From the moment I wanted to be a mum, it was my plan to breastfeed my babies. I started doing research into breastfeeding, colostrum harvesting and all the ways that food can help boost my milk flow. I felt as prepared as I could be. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to breastfeed my first baby as she was stillborn at 29 weeks. It was heartbreaking. I went on to have little Hettie over a year later and of course, I was determined to breastfeed, but we didn’t have the best start due to a case of pneumonia.
Little Clemintine was stillborn at 29 weeks
In September 2018 I fell pregnant with our first daughter, Clementine and we were so excited and happy. Unfortunately, in March 2019 our beautiful Clementine’s heart stopped beating at 29 weeks gestation.
I was given four pills, two pills to suppress my milk, and two pills to induce my body into labour. Three days later she was stillborn.
Unfortunately, in March 2019 our beautiful Clementine’s heart stopped beating at 29 weeks gestation.Zaneta
If only I’d known about donating breast milk back then, I would have donated my milk rather than suppress it, especially knowing how it is in such high demand.
Our rainbow baby Hettie
This year, in July, our little rainbow, Hettie, was born at 37 weeks gestation. I was in labour for three days, alone in hospital and without my other half Joe due to the Covid-19 rules. An hour after Hettie was born Joe had to leave as I was being taken to the ward. I tried breastfeeding but really struggled. I’d been through so much pain due to the pessaries and being prodded and poked for three days straight. I hadn’t eaten or slept properly for the whole time. I was very hormonal and felt completely alone with a baby, so I cried feeling like I’d failed.
The midwives tried to help but Hettie just wasn’t interested in feeding and was very unsettled. I raised concerns about her breathing and that I couldn’t rest for worry. In the end one of the lovely midwives took Hettie and kept her settled by the midwife bay while I tried to get some sleep.
She had pneumonia in one of her lungs
During the night my concerns were found to be valid and Hettie was admitted to NICU as she was struggling to breathe properly. It turned out she had pneumonia in one of her lungs. She had to be isolated and put in an incubator.
I had colostrum harvested prior to being induced but I badly wanted my milk to come in. She was on a glucose drip and they ended up topping her up with formula milk which absolutely destroyed me. In that moment I genuinely thought that she would never breastfeed. I hand expressed and massaged my breasts constantly until my milk finally came in.
She was on a glucose drip and they ended up topping her up with formula milk which absolutely destroyed me.
Things took a slight turn for the worst when her one good lung collapsed. We ended up being transferred to another hospital an hour away from home. There was a moment when they didn’t think they could accommodate me but I was determined to breastfeed and I needed to be by my baby’s side. Hettie ended up being tube fed with my breast milk. The staff gave me an electric pump and showed me how to use and then how to feed her.
Finally, she was strong enough to try to latch on
Two days later when Hettie was finally well enough to try and breastfeed I struggled to get her to latch on. I would get so disheartened by it but I was also so determined not to give up. My nipples where so tender and hurt from constantly using the pump.
Fortunately I was able to meet with Julie, a breastfeeding specialist at the hospital. She helped me to finally get Hettie to latch. The feeling of pure love and pride washed over me as Hettie was finally feeding from me and her little hand rested on top of my breast. Julie also showed me the best breastfeeding positions for having larger breasts, which was so helpful. She even took some photos of Hettie latched to use on the information boards and booklets of the unit.
A week later and Hettie was well enough to come home. She had gained some of the weight she’d lost and she was finally breastfeeding successfully. We got to go home to start our little life together in lockdown.
Breastfeeding after baby loss has meant so much
Four months on and Hettie is still exclusively breastfed. We’ve had to deal with cracked nipples, toe-curling pain and a brief case of mastitis but it’s all worth it for the moments when she’s feeding and decides to give me a cheeky smile mid feed.
Knowing she’s had the best start in life from what I provide for her is amazing. Breastfeeding after baby loss has meant so much.
We’ve had to deal with cracked nipples, toe-curling pain, and a brief case of mastitis but it’s all worth it for the moments when she’s feeding and decides to give me a cheeky smile.Zaneta
Support for baby loss
Baby loss is a devastating thing to go through. Zaneta found the instagram baby loss community to be very helpful. She also had a bereavement midwife who she could talk to about Clementine, and who helped her start a local coffee morning for other baby loss mums.
Other places to seek support from are:
- Sands | Stillbirth and neonatal death charity, for their bereavement help and support
- Tommy’s baby charity, for the amazing research they undertake to help prevent miscarriages and stillbirths
- Beyond Bea, for teaching midwives and medical staff about miscarriage, TFMR, and stillbirth in the UK.
What is colostrum harvesting?
A pregnant person may be able to hand express some colostrum (early milk) from their breasts in the final few weeks of pregnancy. It can be helpful to harvest colostrum if a mother has concerns about their baby/babies being able to latch on and take colostrum from the breast in those first few days. Colostrum can be expressed into a syringe or small container and then kept in the fridge (for up to 48 hours) or freezer until it is needed. You can read more about colostrum harvesting here.
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