Breastfeeding can be toe curling
Friday, 1 March 2019 | Mummy and Little Me
A Toe-curling Experience…
So here goes, my first blog! I suppose a good place to start might be to introduce myself, my name is Charlotte and I became a first time mummy to my daughter Hattie (Hats) in November last year. Motherhood so far is literally the best thing in the world, however, at times it is also the hardest thing in the world (and I’m only nearly 4 months in!). One of the biggest challenges to me has been breastfeeding – hence this blog :)
Deciding whether to Breastfeed
When I found out I was expecting last year, one of the biggest things to think about, amongst everything else (what wheels to choose, which changing bag, what name?!) , was how to feed my new baby. There is such controversy surrounding this subject that it was difficult to ask other people their opinion, trust me...everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to have an opinion on it!! After a few weeks of googling breastfeeding, should I breastfeed, how to breastfeed, breast is best, the list goes on… I decided that when the time came I was going to give it a go and if it didn't work then I had at least tried! My breastfeeding journey started at 35 weeks pregnant...not because Hattie was premature, but because of the Gestational Diabetes I had been diagnosed with.
Liquid Gold - Colostrum!
Because of this I was advised to start a colostrum harvest...which at the time, felt like the weirdest experience, having to hand express a tiny amount of 'liquid gold' (which is what we fondly named it) into the smallest of syringes, wasn't the easiest of tasks! However, I'm really glad I did this as Hattie was in special care for a minimal amount of time and I was unable to visit her due to being ill myself, so the 'Liquid Gold' was greatly appreciated by all. Not only was it feeding Hats, it was providing her with so many nutrients that she needed straight away. I think if anyone spoke to me now and they didn’t want to breastfeed, I would definitely recommend building a bank of colostrum, as there are so many benefits to it for a newborn.
The Breastfeeding Journey begins
Now Hattie was born, my breastfeeding journey could really begin...I quickly realised that hand expressing colostrum hadn't been that hard after all! Hattie was brought up to the ward I was on, and WOW, this really was THE most magical, overwhelming and emotional experience of my life. After quickly devouring the liquid gold, this baby was now a hungry bear, so now was my moment to try and feed. I can remember being so worried, with an abundance of questions whizzing round my head! I think my midwife could tell, so she quickly plonked baby on my chest and it just seemed to happen! I was lucky in that Hats took to it really quickly and was latching on well, however, due to a difficult birth my milk was late to come in, and with a very hungry baby this really didn't help. I don't think anyone can prepare you for the pain that I can only describe as 'sand papered' nipples. Was it wrong that I was dreading feeding time? What I kept being told was the most natural thing, and I was dreading it! Did this make me a bad person? A bad mummy already? Putting these to the back of my mind I persevered, a crying baby, my stomach feeling like it had been torn open, trying to place baby in the right position, the toe curling, and then it happens… we’re latched on and feeding. I was warned about the toe curl, and it really is a thing, that and the nose wrinkling grimace that goes with it!
The pain of nursing your baby
After speaking with the midwife, I was recommended to try and use some nipple shields (again, everyone has an opinion on these)...well even working out how to put these on was an un-dignifying challenge, luckily my other half and I have a sense of humour! Anyway, with copious amounts of nipple cream (your new best friend), tears, laughter and perseverance we got there, and it finally felt like it was all clicking into place...and then Hats was weighed…oh my days she had dropped over 10% of her birth weight. Cue the self-blaming thoughts, what was I doing wrong? Was I not doing it right? Did I not have enough milk? Express your milk they said…I tried to express to increase my supply and to top her up, but this sent the milk bar into a frenzy, there was milk everywhere, and engorged boobs…don’t even go there! Even Hattie was struggling as it was coming out so fast! My way around this was to top Hats up with a bottle of formula every day, this was meant to be a temporary measure, but she still has a bottle most days now! At first I really felt like I was failing her, and then I panicked – oh god what if she preferred the bottle to the boob? This wasn’t the case...she took to a bottle really well…if her daddy was feeding her. I had to leave the room each time she had a bottle, it was as if she could sense or smell my milk and wasn’t prepared to have the formula. Eventually we got there and as I said, she still has a bottle most days!
A Breastfeeding Mummy
With Hattie now on a steady incline of gaining weight we were back on track, I was doing it, I was a breastfeeding mumma! My next hurdle was just around the corner…Do I/How do I get the boob out in public?! Don’t get me wrong, we’d been out as a family by this point – but I’ll be honest, I fed in the car tucked behind a sun visor/hundreds of muslins/scarves, basically anything that I could build a tent with! This is where the bottle of formula a day came in handy for me – it was so easy to give her this (once she had started taking it from me) instead of getting hugely embarrassed in front of hundreds of eyes, which felt like they were all on me, well actually my boob, when in actual fact no-one was looking! I’ll be honest, I don’t often feed in public now, not because I am the one who is embarrassed (because I’ve learnt that any bit of dignity you have soon goes out of the window), but because I feel it puts others in a really uncomfortable situation. This is slightly controversial as I know it’s the most natural thing in the world, but I wouldn’t want anyone around me to feel uncomfortable, as they might be out for the day enjoying themselves also. I am happy to feed Hats at mum and baby groups, getting the boob out is just normal practice here, or when we are at the doctors etc, but I reserve doing it at restaurants etc. Is this right? I’d be happy to hear other thoughts on this. I know I could potentially be opening up a can of worms here – but I can’t be the only one feeling like this?
To summarise my journey so far I don’t think there is a right way or wrong way to feed your baby, we are all told ‘breast is best,’ and I’m not arguing or denying that at all, but you really have to do what is best for you and your baby. I had a really interesting conversation with a new mum who had recently had breast cancer and was unable to feed her new baby, but my word she was doing a fantastic job with her little boy! Another conversation I had with a friend and she said that she felt like she was starving her baby by trying to breast feed as he was always hungry, so in this case, the bottle worked best. Don't get me wrong, I really nearly gave up on numerous occasions, but I'm really glad I stuck to it as it has worked for me. Having gone through this difficult stage myself, I would really look differently at how I am with friends/family that have a newborn now or in the future, as it is hard, really hard. Sometimes just a hand on the shoulder to let them know that they are doing a good job, or to cut up their food so that they can eat a hot meal, or, my favourite, a hug (avoiding the painful large boobs) could really make their day.
Anyways, until next time that’s all for now, Hats is hungry :)