The Unmarked Road

Life On The Other Side Of Mental Illness

When The Natural Doesn’t Come Naturally: My Breastfeeding Journey

When I became pregnant, there was no question in my mind on how I wanted to feed my baby. I knew I would breastfeed. I’d heard about sore cracked nipples, mastitis, blocked ducts, cluster feeding, engorgement, leaking, milk spraying everywhere… safe to say I knew it would be hard at times.

What I didn’t know was that it might not happen at all.

After a very quick labour which resulted in the late administering of diamorphine and a ventouse delivery, my son would not latch. Every time we tried, he’d either fall asleep or scream like he was being physically hurt. It broke my heart that what should have been time spent bonding, resulted in my baby and I crying together.

Two days after birth we were back in hospital with a jaundice baby and no advice other than ‘he needs more milk’. As I sat crying in the waiting room, trying to hand express every last ounce of colostrum into a syringe to feed my son, I had never felt more like a failure as a mother, and as a person. I was getting 7ml. ‘He needs 30’ they said.

A midwife at the hospital showed me how to express milk, but with a look that told me all I needed to know about the possibility of breastfeeding, gave me bottles of formula to take home.

In that moment I understood why so many new mothers feel like there’s no other choice than to formula feed, and why breastfeeding rates are so low in the UK.

After all, feeding my son was what was important, not how.

However, within an hour at the hospital, I was expressing 50ml. In that desperate night, an option became available to me that I had not considered, had not known existed!

Pumping milk and feeding this to my son via bottle.

Over the coming weeks, even with the support of one wonderful midwife, my son just didn’t ‘get’ breastfeeding. Even when he latched, his suck was so weak he wasn’t getting enough to satisfy him and many more weeks of crying ensued. Was there any hope or was I fooling myself?

No one really knew how to help me because by this point most people had, understandably, switched to formula. Had I not been able to research American websites for information and support, and find advice through baby forums, I 100% would not have been able to carry on.

Simply because I would not have known it was possible.

One particular website was kellymom. It was one of the only places I found no judgement for bottle feeding, and the practical advice on how to get my son to breastfeed I needed. I took the pressure off and at around 10 weeks, Ethan suddenly ‘got it’.

Fast forward a few months and he started to refuse bottles completely!

Ethan is now coming up to 14 months old and he is showing no signs of stopping..

Through my breastfeeding journey I heard countless other stories that were scarily similar to my own, only the guilt of not being able to breastfeed still haunting many, when in reality they did exactly what was best for their family.

I started Pumping Mummies UK as a way to continue the open dialogue on feeding new born babies.

I want this page to be everything I needed in those early days and weeks. I want to give other women hope and support that exclusively pumping can work and is possible, if that’s what they want to do.

With so much guilt and difficult emotions mums go through, especially after labour, feeding a baby should not be so loaded with judgement and stress. Information should be available in a kind and nurturing way and the many different methods should all be something every mother should be allowed to explore. Had I not found the right information through my relentless search on the internet, I’m not sure where my journey would have ended.

Through my experience and sharing my story, I want to help other women who may be going through the same or similar struggles. Ultimately I would love to see exclusively pumping be a recognised and realistic third feeding option for mums in the UK.

2 Comments

  1. I admire your perseverance and am glad to hear it worked out so well in the end. Congratulations!
    Happy Mother’s Day to you!

  2. Congratulations on your son Dani, who soon will be a year old. It is hard to believe it is over 24 years ago that my wife was having the same desperate feeding struggles with a newborn. In Canada breastfeeding is vey much encouraged. And even had a nurse make a home visit.to help my wife.

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