty something mum living in East Sussex with my husband, Joe and our daughter Lily-Mae. I juggle part time work alongside adventures out and about with Lily. I write a family lifestyle blog over at A Blonde and a Baby. We love going out on family days together and exploring new places. Before having Lily I use to hate having a messy place but I love nothing more than to crack out the arts and crafts to be creative. I’m a bit of what some might call a “hippie mum”, I’m a cuddler, not a cry it outer. I am a cup of tea loving, scruffy bun wearing, soft play hating, chocolate adoring, will probably be at least-10-minutes-late-to-a-playdate kind of mum, but above all I just love being a mum..
Remember you can find Beth over at A Blonde and a Baby.