If you read my story about my breastfeeding journey with Leo you will know that I well, didn’t. It was never a case of ‘I will not breastfeed my child’, I just made the decision once he arrived to go down the formula route. I have always been happy with that decision.
When I was pregnant with Tayo, I felt much more confident. I felt like I understood more about my body, about what it is to raise a baby and so I felt more open to the idea of trying to breastfeed. I’d given it some thought but not a great deal. And then my waters ruptured at 30 weeks. That in turn meant that if he didn’t make an appearance into the world of his own accord, he would be delivered no later than 36 weeks. Meaning he would be premature. Meaning he would most likely need some assistance to start with. To my surprise, one of my first thoughts on hearing that I would be having a premature baby was – I need to breastfeed him. He needs that colostrum. That ‘liquid gold’ we hear so much about.
Then again to my surprise, I was told that it would be unlikely that I would be able to as it may be the case that he would need to be tube fed for a while if he needed some assistance with saturation levels or breathing. I couldn’t quite get my head around it to be honest. A few weeks passed and I continually thought over what I would do, how I would feed him.
When he was born he was taken for the forseen assistance and I was whipped off to surgery. When I was able to speak to Anthony he told me about the various things he was hooked up to and that he had a feeding tube. He had already been given some formula in my absence and he was stable and doing well. I wasn’t quite sure where that left me to be honest but my midwives were fantastic. The girls that looked after me in recovery were a very similar age to me. I found them so personable. I was asked if I wanted to express some milk. I really had no idea what it consisted of… I was expecting a pump but they were talking about hand expressing. Something I’d not really heard of. She explained to me that actually it takes a few days for the milk to come in and initially I would only be producing very small amounts of colostrum so what we’d need to do is hand express and syringe the milk off.
Wowzer. I had no idea what I was doing but she sat there with me and taught me – when I couldn’t do it properly, she did it for me. I felt slightly like a human cow. The process was laborious but she was amazed when I was producing upwards of 10ml each time we did it. So whatever I could pump was added to the formula and put into his feeding tube. I was producing so much that she actually gave me a pump which was so much more straightforward and it meant it was easier for me to sit by his side and do it whilst staring at his beautiful face.
He came off his feeding tube and I was still expressing. The milk had started to change in colour and consistency so I knew that my ‘milk milk’ was now coming in. Once we started giving him the breastmilk from a bottle we quickly learnt that he was what the midwives called ‘a tongue sucker’. Essentially he was sucking his tongue up to the roof of his mouth making it extremely difficult to get any milk in him. I had to tease his tongue to try and get it to come down and largely, I was quite unsuccessful and had to just wait it out to find a gap where he would stop sucking and quickly get the bottle in.
I attempted to put him to the breast. The tongue issue made it very difficult. I had no idea what he was doing and he just seemed a bit confused too.
At this point I started to get extreme tension head aches (I talked a bit about this in Tayo’s birth story) and I couldn’t express anymore. I couldn’t lift my head. It was awful. The midwives had to care for Tayo when Anthony couldn’t be there. And to add to the pain of my headaches my milk had fully come in and my boobs were out of this world enormous and so so sore. I didn’t experience the pain with Leo – the gorging yes but not the pain. I was so uncomfortable and I remember hand expressing some milk to relief the pressure and I’d mentioned it to the midwife and I recall her saying ‘well be careful doing that because the more you express the longer the milk will stay’. I think she had assumed I was just going to formula feed and it caught me off guard a little.
So I continued to formula feed him with the help of the midwives and I never tried him on the breast again. We’d started to get into a little routine after our five days in hospital and so I stuck with it.
My feelings towards my ability to feed him are a bit mixed. I wonder if at that point of hand expressing to relieve some pressure, the midwife had maybe of suggested some ways in which I could get assistance with the expressing maybe I could’ve done it for longer? Could I have tried harder? I often look back and think that I could’ve done more. But then at the same time I have to remember that I was completely incapacitated at times with the tension headaches and try as I might I couldn’t move so the option for me to sit there and pump just wasn’t one. But could I have carried on when I got back home? When I felt better? If I’d have started to pump again upon getting home, could the milk have kept flowing? I’m not sure that I would’ve necessarily fed him directly because of his tongue issue. But I do wonder if I we could’ve carried on with expressing. I guess we’ll never know.
I recall having a conversation with Anthony in Tayo’s first hours and saying that I needed to feed him. I think he could sense that I felt a pressure to. A pressure from myself. But we said if all I could do was get that first colostrum to him it would be enough. If that was my focus and I could achieve that then I would’ve done a great job. And so that’s what I hark back to in days when I question wether I could’ve done it for longer than 3 days. He got the ‘best’ bits and I have to be happy that I managed at least that.
Do you ever feel like you could have done something differently in your breastfeeding journey? Were options taken away from you because of things such as tongue tie? Did you solely express? As always we want to hear all about your experiences x
Image by Carley Buick Photography.