My breastfeeding story - part three

This week, my mum read my five-month baby update post, and told me it was 'much better than the one with all those pictures of breast pumps'. So sorry, to anyone who feels similarly - I know the last two posts on my experiences with breastfeeding have been heavy on the TMI factor, feel free to skip if detail of this kind of thing is not for you! I had quite a lot of responses from my last post, but mostly on Facebook (if you're on Facebook and fancy giving me a like, you can do so here!). Some of them made me feel defensive again, and then I had to take some deep breaths and remember that it's me who's being oversensitive and that people (on the whole) mean well. On a similar note, when Daphne was first born and I was still trying my best to breastfeed with little luck, I changed my Facebook profile picture to one of me, Daph and Oli, and in the picture Oli was feeding Daph from a bottle. I got lots of likes (as you do when you put up pictures of your newborn baby, I've been happy to discover!) and comments, but then some random Facebook acquaintance wrote 'Bless. Is that formula she's drinking?' and I burst into ridiculous tears.


I also felt furious with her for thinking she had any right to comment or ask, and considered writing back that it was none of her bloody business, but instead, I did the rather more kneejerk thing and deleted the comment and removed her as a friend. Such were my levels of sensitivity. The irony was that Daphne was actually drinking expressed milk. Ha.

On a similar note, I remember an innocuous comment on the Whatsapp thread of my NCT group - it seemed my group had universally got the hang of breastfeeding, and there was just one other lady who had had issues with it at the start - it was such a relief not to be the only black sheep. But then she managed to get the hang of it after a week or so, and said something like 'So glad I've managed it, it's SO worth it'. Again, not intended as a dig (it's not all about you Charlotte!) but I couldn't help but take it as yet more criticism and evidence of my failure.

I started to seek out friends who'd had similar issues, and I can't tell you how comforting it was to hear of mates who'd stopped after a month with mastitis, or those who'd hated the whole thing - not that I was pleased that other people were going through what I was going through, but it really stopped me feeling like the Only Person In the World Who Couldn't Breastfeed.

Anyway, I continued to try. I continued to pump as much as humanly possible, but as Daphne got bigger she inevitably got hungrier, and the amount of milk I could express began to fall behind what she needed more and more, meaning she had to have more formula to make up the shortfall. Every day I would pump some milk then sit with Daph and try to get her to latch on with the nipple shield, and I would say only one day in ten did she manage it - most of the time she just screamed and hit me and went purple with rage. I'd try until I felt like my head would explode, before inevitably collapsing into sobs too. It was horrible and worst of all - ruining those precious early days with my baby.


I decided I needed to up my milk supply, and so I started taking Fenugreek. It's a galactagogue?! For those not in the know - a weird herb that smells of curry and makes you smell of maple syrup (it really does!) but somehow increases the amount of milk you produce. I was taking huge amounts of the stuff in the hope that it would boost my supply, and it did, but only for a day or two. I ate ridiculously expensive 'breastfeeding bars' (which tasted nice but not sure had much impact). I also hired an industrial breast pump - the Medela Symphony - which was a beast of a machine, and bought a hands-free breast pump bra so that I could work both boobs at the same time.


One day, I went to my parents' for Sunday lunch, and left the funnel part of my portable pump at home. This was probably my lowest point - I  was beside myself with anxiety knowing that I wouldn't be able to pump for at least four hours, which meant a) my boobs would be in agony and b) it would reduce my supply the next day. But a teeny tiny part of me was relieved. It meant, for the first time since Chip was born, I could have a nice Sunday lunch with my whole family, and not have to scuttle off and shut myself in a room alone (and away from my lovely baby) for half an hour to pump.


I continued though, using the monster machine. One day, I noticed that my nipples had started to go white. My boobs also ached unbearably as if they were bruised. I wondered if I was doing them some damage with all this pumping and suction. I googled the white nipple thing and found hundreds of other posts from other pumping mums complaining of the same thing. Apparently it's when the blood supply to your nipple begins to be cut off. It's called NIPPLE BLANCHING. Doesn't sound good does it?

About a week after this, I realised that I was pumping less milk each day, despite pumping just as often. My boobs were giving up on me. It was almost like they were giving me permission to stop - all the advice said 'pump more to increase your supply' but nothing I did made any difference. It started to hurt so much I couldn't bear it. I'd never been more miserable while never being more in love. Just short of six weeks after Daphne was born, I pumped my last bottle of milk - a measly 25ml. I left it on the side in the kitchen and never even bothered to feed it to her. It seemed such a derisory amount now that she was so much bigger and hungrier. In tears, I asked Oli to tip it down the sink.

In a way, my body dictated when I stopped. But my mind started catching up, and the feeling of relief when I finally said to myself 'right, I'm not going to do this anymore' was overwhelming. Now I could sit and cuddle my baby without trying to force her to do something she didn't want to do! Now I no longer had to sit there for hours on end with a machine vibrating away and sucking at my nipples! Now I could wear NORMAL BRAS and normal clothes - daft things that started to help me rebuild my self-esteem.

I couldn't wait to get rid of the huge, ugly industrial pump. I packed away all the things related to breastfeeding - my poor worn out Medela Swing, the bottles, my nipple shields, nipple cups (used to catch leaks - EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS), breast pads, nipple creams, horrible breastfeeding bras. I'd be lying if I said I didn't sob as I did this, but I'd look over at my lovely, happy, healthy baby and keep reminding myself that that was all that mattered. I put the whole experience into a mental box and stuck it in my mental cupboard under the stairs. Something to deal with another day. Now I was going to get on with being a mum.


And every day, it's been a bit easier. Every day, I've felt a bit happier about it. I spent hours doing research into the benefits of breastfeeding and it's all very inconclusive. There's slight evidence that it stops your baby getting tummy bugs in the first year (most likely because there's more risk of contamination with bottle-fed babies) but all the stuff about them not getting obese, or diabetes or having higher IQs is totally unproven.

Now that Daph is five months old and happy and we're totally into the swing of things with formula - I do wonder if I had another baby whether I would put myself through all the heartache again. I almost feel I'd be afraid to try - for me, breastfeeding = insanity. And now, I have a different perspective on it when I talk to my friends who are breastfeeding and are stuck to their babies 24/7, unable to go out for more than an hour or two without pumping. I feel almost smug and liberated. I love that Oli can feed Daph just as easily as me too.

I read a lot about breastfeeding during my six-week struggle, and there were a few articles that really really helped me. I've linked to them below in case they help you too. I'd also advise you to stay away from bloody KellyMom - for me, it feels like every article is written as if to say there's no other way than the breast. And for anyone who's dealing with a similar situation, there's one piece of advice that I'd like to pass on. I can't remember where I read it now, and it sounds a bit wanky, but it was basically about letting your child choose their own path, and respecting their decisions. In my case, Daphne very definitely 'chose' to be bottle-fed - probably because of her early experiences but still. I had to take myself in hand and ask why exactly I was persisting in trying to force her to do something she didn't want to do - was it mostly for my own self-esteem? In which case, I was failing as a parent anyway.

It was this little kernel of thought that really allowed me to give up. And it's something I'm going to bear in mind as general parenting advice in future too.

The Case Against Breastfeeding - The Atlantic

The Backlash Against Breastfeeding - The Guardian

Fearless Formula Feeder

Why Formula Feeding Was Right for Me -

Read part one of my breastfeeding story >

Read part two of my breastfeeding story >

My breastfeeding story - part two

breastfeeding-lifebylotte Now where was I? I think I left you with me finally being discharged from hospital, with a tiny bottle of formula and no idea how I was going to feed my baby. It sounds selfish, but really all I was focusing on was getting some sleep. HA. The first night, Daph refused to sleep unless she was being held. So Oli got up and held her all night in the living room while I slept. Of course, that meant she didn't feed then either...

The next day is a bit of a blur - we were told that the midwife would be coming to visit us at home at some point, but I had no idea when. I can't even remember now if I tried to breastfeed Daph or not - I probably had a go but I was weirdly focused on trying to get out of the house to go and buy all the things we didn't already have that we suddenly realised we needed. Like enough sleepsuits! I think it was some way of wrestling back control after feeling like I'd lost it completely.

When the midwife arrived, she had a long chat with us and asked how breastfeeding was going. I told her not very well, and she asked me to show her what we were doing. I did so, and Daph screamed and cried as I tried to feed her, beating my boob with her little fists. The midwife (who was lovely but SO young) tried to help me get Daph to latch on for about twenty minutes, before she proclaimed that Daph was a 'reluctant sucker' and gave up. She said she'd book us in for a session with the breastfeeding specialist at the hospital when we went in to have her weighed in a few days' time, and told me to buy a breast pump and express as much as possible to ensure my supply didn't disappear. Oh and to 'keep trying'...


So that's what we did. We bought a Medela Swing and I set about trying to milk myself like a cow. I got the hang of it quite quickly and was quite impressed when Daph drank what I had produced easily from a bottle. At least she was getting some colostrum, I kept telling myself, cheerleader-fashion. I decided maybe the problem was that she was too small and couldn't yet figure out how to latch on properly. I decided I could just carry on expressing and feeding her from a bottle, and that I wouldn't worry about trying to get her to latch on until she was a bit bigger and stronger. I suppose a bit of my heart had already gone out of the whole thing - watching Daph screaming while I tried to force her to feed was such an unpleasant experience, whereas watching her gulping happily from a bottle made me feel like I was doing something right.

But in the back of my mind, I felt this terrible pressure. IT WAS BEST FOR DAPHNE! If I didn't breastfeed SHE'D BE STUPID AND HAVE ALLERGIES! SHE'D GET TERRIBLE TUMMY UPSETS! SHE'D DEVELOP ASTHMA! EVERYONE I knew seemed to have managed to breastfeed, so why couldn't I? My hormones were all over the place, and when I woke up the next day, I had soaked the bed with milk. This weirdly cheered me up - I figured that now it all seemed to be, er, flowing, so abundantly, I'd be able to feed her easily. But it didn't matter that now she didn't have to work for it, she still HATED anything to do with my boob. Every attempt to feed her resulted in both of us crying - she would put her mouth around my nipple and then just scream in rage and frustration that it wasn't the same as the lovely silicone teat she was now used to.

Friends told me to get in touch with a lactation consultant to get the problem sorted, but if I'm honest, by then I'd had enough of all the advice. I was going insane with everyone telling me something different - spend all day in bed doing skin-to-skin (mentally I really couldn't bear this, I felt desperate to get up and wash), try different positions, different times of day, feed her a bit first so that she wasn't starving, don't feed her first so she doesn't fall asleep... I couldn't take it all in. And lactation consultants weren't cheap. I'd already spent a small fortune on bottles and sterilisers and the breast pump - all things I hadn't bought before as I'd been convinced I wouldn't need them. I'd been awake most of every night googling breastfeeding, and I was driving myself a bit nuts. I decided to wait until we saw the specialist at the hospital before doing anything more.

When we turned up however, it turned out she'd been called away to a home birth, and there was no one else I could see. I asked if we could book another appointment with her, but she was due to go on annual leave the next day (downside of August babies!). I felt very depressed by this - it was like everything was working against us, and all the while I felt this time pressure ticking away in the back of my mind, knowing that the longer we left it, the less likely it was she would ever feed successfully.

In the end, I booked a private (incredibly expensive) lactation consultant. She came over about a week and a half after Daphne was born. She was lovely and supportive but (obviously) VERY pro breastfeeding and to begin with made me feel quite shit about everything I'd been doing. She kept saying 'the main thing is you didn't leave it any longer' and all I felt was more and more pressure. She was impressed I'd kept my supply up through pumping but told me to offer my boobs to Daph EVERY HOUR day and night. She also introduced me to the nipple shield, explaining that Daphne was now completely used to drinking from a bottle and wouldn't like the different feel that a nipple had. She sat with me while we tried to get Daph to latch on using the nipple shield - and I was stunned when it worked like a charm. It was the first positive thing that had happened to me since she'd been born and I was so, so happy. Perhaps the nipple shield was going to solve all our problems.


But what I hadn't been prepared for with breastfeeding was just how long it all took. As I was expressing at the same time, it felt like I spent my entire day on my backside or in bed, either pumping, or sitting there with a miserable, frustrated baby and a slimy, milk-soaked nipple shield trying to force it into her mouth. My bed and clothing were always damp with milk. Pretty much every day I would burst into tears at some point. All I wanted was for someone to tell me it was OK to stop. But the someone that I wanted to tell me it was OK to stop was me. And I was my own worst enemy.

I'm not a quitter in general - I'm incredibly stubborn and strong-willed when I want to do something. I had always envisaged breastfeeding as all my friends had done - I'd put on my maternal fat stores godammit, and bought a butt-ugly breastfeeding chair! It was going to happen. It HAD to happen.

In the middle of all my investigations and googling, I'd read somewhere that it could take up to 40 days to establish breastfeeding and I clung onto that. Every day I hoped for a breakthrough, but every day it got a little bit harder...

Gosh this is long. I'm sorry. There's so much to say and I can't tell if all this detail is incredibly boring or not. Really, what I wanted to talk about was the emotional side of trying to breastfeed, and giving myself permission to stop, because that's what nearly killed me. So I'll stop now and I'll cover that in part three! Something cheery to look forward to! ;)

Read part one of my breastfeeding story >

Read part three of my breastfeeding story >

My breastfeeding story - part one 

breastfeeding-lifebylotte I've put off writing this for so long, because I know how upsetting it will be. But today I had lunch with a friend who has a month-old baby and she was talking about how painful breastfeeding was and it all came flooding back to me. And I thought, I want to write this down because it was such a HUGE thing for me to deal with, and I want any other mum out there having the problems I had to feel they are not alone.

As you may already know if you've read my birth story, Daphne was born in the evening after a three-day labour and five hours of pushing. I had to be put on a syntocinon drip in the end, and I had a catheter and a second degree tear. I lost my voice through screaming (no pain relief!), bruised my forehead against the side of the birthing pool and lost the sensation in the tips of my fingers thanks to squeezing Oli's hands so hard. I hadn't eaten anything other than sweets for 24 hours and hadn't slept for more than an hour for 72 hours*. By the end of my labour, I felt as though I had been in a car crash. I could hardly walk. Physically, I had never felt so terrible. Emotionally however, I was on a massive high. The weirdest thing is, it really was the best experience of my life.

After she was born, and I'd been stitched up (by a trainee, meaning the whole process took AGES - nothing like watching two midwifes poring over your bits, with one of them telling the other to 'do that bit a bit tighter'), I shuffled along for a shower. A shower I actually didn't really want - I would far rather have been sponged down but I was told to go and shower, so I did. I stood hunched over in the shower and bled. A lot. As you do when you've just given birth. The blood pooled all over the floor when I got out and I tried to clean it up with loo roll, but every time I bent over I felt dizzy and sick. It was so hot in that shower and I was still convinced I might die. Or faint at the very least. Anyway, after the shower from hell, I got myself dressed somehow, stuffed a huge maternity pad in my knickers and shuffled back to the room I'd had Daph in. Walking along the corridor, I remember hearing all the women in the other rooms screaming. It was a horrible sound and so strange to think I'd been making those exact noises not long before. I was wheeled in a wheelchair up to the postnatal ward, and all I could think was 'thank god, now I can sleep'.

When Daphne was first born, I had skin to skin with her as requested, and she tried her best to latch on. But we were both knackered, so she didn't quite manage it, and the midwives were preoccupied and no one really thought about me trying to feed her straight away. But she definitely tried, bless her heart.

By the time I was settled into my delightful bed on the postnatal ward, Daphne all swaddled and tucked up in her plastic cot, it was about 11pm. I said goodbye to Oli, who had to get back home to feed the cat, and collapsed into the bed.

Somehow I slept. God knows how given the adrenaline and the racket all the other new babies and mums were making. But I did. For about an hour at least. Around midnight, Oli texted me that he hoped I was sleeping but Daphne had woken up and done her first huge black sticky poo so I was busy trying to change her. My first ever nappy change and I was so tired I was almost delirious. I managed it and was quite chuffed with myself. Again, I assumed now we could sleep.

But at around 3am Daphne woke up again, and this time she was hysterical. I picked her up and tried to comfort her, but it didn't work. All I could think was how tired I was, and why wouldn't she sleep. Stupid, but it never occurred to me that she would be hungry. I don't know why. I feel so ashamed of that now. After 20 mins of hysterical tears, I got up and shuffled through the dark ward to the reception area. I found a midwife. I handed her Daphne and said 'she won't stop crying. I don't know what to do.'

The midwife looked at me and said 'have you fed her?' I shook my head. She gave her back to me and disappeared for a minute. She came back with a tiny bottle of formula, took Daphne back and fed her. I watched as my little girl gulped the milk down and then fell into a satisfied sleep.

I took her back to the ward and watched her sleeping. Then fell asleep myself.

At 6am, I was woken by someone offering me paracetamol. I took it, without wanting it particularly. I wanted sleep more. Then another nurse came round and asked me how my breastfeeding was going. I told her I hadn't done any yet. She looked genuinely concerned, then in a businesslike manner set about trying to get Daphne to latch on. But Daph was having none of it. She actually turned away from my boob. I became fixated on the fact that I smelt of shower gel, and paranoid it meant Daphne didn't recognise me from before when she'd tried to feed. The nurse helped me to hand express some colostrum which we gave to Daphne in a syringe. She threw it all up. The midwife told me to keep trying to latch her on and to express as much as possible.

The rest of that day was a blur of visitors and inspections and checks. Everyone was concerned with how small Daph was - she was only just above the weight at which they keep babies in for glucose testing. The only thing I could focus on was getting her to eat something - anything. Oh and getting out of the hospital so that I could go home and sleep. I had some formula left from the night before which I gave to her, reasoning she'd already had some so a little more was unlikely to hurt. She drank it all and didn't throw up.

At some point I was told that I wouldn't be able to go home because I had yet to successfully breastfeed. I cried. I just wanted to get out of that place so desperately, and back to my own bed. It was so noisy. Then, miraculously, Daphne seemed to latch on a bit. She took a few sucks. God knows if anything came out, but the midwife agreed to let me leave.

I took her home with a bottle of formula 'just in case'. Daphne was so tiny, all I wanted was for her to eat. And that was probably the beginning of the end for us, but I'll stop here until the next post because this is already so long and already I feel so sad remembering it all.

Read part two of my breastfeeding story >

Read part three of my breastfeeding story >

*Just a little caveat: I know most people's labours are pretty horrific, and I'm not trying to say mine was worse than anyone else's. But I didn't quite realise just how physically tired I would be - I was ready for the pain, but not the exhaustion.

35 Weeks

35-weeks-lifebylotte I turned 35 weeks pregnant yesterday, and now I am really on a countdown! My due date is 26 August, which is now just over a month away, making it feel all the more real.

I've had a very lazy week really - the only thing of note was that we finally made it to our NCT classes. I've never been a fan of group activities (I'm not one to form friendships at first sight) and was pretty much dreading the whole thing if I'm honest, but I was pleasantly surprised. The other couples were all perfectly lovely and nice, there were shedloads of biscuits, the atmosphere was very relaxed and although (as I had been forewarned) I didn't exactly learn much (maybe there's not much to learn?!) I did feel that the classes focused my mind, and made me really think about what I wanted from my 'birth experience'.

There's a space in your maternity notes for your 'Birth Plan'. I didn't really intend on filling it in before, because as far as I was concerned there was no point planning anything, because everyone I've ever known seems to have been taken by surprise at some point during their 'birth experience'.


But now, I'm going to add two things: I want skin-to-skin contact with the baby as soon as she's born (no rushing her off to rub her in towels - this way she will hopefully get to know me straight away) and I don't want the cord clamped immediately, but left to pulsate for ten mins or so (apparently this gives the baby an extra boost of oxygen and iron from the placenta that can really help her in the first few days). Last one sounds a bit new agey but I don't see how it can hurt so I reckon it's worth a try. But of course, all this is if I don't end up having a c-section etc etc.

We also had an NCT breastfeeding session. The highlowlight of this was watching a video of a pregnant lady hand-expressing her own colostrum (the yellow gunk you make before you make proper breast milk). Basically squeezing it out. We have been encouraged to try this in the shower ourselves. I will not be trying this in the shower myself. I figure it will come out of its own accord when required.

The main message I've been receiving re breastfeeding is:


It's not exactly filling me with confidence I have to say, and sometimes I wonder if less knowledge is actually better in these scenarios?

Chip-wise, things have been good I think. She's been moving loads and I can tell she has proper bones now, IYKWIM. When she moves, her little legs, arms, hands and feet feel properly solid inside me. It's very reassuring. She spends a lot of time rolling her back from side to side and I *think* her head is still down as my tummy hasn't really changed shape since she moved into position. Fingers crossed. We'll find out more at my (eighth!) scan next week.

My tummy in general has gone really hard a few times in the last few days, which has been quite a strange sensation - it feels like a rock. I *think* this may be Braxton Hicks, but it hasn't felt like contractions at all. I've noticed it more just bending forward and realising how stiff it feels. So maybe not BH, but if not, what!?


Other than that, all I have to report this week is that I am feeling MASSIVE. I can't be bothered to walk anywhere because I'm so damn heavy (have put on two stone now in total!) that my legs and feet kill, and I look like a whale in all my clothes. My face has gone from relatively podgy anyway to full-on eighty chins and counting and I feel pretty damn unattractive. I've lost the pregnancy 'glow' (if indeed I ever had it, which is debatable) and now just look knackered from lack of sleep. I've had a properly stuffy nose every night which is making me snore (sorry again Saint Oli) and I don't really have much energy at all. I'm also massively constipated, which is super fun.

So yes, quite anxious to get Chip out sooner rather than later! Two weeks till full term!