My Breastfeeding Journey with Medela

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After I had given birth and returned home I thought all the searing pain and toe curling agony was over. I thought I would be snuggling up at home to heal, take photos of my baby and peacefully nurse them as I drank copious amount of earl grey tea and enjoyed the flurry of visitors. Whilst all this still happened in the early weeks of having a newborn, I was really struggling with breastfeeding and was experiencing pain, upset and anxiety like never before. Quite frankly my labour had nothing on these burning, dagger-like sensations I was feeling 24/7 combined with bleeding nipples and soreness that left me in tears.

I had always wanted to successfully breastfeed ever since I got pregnant and began thinking about feeding my baby. I can become quite stubborn and obsessive about certain things and it soon transpired that conquering this breastfeeding malarky was one of those things! I was adamant that whatever obstacles I had to overcome, I would persevere. I respect every mother’s choice to feed their baby however they choose. Every mum has their own personal reasons for choosing breast or bottle, and they are doing a superb job at nourishing that little one whatever route they take. I am stubborn and sadly with the mix of hormones and heightened emotions that flood you in those first few weeks postpartum, I could not consider anything but breastfeeding, even if it left me wincing and curling my toes through each feed. So what problems did I encounter?

The midwife, health visitor and every other online, new mum type website, said the first few weeks will be painful. You will be experiencing an uncomfortable letdown and your nipples will be sore as they get use to this much attention, every other hour, every day! So for the first few weeks I rolled with it. It was intensely painful beyond words but I just persevere as everyone kept telling me it would get better. But it didn’t! If anything, it got increasingly worse. I watched endless youtube videos to try and coach myself the best way to hold Florence and get her to latch on well but it just seemed like something wasn’t right. It didn’t feel natural. It didn’t feel comfortable and it would often take both Rob and I to get Florence feeding on me. Her arms would flail and she would come off and on the nipple countless times. Every feed seemed to go on forever and it was clear that she was feeding very inefficiently as she would constantly seem hungry. All I wanted to do was comfort and feed my baby without feeling physically sick and nervous at the thought and I became so anxious I would hold her rigid and fear that first latch on.

After much much time spent googling I kept stumbling over the same thing. Could Florence be tongue-tied? The midwives had said she wasn’t after she was born but all my symptoms kept pointing towards tongue tie so I sought the advice of my health visitor and then a breastfeeding specialist. They visited me, observed me feeding and checked Florence’s mouth and both said that she wasn’t tongue-tied, told me to express when I could to give my nipples a chance to heal and left me with a handful of Lanolin and the promise it would improve.

Six weeks on and I was still struggling. My nipples would constantly bleed with meant Florence was taking it blood which was so distressing to see. I had blocked milk ducts due to her poor latch. I had developed thrush which meant both I and florence had to be treated and meant I couldn’t wear anything that rubbed on my nipples. Just putting a towel round me after a shower left me tearful and hunch over in agony. I felt I had hit a brick wall and was seriously questioning if I could continue with this. I could no longer hug Florence or hold her tenderly against my chest without searing pain going through my upper body. Even the vibrations of just walking outside with her was too much to bear. So I decided to give it one last chance and contacted a private lactation consultant to see if there was anything else I could do to help this situation improve as I was convinced I was doing everything right according to the text books but her feeds were continuing to give me trauma.

We were visited by the lactation consultant and within five minutes she has established that yes, in fact, Florence did have a tongue tie (a posterior one which is harder to spot but was still very much there!). She snipped the tight skin which left Florence and I in tears but then she encouraged me to nurse her to soothe her and helped me with her latching on and my positioning. Because she had been tongue tied for the passed nearly two months, my little one couldn’t properly latch on and take in all the breast. She was basically just nibbling and struggling to stay attached. I felt so relieved that there had been a reason for all my struggles and it wasn’t something I was doing wrong. The difference in the feeds was almost instantaneous. She seemed contented and I wasn’t in pain during the feeds. It did take another two weeks or so for me to fully heal and for Florence to relearn how to latch on properly but slowly we got there! I honestly never thought I would reach the point where I didn’t dread feeding my baby. I use to envy mums who talked so passionately and beautifully about their breastfeeding experience and how much they loved those long, loving feeds together. But now, three months on of exclusively breastfeeding, I can completely understand where these ladies were coming from. I feel nothing now when she feeds and don’t think twice about it anymore whereas I use to agonise over how to hold her, how to latch her on and would count every minute that went by until she was finished.

I now get it! Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, wonderful thing if it is problem-free. It is just a shame that so many women have to get passed those obstacles before they start feeling this. My advice to any mums out there struggling with breastfeeding would be to seek help early on and keep on at the professionals if you believe there is a problem such as tongue tie. Call it a mother’s intuition maybe but I knew that something wasn’t right after week three or four and just feel upset it took so long to get the issue sorted. The Medela website is a great place to start if you need to seek some support or advice regarding breastfeeding and they even give you the option to contact their lactation consultant, Sioned Hilton, for information and help on any problems you may be facing. I really hope this post has been useful and please do leave me a comment or chat to me on twitter (pinkpixiedoll) if you are experiencing anything similar – I would be more than happy to help or advise in any way I can.

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6 Comments

  1. 7th May 2016 / 11:49 am

    I love posts and people saying the realities of breast feeding, I think to begin with the idea of it being natural and easy is there, I mean your body is meant to do it so how hard can it be? I have never been so shocked in my life. I wish I had had posts like this when I was pregnant to tell me how sore, how hard it was. How much I would want to stop and how much I would bleed and cry. It is such a hard thing to do, and I have so much respect to you for coping for so long and not giving up – and I am so happy for you that you are both enjoying it now.

    I lasted 10 days, 10 days of bleeding and crying. I got to a point where I didn't even want to hold my son anymore, so I decided to stop before it became post natal, or really damaged the bond between us. But I so wish I had had someone there to hold my hand and tell me it was totally normal to feel that way, to feel like a failure for it not being easy, to say it sucks but it does get better. So now I applaud everyone who does. because maybe it will help and warn someone for their experience.

    Anyway I have rambled enough – sorry!

    http://www.makeerinover.co.uk

  2. 7th May 2016 / 7:44 pm

    I totally feel your pain. I gave birth at the end of February and have followed your pregnancy and post natal closely. I too, struggled with breastfeeding. My issues were to do with engorgement however, but I felt very similar to you. Every kept saying, "keep going, it'll get better" but it didn't. I was in pain constantly and dreaded every feed. I couldn't even pick up my baby without feeling immense pain. I tried expressing to keep the pain at bay and it worked for so long but I ended up being attached to a pump 24/7. I ended up having to make the hard decision to give up. I was gutted. So be proud of yourself for persevering. It's bloody hard and anyone that can make it work- I take my hat off to you x

  3. 7th May 2016 / 8:05 pm

    Thank you, Milly, for such a personal insight into your breastfeeding struggles. Your honesty is so refreshing as you are helping so many other mums who are suffering with this problem. I think there is still a taboo around mums who are struggling after giving birth. It's as though we are expected to be happy and somehow suppress anything that does not fit the rosy picture of life with a new baby.

    21 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful little girl and I planned on breastfeeding her. My 35 hour labour ended in a C-section so I very much wanted to give my child the best start in life and for me it was breast milk.

    I struggled for 6 weeks: many midwives came to see me but all of them gave differing and conflicting advice, making my situation feel so much more desperate. I was told my baby's mouth was too small; another midwife said my breasts were too large. But I never received any genuine help with the latch. Tongue-tie was never even investigated then so I have no idea if my baby had a tongue-tie. The pain was so severe that before each feed I would break out in a hot sweat. I cried at the thought of placing my baby to my breast. And when my nipples began to bleed I honestly felt I had no other option but to turn to formula milk.

    During those early weeks [when I witnessed other new mums enjoying their baby] my partner and I looked on with sadness. We felt isolated. We so much wanted to be enjoying our moment with our new child but the problems with feeding her seemed to overwhelm us. Finally the Active Birth Centre in London gave me the name of a breastfeeding counsellor who in turn sent me to see lactation midwives Chloe Fisher and Sally Inch. It did not matter to me that I had to travel to their breastfeeding clinic at the Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. They were simply wonderful!

    At my first visit with them I breastfed my baby without any pain. Chloe and Sally explained that 99.99% of all breastfeeding problems is the latch. Get that right and everything else will follow. It took four visits before I finally learned the positioning, and then I never looked back. I was blessed to have been able to breastfeed my daughter long term and my difficulties enabled me to help friends and other new mums who were experiencing feeding challenges.

    What I learned most from my problems, and this is confirmed by your courage in sharing your journey, is that breastfeeding is not a high priority in the information highway of pregnancy and birth. Many midwives and doctors that I encountered in 1995 were not experts in helping mums to position babies for breastfeeding nor were they experienced in diagnosing tongue-tie. It's as though breastfeeding is relegated to the back door of obstetrics and it shouldn't be.

    After my C-section I fell into a depression and this was partly caused because I could not breastfeed my baby. It's so important for people to understand that when a new mum asks for help she must be offered practical help, not platitudes. I also feel that our partners need to be supported when there are breastfeeding difficulties because once my baby's father was shown by Chloe how to help me, he became an invaluable support. I would never have been able to breastfeed for as long as I did without his care and encouragement.

    THANK YOU so much, Milly, for raising this issue. It is beautiful the way in which you have shared your challenges in such a respectful, creative and loving way.

  4. 8th May 2016 / 10:14 am

    To Fairbrit, Kizerella and Erin Russell – thank you all for taking the time to comment on my post and share your thoughts and experiencing of breastfeeding. I completely agree with everything you said and hope my post has offered you a bit of support that you definitely aren't/werent alone.

    Thanks again xx

  5. 9th May 2016 / 9:09 am

    This was a great read, it's refreshing when mothers share the ups and downs and not just the ups. I'm really anxious about breastfeeding, so I'm glad I read this & am now aware about our bubbas potentially being tongue tied.
    Tanya xoxo

    http://www.tanyablackstar.co.uk/

  6. 20th June 2016 / 5:07 pm

    I too had a difficult start breastfeeding my son now 3 years old. The consultant asked me if my son was tongue tied when carrying out the newborn check in hospital and then immediately dismissed it.
    The pain while breastfeeding was horrendous. I asked every midwife that visited about a tongue tie and was told it wasn't the case while I continued to feel a failure and we both ended up with thrush. I would feel dread at every feed but like you was determined to carry on.
    Then a midwife that visited at home took one look at Alfie and immediately diagnosed a tongue tie. He was immediately referred to a consultant at our local ENT dept where the tue was snipped in a procedure that last seconds. Alfie latched straight after the appointment and we never looked back. Our breastfeeding journey continues until Alfie was 18 months old.
    It seems modern midwives are not used to diagnosing tongue ties as for a bottle fed baby it's not so problematic for feeding (although can cause issues).
    Thankfully for Alfie and I, ours although initially misdiagnosed, was picked up and corrected fairly early on.
    I'm glad that there was a positive outcome for you and your daughter.

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