Lupus #12 My breastfeeding journey

#12 My breastfeeding journey

Let’s start with…it’s not as simple as it sounds.

My blog is here to tell you all my truthful experience, so here goes!

After having an emergency cesarean, my body was in shock, I had been shaking and shivering ever since they numbed my body, throughout the whole procedure and for the few hours that followed I just felt cold, I think the medication used caused it.

From what I remember, I was wheeled into a recovery type area whilst we waited for them to prepare my space on the ward, my baby joined me a few minutes later. They placed him on my chest for some skin-on-skin contact and to encourage him to latch, it felt so surreal. As my body was still not all there, I wasn’t able to produce any breastmilk, the midwife suggested to give him some formula, which I didn’t want to do, but I trusted her advise. This was all happening within the hour he was born, we gave him formula using a cup rather than a bottle so that he would not be confused and reject the nipple when the time came. His little sounds from sucking on a cup were the best, cutest, heart warming sound I ever did hear. I felt upset that his first feed was not from me, but I also just wanted him to be safe and healthy especially after what had just happened with the labour. Finally we were wheeled onto the ward where we got to bond and enjoy our new little bundle of joy alone, honestly I didn’t feel the connected right away, maybe it even took me a month before I really felt that connection, but I can write about this another time. My partner (Johnny) then managed to get us a private room using his charm so that he was able to stay with and help me look after the baby as we knew I would be there for a couple days, and I couldn’t move due to the operation. The following day I was seen by a pharmacist who confirmed my medications, she told me that I was not allowed to breastfeed due to the medications I take for lupus. I was puzzled because I had confirmed on multiple occasions that it would be possible with the prenatal specialists I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy, the pharmacist was sure that I shouldn’t, but I insisted that I could and so she checked with the doctors. Luckily a few hours later I got the green light to breastfeed, I was so relieved as that’s all I wanted to do. My breasts started to harden over the next day or two, it was extremely uncomfortable, they ended up being like two huge heavy rocks! I was shocked at this, but no matter how much I tried, I still couldn’t squeeze out any milk and it was getting so painful to touch. It wasn’t until Johnny researched, that we realised it was clogged ducts that needed to be massaged, and by massage I mean it wasn’t like one you get in a spa, it was so painful, and there was so many we had to do it in sections over the next few days. I was probably on the verge of mastitis (infection and inflammation of the milk ducts) which is scary to even think of, I’m lucky he looked into it otherwise I wouldn’t of known! It took a few days, but we managed to unclog it all and my breasts started to soften back up, I remember it felt so weird how soft they were, they felt what I can only describe as liquid-y, it was like a water bed! My total stay at the hospital was 5 days, a little longer than anticipated but we were just so glad to get home and enjoy what time we had left before Johnny’s paternity ended. My milk was only just starting to come though at this point after daily massaging, pumping and latching, but this was getting my spirits up and I was more hopeful – finally I could start to feed my baby. Our little man latched on like a boss, he knew what to do right away – I was so happy. He would be on for 30-60 minutes at a time, to be honest I would have to pull him off or else I’m sure he would of stayed on forever, I was beginning to get worried that he was just using me as a dummy (baring in mind we didn’t give him a dummy until he was 3/4 months old). I had breast feeding help from our local midwife support team who came to our home to observe and give tips, they assured me that he was latching fine, no tongue tie and that he wasn’t using me as a dummy due to his suckling motion. The team were very supportive in helping with tips but unfortunately there was not much else they could do as I was doing everything correctly, I just needed my milk to start flowing. After being on the breast we would give him the cup/bottle (I can’t remember exactly when we started giving him bottles) and he would still finish the feed we made him, which was strange as he had been suckling on me for a long time. That’s how I knew he wasn’t getting enough from me, so I tried pumping more – every 3 hours to encourage milk production, supply and demand is key as much in breastfeeding as it is in economics (sorry I couldn’t help the economist inside me). When I pumped, the most I ever got in one go throughout my whole journey was 20ml, which is barley anything for a growing baby. It broke my heart, but I understood my body was just not ready for everything that happened so quickly, at the end of the day I just wanted a healthy happy baby, he lost around 10% of his weight in the first week or two which is totally normal (but also bordering the edge of the “allowed” limit), but now he is a fabulously chubby little monster and I couldn’t be happier. There is obviously nothing wrong with formula feeding, personally I mainly wanted to breastfeed for the bond, I do believe breast is best, but formula is also amazing, not to mention it takes a part of the toll off the mummy!

I thought i’d also share my thoughts on the experience itself… 

For someone who desperately wanted to breastfeed and have that bonding connection with their baby, it was frustrating and heartbreaking to know that my body wasn’t able to fully provide this for my little one. You look online, you read blogs, watch videos and learn off other people, majority of whom make out like it is so natural and people who produce even too much milk that they have to freeze it away, or even better – make face masks and foot baths with it! It’s not often you hear bloggers talk about how they couldn’t breastfeed, for whatever reason whether it be they’re not producing much, it’s too painful or that baby is not latching properly. Majority of what you read/watch online and what the midwives here tell you is that breastfeeding is natural, your milk should come within a week, you just need to keep trying, it’s supply and demand, and when you tell them you’re following all the steps and it’s not working…they look at you funny and say “that’s weird”. Well I can tell you as a first time mum, who doesn’t have much baby experience, who is the first of her friends / family to have a baby, I didn’t have much to go off except my mum and the internet. So when people are not supportive and say it’s weird that my milk hasn’t come through yet, or it’s weird that I can’t produce enough, it makes you feel like a complete failure. Never mind having just had a baby, the pain you’re already in from birth / cesarian, having to get up every hour or so to tend to your new little human, you’ve got people telling you that your milk will come, and when it doesn’t it makes you feel even worse. No-one tells you that it’s not only you, that the girl in the room next door is having trouble too, or that it’s normal what’s happening to you, because I think that would help…to know you’re not the only one.

They say to give it a week and it should be second nature. I tried HARD for a month, breastfeeding and pumping every few hours, I was still only producing a tiny amount, not enough to feed my hungry human, and … 6 months later i’m still going, I’ve learnt to accept that this time round my body isn’t producing enough for whatever reason, but that I still want to give him what I can and bond with him in this special way. I’m just enjoying every moment I have whilst I can, because he is growing up way too fast and soon will be a lot more independent.

I just wanted to write this blog for any other new mums out there who are struggling, for them to know that you’re not the only one, it’s actually a struggle for a lot of mums whether is it because of lack of milk production, painful latching, exhaustion…there’s so many factors but all of them are NORMAL. Don’t be made to feel like you’re the only one, because you’re really not! 

I hope this helps some of you, of course I’m no expert but I’m a great listener and I like to help when I can, so if you would like to chat please feel free to contact me!
For now, here is my little one… now 6 months old (how time flies!) and is doing amazingly for a premature baba : )

Much love xXx

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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