Before my daughter Alice was born I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I did a few zoom classes, so I was prepared about how hard it would be… BUT nothing prepared me for how hard it would actually be. I never dreamt I’d be pumping milk from early on or that I’d be triple feeding her. It really took a toll on my mental health.
I was induced due to reduced movements
I went in to be induced on the 10th of May due to reduced movements. I had polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid around the baby) and therefore sometimes I would feel no movements throughout the day or nights and there was no consistent pattern. I was also told that due to the poly there would be a risk of cord prolapse during labour as well as a bunch of other stuff. However, I was told inconsistent things and felt very confused.
I had polyhdramnios and therefore sometimes I would feel no movements.
The week before my induction baby was weighing 7lbs on the growth scan. I was measuring off the scale due to the extra fluid but everything else was okay.
Alice was back to back and things progressed quickly
Alice arrived on the 13th May. I wanted to have a drug free labour, I was induced and put on the drip. I managed on gas and air for about 2 hours and then I asked for some stronger relief as she was back to back and the contractions were getting too much for me to handle.
I was about 5cm dilated at this point so was given morphine with the understanding that I still had a long way to go. 20 minutes later I was ready to push. The midwives couldn’t quite believe it so they checked me and I was 9cm dilated, things had progressed too quickly and due to lack of sleep from the three sleepless nights in hospital I couldn’t do it.
I was panicking and feeling every contraction
I tried so hard to push, but I felt like a failure. I completely lost my train of thought, I was panicking and feeling every contraction. I couldn’t handle it and was given a spinal and taken into surgery. Alice was shortly born by a forcep delivery. I asked if I could do skin to skin and they passed her over to me but took her away to check on her etc.
Looking back now I keep asking myself why I didn’t do any of the things I had been “taught” where was my calm loving golden hour. Where was my baby on my chest latching on to me.
Instead, I was in the surgery room laying under the bright lights being stitched up and told that if I wanted to have another baby in the future I would be offered a c section due to my 7lb poly baby actually being 9lb4.
I was wheeled off to the recovery room with Alice. Alice was really sleepy, being a first-time mum with no experience I thought this was okay and normal, no one said anything else so why would I think otherwise…
My heart rate was going through the rough
My heart rate was going through the roof and Alice was showing signs of infection so we were both put on an IV drip. I couldn’t quite believe that my tiny baby was having a cannula put in her hand. STILL there was no breastfeeding and she was put back in her crib.
My heart rate was going through the roof and Alice was showing signs of infection so we were both put on an IV drip.
Alice was born at 17.51 and at 19.30 when the midwives swapped shifts one of the midwives suggested that we try feeding her. She latched on but she suckled and fell asleep, once again she was put back in her crib as I couldn’t walk and had no strength in my arms.
I was shown how to express some colostrum and fed her through a syringe. I wish that I would have been able to express for her in the late stages of my pregnancy but was advised not to due to the poly.
Alice started to look visibly smaller
Fast forward two days where I thought we would be going home as the infection bloods were okay and I seemed to be breastfeeding fine. Alice was checked over and appeared to be a bit yellow. Her bilirubin levels were higher than normal so was put under the UV lights. Alice was sleepy yet again under the lights and I was getting inconsistent advice about feeding / waking her if she was having enough.
On the third day of Alice being under the lights I could sense something wasn’t right… she looked visibly smaller, the rolls on her legs were getting smaller and she was sleepier then ever. I spent the whole day with her laying on the edge of the bed under the lights latching on and off. My nipples were so sore and cracked, her latch was getting worse. She wasn’t fully latching and I was in so much pain. I was so tired, I felt like a failure.
I felt like a failure for not being able to give birth “properly.” For still being in hospital and not being at home with my newborn baby and husband. I just felt so tired, overwhelmed with inconsistent advice and in pain from the labour. I would ask the midwives to help, they would come over – grab Alice’s head, latch her and then leave. They would always say “if you need me ring the bell and I’ll come back and help”
I’d ring the bell and someone else would come. Some Of the midwives were great, others had no patience and I felt like a complete failure yet again.
Day three and Alice had lost 10.5% of her weight
Day three weigh-in and Alice had lost 10.5% of her weight. One midwife reassured me saying under her and my circumstances this was normal and she was happy but suggested that I could hand express, which I was more than happy to do so.
Another midwife woke me up at 5am after finally having an hours sleep and handed me over a pump. She said she was worried, and there’s no way I would be going home with Alice’s weight loss. I was so tired and sleep-deprived so was shot into utter panic.
I felt like a failure yet again, like I had starved my baby, so I began pumping. All I got was a few drops, but I fed those few drops right away. I kept putting Alice to the breast on my painful, cracked bleeding nipples but all she would do was fall asleep.
I felt like a failure yet again, like I had starved my baby, so I began pumping.
Her jaundice wasn’t getting much better
The next morning the baby doctor came to see me. Alice’s jaundice wasn’t getting any better and they were also concerned about her weight loss. Moving forwards a plan needed to be put in place. I myself suggested formula top-ups, I couldn’t see any other way out of this and I just wanted her to get healthy so we could finally go home.
I thought that the top-ups would be the easy solution and that they’d be temporary. As soon as I put the bottle in her mouth – that was it. I could feed her, she was asleep but she was eating. I was so relieved and at that moment in time, it didn’t really occur to me how it would affect my breastfeeding journey.
The start of triple feeding
The feeding plan was breast first, formula top-ups, and express. Sounds easy right? Where does the sleep come though… two days later I was exhausted and obsessing over milk. Day 5 came and she was putting on weight so I guess the hard work was paying off. On the 19th May we were discharged from the hospital as Alice’s bilirubin levels were JUST under the treatment line. She looked so yellow still and I was terrified.
The early days of being at home the community midwife would pop over to weigh Alice. She was gaining weight, I wasn’t pumping at this stage but I was offering breasts and then topping up after every feed. My mind was so clouded I just didn’t want to have to go back to the hospital with her so gave her as much formula as she wanted so she would gain weight and flush the jaundice out.
A week later the community midwife was happy and she waved us goodbye. I told her I wanted to EBF now and she suggested pumping and that was it.
Pumping was stressing me out
I invested in the Elvie breast pump as I thought a hands-free pump would be great. I’d pump and pump but nothing, barely anything would come out. I felt like a failure again… I pumped and cried for days.
I was stressing myself out and getting hung up on the 10ml I was pumping every two hours. I was waking myself through the night to pump but it wasn’t substantial. All I could think about was how I was a failure for not being able to feed my child. I avoided going out, seeing friends and family as I felt so ashamed of myself for not breastfeeding.
I avoided going out, seeing friends and family as I felt so ashamed of myself for not breastfeeding.
My husband was getting annoyed at me telling me to give in as it was so time-consuming but I just couldn’t. I bought another pump. The spectra s2 and I finally began to see a bit of increase in my milk. I’d try latching Alice but she would get so angry she would stress herself and me out. So my plan was to pump to build up my supply.
It was week three and I told the midwife I wanted to EBF but she said it was too late now and to just enjoy my baby. I do understand that “fed is best” but I felt so fobbed off. I felt that I was losing the bond that I longed for despite everyone telling me that it makes no difference.
I was really struggling with my mental health
I really really really struggled with my mental health and just couldn’t shake off the thought of not breastfeeding. I then found numerous Facebook groups…pumping groups, breastfeeding groups and combi feeding groups. There was SO much help, support and education in these groups!!!!! Everything made sense, Alice would have been sleepy from her Jaundice and to pump you have to pump on a schedule in order to boost supply.
It was also reassuring to see that I was not alone and that it’s okay to combi feed! I had quit pumping so many times in the space of 7 months – but I always got back to it, it was like some sort of addiction.
I was burnt out from pumping around the clock
After pumping around the clock for the first 4 months of Alice’s life I was exhausted and burnt out. I was never able to pump exclusively, she was mostly formula-fed apart from 2 feeds a day.
However I was so proud of myself for being able to do that. It also occurred to me that my milk really came in after 12 weeks. I have PCOS so could it have been my hormones that also affected my supply?
At 4 months I decided to stop my morning pump and put her on the breast. She was happy to do so and that was it. I felt the bond I wanted to feel.
Every tear and ounce of milk just felt worth it. My mornings now were me relaxing in bed with my baby instead of rushing to get up and pump before Alice woke up.
I was so overjoyed. I tried to get her to feed during the days but she wasn’t taking it and I was terrified to lose the supply I built up so kept pumping. I was pumping more and more and accepting the way things were.
For the first time I was happy. I was happy to breastfeed, formula feed and pump. I was so proud of myself for achieving the morning feed as I was ready to stop pumping.
Finally, I decided to stop pumping
I spent so much money on different pumps and flanges but finally I decided to stop pumping when Alice was seven months. My two breastfeeds a day were enough and I wanted to spend more quality time with my daughter. Because of pumping, I couldn’t really be out of the house for more than 4 hours at a time. I also needed a bit of a mental break before returning to work.
I spent so much money on different pumps and flanges but finally I decided to stop pumping when Alice was seven months. My two breastfeeds a day were enough.
When I look back on my journey and at the first three months I think to myself the stress and time. Pumping wasn’t worth it – then I remind myself that if I didn’t put that time and energy in then I wouldn’t still be combi feeding my daughter today.
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