Breastfeeding is a B i t c h

Catherine wrote us an email “Loving your Breastmates facebook updates.  Good luck with the support mission, so so important but I also love your non-militant stance! As the nurses told me, there are lots of ways to show you love your baby and using formula doesn’t mean you love them any less! Supporting those who can’t is just so important too.”

Thats exactly what I am trying to do with my Breastmates website now, to get honest and realistic information on the internet.

Catherine also writes a blog on Oh Baby, and gave me permission to use her breastfeeding story here too.

“….When I was pregnant I went to a dinner party. One of the guests (who I had never met before) took it upon herself to tell me two things about giving birth. One: That it was quite likely I would poo on the table and Two: That if I used the drugs they would make me throw up (I never got to the pushing stage and I didn’t use any drugs but threw up anyway).

As anyone who has been pregnant will know, it was like this the whole pregnancy – lots of information about all sorts of stuff (including the fact that after baby was born my hair would fall out which it has done in alarming quantities – I have to empty the shower trap at least once a week, sometimes twice, thank goodness that didn’t come as a surprise – I would’ve freaked.)

About breastfeeding I was told: get a tube of purelan lanolin and use it right away, buy breastpads etc before the baby was born and don’t let your hands get cold or you will get mastitis (huh?) I also did lots of reading and talked to the midwife. And I came away with the impression that any problems with breastfeeding were generally attributable to an incorrect latch which was easily remedied.* I packed a tube of lanolin and some breastpads considered myself as ready as I could be without a baby to practise with.

Nothing that I read or that anyone told me could prepare me for how hard breastfeeding was.

They would give him to me to feed and he would scream. And scream. And scream. And kick me in the c-section. And scream. They would wrangle my nipple into his mouth and eventually after all sorts of struggling they would get him latched on. Sometimes the person helping me would go and get someone else to help. At one stage one midwife was helping me and another was standing watching and then said “Do you mind if I have a try?” – she wasn’t even talking to me! Everyone wanted a turn to see if they were the one who could get this child to feed. I think every midwife, paediatric nurse and nurse aide that works there touched (read: wrangled) my breasts. And there was no way I could get him latched on myself.

We had no physical problems. They checked to see if he was tongue-tied. I was constantly told I had good nipples (bizarre). As far as we could tell he would get angry as soon as he got hungry and then roll back his tongue so he couldn’t latch on. At one stage we used a shield to hold his tongue down which helped a bit but also trying to get him before he got hungry.

But oh it was awful. It was so depressing and distressing. Eventually, on Friday night (he was born Saturday morning) I managed to do it myself. But only lying down. So on Saturday I could go home – after making sure Mr T had a breast pump and some formula at home. And then every time he needed to feed I would lie down in bed to do it (which of course gave him prime position to kick me in my stitches).

And then, over the following nine weeks (yes, NINE weeks) we got better and better until I finally felt we had it under control.

I can pick out three low points. It once took 45 minutes from starting a feed to actually getting him to latch on. Once, at 3am, Mr T had to take him into the bathroom and shut the door while I expressed then he held him while I fed him with a spoon. And once, when home alone I carefully laid him on the floor, walked to the bathroom and shut the door, screamed at the top of my lungs, walked back into the lounge, picked him up and tried again.

I am so so so proud that I kept at it and I think there were three things that did it. Saying to myself “Just for today, I’ll keep trying”; the immense support of Mr T; and the fact that once he got latched on he was feeding well and was putting on lots of weight.

I try not to think about the why – I am sure the four hours before any skin-to-skin (and then it was maybe just 5-10 minutes) and the day apart had a lot to do with it but that is just the way it was and dwelling does not help.

But where does the conspiracy bit come in? As soon as people heard I was struggling that would tell me that yes, they too had struggled. And that it was really common to have trouble. But not one single person told me this before he was born. Why? The best I can think is that when it starts going well people just forget. And by the time people are out and about visiting and being seen they have it under control, so you of course never see anyone struggling. So I have taken it upon myself to be that person at the dinner party saying “You do know breastfeeding can be difficult don’t you? And that it can hurt even if you have the right latch?” I sent a pregnant friend a text from the hospital saying “breastfeeding is a bitch” just in case I forgot to tell her.

We recently tried the “dreamfeed” to try and get him sleeping through the night (he did it for a while at three months but sadly no more). It was the first time I could really appreciate how breastfeeding can be a lovely experience, my gorgeous sleepy baby just snuggling into me and feeding – no kicking, hitting, scratching or biting. Sadly it did not make one bit of difference to his sleeping and just provided me with an extra meal to produce so no more.

And lastly I have to say the hospital staff were wonderful. They said there was no pressure at all from them to breastfeed and that yes, breast was best, but not at any cost, but if I wanted to do it they would give me as much help as they could. This included going back to the hospital after we went home for help if I needed it.

Uff, I may not post often but I do I ever post long!

* Of course I know there are women and babies who physically cannot breastfeed for a multitude of reasons

From Catherine….”