You may remember that during my pregnancy, I struggled with pains, hormones and fears. For the second time in my life, I was hating the experience and willing it to be over. Throughout the nine months, I failed to bond with the bump. I rarely thought about what Little Bean would be like and how well she would fit into our small family. I couldn’t or rather didn’t imagine what she would look like, smell like, feel like. I didn’t have the time to focus on the fact that I was growing a human being. I had a three year old running around me and she kept me well occupied. Things changed in the first hour that Little Bean was born.
D was born by Elective Caesarean Section just three weeks ago. Since the moment she was born I felt an incredible bond with her that grew exponentially that first day of her life. I put our strong bond down to the fact that I was determined to breastfeed her, to feel her close and breathe her in. And thats what I did. However, I didn’t get to do skin to skin with her straight after birth since my temperature dropped and my blood pressure was erratic. My first experience of breastfeeding was tedious and disappointing but feeling our baby nestle against my skin was genuinely euphoric… or was that the drugs!
Ultimately, our breastfeeding journey together has since ended. It was a short but sweet adventure that sincerely strenghtened our mother daughter bond. A bond I truly didn’t expect to experience since it took me at least three months to bond with A and because of the fact that I rarely talked to or sang to Little Bean when she was nestled inside me.
I don’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or a failure for switching to formula for D. It was the right choice for me and for her, which I’ll explain now but I absolutely cherish the somewhat tough but equally beautiful journey we had together in her first few weeks. I chose to stop breastfeeding in the end but if you are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding, do get in touch with your local La Leche League or Public Health Nurse who are all there to help. There is great support available to you on this beautiful journey, so do seek them out if you need them. For me, it was a personal choice to stop breastfeeding.
Due to the C Section, I was in hospital for four nights and days which proved to be my saving grace for the start of my short but sweet breastfeeding journey. If I didn’t have the support of the midwives, I most certainly would have given up the prospect of breastfeeding before I even started. It’s not all that easy recovering from a C Section and, I’ll be honest, the thoughts of taking the easy way out on every miniscule detail of life is very tempting. You can barely walk in those first few days, let alone anything else. On top of that, breastfeeding itself is tough. It most certainly is no walk in the park. I knew this before I started so despite the pain of the C Section, I was willing to give it a try.
My first attempt to feed D failed miserably as D was intent on giving Momma Bear gentle kisses rather than feeding. And so our problems with latch began. I had very little skin to skin contact having only managed to hold D as they wheeled me back to my room from recovery. My temperature still hadn’t increased a whole lot and I was feeling weak after the C Section. I suppose I imagined that D would magically latch and find her way but this wasn’t to be. I didn’t know how to hold her or support her to feed and despite a beautiful midwife helping me, it wasn’t to be on that first occasion. So, along came hand expressing.
The same amazing midwife taught me how to hand express on day one, which has a knack to it, but I quickly picked it up and felt proud that I was still able to give D the golden liquid, colostrum. It’s incredible how after giving birth, your sense of dignity and modesty goes out the window and you don’t care who’s handling your boobs or sucking colostrum out of your nipples with a syringe! It’s all for the benefit of your baby and thats what matters. Despite not being able to feed D directly on that first day, I felt a powerful connection with her knowing she was getting her nutrients directly from me.
By day two, I was a dab hand, pardon the pun, at expressing for D and feeding her with the syringe but the latch just wasn’t happening. D would gently suck on her top lip and only managed to properly feed a couple of times. And so hand expressing continued and continued, every three hours. I will admit that despite my expert skills and improving supply, hand expressing was wearing me down and with lack of sleep, I was beginning to feel that intense exhaustion that comes with newborn babies.
I ended up with welts, cuts and bruises on my breasts from my sheer determination to get as much milk for D as possible through expressing. There were no problems with my supply as the milk came in and I proudly left my expressed milk in the fridge by the nurses station.
On day three, I began using the hospitals electric breast pump, which is sheer magic, and this also gave B the opportunity to feed D when he was visiting. I was feeling excited about knowing that I was still feeding her, albeit indirectly but I did wonder how long I could keep the routine up.
By the time I was leaving the hospital on day four, after speaking to the hospitals lactation consultant and after receiving unending support from two midwives in particular – a million thank you’s Leona and Ellie – D had latched only with the help of Nipple Shields which I have to admit are difficult enough to use. But I left the hospital feeling unsure of where D and I stood with breastfeeding. To say that it was harder than I thought is an understatement and I didn’t prepare for the prospect of a bad latch.
By the second week I will admit I was struggling. Without the support of the midwives in the hospital, who I missed dearly every time D struggled to stay latched on, I was getting further and further away from continuing. I was expressing and we were feeding D with beautiful bottles from Nuk which used the same teats D was comfortable with from the hospital. The teats are shaped to mimic the breast which I had hoped would help D feel comfortable latching on but her tongue was forever in the wrong position hindering a good latch. But I wanted that closeness with D which breastfeeding allows so continued trying. I wanted to console her when she cried with a Momma Bear cuddle. She managed to latch only about a quarter of the time.
But I struggled to help D latch and the Nipple Shields became more and more cumbersome making me more and more stressed and D frustrated. The last thing I wanted was for either of us to hate the journey we were on and resent the fact that I attempted to breastfeed our baby in the first place.
And so my relationship with breastfeeding grew further and further apart.
By the end of D’s second week I was expressing less as time at home with a three year old to love and entertain, gave me less time to focus on pumping. I was using a Nuk manual pump which was fab to use but admittedly pumping took time. The pump was gentle and quiet and most importantly comfortable to use. But as the days wore on and my pain levels from the C Section were hit and miss with good days and bad days (the bad days being very very bad) I struggled with pumping too. By the evening, when both kids were fast asleep, I was almost KO’d myself and the last thing on my mind was emptying one let alone two breasts. I had also been pumping during the day, since it requires just as much scheduling as infant feeding does, but with a three year old who required play time with Momma Bear, I found this difficult and slacked off one too many times.
Throughout, we supplemented with formula and used Nuk bottles and teats which resembled the breast. I have to admit that the transition to bottle feeding has been seemless which has been in part to the wonderful people at Nuk who luckily sent me some products to test out. Because I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a go, I was delighted to get an email from Nuk suggesting that I check out some of their products to help with combined feeding. Since B wanted to share the load with feeding, combination feeding was our ultimate goal.
And so, we have currently resorted to formula feeding D as I decided to give myself a break from pumping and focus on my recovery.
There are a number of reasons why I decided to stop breastfeeding. My pain levels have been up and down the last three weeks as my recovery has not been as seemless as it was last time round with A. Overall, pain can be a deciding factor on anything in your life and it’s a big one for me. A needs more attention from me now that B has returned to work after his Paternity Leave. Neglecting her to pump for a couple of hours a day has proved tricky for me since she hasn’t been tempted by my bribes. And finally exhaustion is a killer, enough said.
At The End Of the Day
D is thriving.
She’s beautiful, amazing and my connection with her is strong. Putting my heart and soul into attempting to breastfeed her has most certainly been a strong factor as to why I have bonded so quickly and strongly with D. I know her every cue, I know how to get her to sleep almost instantly, I know when she needs to be fed. And I love that breastfeeding has given both me and her a great start, no matter how short that journey was.
I am still lactating, since I haven’t entirely encouraged my body to ease up on the milk, on the off chance that I change my mind next week and want to try again. Re-lactating is always an option if my exhaustion eases, the pains disappear (which they have eased considerably the last few days) and A gives Momma Bear some breathing room.
We’ll see what happens. But for the moment, we are loving having D home and she is getting bigger every day.
*** Disclaimer: This is my honest and personal breastfeeding journey. For breastfeeding advice, talk to a professional. ***
*** Disclaimer: Nuk sent me a number of products to test. All opinions and experiences are wholeheartedly honest and my own. Having used the products for a number of weeks now, I can honestly recommend them for supporting you and your baby ***