I bet I am not the only one who feels or has felt this way, so why do you we do it to ourselves? For me, breastfeeding has put me through an emotional roller coaster and when you already feel insecure it doesn't take much to tip you over the edge. In our journey, it didn't help to have health care professionals rammed down our throats and judge my every move. Most of the time they have never had children, have never experienced our situation, were uneducated on our situation or had a lack of knowledge about breastfeeding. Now that sounds like I am slating the NHS and its workers. So I want to set one thing straight, I love the NHS and think the majority of its workers work extremely hard and are passionate about their patients. I feel very lucky and privileged to live in a country where my healthcare is free and no matter what, I can always get help.
My comments refer to the minority, I unluckily came into contact with. I do not feel that these individuals are at fault, I feel there should be more investment into the NHS so that more training can be offered. Healthcare professionals need to be trained to understand the patients they come into contact with and their needs. Granted they cannot know about every illness, disability or issue and someone will always be their first, but why is there not active education so that from the first meeting of that patient, the professional can be trained on how to support them. I can talk about this forever but my blogs aren't about politics and that's what these issues seem to boil down to.
It's a shame that when you are trying to do the best for your child, you are sometimes treated like a complete idiot, when in fact you know them better than anyone and they should be listening to you about how to care for them. When Charlotte and I were in hospital and when we attend appointments, I run rings around the doctors with information, I can real it off without even thinking about it because I know Charlotte and her needs. I have done the research to back it up and even better I have lived it. There is no better experience than first hand.
The one good thing about my experience is that if we are unlucky enough to have another baby with rhesus incompatibility, I will understand the condition and understand what our baby needs. I will be telling the midwives to get me a feeding cup, hunt for a breast pump and jump on it multiple times a day, for as long as possible because I will know best.
I will be telling them what to do, why? Knowledge is power and it gives you confidence, knowing what you are talking about. That is the reason for writing my post and this one, to give another mum out there the confidence to go with her gut instinct and give her the confidence to fight for her child. Hopefully they will have an easier experience than we have.
I believe the main reasons for my difficulty in supply, are due to the important missed opportunities to pump and feed in the early days. I am told that breastmilk is about supply and demand, so why was it I could never increase my supply and have surplus available. I have also desperately needed medication and supplements to keep my milk going.
If we do have another baby, we should know during pregnancy if our baby is rhesus incompatible and so with this knowledge, I plan to start establishing my supply before I give birth. When I was around 32 weeks pregnant with Charlotte, I started leaking colostrum and every midwife I spoke to recommend that I stimulated my milk as apparently it does something to the uterus which helps with labour and feeding after. Now don't quote me on this but my second stage of labour was so fast so I will definitely be doing it again next time.
With Charlotte, I started stimulating at 35 weeks by gently massaging breast until my milk flowed. I was able to get a couple of 1ml syringes in the freezer. Doing this a lot more next time, I should hopefully have a good little supply to take into hospital with me in place of the bottles of cow and gate I took last time. Also my milk should be well established for when the baby is born. I hope armed and dangerous, I shall be a lot better equipped to handle a poorly baby and by that time a toddler/child (depending on how old Charlotte is) as well, God help me!
Well that's enough about the future, as for now we are not even considering another baby, no matter how much my body is telling me I want one :). Charlotte still has a lot going on with her reflux and suspected allergies and requires a lot of my time. She is the most important person and I am going to enjoy every bit of her and being her mum. I want things to settle down and her to be of an age where she will understand why mummy's not around, if it comes to that. I want to be a part of it and be able to explain that mummy has to go in to hospital so the doctors can make the baby in her tummy better. At this moment in time, she still needs me so much and depends on me. She loves her feeds and her mummy cuddles, why should she have to share that or not have me around to give that to her. I would be selfish to take that from her.
For now we are still feeding and as of today, I am now expressing once a day for 15 minutes. I am in the process of debating whether to continue expressing but reduce the time or stop expressing all together. My concern is that I could loose my milk if I stop expressing as Charlotte breast feeds so inconsistently. Some days she feeds really well, in the morning when she wakes up, before and after nap time, before bed and sometimes once or twice through the night. Other times I am lucky if is she feeds for more than a couple of seconds. She can continue either way for a few days and in that time my milk could stop all together.
The fact is, Charlotte is not dependent on my milk anymore. Food and cows milk can sustain her, when she eats that is, but that's for another blog. So the main question is am I ready? If Charlotte doesn't feed then my milk will eventually go naturally but I love our feeding time.
I know I have done amazingly to get her this far but emotionally am I ready to stop? In this last week we have had issues with Charlotte clamping down while feeding. She now has four teeth, two at the top and two at the bottom, so its like a piranha feeding. This made me consider for the first time to stop feeding all together. My nipples are sore and bleeding and I hurt at the thought of her feeding. I always break the seal of her latch and try swapping sides to stop her biting me. This normally helps and most the time works to get her to stop. She's not doing it maliciously but still not at all comfortable.
I was originally expressing three times a day for 40 minutes each time. Since dropping two of the pumping sessions and reducing the time spent pumping, my family life has drastically improved. I spent so much time on the pump that my family was affected. If it wasn't Charlotte crying at my legs in a morning , it was missing out on spending time with Ricky and Charlotte in the evening when he got home from work or being so exhausted at night but having to stay awake to pump. It got to stage that we all loathed the pump and the time it was stealing from our lives. In total, I spent 2 hours a day pumping.
In the early days, pumping for 2 hours a day or more made sense as I was giving Charlotte that liquid gold but when we started introducing cows milk there was very little of my milk in her bottle. At the moment, I am pumping less than two ounces a day which is being divided amongst her three 4 ounce bottles, so what I am I really doing it for? That's 15 extra minutes that Charlotte could have her mummy. Granted it doesn't have that big an impact as I tend to pump while Daddy is giving Charlotte her tea.
Knowing all of this, it is still emotionally hard for me to deal with the thought of my milk stopping. How will I cope with that? There is also the issue that Charlotte struggles with food and doesn't always eat. As long as my milk is available, she is having some sustenance and how can I forget the benefits of continued breastfeeding. She is still being given all sorts of antibodies to protect her.
For now, I still can't decide and after forgetting to express yesterday, with being so busy, my breasts hurt today. Clearly, I am still producing to much milk to just stop expressing so I am going to continue to express, but reduce it down so that it affects my family life as little as possible. Plus I still want my perfect little lady to have the best.
That's why I know "Breastfeeding isn't just about Milk, It's about Love".