Christina Sparkle

My breastfeeding story

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I know a lot of people say that they’ve never been around breastfeeding women before, or that they don’t see people breastfeeding but I feel the opposite. I was breast fed as a baby and I remember going along to play groups and church groups where women were breast feeding all around. I guess this has all contributed to my decision to breastfeed, it has always felt like the right choice for us.

The major thing that I was unaware of with breast feeding was how painful it really is. I really have no idea how we have survived as a species! I do wish that the antenatal classes and books I had read were a lot more honest about how tough the initial months of breastfeeding really is.

We have tried formula feeding a few times; once I was in so much pain in the middle of the night we gave Sacha a Cow & Milk bottle that comes pre-steralised. He didn’t seem to like the taste but he did take it down eventually without crying and then slept for 6 hours which gave me the full rest that I really needed. The second time was a similar situation but he only slept for two hours, as much as a normal breast feed, and was really pukey afterwards which really stressed me out. The third time was this week when he refused to feed, I tried to give him the formula but he was not interested but was still crying for milk. Instead I expressed and gave him that in a bottle before he latched on and we fed as normal.

The first breast feed was right after I had woken up from my caesarian section. He latched on straight away and it was the perfect way to bond with him after what had been a long and exhausting birth. From then on the midwives in the hospital and at home visits helped us to get the right latch. It can be tiring having every midwife trying to improve you in some way but I am now grateful for all the help.

I had very sore nips at the beginning and decided to rest the side that was most sore and just use one breast for a couple of days, I was trying to avoid feeds too. This then caused the other side to get sore too and I had to rest that side for the next few days. Resting a side however meant that I was not producing enough hind (fatty) milk to fill Sacha up and he was feeding very frequently – a mistake I won’t ever make again!

After two weeks of feeding my nips were healed and Sacha’s latch was very good, feeding for up to 45 minutes. In that time I had seen a breast feeding specialist at the hospital, as well as in my home who both said that the latch was good and my soreness would go away with time, I just needed to work on positioning to make sure we were both comfortable.

I have read that the UK is the world’s worst at breastfeeding, I’m not sure why but I’ve always wanted to carry on, even when it has got really hard. Perhaps because the birth didn’t go to plan I feel a sense of duty to my baby?

After the birth my milk came in at day 4 or 5. I had actually been expressing colostrum since week 38 of my pregnancy. Expressing during your pregnancy is one of the best ways to induce labour and although that method didn’t help me it did mean that by the time we went in to be induced I had a bottle of 10-15ml frozen colostrum. Andy was able to feed the colostrum to the baby while I still out with the help of a student midwife.

A month into breast feeding I developed deep breast pain and have visited the doctor twice to find out if it was due to thrush. The first doctor just looked at my breasts and said there were no signs so I just kept taking pain killers. My health visitor then told me to go back to the doctor and ask for swab tests, these came back negative but in the mean time I have noticed that when I take a shower in the evening, which is usually 15-20 minutes after a feed that my nips are blue or white. This is a sign or Raynaud’s syndrome, a circulation problem. I have been taking showers every day for the pain and also using a hot wheat bag whenever it gets bad.

I have now stopped the pain killers for breast feeding as the pain has become more manageable however we are now having new problems where Sacha is very fussy at latching coming on and off repeatedly. He even has refused to feed on a couple of occasions. This week I rang the La Leche helpline because I was so stressed out that he hadn’t fed for 4 hours (usually he feeds every 1-2 hours). The wonderful lady on the helpline told me to express and give it to Sacha in a bottle or syringe. I managed to express 10ml in 5 minutes and gave him the bottle, he then latched on straight after and fed for 45 minutes so he was obviously very hungry!

When I called the helpline back to that the lady for her advice she told me to look up Forceful Letdown on Kelly Mom. The symptoms are:

So it looks like we have a new challenge to deal with. It seems like a lot of women have both Raynaud’s and a forceful letdown but from what I’ve read so far they need the opposite remedies; Raynaud’s needs hot, forceful letdown needs cold.

I have been attending a breast feeding support group every week which might seem overkill but we seem to have a new challenge develop every week and I have also been hoping to meet other mums but we’re usually the only family there which makes it tough!

In terms of feeding in public we have fed in John Lewis cafe, another coffee shop in Cambridge and at Anglesey Abbey’s National Trust restaurant. I haven’t found any one giving disapproving looks or discouraging me in any way which is a relief after some things that appear in the press and on social media.

When feeding in public I don’t use scarfs, muslins, tents or any other covers. I find that a tshirt over the top of a nursing vest is plenty to make me comfortable. Tshirt goes up and the vest goes down. I really don’t care about anyone else’s comfort, I focus on what I am comfortable with and that is all that matters to me.

Now we are at seven weeks of breast feeding Sacha feeds for an average of 25 minutes at a time with 1-2 hours in between. That does seem quite a lot of feeds and for a long time compared to others I know so I am hoping they will continue to space out and shorten in length but we’ll see how it goes.

I couldn’t have got this far with breast feeding if it wasn’t for these products: Lasinoh cream, Baby connect app, pillow (I don’t use a boppy or any other breast feeding pillows, just a normal one), Tommee Tippee electric pump and Panache maternity bras.

At night we are still using a dummy; after he feeds he often makes grunty noises when I turn the light back out so popping a dummy helps to keep him quiet so we can both get back to sleep. By the time he is hungry again the dummy has dropped out so I don’t miss him waking up ready for the next feed.

Feeding at night I don’t find too bad; some nights they will be every hour which is not fun but most nights there are 2-3 hours between feeds so we are getting a decent amount of sleep. The only challenge we have at the moment is dealing with the pulling off that is a sign of the forceful letdown.

Night times are when I’m most glad to be breast feeding, I don’t have to go downstairs to prepare a bottle. We can just latch on, feed and go back to sleep which is normally done within half an hour. We are using a Chicco Next2Me co-sleeper to make things even easier.

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