Nancy’s Mumma Says…
Breast-feeding… ummm … where to start…. Throughout my pregnancy I told myself and husband we should see what happens, I mean Nancy might not take to breastfeeding? And I don’t want to beat myself up about it at such an emotional time (I was also scared stiff of postnatal depression). So with an open mind, we brought bottles and a sterilizer along with an all singing and dancing electrical breast pump.
FEEDING IN THE HOSPITAL
I had such a fantastic birth, by that I mean everything happened how I wanted it to…I got the birthing pool, had our music playing from our travel speakers, only had gas and air and didn’t even need stitches! So in terms of any stressful situations Nancy couldn’t have been more relaxed enough to latch on (if that is ever a reason?) She was born at 2.00 pm and I could have gone home that day but my husband reminded me that I wanted to get any available support to make sure I was breast feeding correctly.
Nancy tried as soon as she was placed on me; looking back I was like ‘in a minute when I catch my breath please!!’ But of course those first hours are vital so I can now see why you are encouraged in the first few minutes. So Nancy apparently latched on fine and the midwife left us.
We moved to a ward and once family had visited and Daddy had gone home, I had a sudden feeling of fear…. I was so tired as I hadn’t slept in 2 days with the labour but I didn’t want to shut my eyes, as all of a sudden I have this little person who’s whole life depends on me! Of course I was in the best care with nurses but still…
I did ring my bell around 1a.m as Nancy was crying a lot and I wanted to check again I was doing the ‘latch’ right. The nurse said (and almost tutted) ‘oh no you don’t do it like that!’ I felt so silly! I wasn’t holding the back of Nancy’s head with the opposite arm, instead I was almost cradling her and she was at an angle, and she went on to show me a better way. But because of the tone and the way the nurse made me feel I didn’t want to call again the next time I fed even though I wasn’t 100% happy.
The next morning I asked another breast-feeding nurse/counselor if I was doing it correctly and she said I was (and she was much nicer) but she only quickly checked and then left.
We brought Nancy home and we had lots of visitors… I was ok with my mum and mother in law but of course when the men were around I would want go upstairs in private. I was still nervous and unsure, and I didn’t notice that my nipples were starting to crack and get sore. I didn’t know that it shouldn’t hurt like that either, and it normally means you’re not doing correctly!
After an episode of me crying and my husband Luke bringing home nipple cream
(Lansinoh, incase you need it – amazing stuff!) Luke and my Mum kept saying ‘don’t worry if it’s not working out, stop beating yourself up!’ But by now I was so angry that I had kept asking to be shown and the nurses still didn’t show me properly, and imagine if I was shy, or a young teenage mum who was too scared to ask at all? With all this emphasis on breast feeding you would have thought I would had a little more than 2 minutes in total!
Now please don’t confuse me with a negative moaning woman, I loved my experience with NHS and can’t rave about my labour enough. But what I am trying to say is it’s only because of my determination that I resorted to YouTube to see what I was doing wrong! You see, Luke kept helping me and she latched on ok but then slipped and would just have the nipple end rather than the whole nipple – which is excruciating! This was after a week of feeding Nancy and getting upset – and mostly crying at each feed. Luckily the most amazing midwife turned up…. and I did tell her afterwards, that if she hadn’t have been so good with me I think I would have given up.
What I am trying to say is that I don’t think the breast feeding councilors, nurses etc. realize how important those few minutes being shown are and what they say to you really does stay with you. It is such a life changing time, and you feel so nervous even if you are normally a relaxed and confident person.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
So I broke through the barrier and managed to heal my cracked nipples and give myself and Nancy a break. Lets face it, we get caught up with visitors and making sure everyone gets to see the new baby, but before we know it it’s your baby’s next feed and you are still trying to get to know each other and how this all works! Plus it’s a skill that your baby needs to learn! My super midwife who came from heaven that day, reminded me that our mothers used to stay in hospital for 2 weeks after birth and you got a bottle of guiness each night! Yes you would rather be at home, but back then you and your baby are given that time to learn and get used to each other. And even today in China Mothers still don’t see anyone for 4 weeks…. I bet they’re not worrying about hoovering up or reminding their husbands to check on tea bags and milk before Visitor Number 8 comes round! So, do try give yourself a break.
And because Nancy fed little but very often I felt it was non-stop! I couldn’t get her to feed for longer than 10 minutes! So my next worry was:
Is she getting enough, and how do I know?
- I had plenty of dirty nappies but maybe she was crying because she wasn’t getting full?
- How do I get her to drink more and what if she makes this a long-term habit?
It’s funny because no matter what each day was like, I would worry ‘is this how its going be for the next few months or year?’ You see, most of my friends had negative comments about bottle-feeding so I was prepared for those if I had gone straight onto formula, whereas my experience was the opposite…. friends and family kept telling me to try a bottle and give myself a break from breastfeeding! This used to upset me too!
I always said that I might try ‘combination feeding’ (some breastfeeding, some formula) when I was pregnant, so I started to read about it. I had heard of so many mothers who’s babies wouldn’t take a bottle 6 months on which meant they couldn’t let dads or grandparents babysit, this I definitely didn’t want!
So I learned that 4 weeks is about the right time to introduce a bottle if breastfeeding is ‘established’, and after that to try do it every 3rd night otherwise your baby may forget. Nancy didn’t really drink much but I kept trying every 3rd night and when she did take to it I would go and express so my milk supply would still be ok.
Looking back that was the best thing I could have done because I wasn’t worrying about drying up and it gave me 6 hours break so I could try that glass of wine I had promised myself 11 months before! Although actually that didn’t ever happen… I just used to go for a lie down, but it was nice to have the option. But more importantly for me, if I hadn’t done that I honestly don’t think I would have kept up with breast feeding. It meant my Husband could take over for the evening after work or more importantly my Mum babysat one Saturday morning while we went out for breakfast!
Expressing is ok but I found I could only express in the mornings and if I missed that window no matter how much I looked at a photo of Nancy or relaxed in front of TV, nothing would come out! Plus I always got caught out as I would have got 3 oz. only to find Nancy wanting feeding so would have to give her that! Looking back she probably wasn’t crying for a feed, it’s just I would offer it for every cry!
I managed to build up a bank of 5/6 bags in the freezer but it wasn’t long before I gave up on it! You see if I wasn’t feeding Nancy I was sat being milked!! I just felt it was constant so for me the combination feeding worked but with a bottle of formula not expressed in the end. I didn’t give Nancy formula until she was 10 weeks old but by then she had got used to a bottle and the breast. And once we knew she was ok she probably only had 1/ 2 bottles a week when she was with the grandparents.
So basically the moral of my story is this – do whatever keeps you sane!! Some people may say mixing formula and breastfeeding doesn’t work, but we found it worked very well, and it has for other Mummas I know of. And if giving your baby a bottle means that you will keep going with the breastfeeding that little bit longer then go for it! Nancy is 7.5 months old now and I am still breastfeeding her the first and the last feed of the day now.
The perfect combination for us 🙂