Category Archives: breastfeeding

What They Don’t Tell You About Breastfeeding, Jamie Oliver

Breastfeeding has become less about the feeding. It’s lost sight of what it actually is: a way to feed your child. It is a physiological event that occurs in the mother.  For the child.

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Obviously it’s the natural way to feed your child.  But that doesn’t mean there is an innate inbuilt switch in all of us that suddenly starts to work the moment you have a baby.

Antenatally,  your midwife will tell you about breastfeeding; hands you a bunch of leaflets about how good it is.

They don’t tell you HOW you do it, though. 

I remember being in the antenatal “breastfeeding” class. Being given a doll to put at my breast. Thats it.

No talk of how latch is important; how skin to skin is VITAL as soon as the baby has been born; how if you have pethidine or have to have forceps or a venteuse, this can mean it is more difficult to start feeding. 

They didn’t mention hand expressing, or how to collect precious colostrum in a tiny syringe when you’ve been awake for 48 hours already. 

They forgot to mention  how it can really, really hurt. That your boobs are sore and your nipples red raw. No amount of Lanishoh is going to help.

They don’t explain that once you’ve had the baby, no matter what time or how tired you are, you are expected to know what you’re doing. You’re given more leaflets and an A4 feeding chart to complete that you can barely read as you’ve been awake so long that you’re delirious.

You see other women pressing the call bell, asking for help so you do the same. A health care assistant opens your curtain, and looks unimpressed as you ask for help. What do I do. The answer is for the health care assistant to yank the baby’s head and grab your breast and roughly attempt a latch.

When this fails more syringes; health care assistant now hand expressing your breast; milking you like a cow. And you let them because you’re starting to lose the plot. Is this a dream.

No one tells you, antenatally, that your baby will be weighed every few days; and if your baby loses too much weight, then you stay in hospital. Or go back in.

That even though you may be trying to get the perfect latch, constantly attaching baby to breast, thinking you’re doing well, that when they tell you your baby has lost an ounce, how crushing that can be. How worthless you feel. How you feel you’re letting down your child. 

How very shit you feel every time you press that call bell. How people’s looks and tone of voice can make you feel so small.

When people ask if your milk has come in, you don’t know. Because antenatally,  they told you your boobs would swell; how they would leak milk and you would ‘feel’ it. But you don’t feel any of this. Milk is there, but it’s not pouring out of your breasts as they told you.

They ask if you can feel the  “let down” when feeding.  You feel nothing.  Your boobs don’t ache. You wake up with wet patches on your tops but there just isn’t enough milk. Maybe it will happen in time they say.

Is it day 4 baby blues, or are you actually depressed?  You don’t know. You’re in a nightmare you can’t get out of.

No one tells you, how at 3am after a baby has been screaming for hours, how a well meaning midwife will causally mention that not everyone can breastfeed; why don’t you let us give your baby a cup of formula; maybe you can express on the machine. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t.  How if you gave a little formula, baby would gain weight and you could go home. 

And how your resolve starts to crush; you’re tired and low, so low.  And this person is being nice to you. And you so desperately want to go home.

How the relief in the midwifes eyes as you tell them to cup feed formula. How your heart breaks at how thirstily your baby gulps this foreign liquid down. 

How once you’ve done this, how they can’t get you out of hospital quick enough. 

They don’t tell you how, postnatally,  as you’re leaving, you ask for breastfeeding group information; breastfeeding counsellors; people who can help you. As you haven’t given up.

And they don’t tell you that these people, these people who haven’t helped you at all, they don’t know. Ask your health visitor,  they will tell you.

They look at you as if to say, “but why bother???”

Why didn’t I know this all before?  You will ask.  No-one tells you this antenatally.

You will go home and read about Breastfeeding and realise where you went wrong. Where they went wrong. Right at the very beginning. At 2.10am on your child’s birth day.

That even when you are home, the nightmare continues. Every day is a struggle but you do it. But this is anything but a nice experience.  How your first weeks with your newborn child will forever feel like the worst weeks of your life.

And this, Jamie Oliver, is the issue.  Not women making choices.  Not being brainwashed by formula companies. It is women not having the right preperation, the right support. To do what they have chosen to do.

Because for some women out there, it is not that easy.

Why vouchers aren’t the way forward for encouraging breastfeeding

So, after feminism, it’s time to talk boobies. Yes, there appears to be a trial in the North where mothers are being paid as an incentive to breastfeed. Hearing this news angered me somewhat. It also made me feel pretty sad. How can something such as breastfeeding be given a monetary value? Why would having £200 worth of vouchers, actually make mothers want to breastfeed?
 
I have blogged before about my struggles with breastfeeding, and eventual formula feeding. Would I be eligible for this? How can you measure who is breastfeeding, and who is not? How long would you need to breastfeed for, to get the vouchers? As well as all these questions. I also have in my mind the issue that what this would do to mothers who cannot breastfeed for whatever reason. It is just another way to make women feel that they have failed, and another way to chip away at their self-esteem.
 
Vouchers will not help you to breastfeed. Help and support will. Breastfeeding peer supporters, breastfeeding consultants, will. I would not have managed to breastfeed at all, to express at all, to combination feed at all, if it wasn’t for the help and support I received. I had to go and find that support. After having a baby, I had to spend time on the internet, calling people, visiting people, to try and get it to work. I have to say the support received in hospital was mixed. Some health care assistants did help, and were lovely, others rolled their eyes. Some midwives were great and very helpful, others so not. It appeared to me that if you chose formula, it was a relief as then they didn’t need to help you. I don’t blame these professionals, I blame the environment in which they work. How can you help every woman in a six bedded bay to breastfeed, when there is only one of you? Why can’t the money these vouchers will cost, be used to finance more breastfeeding support on postnatal wards, to pay volunteers who in their own time support other mothers like myself.
 
I also feel that Health Visitors could be made more aware of issues, and provide more help and support. When Bubs had lost weight, and I was explaining my issues to the Health Visitor, their response was for me to see the Breastfeeding Group – and that was it. Surely health visitors could be a great resource and help with this issue.
 
If you choose to formula feed, mothers have enough guilt, stigma and anxiety. By ‘rewarding’ breastfeeding mothers in this way, we are causing a two-tier system. It’s placing formula feeding mothers in the same class as smokers – the fact it is legal, yet frowned upon. There are a million reasons why a mother cannot breastfeed. Giving vouchers to others who can breastfeed,  isn’t going to help make them feel any better. It would be especially hard if you tried, and it didn’t work out – would you get your vouchers ceremoniously taken away? Feeding your child is not a choice any woman takes lightly. It is an individual choice, and there are so many reasons behind why someone may choose not to breastfeed.
 
I wonder whether people will choose to breastfeed just because of the vouchers. If they did, are they really in the right frame of mind to give it a good go? Would they be aware of what exactly is involved? Also, part of me thinks that there are still barriers to breastfeeding, and the lure of vouchers may not be enough to sway. It just seems so ludicrous to me that if you were in two minds, the offer of a financial incentive would be enough to tip you over the edge and choose breastfeeding.
 
If this trial is successful, it could be rolled out nationwide. I just can’t see how this could be financially viable, when we don’t even have enough midwives as it is! This money could be better spent on improving maternity – both antenatal and postnatal – services for women as well as Health Visiting services, particularly with regards to breastfeeding. All I can see with these vouchers is another way to make people feel sad and stressed. This is not the way to promote and encourage breastfeeding.

Bottle It Up: My Feelings about Formula Feeding

 

Formula Feeding-Experience-Bottle Feeding

Formula Feeding and my feelings towards it….OK, so maybe this is not the post to write during national breastfeeding week….or is it? I know this subject is a contentious issue, but this is my experience of what happened once I had to start formula feeding. So My breastfeeding difficulties are mentioned in my previous post – please read this if you want to know what I went through!

Battling with the Boob

I will always cherish the two beautiful weeks where I got to sit with my beautiful girl, and exclusively breastfeed her all day, when I thought I didn’t have to undertake formula feeding anymore. This was after all the trouble I had at the beginning. I watched box set after box set, drinking water and stuffing my face with pistachio nuts. I loved that time. I loved being so close to her. I loved feeling I was feeding her, giving her what she needed. I was so, so hopeful that my milk would increase, and it would be OK. I could breastfeed. But no more milk would come. After everything I had been through.

In hindsight, I think I should have continued to give her the top-up formula for longer, as my milk supply increased, in those early weeks, rather than ditch it completely and then struggle to feed her, which I did. I didn’t give myself a chance to catch up.

We would feed for hours at a time. I’d do everything I could – make sure she had both boobs, different positions, checking the latch. By the time we’d finish both boobs it was time to start again. If I was at home, this life was not so bad. As I said, we would watch TV, box sets, sit on the sofa. But I couldn’t put her down for long without her wanting a feed. I couldn’t really go out, as I was terrified she’d want to feed, and when she did, she would not want to stop. I only went out when she was asleep. I used to have to take her to clinic, screaming crying in the pram, and as soon as I had walked the 10 mins there, get her on the boob again quick. I knew it wasn’t right.

It’s a growth spurt, people said. It’ll only last a few days. But it lasted weeks.

It’s your baby telling your body to make more milk, people said. It’ll calm down soon. But it never did. No more milk came.

This is totally normal, people said.

But still my milk did not increase. I felt no letdown, I didn’t feel my boobs were bigger in any way and they didn’t feel fuller. I was confused and puzzled. And she kept wanting to feed and feed and feed. She didn’t sleep during the day, she just fed and fed and fed.

I was so stressed one of my very best friends came down from Leeds to help me for a week. At this time, we were giving the baby one bottle at night, but breastfeeding all other times. She lent me her electric pump, as I was manually pumping but getting less and less. Initially, at the start of breastfeeding, I could express 4oz on a good day. Now I could express 1oz between both breasts. My milk was decreasing. I knew it, in my heart. I know pumps are not an accurate way of measuring anything but the difference in what I could pump initially to now really hit home.

Facing Up to Formula Feeding

So we had to start giving her more and more formula. It broke my heart that I couldn’t exclusively breastfeed.

I felt very, very bad about this. I was desperate to cling to breastfeeding, and I felt a lot of pressure (indirectly; one side of the family were telling me how good breastfeeding was etc, the other telling me to do what I felt was right) about it.

I don’t think anyone who has been in my situation, or indeed has tried breastfeeding and then decides to go onto formula, makes this decision lightly. Everywhere people are telling you how bad formula is. Research, statistics, all floated around my mind like a word soup. I was poisoning my baby! I was ruining her life! I was making her stupid and fat! I was giving her allergies! I felt like the worst mother ever.

My only saving grace was that I was still giving her breast milk. At least once or twice a day, morning and evening, sometimes afternoon. She’d feed a little, but how much she was having was anyone’s guess. She was comforted by it, and at night, a few times, it was an easy way to get her to go to sleep. I was pleased I could still do this, and it counter balanced for me some of the anxieties I had about formula. I wondered how long I could do this.

I combi-fed my baby for three and a half months, although the bottles became more after 8 weeks – we had upped to three bottles a day and then this increased to 4/5. She had my milk for three and a half months, as well as formula. She started to put on weight with formula, she started to look like a healthy baby. And she stopped crying, and she started to be happy, and content. She was much happier with the combi feeding than she was without.

Formula feeding is not the easy answer. It’s difficult, time-consuming and messy. My house started to get more and more covered in bottles, teats, and sterilizers. I hate having to make the bottles up, waiting half an hour for the water to cool, counting the scoops, making sure the scoops are filled just right. I hate having to fiddle about with the bottles, and water, and powder, especially when I am in public, and Bubs is becoming very screamy and crying for her bottle and people are staring at me. I hate having to keep remembering to wash and sterilise bottles, and keep on top of this. I hate having to think ahead all the time and plan when her next bottle may possibly be (she seems to go 3 hours or so between feeds). And I have to buy the milk which is an expense I did not think about. And worst of all, because formula is seen as so bad, there are no offers, no money off, nothing. I know people don’t want to advertise formula but for those of us who have to use it, this just makes you feel even more dirty and nasty. I felt bad just buying it. And I get through a box of milk in just over a week now – about £40 a month.

There are positives: Dan can feed her, My Mum can, anyone can. I can leave her with family so I can get out of the house. I call these positives, as I have to think positively about it, or else I would crack up. I can’t spend my whole life beating myself up about every bottle feed she has.

Formula Feelings

It is bad enough I feel guilty, and feel bad, when people see me bottle feeding her in public. I see other mothers breastfeeding and I think to myself ‘I wish I could do that’. For me, things were not right from the start, and that tainted everything about breastfeeding for me. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t perfect, I tried to cling to it but eventually it slipped away. I want to tell all those people who look at me in disgust, look at me as if to say ‘tut tut, she’s using formula’ that I tried. I TRIED. This wasn’t my choice.

I decided to stop breastfeeding completely because Bubs would go on the boob, but would hurt me, chew my nipples with her gums, she would suck for comfort as on a dummy, but she wasn’t really feeding. It was uncomfortable. I knew that it was fading away, and that the bottles were winning – it was easier for her to do, after all.

My experience clouded the first few months of my baby’s life, and I feel very angry about that. I started to resent breastfeeding, and bottle feeding, and any conversation about feeding. It was all I seemed to talk about for months, and weeks. Taking control of the situation meant that I could move forward, and start enjoying being with my baby, without all of this anxiety. For me, my relationship with her improved dramatically as soon as I started to increase the bottles. This was because the stress of the weight issues, and feeding issues, were being removed. It wasn’t the only thing we did together. I still carry with me all these emotions: guilt, worry, anxiety, stress, shame, embarrassment. It has made me feel very low indeed.

I don’t know whether Bubs misses it – she never goes to grab my boob, or go to breastfeed, even if I hold her across me – she seems indifferent about it. She loves her bottles though, and she has gone strength to strength as soon as we started to give it to her. For me, I can’t wait until the day she doesn’t need them anymore. As then I can put all this emotion to one side.

I am not saying formula is best, or better, than breastfeeding. I wish with all my heart I could be writing this, with a happy ending, that I went through all that and look, here we are, breastfeeding as we should be. I wish so much that my milk increased. I wanted to be that person, maybe you reading this, being able to feed your child anywhere, with no issue, no bottle, no sterilising. I wanted to feel like I was doing my bit.

I will always remember those two weeks, those 2 precious weeks, when I thought it was true. But I can’t beat myself up forever that I am bottle feeding and formula feeding. I need to let it go, and just enjoy my life. I need to stop worrying what everyone else thinks of me when I get that bottle out of the bag.

More Support Required

Breastfeeding, bottle feeding…I can understand why there is less uptake of breastfeeding, and why there is an issue. As I said in my last post, the lack of support and practical help when I had first had my baby, was the crucial issue here. It was those 6 days in hospital where I had conflicting advice, information and indifference to my situation, that has led me down the path I now tread. If you want people to breastfeed, then give them continuity of support, advice, information. Let them understand what it means to breastfeed rather than reactively latch on their babies for them and leave them to it. Encourage and support, don’t tell them that some babies can not breastfeed and offer formula. Don’t tell me I should do this, and that, and speak to this person, that person. I did it all. I tried it all. I could have carried on trying, yes. And sometimes I wonder if I did do all I could. But in the end, it was my sanity as well as my baby that I had to consider.

I did not choose to bottle feed, I didn’t choose formula. Yet here I am.

 

 

Simply The Breast: Breastfeeding Difficulties and Me

Image courtesy of [koratmember] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of [koratmember] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It has been nearly 3 weeks since I had Nancy and it already a lot has happened that I want to blog about. The birth was a blog post all in itself, and I will write that when I can bear to think about it again! No, what I want to start with is breastfeeding.

The number one thing I want to say is, I didn’t have a fricking clue about breastfeeding before I gave birth. In fact, I hadn’t even really thought about it. I knew I wanted to give it a go, I had read the leaflets the midwives hand out,I’d been to parentcraft and discussed it, watched the crazy midwife show me her positions with her doll and show me Marmite covered nappies. I thought I knew something.

I knew NOTHING.

One thing people don’t tell you is: Breastfeeding is bloody HARD. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always come naturally. And, it’s not as easy as picking up the baby and shoving it on your boob. I can fully understand why some people choose not to, or try it and then decide on other methods. I have been close to this myself on many occasions and in fact most days I still think about it.

This is only my opinion and experience, though. Everyone is different.

In my head I had it all worked out: give birth, then after have skin to skin and then have that magical first breastfeeding moment. Feel that rush of love and bonding and attachment. However, what I hadn’t planned on was a venteuse birth, an episiotomy, a cord round the neck and Nancy needing a bit of oxygen as she was born. She was put on me for a few moments before being whisked onto the resusitair. I was in shock, and not thinking straight.

The First Time

My first experience of breastfeeding was holding my baby swaddled up, with a midwife holding my breast to the baby’s mouth, repeatedly trying to get her to latch on – she didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t ask the midwife to stop touching my boob. Then she told me she’d get someone to help me. I heard her shouting outside my room for someone to help me with feeding – she kept shouting and asking.

In the meantime I got up and showered myself – no-one around to take me to a bath or help me with a shower – and I cleaned myself up, and then someone came in and talked to me about hand expressing. I had to squeeze my boobs and the midwife sucked up the colostrum with a syringe. So my baby’s first meal was a syringe stuck into her mouth with colostrum in it. Not quite the way I’d imagined it….

Postnatal Ward

It seems obvious but it hadn’t clicked I my mind what I was doing on the postnatal ward; again as soon as I got to the bed people hovered around asked questions checked tags and started their postnatal checks. The nurse in charge left some leaflets and charts on my bed but I didn’t really take in what she said.

Now what I failed to grasp is that you need to feed your child on postnatal ward. They need to see how you feed your child before you can go home. It was never spelt out to me Like that and i wish it had. i was too shocked, traumatized and most of all tired to think logically Myself. Thing is, Nancy wouldn’t latch on and so I used the buzzer to get help. To start with I felt silly using the buzzer as if I was making a fuss. Each time a HCA or midwife would come and look at me expectantly. I’d ask them for help. They would grab my boob and start the shoving into gob process. Nancy would have none of it. Then they’d ask me about hand expressing. Most would then start milking my breasts and scraping the milk off into a syringe. I would say they would ask my permission to do this and ask me to say when to stop as it was uncomfortable. However what was i to do otherwise as I didn’t really know what I was doing in the first place!

Nancy’s first few feeds were via the syringe method. She wasn’t latching on or sucking either. During the afternoon having visitors took the focus away from feeding but as soon as it became evening it was centre stage again. By this time I was so tired I felt like I was floating. I really didn’t have a clue. The night went by in a haze of buzzers, hands on boobs and shoving into mouth, hand expressing and scraping syringes and eventual sleep with Nancy on my chest. A midwife got her to latch on and feed for 5 mins in the early morning and I’d done it myself too. However I still didn’t understand what I needed to do to get her to latch on. Every time I asked for help they did help me to latch her on but as soon as they left nancy would come off and id be stuck again.

In the end I spent 6 days in hospital. 6 DAYS! I was actually discharged on day 2 but I asked to be readmitted within hours as nancy wasn’t feeding or latching on. It was after this and a bit of a breakdown that people started to explain things and it started to make sense. They put me on a 3 hourly feeding plan and got me into a routine of change nappy, skin to skin then feed. She was still awkward though and i still had to ask for help and depending who it was i either got the help or they’d Touch my boobs and do it like before. Pretty soon you get used to having your knockers out and get desensitized to people touching them or manoeuvring into baby’s mouth.

I got the hang of what latching on meant and felt like and me and nancy started to get going with breastfeeding. It seemed to be going well until she was weighed on day 4 and she’d lost
11% of her body weight – up to 10% is acceptable. This meant we couldn’t leave hospital and knocked my confidence with feeding. I then had to get someone to check the latch at every feed. Cue buzzing, having to explain they needed to check latch as agreed (some ppl seemed to know some didn’t) and more hands on or off approach. It seemed to go well but next day nancy had lost a measly 5g so they kept me in again. The next night more observation was agreed but this time nancy didn’t play ball and screamed and screamed, refused to latch on and in the end 40ml of formula milk was all that would calm her down.

I was pretty gutted at this point and confused as to what to do. Midwives talked to me about options; expressing my milk, using formula, or carry on breastfeeding but one midwife told me that Nancy was hungry and that not all babies can breastfeed. If she lost any more weight they’d start her on formula anyway. I felt like I’d never leave hospital and I was terrified she would lose more weight. So I decided to express and top up with formula so that we could go home. Which was heartbreaking to do as I’d tried so hard but I was stressed and worried and I had to get out of there!

At Home

Being at home was the best thing I could have done. To start with I felt very emotional and upset because everything had not gone the way I wanted to. I was still reliving the birth and all the stress of the last 6 days in hospital, and i felt like I’d given up. Most of all I was very anxious about weight gain. Talking to the community midwife helped who suggested I speak to a peer-to-peer breastfeeding supporter and encouraged me to still try nancy on the breast before expressing and formula. At times she would breastfeed and others she would point-blank refuse to. I contacted the NCT and a lovely lady who was a breastfeeding counsellor came and saw me, helped me to latch on again and started to make me believe in could breastfeed again.

Twitter is an amazing source of advice help and friendship and this is proven when you have a bit of a personal crisis or ask questions. I asked twitter for help about my breastfeeding situation and although I didn’t think anyone could help me, I was inundated by support, help, people who’d been in the same situation and people who put me in touch with people in my local area who were involved in breastfeeding support. This is how I ended up seeing another breastfeeding counsellor who was not only lovely but really helped me to see I could do this and build up my confidence; chatted to me about my experiences; just listened to me. Nancy latched on that afternoon and suddenly we were breastfeeding all the time. The relief I felt was immense. I can’t thank those people I know on twitter enough who helped me.

Now I must say I had been one of those people at parentcraft who didn’t listen to the peer supporter and pooh-poohed why I’d want a stranger in my home to talk to me about breastfeeding; I don’t like meeting new people or talking to people I don’t know so I hadn’t taken it seriously. But I will say this now the help and support you can get is amazing and I am very glad I swallowed my pride and my fears and allowed these people into my home. They do a fab job and I have nothing but praise and admiration for them. In one hour they made me feel better about myself, my breastfeeding ability and proved to me I could do it. All as a volunteer.

So nancy has regained her birth weight; we are still breastfeeding although I worry constantly that she’s not getting enough milk as she feeds pretty much all day. The health visitor has been great and reassuring and when i take her to clinic tomorrow to be weighed I will have some peace of mind. But what matters is that I have managed to do it; overcome my fears and anxieties, and I did what I set out to do and there is no better feeling than breastfeeding your child. Whatever happens in the future I can say I breastfed.

I guess I just didn’t prepare myself enough for what happens after the delivery suite; maybe no-one can really do that as its such an individual experience. What I would say is read up on breastfeeding, get in touch with peer supporters, try to understand what breastfeeding is. I wish I had. I’ll also say I used to think these peer supporters and organisations would be all super-duper pro breastfeeding and try to force it on me – this couldn’t be more far from the truth. In my experience no-one tried to sway me one way or another and didn’t run screaming from the house when I said I’d been giving nancy formula. They were not judgemental at all which I was glad about. So use these resources at your disposal as in hospital they just can’t give you the amount of 1:1 support that these can offer you.

I’ll let you know how I get on with my breastfeeding as I’m still going and I have no plans to stop as yet. I’ve even managed to breastfeed in public. Woop! Let me know if you had a similar experience or if you want to find out more let me know.