That’s not my real journey, though. I’m going to tell the story of a Momma who never dreamed she would breastfeed at all, yet went on to breastfeed her first baby boy until he self weaned at 17 months. A Momma who is four months into her new journey with her second baby boy. The one who finally understands why she breastfeeds.
First I am going to share my hospital experience with you though. Every story needs a little background, some history. Please don’t pity me. I don’t doubt that there are hundreds of women out there like me that aren’t talking about it. The lack of breastfeeding support seems like a dirty secret where I gave birth.
So they gave me a few minutes with Jensen in the room where I gave birth
and I was clueless, and anxious. The books said that babies rooted
towards their mother’s breasts, and this wasn’t happening. My NCT class
told me that baby needed to be “tummy to mummy, nose to nipple” but
that wasn’t happening either. My breasts were enormous and the way I’d
been shown in my breastfeeding class just wasn’t working. It felt so
wrong and I felt so ridiculous and clumsy.
I became a little embarrassed at this point, wondering why my baby did
not want my breast in his mouth. No one in the room seemed bothered by
this; they told me not to worry. He wasn’t feeding, but did he have a
So after my initial attempt in the delivery room to feed my baby was dismissed without explanation as to why he wasn’t keen to feed, we found our place on the ward and the day unfolded before us. My parents visited, Gav’s parents visited, and in between these times I tried to feed Jensen again. Still no luck, no latch…or a latch for a few seconds that pinched and I would get excited, and then he would break off.
By the late afternoon, a very lovely midwife who had earlier shown me how to pump to express a little colostrum suggested that we should try skin-to-skin contact as that would encourage him to want to feed. So my soft skinned boy and I snuggled together in my gown, and I prayed, exhausted from not having slept more than a couple of hours for nearly five days, that he would somehow come around. I was willing the time to go slower. It didn’t go slower and he didn’t come around. He did settle though; the crying subsided and he slipped gently into slumber land. I felt like a Momma; I was his comfort. He needed me.
Shortly after lunch the ward sister said “the specialist” would be in to see me. This person arrived, pulled the heavy privacy curtain around us and tried manhandling my breast, literally stuffing it into my baby’s tiny bird like mouth with his delicate little lips barely open. This made him cry in horror instead, and then she did something which still haunts my heart to this day.
She placed her hand behind his head, grabbed my breast with the other and jammed them together. She held his little head there whilst he struggled against me and gasped for air, trying to cry out for help and I was mortified. I just let it happen. I feel sick to my stomach and so ashamed that I did. My precious newborn. My trusting, vunerable son. He was inconsolable for over twenty minutes. I hugged and kissed and nuzzled and whispered and cried with him behind that heavy blue curtain surrounding our bed which separated us from the people that had hurt him, that scared him and who had treated him so horrifically. I had failed him. I couldn’t feed him and now I’d let him be physically hurt and terrified by someone in this new world of his. I was his Momma, I was supposed to protect him.
Through the night, things didn’t improve. I tried different positions; the rugby ball (after all, I played rugby, surely I could do that?) this hand here, that hand there, cupping my breast, holding him more relaxed, all manner of things. He still had a terrible latch and my nipples were so sore and red. One of them was damaged by now and permanently covered in Lansinoh cream. I had started to pump my colostrum and was feeding Jensen by syringe. I would smile and coo and whisper to him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him, drinking the milk and growing into a big boy.
Inside I was breaking. I was failing him. How was he going to survive ~ on a syringe forever? What made it worse was that I couldn’t understand why the midwives on the ward were merrily handing out the bottles of formula to two other mothers and asking how things were going, showing them how to burp their babies, laughing at how much they were guzzling, and yet I sat in the corner, shielded by the curtain with a tear stained face, constantly with one breast out either pumping or trying to get him to latch, and I felt like a burden each time I asked for the pump. I was a mess and it was obvious I needed support.
The support came. Two midwives on the end of my bed, telling me that I should to top him up with formula if he wasn’t latching. They bought two kinds of teat with them and showed me them like I was choosing a new toy. I was spoken to like an abusive mother. As though I was purposefully withholding food from my baby. I told them through my tears that I just wanted what was best for my baby ~ I even remember saying to them that of course I would feed him formula if he needed it. They seemed happy and gave me the teats to try and left together. I received more instruction on how to attach the teats to the bottle than I did on how to breastfeed.
The following day my husband and I decided that as no further help on the breastfeeding front was forthcoming, we would discharge ourselves. It was like a circus. As soon as Jensen would latch, Gavin would hurry to try and find a midwife to come and check the latch and see if it was correct, because of the pain my nipples were in I couldn’t tell whether it was comfortable or not. By the time the midwife had finished whomever she was attending to and come to see me, Jensen had broken off again and I was left exasperated and making excuses for my lack of success.
The consultant came to see me shortly before I was discharged. He
apologised profusely for the “conflicting” advice and admitted that this
was where the hospital “fell down”. Regardless of his apologies, I was
discharged from the hospital at 11pm into the cold, rainy night air with my pack of rubber teets, an envelope stuffed with leaflets about various baby issues and a contact sheet for breastfeeding support…and a
precious bundle I was beginning to fear.