When I had my daughter four years ago I had no idea exactly how difficult breastfeeding could be.
I thought it was a matter of latching baby onto your breast, and you were good to go! I had not expected to be in so much pain with each feed and without help I was in too much pain to continue past a few days.
This time around, I was armed with as much information as I could gather. I couldn’t see any reason why this time our breastfeeding journey wouldn’t be successful.
Micah was born five weeks early, which meant that we had to stay in hospital for a week. After a few days of painful feeding and too much weight loss, I ended up having to express full time and try one breastfeed a day to allow my nipples to heal and to ensure that he was getting enough milk. We realised that not only was he tongue tied but his mouth was just too tiny to be able to get a good latch.
To top it off, the hospital had nobody who would snip a tongue tie and a private lactation consultant was not allowed to provide their services on hospital premises.
When his weight declined we found ourselves giving him formula to supplement the milk that I was expressing as I wasn’t getting very much. I quickly went from viewing formula as the enemy to realising that it was a necessary friend! All I could do was carry him in my AmaWrap to allow the skin-to-skin contact to help my milk supply while I was unable to breastfeed him, and to also develop our bond through being so close.
Once out, I had his tongue tie snipped, but feeding was as painful as before. We tried a cranial osteopath to release some of the tension to make his gape wider and get a better latch. It didn’t work.
After a few sessions (we were on about week seven by now) the osteopath realised that his suck reflex was poor due to the tongue tie not allowing him to be able to practise in utero.
At this point each feed consisted of a painful breastfeed, then a bottle feed, then expressing. I had no time in the day to do anything else, yet I was still not ready to give up! I hoped that as he grew older and stronger, his mouth would open wider and his suck would get stronger. The AmaWrap helped loads- keeping him close while he was in only a nappy and I was in only a bra helped us to bond and encouraged him to root for my breast.
Here we are at week eleven! Eleven weeks of breastfeeding, bottle feeding and expressing. It has absolutely gotten easier, breastfeeds are more regular and some feeds are just breast – which I am mega proud of. I am taking fenugreek, eating lots of oats, drinking mothers milk, loads of water, power pumping (10 mins on, 10 mins off for an hour), and most importantly, skin-to-skin babywearing in my AmaWrap. This is now the norm for me. And yes, he has gotten bigger, which means his gape has widened a little and his suck has gotten a little stronger, but we have a long way to go. I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel!
I have had so many people saying “well done for carrying on this far”, but to me failure was not an option.
If anybody else had gone through what I had gone through, I wouldn’t have judged them for switching to formula a long time ago, but I just knew that this time I wasn’t going to give up.
Last minute update – We are now at week 13 and nearly fully exclusively breastfeeding! Its been an incredibly difficult few weeks but so worth it.
To anybody who feels like giving up – if that feels right for you, then great. If it’s not what you truly want to do, then I just want you to know that you do have options. There are breastfeeding groups on Facebook, lactation consultants, nipple shields, NCT, breastfeeding advisors on referral from your health visitor, and many more. You have options, and one person’s normal may not necessarily be your normal. Just do the best you can – that’s all you can do, and you’re doing it, so well done!
About the author
Shabs Kwofie is the founder of AmaWrap.
She is also a baby-wearing consultant and is part of the local MSLC (Maternity Services Liaison Committee), bought together by the hospital and outside services to help to drive improvements. AmaWrap donates wraps to a number of hospital Baby Units.