MY BREASTFEEDING STORY
I’ve been wanting to share my breastfeeding experience for a while, but I’m very aware that it’s a unique set of circumstances and therefore doesn’t really apply to the majority of mothers. It does however, apply to a minority of women like myself who tried and failed, so I’m sharing it all the same.
When I fell pregnant with my son I was 100% determined to breastfeed. I’ll admit I had tunnel vision on the subject and I did sconce a bit at people trying to tell me it may not work out for me. I knew in my head that I wanted to do everything the “right” way for my baby and formula feeding just wasn’t an option.
After buying all the baby books, I enrolled onto a breastfeeding course my midwife had recommended. Much to her delight she didn’t have to coax me into the idea of “Breast is Best”. I was due to attend the course in my third trimester so as to have all of the knowledge on the subject as fresh in my mind as possible before my boy arrived.
Obviously this didn’t happen.
*19th August 2015
NOT PART OF THE PLAN
Matthew (as most of you already know) was born 16 weeks early. and immediately placed on a ventilator as he was unable to breathe on his own. Not only did my whole world come crashing down in front of me, but any hopes and dreams I had to breastfeed my child came crashing down too. (You can read more about his birth story here)
There was however a silver lining. I could express milk for him which the nurses/midwives would then administer through a feeding tube into his tummy. It wasn’t the breastfeeding experience I had hoped for but it was still something.
For days I had Breastfeeding support trying to help me kick-start my milk supply, which unfortunately hadn’t yet began naturally.
My dignity was out the window. I had several nurses and midwives literally milking me like a cow. It was painful and stressful and just utterly mortifying. Nothing was happening.
*23rd August 2015
However, to my complete delight, I finally managed to express almost 1 ml of milk 4 days after Matthew was born. It was such a tiny amount but so significant to me.
I was put on a strict expressing schedule whereby I had to pump every 3 hours throughout the day and night. All this in order to train my body into producing more milk. Despite It being tiring and inconvenient at times, it was the best thing for my boy so I happily done it.
Those first few weeks Matthew was very sick and we nearly lost him on so many occasions. This meant my stress levels were at an all time high which didn’t help my supply. I would pump for over an hour and would have a mere drop of milk to show for it.
I felt utterly worthless.
Why was it so difficult to do what my body was made for? Why couldn’t I feed my child? I had already failed to carry him to term, but as if to rub salt in the wounds I was now unable to feed him.
After 3 weeks of being able to supply only a few millilitres of milk, I signed a document allowing the NICU to provide Matthew with Donor Breast Milk.
It was a bittersweet moment. I felt completely devastated at not being able to feed him my milk but also eternally grateful that some stranger was kind enough to donate theirs.
With Matthew being so sick, his stomach was delicate and susceptible to developing very frightening conditions, so formula would have been an absolute last resort. Breast milk is much kinder on preemies/ babies tummies, therefore I was just so thankful that we had that option.
He was fed on Donor Breast Milk for 10 weeks before he was transitioned to high energy/ calorie formula in order to gain weight.
It was of course a very dark and devastating time for me. However upon reflection I have realised that it was a necessary course of action and simply outwith my control.
This doesn’t make it easier by any means. I still feel like I let him down and that feeling will never subside. It is however easier looking back at it almost 3 years later and seeing how well he’s doing at this end of the journey.
It changed my mindset on “Breast is Best” enormously. My son was dying and I was pushing my mind and my body to it’s limits trying to help him. Of course I am so grateful that he had the option of donor milk, but if that hadn’t been an option for us it would have made me feel even more worthless than I already did.
For 3 weeks I stayed by my child’s side watching him cling to life, all the while having to pump every three hours and get next to nothing from all that time attached to a machine. I hardly slept and by the end of the 3 weeks I was near a nervous breakdown. It was awful, and nowhere near the breastfeeding experience I had envisioned for my son and I.
BEING LEVEL HEADED ABOUT IT
When all is said and done, my opinion is that “Fed is Best”. This is the most important thing to remember. As long as your child has food in their stomachs and they’re alive, nothing else matters.
If nothing else, this experience had taught me not to take the little things for granted. I assumed I would breastfeed Matthew and everything would all go according to plan. I was naive and unprepared for how difficult that part of becoming a mother would be. If we are lucky enough to have another baby in the future, I’ll hopefully be more prepared for every eventuality.
With that being said, these situations will never get easier to navigate.
I suppose we shall see.