When I had my first baby in 2013, I was 19 years old and I fully intended to breastfeed him. I had absolutely no advice from any professionals and saw that as a sign that it was nothing more than latch baby on, feed, repeat. Simple. However, once I gave birth to my son nothing prepared me for the hostility I received when I expressed a desire to breastfeed. I felt so alone and unsupported that I actually became fearful of breastfeeding. However, when it came to having my second child I knew nothing would stop me breastfeeding. I was ready to fight my corner.
After a long labour, the tiredness overwhelmed me
My waters broke at 39+5 and I was induced 24 hours later. After a long and exhausting labour my son Leo was born. I was so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open and asked for him to be held to my breast so that I could feed him.
I desperately needed to get some sleep after that so I requested to skip one feed and have him formula fed just until it was safe enough for me to hold and feed him.
I woke up from a 3-hour nap to the midwife bringing Leo back into my delivery room. I was then transferred to the maternity unit by a maternity nurse that spoke to me like I was an inconvenience. She wheeled me and my baby onto the ward, handed him to me once I was sat on the bed and asked me how I intended to feed my baby.
The midwife asked me to list three reasons why I wanted to breastfeed
“I want to breastfeed… or combi feed? He had formula because I was too tired, but I would like to breastfeed him now”. What she replied back with was not what I was expecting… “Why? Why do you want to breastfeed? Give me three reasons I should let you”. The key word being “LET”. I thought she could police if I was allowed to breastfeed or not.
I was 19 years old, already feeling like I’d be thrown in at the deep end. I glanced around the ward hoping to lock eyes with someone who was breastfeeding, but there wasn’t anyone. All five had bottles and in my tired, unprepared mind I thought she had decided that they had to, and so I had to aswell.
The whole experience made me fearful of breastfeeding
I soon became fearful of breastfeeding because I thought my baby would be taken away if I insisted upon doing it. That’s how utterly unprepared I was, this is how much I was failed. I wasn’t told one iota of breastfeeding information, my rights, my choices, not anything prior to having him and therefore I didn’t have the tools to combat her request.
“It’s better?” I said… “No, it’s not. Formula has come such a long way they are basically the same thing”. I remember feeling like I was sinking into the bed, like I was about an inch tall. She called over 2-3 more midwives – I’m not sure as by this time I was staring down at the baby in my arms and I could feel my cheeks puffing up and my eyes brimming with tears. “This lady wants to breastfeed, can we all agree that formula is just as good?” they all let out a collective yes, nodded and just as quickly, walked off. I was defeated, and I gave him a ready-made bottle of formula.
I was defeated, and I gave him a ready-made bottle of formula.
A student midwife who had been in the delivery suit with me for a while the night before came round and I should have told her everything but again, I wasn’t armed with the knowledge of how anything worked and instead I just burst into tears at the sight of a friendly familiar face and she hugged me.
Once home I tried to get my son to breastfeed
Once home, my milk matured, my boobs were hard I tried to latch him on again. He fed well I thought, and my boobs both went soft, but he cried and cried. I was now used to going a couple hours between bottle feeds and I didn’t understand that he wanted to go back on my breast. I had no idea about cluster feeding. I daren’t ask anyone as I assumed the answer would not be what I needed to hear.
My confidence in receiving any breastfeeding help had completely dwindled and I actually tricked myself into thinking I couldn’t breastfeed. That’s how fearful of breastfeeding I was. From then on he was formula fed exclusively until 1 year old. It was made sure that I knew how to safely prepare formula but when I needed it the most, no one made sure I knew how to breastfeed.
My confidence in receiving any breastfeeding help had completely dwindled and I actually tricked myself into thinking I couldn’t breastfeed.
10 months later I was pregnant again
10 months later I found out I was pregnant, there was a 19-month gap between my babies, and I was determined this time to breastfeed. After sharing snippets of my story in Facebook groups I’d been made aware it was definitely 100% my choice how my baby was fed. That was all I needed, I was ready for combat.
Once I had my daughter Alice, the push back on breastfeeding never came. But the help didn’t either. A “Bossum Buddy” stood at the end of my bed, said “good latch!” and walked off. By night 2 I was in agony, she was starting to look dehydrated, she was only latching to the end of my nipple. I sent my partner out at 6am for a tub of formula and had him feed a bottle to her so I could search ways to fix her latch and she could get some sustenance whilst I figured it all out.
Using nipple shields really helped
I found information about the Flipple Technique and nipple shields. I ordered those and the flipple helped a little, but she still didn’t open very wide to allow for a deep latch. When the shields arrived we started using them straight away and continued using them for 10 months!
Again, I received no words of advice from any HCP we saw, only a “that’s good” that barely even felt like support.
Thankfully, at 10 months old Alice decided to latch on without the shields and I ended up breastfeeding her for 3 and a half years!
At 10 months old Alice decided to latch on without the shields and I ended up breastfeeding her for 3 and a half years!
I couldn’t wait to breastfeed my daughter
When I was pregnant with Rosie in 2019, I was asked how I would feed her, and when I said breastfeeding and explained how long I had fed her sister for, I was met with a lot of “wow, well done” comments and “I think you’re the only mum around here who has done it that long”.
After I had her, I was sat up in the hospital bed with my newborn in a rugby hold under my right arm, cradle hold across my left, side laying, laying back, the Midwives made it clear they knew I didn’t need help, and honestly I was looking around the ward wondering if anyone needed MY help.
I’ve had a very smooth journey with Rosie
I have had a very smooth and uneventful breastfeeding journey with Rosie, it’s been a dream. She did start to refuse the right breast at two months old, and has fed strictly from the left for 17 months now, but it hasn’t caused me any issues and none for her either. Luckily I’ve never had a bout of mastitis or any infections in my whole combined SIXTY-ONE months breastfeeding my girls. I have also never pumped.
I have had a very smooth and uneventful breastfeeding journey with Rosie, it’s been a dream.
No one should be fearful of breastfeeding
I hope my story helps those who received little to no support and felt they had to give up or feel like they might give up. I hope it helps you to realise it’s not your fault and you aren’t failing. No one should be made to feel like I did – to be fearful of breastfeeding. If you get the chance to breastfeed again, then do it and don’t let the fear overwhelm you. I have healed through breastfeeding my girls.
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