"When I had my first baby I was set on breastfeeding her but after she was born I suffered a big blood loss resulting in an operation and overnight stay on recovery ward. At 4 in the morning I was visited by a midwife who told me my baby who was on maternity ward was hungry but the recovery nurse wouldn't allow my baby on the ward due to other patients so I had to tell the midwife to bottle feed her as I wasn't going to let her starve. From then on found it very hard and didn't get the support from the hospital midwives that I needed and stopped.
I then fell pregnant with my second baby and was determined to try my best at breastfeeding so after she was born and was the maternity ward I managed to feed but she wouldn't latch on my left side so called for help, the midwife came and put her on and then just assumed she was feeding ok even though I felt uncomfortable I didn't question her and continued. I was never shown any pictures of proper latching. After a few feeds at home my nipples were ripped open and bleeding but managed to continue through the pain. I then found pictures and information online on how to latch so tried and found it so much better. One day I went to a breastfeeding peer group but I was the only one who turned up so didn't get much advice from other breastfeeding mothers. After another few days of sore nipples and tiredness I stopped and moved to formula. After 4 months I am now regretting this and am trying relactation.
I definitely think there needs to be more support from day 1 in hospital as I have found the internet and other fab mothers as my best source."
* Not her real name
"I'd like to share my experience of learning to breastfeed with you, I hope it helps someone else to feel confident that with perseverance and the right support, you can do it too.
I never gave breastfeeding a second thought when pregnant. I just assumed it would all happen like magic - I have boobs, I have a baby, hey presto! Yet what I soon realised is that for me, and for my baby, it was something we had to learn to do.
Due to under-staffing in the hospital (and giving birth on the night shift), I was left to my own devices. Instead of being encouraged to feed as soon as my son was born, I was taken away for some repair work after a very speedy delivery, and didn't see my baby again for 2 hours - by which time he had fallen into a very peaceful sleep in his Daddy's arms. This sleep lasted about 7 or 8 hours - I didn't think to wake him, and wasn't told it might be a good idea to put him to the breast. Now I'm not saying that this is the root of our problems, not at all, but I do think it might have helped if we'd had lots of skin to skin and boob time at the very beginning.
24 hours after giving birth, we'd only had one or two attempts at latching on (again, I was clueless as a first time mum). The midwife asked if he had latched on, I said I would wake him, she disappeared (not her fault, she had too many patients to cope with) and then after a quick suckle, she pronounced that breastfeeding was established, and we went home.
However my sleepy babe continued to sleep. For hours and hours. By the time the midwife visited us at home and told us that he certainly ought to be feeding a lot more frequently, I felt like a failure. Why didn't I know this beforehand? Was it my fault for not paying for NCT classes? The NHS antenatal day (no space on the 6-week course, we had a one-day intensive session) had started with the teacher saying "we won't be talking about breastfeeding".
Meanwhile my son continued to sleep, jaundice set in and didn't clear for 8 days. By which time he'd lost more weight than was acceptable to the midwife, I was having to make my hands cold, strip him and shock him awake with my hands, then my husband was having to massage his feet, ears, hands to try to keep him awake while I endeavoured to feed him. But he would fall asleep within a couple of minutes. We set alarms to wake him through the night, it was such a struggle to get him to feed. All the while the midwives were advising me to top him up with formula, something I knew I didn't want to do. But the guilt was huge - was my determination to breastfeed him putting him at risk?
Finally, after 4 weeks, he regained birth weight. Still exclusively breastfed - and boy was he making up for those missed feeds! Sadly at this point, reflux was diagnosed, and as he was off the bottom of the growth charts, he was put under the care of a paediatrician, who again advised formula "because whatever you are doing isn't working so far". Talk about destroying my confidence. I was mortified. The doctors had no understanding of breastfeeding at all. But somehow I managed to stick to my guns, returned home and breastfed him even more - every time he vomited, we started again. My instincts were telling me that if he had a delicate stomach, the last thing I wanted to do was replace natural breastmilk with artificial milk.
At 4 weeks I was still in pain when feeding - I'd assumed that my nipples should be fine by that stage, but I was crying in advance of feeds, dreading them. That's when my luck changed: I went to a breastfeeding drop in clinic (staffed by volunteers from the 3 main charities). Instantly they spotted that my son had a 50% tongue tie. Something I had asked midwives, health visitors and peadiatricians about and they had all dismissed the idea. 3 weeks later my NHS appointment came through for him to be assessed - we were sent away, told that "as long as he is putting on some weight, all will be fine". FINE??? No consideration for the pain I was in. No consideration for the fact that each feed took 90 minutes. Then he would vomit, and I had to start all over again. And that he was tiring himself out so much with his inefficient sucking that he fell asleep before he'd emptied my breast.
At that point I paid for an independent lactation consultant to come and assess his tongue. She came the same day, and snipped the tongue tie there and then. It was the best £100 I have ever spent. Within 48 hours it no longer hurt to feed him. Feeds dropped from 90 minutes to 45 minutes (big progress for us!). And in a week, he put on 10oz. More than double any previous weight gain. What a relief!
From that point, I started to enjoy feeding my son. We bonded better, as I was no longer resenting the time spent with him at the breast. I cannot praise enough the volunteers who helped us. I feel sad that the NHS staff I was in contact with, whilst they wanted to help us, just did not have the training or understanding of breastfeeding to do so.
Of course after that came the growth spurts and the occasional mad all night feeding sessions. But I became a voracious reader, hunting out information wherever I could (mostly from an online forum where no question was too stupid to get a sympathetic and well-informed response from another mother who was a little further down the track) and I relaxed: aaaaahhh all this is normal? Fabulous, now pass me the tv remote, some water, some cake - we'll plonk ourselves on the sofa and feed feed feed through this growth spurt! Teeth? Fine, I understand he may nip me, but now I know what to do about it. Suddenly waking in the night more? No, it's not because I "don't have enough milk"; it's normal. Pre-6 months solids won't help, after all, what has more calories: pureed carrot or milk? Just feed feed feed and this too shall pass. He won't follow the routine in the books? So what? Feed on demand and everything will be fine. And you know what? It was. Usually on the day when I was beginning to question what I was doing!
Now he is approaching 1 year old and I get quite emotional at the thought that he may want to wean in the next 12 months. I would really like to continue until he's 2 (or beyond? Who knows.) He spends all day charging about now, far too busy playing and discovering new things to stop and have a cuddle with his Mummy. But breastfeeding him, particularly when I feed him to sleep twice a day (no rod in this back!), is an amazing, calm, special time that is just for the two of us.
Does my husband feel left out? Not at all! There are a hundred other things he does with his son that mean that his bond is just as strong as mine is.
Furthermore, breastfeeding isn't just about food. It's much more than that - a way to calm an overtired baby. A way to offer pain relief after vaccinations/a tumble/during teething. A way to send your baby off to sleep. A way to send yourself off to sleep! And many more things besides.
The message I want to give, is that no matter what others may tell you, have confidence in your body's ability to feed your child. Actively seek help - don't rely on NHS personnel (I don't want to criticise them, I am sure there are some excellent ones out there; but the ones I met were not best placed to advise). I have since seen my midwife at a LLL meeting (with her first child). See, they need to learn too! Don't take no for an answer: you can do it, if you get the right support. Talk to your partner and family. Tell them that you really want to breastfeed, and that the best thing they can do for you is to help you have the time to devote to learning it. My husband was my personal butler through the first few months - bringing me drinks, food, entertainment. Before he left for work he would leave me lots of snacks and sandwiches ready made, and bottles of water in each room, so that I could get food and drink one-handed without having to put the baby down.
And now that I feel so passionate about breastfeeding, and am waiting for a space on a peer supporter training course, it upsets me to hear other mums lament that they couldn't breastfeed. Not critical - of course it is every mother's right to choose how they feed their child - but they need the information and support to make an informed choice. Not to be made to feel like formua is their only option, or to be made to feel that if their baby doesn't follow the exact routine laid out in a popular parenting manual, then breastfeeding isn't working for them. And that if they are in pain, there will be a way to fix it, it just needs someone who knows all about breastfeeding to take the time to get to the root of the pain and then work on how to fix it.
I don't want any more women to feel regretful about their breastfeeding experience, or to stop because "they didn't have enough milk".
It should not be necessary for people like me to harp on about how fantastic breastfeeding is - it should be a normal experience for every mother who wants to do it. We shouldn't have to answer the question "are you still breastfeeding?" It should be taken for granted that we'll breastfeed for as long as we want to, thank you very much. Whilst I feel immensly proud of getting to 12 months, I do wonder if this pride is appropriate. I am sure that in other countries, where breastfeeding is the norm, this would cause some amusement, a bit like being proud of still being able to tie your shoelaces.
Yes, it may not come naturally to everyone. But for as long as we do not have family members with breastfeeding experience able to support us (especially those of us born in the 1970s, whose mothers' attempts to breastfeed were undermined by hospital staff who fed newborns with formula in the nursery at hospital), we need volunteer breastfeeding supporters and well-trained NHS staff to help us succeed. And it would be nice if the media would steer away from the myths and sensationalist stories which just further undermine the truth that breastfeeding is natural, it is normal, it is perfectly ok to enjoy it and if you are struggling, you are not alone. The vast majority of problems can be overcome if you are supported."
"My two girls were born at 31 weeks and 35 weeks (that one had IUGR too) I am autoimmune and can't carry naturally, I need to take Heparin, Aspirin and calcium to prevent my body from rejecting my babies. So the age they were is a bonus. Both were born via crash section (second was a planned crash, which is rather unusual) under General Anaesthetic because of my medication.
My 31 weeker latched onto daddies shirt pocket button at 6 days old when it brushed her face during a cuddle so from the next day on she had one latch a day, which she was brilliant at she suckled for ten minutes a time. When she started to take milk too she was allowed two unsupplemented feeds. The next day she screamed when they NG fed her until she was put to the breast and was breastfed from then on.
My 35 weeker was IUGR so went straight to the unit. I saw her briefly at 3 hours and then taken to see her properly when she was 12 hours. I breastfed her every time I saw her, she was never NG fed whilst I was there. I joked that I'd do all but the night feeds, they could call me down in the day but it was too much at night (to wake me up, get a porter to me and then it's a long walk) the following morning I was woken at 7am with a MW saying I was needed in the unit. My heart was pounding but she explained it wasn't feed time and my baby was restless so they wanted me to feed her. I carried on doing her day feeds for two days then we were transferred to transition where I fully took over her feeds and she removed her tube!
They are now tandeming, my eldest daughter was 4 on Saturday (Saturday will be 4 years breastfeeding) and her sister is 18 months.
The photos are dd2 's first latch and the three of us in my parents garden last summer, I'm playing with dd1 and just happen to be breastfeeding."
Eds note: I have highlighted sections of the mother's stories in red to show where their care was questionable in regards to breastfeeding support. The stories above tell of a health care system where breastfeeding support is patchy. Not everyone receives poor support (as Clare's story shows), but it is sadly still the majority who do.
All too often you hear the same things over and over, and it's the mothers & their babies who have to live with the conseqences of these failings. They are so often too exhausted after childbirth to think or ask for help, and many don't understand the basics of breastfeeding - they need and deserve proper support. It is something natural but our young women are not being taught the art of breastfeeding in their homes anymore, and need the help of trained individuals.
The consequences of formula feeding on the physical health and well being of both mothers and their babies is well known.
The psychological effects on both are less well known but potentially just as valid.
When are we going to start shouting and demanding our birth-rights?
More mothers stories coming soon....
More mothers stories coming soon....