05.11.17

Four weeks today.
Four whole weeks since this little madam arrived.
Four whole weeks of love.

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So….. let’s talk about breastfeeding

I always wanted to breastfeed from the day I found out I was pregnant. I had a serene, mother nature type vision in my head of the baby latching on instinctively, and feeding from me until full and content. I imagined calm and loving times that strengthened our bond, something I could look back on with fond memories.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t under any illusion that it would be easy, easy at first. I have friends who breastfeed, I know that there can be issues, especially in the first couple of weeks with pain. I just wasn’t prepared for how many issues it would give me, personally.

As soon as I was admitted into hospital, one of the first visits I received was from one of the neonatal consultants who explained the realities of having a premature baby and what to potentially expect. One of the things she discussed was breastfeeding and the ways in which my birth could potentially make it more difficult. My milk might not come in at first, babies don’t develop their strong suck reflex until 36weeks onwards, and as they’re smaller on the whole, they may have difficulties latching on. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, breastfeeding was the least of my worries when it came to the birth. I was solely focused on having a healthy baby.

Fortunately, with everything going as straightforward as possible in that situation, I not only got the skin-to-skin I was desperate for, but I also managed to breastfeed after birth. She latched on and showed that she had a VERY good suck reflex. At this point, it was the liquid gold colostrum and with the midwives help, I managed to feed effectively enough that she maintained her weight during our three day stay and we got home. Unfortunately, it was short lived and she was readmitted for poor weight gain, having gone down to 4lbs 13. Thankfully as mentioned in the previous blog post, the stay in neonatal was just what we both needed and with a three hourly feeding/pumping schedule and no visitor distractions, I felt more confident with feeding. I was still sore during every feed though and felt like I just wasn’t getting a good enough latch. I was assured that I was or if I hadn’t, the midwives simply removed Olivia and placed her back on in the right position where I could thankfully have a pretty pain free feed. It was brilliant but I wish that they explained how they managed it a little bit better. Often they would do it so quickly that although it was great and a relief at the time, it didn’t help when I got home and still didn’t know how to fix a poor latch. The poor wee soul tries with all her might to latch on well, I reckon her mouth couldn’t go any wider at times! And with all my boob gymnastics and nipple squeezing, I doubt I could give it any more effort than I am, yet here I am, still sobbing through almost every breastfeed due to pain!

The health visitor has observed me, and my latch was deemed fine. I just couldnt understand – if my latch was fine, why was I still experiencing all this pain?! I was starting to dread every feed and in my most desperate times, felt like making the switch to formula. I called the breastfeeding support worker in tears a couple of days later, and she kindly arranged to come out during her lunch hour – Olivia latched and fed like a dream in front of her. Typical. She gave me some good positioning advice and explained that as she is still so small, it may take a bit longer with latching and to try and persevere with positioning in the meantime.
I smother on Lanisoh cream like its going out of fashion, I walk around topless more times than I care to think about, just so I could air out my nipples (if you’re doing this in a room with the blinds open, watch out for the window cleaner…….🙈) and I change my breast pads regularly so as to encourage healing, so I do feel like I’m trying 110%.

Of course it doesn’t help that she cluster feeds. A LOT. Why is this not a more commonly known thing?! I had zero idea about cluster feeding until i had a baby.
She often goes 2-3hrs of constant boob bobbing in the evening, which gives me an excellent chance to catch up on all my garbage TV, but it’s also utterly exhausting and down right painful – latching on and off in such a frenzied way, as if she hadn’t been fed in days! She may be gummy, but my god those gums are hard!!

The worst part is that, through all this, she’s STILL not gaining weight. She was so tiny in SCBU (although ironically, one of the biggest in there) and although she’s not lost any more weight, it’s remained static for four weeks now. It’s probably the thing I’m most stressed about. How could she be feeding constantly throughout the day and not gaining weight?! She’s even getting formula top ups, and a bottle at night. She has plenty wet & dirty nappies, she sleeps well and is settled after a feed so I know she’s definitely getting milk from me. But is it enough?!

‘Why continue?’ I hear you ask.
And plenty people in my real life asked, including my husband, who had watched me in tears too many a time. Why?
Because it’s convenient for one. No bottles to sterilize, no formula to measure out. If baby is hungry, just whip it out and it’s there.
It’s cheap for two – never gonna run out either.
And thirdly (and most importantly) – that look that she gives me, when she finishes a good feed, that milk drunk smile, is absolutely priceless. I’m not ready to let that go yet. The bonding feeling is just incredible.

I do feel that we’ll get there. We’re both still learning and growing and it’s gonna take some time. But for now, it’s definitely something I’m going to continue with. The health visitor is coming regularly and for now she is being weighed every few days. We’ve agreed that if by next week, she still not gained any weight, we’ll make the switch. Hopefully in the not too distant future, it’ll become easier.

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