So the unthinkable has happened, we’ve actually had snow in England. Proper (ish) snow. The type of snow your kids can sledge in and that shuts schools and our road systems down with one snowflake. It’s meant that Wilf and I have been rather house bound, as living in a small village on the coast it’s pretty hard to get in and out of it in a car due to the icy roads. Being stuck in the house for nearly 3 days has made me remember those first few days when we got home from the hospital with Wilfred, being housebound – in fact, being bed/sofa bound!
There were two reasons for this, one being the c section meant I couldn’t really walk, more of a shuffle, so going from bed to couch was basically all I could handle. At the hospital I was a little more active (as in I could walk and queue up for my dinner and walk to the NICU Ward) and I put that down to the liquid morphine I was guzzling every couple of hours. At home all I had was some strong ibuprofen and it really didn’t cut the mustard. So I felt more debilitated when we got home.
The second reason was breastfeeding. Oh my days, that’s ALL I did, day in day out. I’m talking 20 hours out of the 24, he was feeding. And the other 4 he was either asleep, pooing or crying. This isn’t an exaggeration, he really did feed that much. Some days it wasn’t so bad (maybe only feeding for 11 hours – that would be a good day) but some days it was relentless. He was never satisfied. I was so jealous of the women who would feed their baby for 10 minutes and it would satisfy them for another 3 hours. I know I’ll be told, newborns do feed a lot and also cluster feed, but as you’ll read on you’ll see that he fed like this the entire time I breastfed (9 weeks) which is not normal. Midwives were still continuing to visit me every other day and then weekly, plus the health visitor (who was a legend) continued to see me for 3 months, it’s like they didn’t think I was doing a good enough job to sign us off. I realise now they were only looking out for me. That probably what they saw was a very broken woman and it was in their duty of care to keep an eye. I was actually sad in the end when our health visitor had her final visit, I’d grown to really appreciate her visits and our chats.
Back to the feeding. I tried everything. I tried to express to increase supply but not a lot would come out. I tried all the positions. If I hear the phrase “try skin to skin” one more time I will peel my skin off and throw it at you. When he fed it hurt. Like toe curl painful and this never got better for me. I ended up using shields to help protect myself it was that sore but he only then got a dependency on those and I could never feed without them. They were my crutch and my downfall at the same time.
Eventually after a few dark weeks we paid a lactation specialist to come and see what was going on and she diagnosed him with a posterior tongue tie, which our midwife confirmed, and we had him referred to the hospital to have it snipped. Once that was done breastfeeding was supposedly going to be easier…
Unfortunately, it didn’t get any easier. Every day for weeks and weeks was spent feeding around the clock, and I was getting very low. I would be incredibly anxious about leaving the house as I knew I wouldn’t have long in the car/pram before he would want feeding. Yet leaving the house is all I wanted to do. Some days all I wanted to do was stand up and stretch without holding the baby. It’s funny how having a baby made me a complete neurotic mess. I would cry if I couldn’t find the nipple shields whilst out and would have to panic buy more – luckily I normally chose to go somewhere near a Boots or Mothercare just in case this happened – big up Riverside Costa and Morrison’s Cafe. I ended up having about 20 of the damn things stored in various places so I would never not have them on me. I would only relax when out if I was sat in a quiet cafe where I knew I would be able to feed him. Yet being sat in that cafe unable to move was what was also making me feel awful – I needed to get home to feel safe. Then on the flip side on the odd day where he did go for a bit longer in between, I would then be on complete edge that he hadn’t fed enough and he was sleeping too long. If you’ve read my previous post you’ll see we were made to record every move in the hospital, something we then had to do once home as our “homework” and it was “marked” by the midwife every other day for 3 weeks. I blame this for my anxiety being through the roof. I felt like I couldn’t win. Still to this day I get anxious if I’ve been out of the house for too long and worry about his feeding.
I remember on a visit to Scotland with my mum when Wilf was about 7 weeks old, we had to stop in a car park for me to feed Wilf and after an hour and a half we decided to stop him mid feeding so we could actually carry on with the journey. Then I sat on the passenger seat expressing whilst my mum drove up the motorway so I had milk ready in a bottle for the next stop an hour later hoping it would save us some time. Another reason I expressed a lot is I ended up having mastitis 5 times. FIVE times!! It was awful, I got a horrendous fever every time where I would physically shake in bed and I couldn’t stop myself. One of the times I had it I was actually throwing up in between feeds, it was truly awful.
The crunch point was when I went out for lunch with my mum and brother, but had to feed Wilfred the entire time we were in the restaurant, even whilst eating, only to find 30 minutes later I was sat back in a cafe in Debenhams feeding him again for a further 3 hours. My mum had to go and pick something up whilst I was in Debenhams and so I was sat there alone and I cracked. I was sat there crying on my own with a feeding baby in the middle of Debenhams. I phoned Danny crying and I finally said that I couldn’t cope anymore, that I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t carry on breastfeeding.
It absolutely broke my heart to make the decision. I felt guilty, like a failure and ashamed that I couldn’t do it. I longed to be one of those women who experienced the baby crawling up their tummy immediately after birth and finding the nipple all by themselves (I’d love to meet one of these mythical women!). However my husband and my mum gave me such confidence to make the decision to stop (and a huge sigh of relief probably that I was finally admitting defeat after 9 weeks and they didn’t have to put up with my constant crying anymore :p ). The next day we got some formula and we have never looked back. It was by far the best decision I’ve ever made. Wilfred is happier, I am happier, and he is healthy and gaining weight well. When I look back I wish I had made this decision a lot sooner as it would have saved me an awful lot of tears and Wilfred would have gained the weight he needed to a lot quicker.
The more people I have shared this story with (or “admit” to them when asked – I’ll still to this day never offer up the information that Wilfred is bottle fed) the more that say “oh yes we moved to formula after x amount of weeks” or “oh great that’s fantastic you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do”. So why is it again (I mentioned this about birth with no pain relief), that we put so much pressure on ourselves? Why was I willing to sit up feeding all night, getting zero sleep, with cracked nipples and my 5th bout of mastitis and a crying baby not putting on weight for over 2 months purely so I could wear the ‘I ❤ breastfeeding’ badge? When I look at it objectively, I did not do what was best for my baby. I did eventually and we’re totally good now, but why did it take me so long to make that decision? It was me. I felt like that was what I was supposed to be doing. That I was a failure if I couldn’t feed him myself. Breastfeeding is a fantastic thing don’t get me wrong, and I will certainly try again if we have more children. However it won’t take me so long to make the decision to feed my baby with formula if it doesn’t work out again. I won’t do that to the baby, my family or myself again.
So the snow days have reminded me of all of that, being stuck. But the snow melts and you can get out again, and I would say that about having a new born! The time goes so quickly, you’ll make it through the other side, and not everyone experiences the hardship I did with breastfeeding. Yes you will have days where you feel like all you do is feed feed feed, but those days (should!) pass quicker than you realise. One great tip, get a basket/box/tray with all your essentials in like TV remote, chocolate (absolute essential!), phone, lip balm, nipple cream etc all so you can easily reach them all with one hand. I had one of these next to me on the sofa at all times so whilst I was feeding I was still able to grab those things. Nothing worse than sitting down for a 4 hour feed (oh yes he would go for that long in one go) and find the TV remote was on the other sofa!
One last thing to leave you with. There’s always some light to be made of whatever situation you find yourself in…