Day five after giving birth to Bubby D, and I was sitting in the hospital crying.
Not in the maternity ward, but in the paediatric ward. We had been sent home from the maternity ward after two days in hospital, at the start of which Bubby D had latched on herself and we’d had a wonderful first breastfeeding experience.
I dared to hope that perhaps this second time round, with the benefit of experience from feeding the Wee Man and a year of training as a breastfeeding counsellor under my belt, we might have a smoother feeding journey.
But then the rock boobs arrived.
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and one of the effects of this is an oversensitivity to hormones. Along comes the milk, along comes the oversupply…and hey presto! Magically two giant solid boulders appear on my chest, making it near impossible for a tiny newborn to achieve an effective latch. As fast as I express a little bit of milk off to soften things up a bit, it is replaced.
So Bubby D becomes dehydrated, sleepy, and doesn’t feed for 24 hours. Hello again hospital…
‘No!’ I (try not to) shout at them through my tears.
‘These are not tears of depression. They are tears of frustration’.
I don’t want to be told I’m depressed. I don’t want to be told I’ve tried my best and I’m not a failure if I give Bubby D the formula that’s being waved tantalisingly in my face.
All I want is a bit of support, to achieve something which I KNOW is possible – a good breastfeeding relationship with my baby.
Unfortunately, its the August Bank Holiday weekend. The breastfeeding supporters are all away on holiday. My fellow breastfeeding counsellor trainees are all unreachable too (and if I’m honest, I kind of DO feel like a bit of a failure and I’m perhaps a little embarassed to admit I need help – I’ve studied this, I’ve done this before, I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT!)
So I did what I’d avoided doing for a long time, and I joined twitter.
Messages came from people from near and far. Messages of support, encouragement and friendship. I posted in Facebook groups and many, many people replied and spurred me on.
All around me, my professional caregivers, family and friends were telling me I had tried hard enough but all these wonderful, supportive people in the online world were telling me to keep going and be strong in my conviction that Bubby D and I could do it.
And after three days, we did.
After three days of abiding by the hospital schedule of ‘pump, attempt latch, fail, attempt bottle feed of 75ml pumped milk, force it down a nose tube if required and then watch half of it get puked back up again, refuse to listen to my request to just give her what she wants and perhaps see if she’ll wake naturally for a feed shortly after 3 hours…and repeat…’ finally I got assigned a slightly less attentive nurse who didn’t come into the room at the three hour allotted interval to supervise things.
Rather guiltily, I sat and watched the clock, minutes ticked by slowly…and then suddenly, Bubby D awoke and started rooting for a feed. Straight away she latched on. And stayed on. And fed. For a full half hour.
And still the messages came – expressing happiness and joy that Bubby D and I had managed to achieve what I knew we could, just given the support. Wonderful, wonderful messages from breastfeeding supporters all around the world.
That’s why I decided to train to be a breastfeeding counsellor – after my experiences of establishing breastfeeding with the Wee Man first time round. So many women desperately want to initiate or continue breastfeeding, and so many are let down by a lack of support which is sorely needed. I was lucky with the Wee Man. I had a great community midwife, a partner who stood by my convictions, and an NCT breastfeeding counsellor who supported me through several months of mastitis, abcess, scans and surgery to go on and continue breastfeeding until he decided to wean at 18 months. Not everyone wants to turn to the online world. Ideally, I wouldn’t have had to. I think its really important to have someone there, trained and ready, able to offer information and support to enable mothers to achieve the outcome they desire.
And, no matter how much you think you know, no matter how many babies you’ve had, I think it’s important to recognise that every feeding relationship is different and you should be able ask for – and receive – support if you need or want it. I look forward to the future when I will be one of those people who is there to help support other mothers achieve their feeding goals, just like all the many, many people from facebook and twitter reached out and helped me.
Thank you to you all. Bubby D and I are very grateful for the fifteen months of breastfeeding that we went on to enjoy together 🙂
Here are some of the twitter hashtags that I found useful:
Here are some of the Facebook groups that offered me support, information and encouragement:
Here are some of the sites that I turned to for information about breastfeeding and support from forums:
And here are the numbers for the support lines, all of which I have called in the past:
National Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 100 0212
NCT Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 330 0771
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: 08444 122949
La Leche League Great Britain: 0845 120 2918
And Lactivist are a great breastfeeding support organisation that are providing some lovely prizes both throughout the week and as part of the Grand Prize (don’t forget to enter below!) too.
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