As a paediatric nurse and health visitor, I always wanted to breastfeed but it was a long journey to having my first child. I was able to finally conceive through IVF and was delighted to have my baby son! Our breastfeeding journey was by no means easy but I persevered through the ups and downs. It was a big surprise when I then found out I was pregnant with my second son! He was born during the height of the pandemic, and it’s been whirlwind eight months of looking after two children whilst my husband is a frontline worker. Getting the Covid vaccine and breastfeeding is the latest part of my journey. Read my story here.
As a paediatric nurse I always wanted to breastfeed
I’m a paediatric nurse and health visitor so breastfeeding was always something I hoped to do for my own children. My first baby was conceived with IVF and had lots of medical issues resulting in induction of labour. I’d read that IVF and induction can both impact on breastfeeding but was determined to make it work. In preparation, I’d been hand expressing small amounts of colostrum since 37 weeks.
I’d read that IVF and induction can both impact on breastfeeding but was determined to make it work.Ebonie
I knew immediately my baby had a tongue-tie
When my baby cried soon after birth the first thing I said was, “he’s got a tongue-tie”. The midwives tried to reassure me it would likely be fine but I’d experienced so many tongue-tied babies at work and I was well aware of the issues. By day 3 he’d lost a lot of weight and become very jaundice. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, and whilst the midwifery team were supportive they were unable to offer any more advice than what I knew from work.
I made a tearful trip to a private lactation consultant drop-in group and she diagnosed a 100% tie. Since there was no NHS tongue-tie service in our area we opted to pay her privately to release it. In the meantime, I syringe fed breast milk after breastfeeds. Once the tie was released, feeding wasn’t immediately better and he had to “learn” to feed with his tongue.
Thankfully, over time it got better. He was never an easy feeder and always took around an hour to feed and never went longer than 2 hours without a feed (even once he was having solid foods). The main thing was he gained weight well and was calm when feeding. I am so glad we stuck with it and I am proud of what we achieved.
A trip to Hawaii resulted in a nursing strike
Things were going well and then at 11 months old we went on a long haul flight and he caught bronchiolitis. We ended up in hospital in Hawaii where he had lots of Oral interventions – swabs, nebulisers, oxygen. He stopped feeding and I assumed it was because he was breathless, but he never went back to the breast again! I pumped milk regularly, did plenty of skin to skin, co bathing, I really tried everything to coax him to breastfeed but nothing worked. He would just bite me or go in to feed then turn away and cry last minute.
He stopped feeding and I assumed it was because he was breathless, but he never went back to the breast again!Ebonie
I spoke with all the support I could think of and everyone said it was a nursing strike and to keep offering him the breast whilst also continuing to pump. Eventually, he’d go back to the breast, they said. But he didn’t! I pumped until he was a year and then stopped. I was heartbroken for the longest time that he stopped so young and so suddenly, but with time I thought he stopped on his terms which is what I always wanted. It was just earlier than I thought! I’m so proud that I gave him a year of breast milk even with all the obstacles we faced.
My surprise second baby!
In May of last year I had my second son (during the first lockdown). This pregnancy was a (surprise) natural conception after 2 IVF miscarriages. It was much more straight forward and low risk. I even went into spontaneous labour and had the most beautiful water birth. As it happened, he too was tongue-tied! This time there was an NHS service but they were unlikely to see him during the pandemic as it wasn’t classed as a 100% tongue-tie but a posterior tie this time.
I persevered for a while and endured weight loss and jaundice again, but to a lesser extent. However, feeding remained painful and he was very colicky so I returned to the same lactation consultant and had his tongue tie released. This time the difference was immediate and I knew it was the right thing for us to do!
He feeds quicker than his brother ever did – maybe he’s keen to finish so he can nosy what his brother does! He also feeds less frequently which is welcome when I’m caring for another child too. At night time he wakes frequently to feed and I think this is perhaps him catching up on the feeds he’s lacking in the day, and to enjoy one-to-one time with me too.
Getting the Covid vaccine and breastfeeding
It can be tiring caring for both children in isolation as we live through the Covid pandemic. My husband is an NHS doctor so working long hours and my family don’t live nearby, so I’m always operating on minimal sleep. Bedtimes with both can be tricky as baby feeds to sleep and I’m usually alone with both, but we juggle it somehow. I think I regularly clock up less than 5 hours a night but I know it won’t be forever. The benefits of breastfeeding are significant, especially as a way to offer some degree of protection to him during the pandemic.
The benefits of breastfeeding are significant, especially as a way to offer some degree of protection to him during the pandemic.Ebonie
I recently had my first Covid vaccine as I’m a frontline worker. I’m continuing to breastfeed and have been storing breastmilk samples for a UK-based research study that boobingit shared on social media.
I’m proud that my body has grown and fed 2 babies successfully after lots of obstacles and hard work. We’re 8 months into feeding this time and I love it just as much and feel so proud of what we’ve achieved. I’m hoping my second son will feed until at least 2 years old (as per WHO guidance) but I’ll just follow his lead. And I look forward to supporting more mums with their own feeding journeys as a health visitor.
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