So here we are, Arthur is coming up to 6 months old and it seems now we may be coming to the end of our breastfeeding journey.
It certainly has been a journey. I remember when I was pregnant I said to myself, and everyone else; “I’m going to try breastfeeding but if I can’t do it then it doesn’t matter because I least tried”. Me and Jordan went to a breast feeding class when pregnant and it did feel very much “pro breast” I felt the pressure even before Arthur was here.
But when he came into the world I had this overwhelming instinct that I wanted to feed him with my body. I wanted to breastfeed and I felt incredibly proud to do it. But even from the word go we had problems. Arthur has a tongue tie. This affects feeding sometimes but most of the time they don’t like to cut the tongue tie if they don’t have too. You have to work through it. That’s what we did, we stayed in hospital for a few nights because we were trying to get feeding. We went to the breastfeeding workshop, we got the hang of it. Arthur was a feeder right from the word go. He would feed every 1-2 hours, max 3 and sometimes would be on the breast for 1 hour, 1 hour and half. It was exhausting, but I really enjoyed it.
By the time I became ill I was so sleep deprived. I didn’t really feel human anymore. In A&E, I breastfed but I asked Jord to get a bottle and some formula. I needed a break. Arthur took to it straight away. I was heartbroken but I knew I had to admit I needed help. After exclusively breastfeeding for 3 weeks we introduced two bottles in the nighttime. I started to express and usually he would have one expressed bottle and one formula.
Of course at the beginning I couldn’t sleep anyway but gradually I did start to sleep. I was still completely and utterly exhausted but it was a little bit better. Arthur gained weight like a trooper. But in the evenings we started to have issues, he would scream and scream when I put him to my breast. It started around 9 and gradually got earlier and earlier until it was around 6. We realised we had to give him a bottle. He was hungry but he didn’t want to breastfeed.
My goal was to go back to exclusively breastfeeding but as time went on it slipped further and further away from me. I saw professional after professional. All explaining what I needed to do, many with different ideas and advice, I felt bombarded a lot of the time. Of course they were all trying to help but it was very overwhelming. I tried everything that was asked of me and still, it wasn’t getting better. Arthur would feed wonderfully throughout the day but I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy it because I was already thinking; “right soon it will be around 8/7 and he won’t want to breastfeed, I need to express, massage, this, that”. It was always on my mind. It consumed me.
At this point I had also had mastitis very badly. I woke up one morning and was covered in sweat. This happened quite often and I was told it was quite normal when breastfeeding because when your sleeping at night your body is still working hard to produce milk. So I got up and I didn’t feel well at all. I started to shiver uncontrollably, they took my temperature, it was 38.4. My pulse was around 110, my blood pressure had dropped to the 90s and I felt very sick. I decided to have a quick shower in the hope it would help and it was then I noticed underneath my breast it was red, hot and swollen. I needed antibiotics, it was mastitis and it knocked me for six.
The thing with mastitis is it’s a blocked milk duct so to get through it you need to keep feeding. But I couldn’t face it. I felt so ill. I needed to rest. Devastated and feeling like it was all my fault, Arthur had to have my expressed milk and some formula in the day. It was a very low point for me. After resting, pain relief and antibiotics I managed to express and feed later on that day. Bloody hell did it hurt. Since then I have had mastitis twice more. I caught it earlier both these times because I had it so bad the first time. I knew what I was looking for.
As time went on and we had hurdle after hurdle, Arthur having rotavirus, me having rotavirus and both having norovirus, Arthur twice. The days turned into expressing after expressing, taking a bottle out with us, expressing in the middle of the night, my mind was in overdrive. I was constantly thinking about feeding, when would he feed next, would he breastfeed, when was I going to express??? I didn’t think about much else.
I saw a breastfeeding counsellor. She was wonderful. She made it clear her goal wasn’t to promote breastfeeding, it was to figure out if it was right for us. She asked me – “why do you want to breastfeed? What is it about breastfeeding?” I explained for me, it was that I felt me and Arthur had developed such a bond whilst breastfeeding, I was terrified of losing that. She gave me the idea of just putting him to the breast when he was sleepy, when he had almost finished his bottle, when it was the nighttime and he needed comfort. I didn’t have to stop, but it would mainly be for a different purpose. For comfort, for bonding.
It’s very hard to feel okay with bottle feeding when you feel like most professionals around you are telling you, you need to breastfeed even when your finding it so hard. They would say to me “keep going, keep doing it, it’s all about perseverance, it will get easier”. But it didn’t, it got harder. The hardest part of it all? Having people around me when my son was crying because he was hungry, trying to breastfeed when he clearly didn’t want to, telling me to keep going. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t even feed my son. My heart would break every time I would give him a bottle but he was happy. That’s what was important. He was being fed. He was happy. I lost sight of that.
I remember a lady telling me, she became so focused on breastfeeding and she became depressed and then had to be admitted to the mother and baby unit. Because of breastfeeding. It’s heartbreaking that it can do that. We’re told it’s this wonderful, natural, easy, beautiful thing but that’s not the case for everyone. I think we should be told more; it’s okay if you can’t do it, if you find it too much, it’s hard and it’s exhausting. You have not failed as a mother.
Me and Jord had many disagreements about breastfeeding, it was frustrating, particularly at the beginning because Arthur would just feed and feed. Jord couldn’t do much. I felt like I needed encouragement from him to keep going but he felt like I was becoming obsessed with it. He was right. As time has gone on and Arthur now is mainly bottle fed, a little bit expressed milk but mostly formula, with having a sleepy boob feed once every couple of days, I realise now I let it affect me too much. I lost myself in wanting to breastfeed so badly.
It wasn’t for us and that’s okay. Maybe next time I’ll be able to boob feed for longer. Maybe I’ll decide to introduce a bottle sooner. Who knows? The most important thing is that your baby is happy and healthy. Arthur weighs around 20 pounds, he’s 5 months and 1 week. He’s a trooper. He’s rolling, holding his head, starting to have few tasters of solid food. He’s doing brilliant. I feel immensely proud we made it this far with breastfeeding. I thought we were at the end of the road a lot earlier. But will I let it affect me so much next time? Gosh I hope not.
Somebody said to me once – “A well Mum is best”. You cannot look after your baby if you are not well enough yourself. Whatever you decide to do for whatever reason, it’s your choice, it’s your baby, I hope you can feel proud and at peace. One day I hope the fed argument doesn’t exist and we don’t even think about it. A world where we feed our babies, we’re happy and healthy and so are they. End of.
Breastfeeding – we’ve had our ups and downs and I will miss you. But you ain’t everything, your just something.
Stay tuned peeps.
Love, Kate. X