Helen is on the blog this morning with her experience of breastfeeding. You can find Helen’s blog here http://ellie-baby2003.livejournal.com/7453.html or alternatively on twitter @elliebaby2003 Thank you Helen :O)
It is currently 5am and I am sitting watching the sunrise through the window as I breast feed my 4th, and last, baby.
My breast feeding journey has been an eventful one. I have 4 children under the age of 7. With each I have had a different experience of breast feeding.
My 1st daughter was born by emergency c section after a very long and difficult labour. She refused the breast at 1st try and continued to do so for several days. The hospital that were at did not help me in anyway to breast feed but insisted on giving her a bottle of formula. I was neither well enough or strong enough at that time to object. It was until we moved back to the small maternity unit (only 8 beds) I had originally wanted to give birth in that we received the help we needed.
At this unit they were able to take the time to help me breast feed my daughter. She persisted in being unhappy at the breast. My milk took a long time to come in. Perhaps because of the c section and birth experience that had left me exhausted and perhaps because of the stress I was under. But the lovely midwives at the unit constantly offered me reassurance and support. We stayed at the unit for over a week. It was only when we tried ‘nipple shields’ that my daughter finally decided that she would breast feed.
During the following weeks my daughter continued to object to breast feeding unless using the shields. She preferred my breast milk expressed and drank in a bottle. I think I made the mistake of ‘over pumping’ as I would wake up each morning drenched in milk. I contracted mastitis 3 times and felt physically exhausted and ill as a consequence. The support I had had at the unit was not available in the community and I felt isolated and alone. I made the decision at 8week to stop breast feeding.
I felt better for it. My daughter was happier and finally started to thrive.
I did feel incredibly guilty and regretful when I met with friends who were breast feeding successfully though. I never shook that guilt off despite my daughter being happy and healthy.
When I fell pregnant with my son I was determined that things would go better. We were in a different area. I gave birth naturally after 8 hours of labour. He took to the breast straight away. I finally felt I was ‘doing it right’ But then at 8wks he became ill with bronchitis. From then on he was in and out of hospital with breathing problems. I developed severe post natal depression. I don’t remember the reasoning at the time as I was so ill myself but I stopped breast feeding when he was 3 months old. My son continued to be in and out of hospital (and still is). When I started to feel better I was again started to feel guilty. Breast feeding had gone so well this time so why had I given it up?
When I got pregnant with my 3rd baby 3 years later I was determined that this time breast feeding would go better. My son was born by emergency c section again after my previous section scar started to rupture during labour. However, he was much more amenable to breast feeding. He took to it straight away. He feed well and often. I think I was more confident and at ease to just go with the flow. He was also the most laid back baby I have ever met which also helped. He alternated with ease between breast feeding and taking expressed breast milk from a bottle. I didn’t have any mastitis. I made enough milk for him to be satisfied and also for an expressed bottle a day.
When he was 5 months old his older brother ended up needing resuscitation and spent time in the intense care unit. This meant that he had to take more bottles in my absence, consequently my milk supply went down. (probably also to do with worry!) It was a constant juggle between my seriously ill son in hospital and the other 2. When he got better and things returned to normal I found that I could still not get my milk supply up. Relaxed thought he was my breast milk alone was not satisfying him. I started to only breast feed him in the morning ad his last feed before bed. He had bottles during the day. Eventually a month later I stopped breast feeding altogether.
When I got unexpectedly pregnant with my 4th child, I was again determined to do ‘better’ at breast feeding. As I had already had 2 emergency c sections this time it was decided that I would have a planned c section. It was a lovely experience. (I can quite see why people pay for it!) The birth was calm and relaxed and I recovered far quicker than my other births. My son fed well from the start. My milk came in quickly and he was very satisfied. Unlike the other times I haven’t expressed at all. He is, and continues to be, a demanding baby. The only time he is content is when he is breast feeding. But if this is how I can comfort him then so be it.
For some mothers and their babies, breast feeding comes easily. For others it takes hard work and perseverance, for others still, it does not come at all. We must not force our view point on any of these but only offer any help and assistance we can. Motherhood is hard enough without feeling you are doing everything wrong. If nothing else, this is what my varied experiences of breast feeding have taught me.