Breastfeeding is a big part of my life at the moment. I am currently exclusively feeding 5mth old Little I and I thought it would be nice to look back at my first breastfeeding journey with Little E who is now 3yrs old.
Little E's birth was an emergency forceps delivery in theatre. I was already prepped for a C section so pretty much numb from the boobs down. This meant the plan I had to feed her immediately after delivery went out the window. It wasn't the environment I was expecting and lots was going on around me with about 15 people in the theatre. I'm not sure what they were all doing...
So it wasn't until I got back to the delivery suite that a midwife suggested I give it a try. Little E was very sleepy and didn't seem very interested. A midwife rather roughly shoved her onto me but she was only sucking for a few seconds before she fell off and continued her sleepy snooze. This continued for most of the night, never staying on for more than a few sucks each time. In the morning the midwives were keen to get her properly latched on. I really struggled with how to hold her and one of the healthcare assistants had to help me each time but I managed to keep her on for about 20minutes and later that afternoon I got her to latch myself so we could be discharged.
That night she choked on the fluid she had swallowed during her prolonged time on the birth canal. We were back in hospital so she could have her stomach flushed and be monitored in the neonatal unit. It was the most scariest thing that has ever happened to us but it meant 48hours of help from the lovely neonatal nurses to help establish breastfeeding which was great.
The latch eluded me for a while, especially on my right nipple which baby seemed to hate. It would take ages to get her latched each time. The NCT advisor suggested biological nursing where you lay back and allow baby to forage around on your chest until they find the nipple and latch on. HILARIOUS! Little E desperately tried to crawl around the giant watermelon boobs, wore herself out and fell asleep sucking on the bottom of my boob about six inches from my nipple. After a few attempts at this I realised my baby was not going to make it alone and for a successful feed she needed a firm hold in the cross cradle position and not to let her latch until her mouth went impossibly wide.
From here in baby thrived and I always had tons of milk but my nipples were a real problem. They were so cracked and sore. It felt like needles were being shoved into them as baby latched. I would actually shout out in pain. I went to baby cafe only to be told baby was latching perfectly. My nipples just had to toughen up so I used tubes and tubes of nipple cream to help with the cracks and blisters. At about 10weeks they seemed to give in and the pain eased literally overnight.
Feeding became like breathing. I fed on demand which usually meant a feed every 3hrs during the day (more often on hot days) and one night feed at around 4am. Each feed would last about 20minutes and she would only feed from one side which I alternated each feed. I was incredibly lucky that feeding went so smoothly and it continued like this for the next few months apart from a couple of painful bouts of mastitis in my right boob which required antibiotics to clear.
My forceps delivery left me rather 'injured' and unable to do lots of the normal new mummy activities with my little baby. I honestly feel being able to feed her and watch her thrive pulled me through those first six months and kept me from spiralling into depression. I felt like a complete failure for not being able to give birth to her myself but breastfeeding helped me to get over that.
I decided to try moving her onto formula after our holiday to Spain at approx 7mths. She was eating solids well but breastfeeding when out and about was becoming a palarva as she was easily distracted and would spend the majority of the feed craning her neck round to see what was going on. This resulted in attempts to cover her with a wrap to minimise stimulation but she would just whip the cover off in disgust. I was getting very frustrated with it and she was requiring extra feeds to make up for the mucking about when out and about. So I thought it would be easier to move her onto formula for the daytime but keep doing the morning and evening feeds myself. Oh how wrong I was! She point blank refused the formula. She would take expressed milk no problem but formula was instantly rejected. And so began a two month fiasco of express pumping and adding a small quantity of formula (about 10% to start with) then gradually increasing the ratio of formula to breastmilk by minuscule amounts so she got used to the taste. Eventually she was taking 100% formula and would happily drink it during the day from anyone but me. If I tried to give it to her she refused. So the vast majority of her feeds were still breastmilk as it was just me and her most of the time.
She hit 9mths in November and sleep regression kicked in. She started waking 3 or 4 times a night for feeds and I was a walking zombie. I completely broke down after a week and Husband took control sending her off to his mum's with a box of formula for 2 night sleepover. It was the first time I had been away from her overnight. Naturally she was fine, took the formula and slept through the night. I on the other hand had to go cold turkey with the pain of exploding boobs and raging hormone build up.
When she came back she had forgotten about the boobies and was happy to take the bottle. I cried for most of the following week as my hormones tried to work out what was going on. The pain from engorgement was so bad I took to wearing a sports bra to stop my boobs moving as even the slightest motion was agony. I only pumped the smallest amount just to make it bareable. I certainly wouldn't recommend stopping so suddenly but she wasn't going to let me drop feeds slowly.
I felt a dull ache in my right breast for months after stopping and with hindsight I am sure I had a blocked duct under there but eventually it eased off. I missed the feeding terribly for the first couple of weeks, it was so intense it almost felt like grief, but then suddenly overnight I felt fine and actually rather pleased to have my boobs back!