I am incredibly lucky to have three beautiful children and was determined to give each of them the best start in life by attempting to breastfeed each of them. Was I successful every time? Unfortunately not.
Elliott was my first born so I attended all the antenatal classes, listened intently to the Midwives and Health Visitors advice “breast was best” and was determined to give it a go when baby arrived.
After a relatively stress free pregnancy and wonderful labour Elliott arrived safe and sound. I couldn’t wait to get skin to skin with him and have him latch on. His first feed was like a dream, and second and third… I left the hospital feeling quietly confident that I’d got this.
Then my milk came in and I’ve never felt so uncomfortable and disgusting in my life. All the advice and reading prep in the world still does not prepare you for the reality of it (not to alarm any new mums). If there was a time I wasn’t sitting on the sofa half naked feeding Elliott then my clothes and bedsheets were completely sodden with milk and I just wanted to sit in the shower so I could feel clean and normal.
To give me some relief, Rob and I decided to express my milk. This seemed like a fabulous idea at the time except I don’t think my milk flow had properly established. I would quite easily fill an 8oz bottle which was way over the required amount for a newborn. Obviously trying to get Elliott to latch on again after I’d interfered with my flow was impossible as it was just too much for him now.
I continued to express for a whole month before Rob returned to work in which time it became too much for me to keep on top of the sterilising. So with a heavy heart I switched to bottle feeding.
Not being deterred from my previous breastfeeding experience with Elliott and feeling more prepared having been through it before, I was once again determined to give breastfeeding a go. The first couple of days were similar to Elliott’s. Joseph latched on first time, fed well in the hospital and at home. I was still half naked all the time but was much more accepting of it.
My breasts soon became engorged again, but I found some light relief in gently massaging them with a hot towel before feeding Joseph. What I couldn’t find any relief from was the excruciating pain when he latched on. But I kept replaying my sisters words in my head “if you can get through the first two weeks, the pain subsides” The pain didn’t stop! Not even applying nipple cream.
I think somewhere along the line I’d managed to get a blocked ducked, which actually resulted in Joseph developing Thrush in the mouth. I was mortified that I’d given this to my baby and felt I’d failed him. He was given drops which I had to administer before each feed to clear it, but I think as soon as I heard those words from the Health Visitor I knew I’d go home and start bottle feeding him.
I must confess as soon as I made this decision to bottle feed a wave of relief washed over me. I wasn’t really enjoying breastfeeding as I was still in pain and how could Joseph be enjoying it if I’d given him Thrush! It also made feeding him 10 times quicker with a bottle which meant I was able to give Elliott more attention. With only 14 months between them, he was still so tiny himself when Joseph came along.
After two failed attempts at breastfeeding you might say I was setting myself up for another fall, but again for no other reason than I just wanted to give my child the best start, I vowed to try to breastfeed Anabelle.
Anabelle was not as quick to latch on in the hospital as the boys so although I was desperate to take her home to start life as a family of five, I decided to stay in hospital to establish feeding. She was born in the early hours of the morning but she didn’t feed properly until over 12 hours later. I think if I’d have left mid morning after she’d been seen by the paediatrician Anabelle’s experience could have been a completely different one.
The midwives kindly gave me a syringe throughout the day to catch my colostrum which we used to entice Anabelle to feed, dropping little bits into her mouth to give her a taste. It was such a relief when she eventually did latch on, and fed for an hour. The midwives popped in to check on us during this hour and were so pleased she’d fed well, they said we could go home. I was a little dubious it might all go Pete Tong once we’d got home, but they armed me with more syringes and assured me we’d be fine.
I decided to approach things one day at a time, not putting any pressure on myself. The same toe curling pain from chapped nipples and engorged breasts came but this time I was armed with Lansinoh Nipple Cream. To say it is a wonder product would be an understatement. I applied it before each feed and although it was still painful, it was most definitely more bearable. Then “that” day came, the one my Sister described where it would no longer be painful and I realised I’d been feeding exclusively for a month. Where had the time gone? And who knows what was different this time around.
It was also around this time Rob felt left out and wanted to share some of the feeding responsibility, but I was worried if I started expressing and introducing bottles too early Anabelle would get confused. By 12 weeks I felt she was fully established and was ready to try expressing milk and combination feeding. Unlike last time with Elliott (when Rob kindly nicknamed me Daisy the Cow) I found it incredibly hard to express milk and only managed 2oz after 30 minutes of expressing. I stayed upstairs whilst Rob attempted to feed her but she wouldn’t take the bottle and kept spitting the teat out. It actually seemed more hassle than it was worth, sterilising the breast pump and bottle, expressing the milk then attempting to feed her when I could have done it in half the time. Needless to say we didn’t attempt that again for a while.
Anabelle reached six months old and I was still exclusively breastfeeding. I must confess around this time I was a little exhausted as she’d wake around three or four times a night. I was also desperate to have a date night with Rob so I attempted expressing again. It didn’t go to plan and I accepted the fact the opportunity to combination feed had passed and I’d be exclusively doing it until we decided to stop altogether.
I eventually stopped breastfeeding Anabelle when she turned one. She wasn’t feeding anywhere near as much (except at night for comfort) and had a varied diet so I felt it was time. There were definitely moments before she was one it was hard and I wanted to stop. But the fact she wouldn’t take a bottle spurred me on, as well as realising in the grand scheme of things this is such a small part of her life how could I not give her what she needed? And what I loved doing.
If there is one thing I’ve learnt it’s that each baby is different, each situation is different and whether you decide to give breastfeeding a go or want to bottle feed from the off, your decision comes from the heart with the well being of you, your baby and your family in mind.
Don’t feel disheartened or daunted to attempt it again if you weren’t successful with your first born or second or third for that matter if that’s what you want to do. I actually can not believe I managed to do it for so long, especially with two failed attempts under my belt, but I’m SO pleased I did, and even more proud of myself for just giving it a go. I will cherish those moments forever.
Do you think you’d like to breastfeed? Has anybody else had any failed attempts that put them off trying again? Does anybody have any top tips to successfully establish combination feeding?
Image by Little Beanies