I gave birth to my little boy Roen in August 2023. I have always wanted to breastfeed and it was something that I felt very passionate about.
Before Roen was born, I spent a lot of time doing antenatal classes, watching videos and doing plenty of my own research preparing myself for breastfeeding. I bought breast pumps, nursing bras, silicone milk collectors, breast pads etc. You could say I was too prepared but I just really wanted this to work.
I tried to express colostrum during pregnancy
During pregnancy I began my journey with trying to harvest colostrum. I attempted this when I was 36 weeks pregnant. Roughly I’d spend one hour every night trying my very best to harvest colostrum and I would sadly only end up with a single drop every time. After about two weeks of trying, I gave up. Already, this put an idea in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed.
I spent a lot of time crying over the fact that I couldn’t harvest anything and it wasn’t until I spoke to a friend, that I realised not everyone can harvest colostrum. It wasn’t a reflection on whether or not you can breastfeed. I decided at this point to just relax and take the pressure off myself.
We didn’t get skin to skin straight away
My little boy arrived the day after his due date (didn’t keep me waiting too long). My birth wasn’t the easiest. Roen ended up being an instrumental delivery and we didn’t get to have skin to skin straight away. He was eventually given to me about 5/10 minutes after he was born and this was then the beginning of our golden hour.
After the doctors left, I was then encouraged to try and feed Roen and start developing the latch. The midwives said that he had a very mild tongue tie but it shouldn’t make any difference to his feeding. However, it took about 15 minutes for him to eventually ‘latch on’ and there was no pain, no sensation etc. On reflection, I now know that he wasn’t in fact latched and wasn’t feeding at all.
We were then brought to the postpartum ward where I was shown one more time by the midwives how to get a ‘latch’. We left the hospital just 6 hours later. This was when the journey really took a turn.
Once home I gave him a bottle of formula
We arrived home at 3am and Roen was sobbing and sobbing. It took us a good while to realise that he was very hungry but I was struggling to get him to latch on. He wasn’t feeding off me and I was so upset thinking that my feeding journey was ending before it even began. We then decided to give him some formula and he settled very quick. I continued to try and get him to latch on but wasn’t having any luck.
He wasn’t feeding off me and I was so upset thinking that my feeding journey was ending before it even began.
The next morning, we were visited by a midwife who showed me different ways to feed. I eventually got a latch and he started feeding! The midwife referred Roen for his tongue tie and we got an appointment a week later to get it corrected.
He would breastfeed for 90 minutes at a time
After the midwife left, I continued to have issues with the latch. Feeding was incredibly painful. He was feeding for about 90 minutes at a time and I was just in tears every time he needed to feed. I was referred to a lactation consultant but because I live just outside the catchment area they refused to come and visit me. From there I was advised to google help instead of being offered an alternative. I honestly felt like I was being ignored by medical professionals and I was completely alone on my breastfeeding journey.
I was referred to a lactation consultant but because I live just outside the catchment area they refused to come and visit me.
I decided to persevere until the tongue tie appointment to see if anything improved in feeding after it was done. What I was going through made me reach out to a friend (who I hadn’t seen in about 10 years) as she is such a huge breastfeeding advocate. She sent me loads of information, numbers to call, videos to watch and even offered to sit with me and help me with my breastfeeding. Even to this day, she is my breastfeeding rock and I would be lost without her.
The time came for his tongue tie procedure
A week passed and it was time for Roen to have his tongue tie fixed. I stayed out of the room while it happened as I couldn’t bare the thought of seeing him in pain. As soon as the tongue tie was sorted, he was placed on the breast. Already, I could tell the latch was so much better. I honestly felt such relief that he was feeding and no longer struggling.
It took about another week until I started to feel more comfortable with breastfeeding. Roen’s feeds dropped from 90 minutes a feed to 20 minutes and I felt like I was getting more of my life back. I was actually able to enjoy the newborn bubble instead of just constantly feeding.
Breastfeeding in public was the next thing to tackle
The next thing to tackle was breastfeeding in public. I was so scared that people would make comments or stare at us so the first time I fed in public, I asked the restaurant to sit us in the quietest area and hid myself away. It took a few times in public to realise that no one stares. No one actually cares. Now, I am more that happy to feed anywhere and I embrace how beautiful breastfeeding is. My confidence levels have shot through the roof since breastfeeding.
One thing that I was not expecting though was the dreaded boob strikes. Roen’s first strike left me so incredibly upset as I had no idea what was going on. After speaking to my friend and learning that this is normal, I just persevered and got through it. He has now done this a number of times throughout the last few months but I’ve just learnt to go with the flow and pump milk instead if he on a serious refusal moment. It might take him a few hours to get over the strike, but he always goes back to breastfeeding.
Roen gets a bottle of formula in the evening
I would say we ‘combi-feed’ very loosely. At the beginning, Roen would have about 50% breast and 50% formula. I used to also carry around ready made formula for when we were out and about. Now, I do not carry any formula when we go out and I will only give him a bottle of formula at bed time. This way my husband can get involved but every other feed is always from the breast. I do not like pumping, I just find it painful and it’s not for me, so doing one bottle of formula a day really gives me a break.
I have fallen madly in love with breastfeeding and the thought of ending now genuinely fills me with dread. The relationship that I have with my son and knowing that I am his safe space, is worth its weight in gold.
I have fallen madly in love with breastfeeding and the thought of ending now genuinely fills me with dread.
I want to keep setting myself breastfeeding targets
My breastfeeding journey is far from over. I wanted to set myself a target of a month, then three months and now we are well on our way to 6 months breastfeeding. I absolutely love it but it’s not always easy. Especially when he is being incredibly fussy or I don’t get my boob out fast enough for him!
My biggest advice that I would give anyone who is wanting to start breastfeeding or really struggling is, don’t give up but reach out for help. The last few months have taught me that there are so many incredible groups out there who are more than willing to help and no question is a silly question.