My trials and tribulations of breastfeeding

My trials and tribulations of breastfeeding

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for a little while now. Breastfeeding is still a touchy subject for me and my bad experience of it still feels very raw.

A couple of nights ago I was up in the small hours of the morning, unable to get back to sleep after feeding Jasmine. I was browsing the usual social network sites on my phone and up popped a Facebook message from an ex-work colleague. She’d given birth to a sweet baby girl just two days before. The message simply said “please tell me that breastfeeding gets easier”.

For a minute or so I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t want to lie to her but nor did I want to discourage her. I’ve been that person wanting reassurance and I know all she really wanted me to say was “yes, it gets easier.” But for me, it didn’t get easier.

Breastfeeding didn’t get off to the best of starts for Jasmine and I. Right after she was born and I had been stitched up, the midwife disappeared and we were left alone in that birthing suite for several hours. I hadn’t yet tried to breastfeed Jasmine. I knew from the research I did during pregnancy that the secret to successful breastfeeding was all in the technique. I knew it was important for my baby to latch on properly so with this in mind I wanted to be supervised by a midwife the first time I got Jasmine to latch onto my breast.

So I waited….and waited… and waited for a midwife to come in and help me. I was getting frustrated that there was seemingly not one person around to assist and Jasmine seemed to be getting agitated too. In hindsight, I wished I’d just picked my baby up and tried to latch her on myself but I had it in my head that if I didn’t get it right the first time then I’d never get it right. Eventually a midwife did turn up and casually asked “have you fed your baby yet?” I replied no and she then asked me to just try it without any instructions from her (so I had gained nothing by waiting).

I felt all fingers and thumbs but eventually Jasmine did latch on and it hurt like hell. I let out a yelp and the midwife said “yep, it’ll hurt.” She walked over to me and said “relax” as she pressed down on my shoulders. It was only then that I realised how tense I was, my body was completely rigid. Jasmine didn’t suck for very long, she fell asleep and came away from the nipple. The midwife left the room again and we didn’t see another soul until the morning. Nothing about this felt natural to me and I was left feeling confused and frustrated. Was I even doing it right? It didn’t feel right.

The next morning after Jasmine had been checked over by the pediatrician another midwife came in to check on us. She watched me try to get Jasmine latched on again but baby girl was just too sleepy. I was advised to strip her down to just her nappy and try again so that’s exactly what I did. She still wouldn’t latch on. I was feeling fed up and just wanted to go home. I had gone from wanting assistance to being desperate to learn how to feed Jasmine in the privacy of my own home without being manhandled and constantly told to relax.

Every day for the next week or so I was visited by a different midwife, each one requested to see me feed Jasmine. I’d just had a baby, I felt tired, emotional and vulnerable so stripping off and trying to feed my baby in front of a perfect stranger made me want to scream. They’d all tell me that Jasmine’s latch was perfect (although it was still really hurting me at this point). It wasn’t Jasmine’s latch that was the problem, it was the fact that she didn’t want to work for mummy’s milk. She never seemed to stay attached to the nipple for any longer than a minute. I didn’t think there was any way she could be getting enough to drink.

A week later, in the presence of yet another midwife, my suspicions were confirmed when Jasmine had lost 11% of her birth weight. I now know that the average weight loss for a healthy breastfed newborn is between 7-10% of their birth weight. However, at the time, the midwife told me that they didn’t like it to be anymore than around 8% and made a huge deal about it. After that, as far as I was concerned I must’ve been doing it all wrong and I was practically starving my baby to death.

Later that night, with all this playing on my mind, I was attempting to feed Jasmine. She latched on and I instantly burst into tears because it was so painful. I immediately pulled her away from my breast as I just couldn’t take it any more. I didn’t understand how I had managed to give birth naturally and yet here I was struggling so much with the pain of feeding my baby. Jasmine was screaming out, hungry. I wept and said to Stephen, in between sobs, “I just can’t do this”. At the sight of the two of us so upset he began to cry too. We sat on the bed just holding each other and sobbing.

Jasmine’s cries grew more and more intense and I just felt so hopeless. Stephen looked up at me, wiping away his tears and whispered “shall I go and get some formula?” Cue another round of crying from me before I eventually answered “Okay.” With that, Stephen put some clothes on and headed out to the nearest 24 hour supermarket as it was past midnight. Jasmine wailed the whole time he was gone as I held her against my skin and repeated the words “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

When Stephen got back with the formula we made a bottle up and Jasmine glugged the milk down way more enthusiastically than she ever did on the breast. I was so relieved that she was finally getting some food in her. Gutted, but relieved.

I knew breastfeeding wasn’t going to be easy as I had read up on the subject and gone to workshops during pregnancy but there was still part of me that naively thought that maybe I’d be one of the lucky ones who just took to it like a duck to water. Before Jasmine was born I’d refused to buy any formula or bottle-feeding paraphernalia so I couldn’t give up on breastfeeding so easily. Having that stuff in the house, I probably would’ve given in even sooner.

The truth of the matter is that I should’ve been enjoying my baby and relishing those first newborn days but instead I was hating being a mother. A week in and I already felt like a complete and utter failure.

My breasts soon became engorged, making me even more miserable. I tried to hand express my milk but even the act of gently kneading my breasts with my hands was agony. We rushed out to buy a breast pump and I expressed my milk that way. I continued to express my milk for Jasmine for the next few weeks, topping up with formula as needed. I was glad that she was getting to have my milk, even if it wasn’t under the circumstances I would’ve liked.

I found it hard to keep on top of the expressing, particularly when Stephen returned to work, as Jasmine required so much attention. I seemed to spend my whole day paying more attention to a plastic pump than I did to my baby.

Pump. Feed. Sterilise. Repeat.

A midwife had suggested that I should express milk every 2 hours, I have no idea how she thought this was possible. After 6 weeks, inevitably my milk dried up and now Jasmine is solely fed formula milk.

I know I shouldn’t, but I do feel ashamed every time that I bottle feed Jasmine in public, especially if I’m in the company of breastfeeding mothers. I wonder if they look down on me or even pity me. The reality is that they probably don’t give a crap how I feed my baby, I’m sure they’re far too concerned with feeding their own! Still, these thoughts enter my head. Every time. It doesn’t help that I’ve been berated by my own friends (who have yet to have children of their own) for not continuing breastfeeding. They make comments that suggest they feel I just gave it all up without a second thought. Like it was an easy decision for me. They couldn’t be more wrong.

I don’t know why I continue to beat myself up about the whole situation, it won’t change anything. I honestly couldn’t tell you if my own mother breastfed me or not. I have no idea and I wouldn’t love her any less either way. I guess, I just feel that I’m denying Jasmine all the benefits that breastfeeding brings with it. What I must remember is that I’m not denying her my love or total adoration. I will always try to do what’s best for her. That’s what us mums do, right? We try our best.

I’m happier, she’s happier and surely that’s what matters most?

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A co-sleeping dilemma

A co-sleeping dilemma

Jasmine, every night at one point or another you end up sleeping in our bed. It doesn’t matter how asleep you seem to be when we put you in your crib, the moment your back touches that mattress you are wide awake and nothing but mummy and daddy’s bed will do. I try to stay strong while you kick your legs and flail your arms around whilst making whimpering noises. Ultimately, I always give in. I scoop you up and place you next to me with your head resting on my arm, just how you like it. Immediately you settle and the only noise I can hear now is your sweet breathing sounds.

The truth is, you end up in our bed 1) I am so utterly exhausted and I know it’s the only way I’ll get some sleep and 2) because I feel the need to be as close to you as much as you do me. I grew you in my belly for 9 months and now that you’re here I spend the best part of the day with you in my arms so at night time that extra 50cm between us whilst you’re in your cot seems like half the world away.

I’m so, SO aware of how fast the time is going – I already feel the days slipping away through my fingers and I desperately want to hold on to every precious newborn moment. When you sleep next to me it’s like I’m pressing the pause button – as far as I’m concerned, everything else stops momentarily and I get to soak you up for a little longer. I nestle my nose into your hair and just breathe you in. Your sweet smell, there really is nothing else like it. I watch your chest rise and fall whilst listening to the gentle sound of  your breath…in…out…in…out. Suddenly nothing else matters but what’s happening right here and now.

I do worry that I’m being dangerous and putting you at risk by having you in bed with us and it was never my intention to co-sleep. So many people can’t wait to tell me how irresponsible and selfish I’m being. Maybe I am being selfish and irresponsible but it feels like the most natural thing to do – to have my baby close to me.

That moment when you instantly settle the second your skin touches mine, it feels like a magic trick. Even more magical than pulling a rabbit out of a hat or making a scantily clad woman disappear into thin air.

I am always relieved when you do fall asleep in your own bed as I know it’s the safest place for you to be but when you do end up next to me, and you nearly always do, I intend to relish it. I’m sorry if that makes me a terrible mother.

Jenna xx

 

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Our ‘Big Scream’ experience (Bury St Edmunds)

Our ‘Big Scream’ experience (Bury St Edmunds)

As much as I love spending all day, every day with Jasmine, I’ve started to realise the importance of getting out of the house and doing ‘normal things’. I think it’s vital for new mums to break up the monotony of nappy changes and feeds with other activities. I’ve made it my mission to try and discover as many local mum and baby friendly activities as possible.

As an avid film enthusiast I was pleased to discover that a cinema in my town, Abbeygate Cinema, has it’s very own ‘Big Scream’ club. Every Thursday morning parents have the opportunity to go along to the cinema’s ‘Big Scream’ film screening which welcomes mums, dads and babies under the age of one. How brilliant is that?!

Our ‘Big Scream’ experience (Bury St Edmunds):

Last Thursday I took Jasmine on our first ever mummy/daughter date to the movies! The film being shown on that particular day was ‘Tracks’ – a drama based on the memoir of Robyn Davidson, the woman who walked solo across 1,700 miles of Australian desert.

It was absolutely pouring down with rain that morning so I was very glad to get inside the building which is tucked away down Hatter Street in Bury St Edmunds. I parked my buggy in the lobby (next to a huge array of other prams and pushchairs) and then had a mooch around the place as I was a little early for my film.

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After a quick nosey around, the girl and I headed upstairs to find our screen. I had my e-ticket already which I had printed out at home – no queueing for tickets is definitely a bonus. I simply showed my printed ticket to the member of staff waiting outside the screen and went in to choose my seat. We were the first ones there so we had our pick of where to sit. I decided to sit on one of the little two-seater sofas at the back of the room. That way I could sprawl all of mine and Jasmine’s bits and bobs out and be able to reach them easily whilst the film was on. The sofa was so comfy and Jasmine stayed snuggled to my chest the entire time.

I noticed on the way in that there were several changing mats laid out and a bin for dirty nappies so you could deal with any stinky messes mid-film and not miss a thing!

Gradually more mums and dads appeared with their little ones (most of which were fast asleep!) Crying babies throughout the film (Jasmine included) was inevitable but it honestly didn’t matter. Once I got over the surreal experience of changing a baby’s nappy on the back seat of a cinema screen, I really felt relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the film. I’m happy to report that it’s the first film I’ve managed to watch to the end since Jasmine was born!

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I loved my first mummy and daughter date at the movies. I mean, who else can you go to the pictures with, accidentally drop popcorn on their head and not hear any complaints?! (On that topic, even though I’m fully aware as to where my mouth is, why is it so hard to eat popcorn in a dark room?!)

The morning gave a whole new meaning to ‘smooching in the back row’ as I was able to give Jasmine kisses and cuddles until my heart was content whilst still enjoying a ‘normal’ activity that I really didn’t think I’d be doing just 4 weeks after Jasmine’s arrival.

I can see these trips to The Picture House being a regular occurrence from now on. I’ve since found out that the local NCT Bumps and Babies group also meet at the Picture House on Thursday mornings (before the Big Scream film) and perhaps if I’m feeling brave next time I’ll pop in and say hello!

NCT Bumps and Babies meet up: 10:00-11:30am (Free of charge)

Big Scream movie starts at 11:15am every Thursday – tickets cost £7 per adult (Babies go free)

I’d love to know what activities you enjoy doing with your babies in your local area?

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Jasmine’s Birth Story

Jasmine’s Birth Story

At 2am on Monday 7th April I felt my waters trickle out of me whilst I lay in bed. I got up to go to the bathroom so I could confirm what I already knew -my baby girl was on her way! Once I’d ruled out the possibility that I’d just lost control of my bladder and was sure that my waters had indeed broken I woke Stephen up to let him know. We decided I should probably call the hospital to let them know as I hadn’t had any contractions at this point. As I sat downstairs on the phone to the Birthing Unit, unbeknownst to me, poor Stephen almost broke his neck slipping on the trail of fluid I’d left behind on the bedroom floor. Oops!

I was told to go into hospital so they could check on baby. Once there, we were greeted by a lovely midwife who confirmed my waters had broken (I was never in any doubt by this point) and then hooked me up to a monitor for 20 minutes. Whilst there I could feel a few contractions building up and watched the numbers rise on the machine. After a while they just petered out and there wasn’t much else happening. Because I’d had some contractions, although not any to write home about, the midwife decided to examine me. She told me I was 1 cm dilated (big whoop!) and that she could feel baby’s hair. She joked that she couldn’t tell what colour it was though as she wasn’t “that good!” I wondered how many times she’d made that joke before. She then told us we could go home. I was ordered to sleep well and eat well as I’d be needing the energy very soon. I was given until 7pm that day to go into established labour naturally or I’d have to be induced. I really didn’t want to be induced as I wanted to be as active as I could in labour — not strapped to a bed and hooked up to a machine!

I tried to get some sleep but I was far too excited. I kept thinking “My baby has hair!” It was all starting to seem very real now. The next morning I decided to stay in bed for a while so I would feel well rested later on. I stuffed my face with food and drink (brought to me by Stephen who was happy to wait on me hand and foot!) and watched Disney movies. I still wasn’t having any noticeable contractions, just felt a bit crampy. A hot water bottle and some paracetamol was enough to deal with it.

The moment I got up and started moving around the contractions started to build. I filled the bath up and had a long soak whilst listening to Ben Howard’s ‘Every Kingdom’ album. It was so relaxing. I even impressed myself by being able to shave my legs. Well, one side of each but beggars can’t be choosers. Once out of the bath I asked Stephen to put my TENs machine on for me. In all honestly I found the sensation a little odd and not sure if it actually helped or not but once it was on I daren’t take it off! I kept it on right up until after the birth so it must’ve been doing something, if only serving as a good distraction from everything else.

The contractions built up very quickly and in no time at all they were coming every 5 or so minutes, lasting about a minute long. We phoned the Birthing Unit to let them know and was told, in not quite these words, that ‘there’s no room at the inn!’ The birthing unit was extremely busy and overrun with ladies giving birth so they didn’t have a room for me! I was told to wait it out at home a little longer “maybe have a bath and take some paracetamol”. I was way beyond that now! We were assured that they were going to go and make some room for me and we’d be called back in 5 minutes and we’d then be told when to come in. My contractions were extremely intense by now and it was taking all of my concentration to breathe through them. Stephen looked extremely helpless by this point but I was in the zone. There was no screaming or shouting, no “I can’t believe you did this to me” or even any hand squeezing. I think he’d rather that there had of been, just to feel more useful. Instead, I gripped onto the end of the banister with one hand and the back of the sofa with the other and just swayed and breathed deeply, taking each contraction as it came. 50 minutes had passed and we’d still had no phone call back from the birthing unit so we rang again. This time we were told that they were still working on making space for me and to hold tight. I starting to think that this baby was going to be born right where I stood.

Just as Stephen’s phone rang, I collapsed onto all fours and finally made some noise. It must’ve sounded like a lion’s roar to our next door neighbour. I’d seen enough episodes of One Born Every Minute to know that I was in transition. I was starting to get the urge to push. We were finally told that we could go to the birthing unit and that there was a room waiting for me. By now though, I was completely frozen to the spot. I could not imagine being able to get up, walk to the car and travel to the hospital. It just didn’t seem possible! It took me a good few minutes and a lot of encouragement from Stephen but I finally made it into the car. I wasn’t able to put my shoes on and I couldn’t concentrate enough to put my seat belt on until the ‘ding, ding, ding, ding’ warning signal drove me so mad that I gave in and clipped it into the buckle. I grabbed onto the seatbelt with white knuckles and stuck my head out of the window like an enthusiastic dog. The air against my face seemed to help take my mind off everything else as I just continued to breathe through each contraction. I was still desperate to push.

We arrived at the hospital car park in record time and the moment I got out of the car and took a step I couldn’t move any further. I froze to the spot, barefooted and clinging to Stephen. My body was pushing, all by itself. “She’s coming now!” I shouted at Stephen. He looked around to see if he could see anyone in the car park who wasn’t old and decrepit (not easy) and spotted a young couple walking by. He shouted over to the guy to go and let someone know that I was about to have a baby in the car park and sure enough he ran off at lightning speed. A knight in shining armour! Seconds later, an angel appeared in the form of a lady wheeling a wheelchair towards me at 100 miles an hour, followed by several paramedics and two midwives. They got me into the wheelchair where I immediately proceeded to wet myself. Oh this childbirth lark sure is classy. One of the paramedics shouted “Do you want some Entonox, love?” to which I calmly replied “ummm (I was struggling to remember what Entonox was) yes please!” Don’t ever let it be said that I’m not polite! The paramedics fumbled around trying to get me this gas and air whilst dropping things all over the floor. Imagine Laurel and Hardy in green uniforms and you’re half way there.

I was rushed to A&E where a bed was waiting for me surrounded by doctors and nurses fully scrubbed up! It was only then that they realised I didn’t quite have a baby’s head coming out between my legs just yet and there was time to get me up to the Birthing Unit. On the way up I announced to everyone in the lift that my “Nips were lumb”. I, of course, meant to say that “my lips are numb!” The gas and air was clearly working a treat.

I was wheeled to my room, introduced to the midwife and then helped onto the bed. She was amazed that I was still so calm having reached the hospital fully dilated. I could finally start pushing. I was adamant all the way though my pregnancy that Stephen was in no way, shape or form going to be allowed down the business end while I was in labour. But when the midwife asked him if he wanted to see the baby’s head crowning and he looked at me, seeking permission, I just nodded defeatedly. I was so glad I let him watch. With every push I could see him become more animated and this assured me that the pushes were actually doing something. It was hard to tell how productive the pushes were as it feels like the baby goes right back to where they started after each one. This is not the case! I managed to get 3 good pushes in with most of the contractions and at 7.41pm, approximately 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital, Jasmine was born. She’s the most beautiful little thing I have ever seen.

Although I would never have planned to stay at home for quite as long as I did, I still feel amazingly positive about the birth. For weeks I had meticulously packed and re-packed my hospital bags which never even made it out of the boot of the car and I’m glad I never bothered writing a birth plan as when it came down to it, the midwife didn’t even have time to look at my maternity notes let alone read through a birth plan. It’s true that babies come when they jolly well want to and Jasmine was clearly no exception.

I honestly believe that the breathing techniques I learned at Daisy Birthing Classes got me through it all. As I said before, there was no screaming, shouting or wailing. I just breathed through each contraction, one at a time and focused on getting my baby here. I’m so glad that I never stuck my head in the sand in regards to childbirth. I educated myself about what was going to happen to my body and I think this made a huge difference. Deep down I knew that everything that was happening to me was supposed to be happening. I don’t often give myself a lot of credit for the things I do in life but this time I feel genuinely proud of myself and I can say that giving birth to my daughter has been my greatest achievement.

Jasmine was born on the 7th April 2014 at 7:41pm (38+2 weeks) ❤
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