Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Breast feeding Story - The Good, The Bad and The Bitten Boobies

As some of you may know I have two little munchkins of the ages 3 1/2 and 17 months.  As a mum I'm proud to say that both my babies were breastfed.  I have to say that I totally agree that breast is best and it would always be my first choice.  This doesn't mean however that I judge mums who chose not to breast feed their babies.  As well as being a big advocate for breast feeding I'm  an even bigger advocate for doing what you think is best for not only your baby, but mum as well.
I had no problems at all when I started feeding my first born.  She was great.  Fed every 3-4 hours, no reflux, slept well and didn't seem to need to feed on me for comfort.  
Then came baby no.2.  When I found out I was pregnant the second time round I knew straight away that I would breast feed and after the first experience I was quite looking forward to it.  I love being able to have baby all to myself  while they fed and get that lovely bond going.  I couldn't wait.
Mr Moo was born in the early hours of the morning and we were both shattered so he didn't have his first feed until about an hour after he was born.  This is when I realised things weren't going to be as smooth this time round.  The problem was he wouldn't latch.  I couldn't blame him really as we seem to think that babies are born knowing what to do when it comes to feeding but why would they?  The midwife on call at the time gave me some support in the form of pushing my nipple into his mouth and holding his head there!  To be fair to her it was just what he needed to get the hang of things and after that he had no problem latching.  
After coming home with him I joined the local baby group and they had a breast feeding support worker there.  I thought this was a brilliant service.  She would watch him feed and give me really friendly advice and tips on how to make it a bit more comfortable.  I got the chance to get out of the house and we both loved going to group to play with other babies and drink tea with other mummies.  I thought the problems were over and other than the fact he wanted to feed every 20 minutes, they were - until.............
At 4 months old Sam started to get his teeth!
At first this wasn't too much of a problem.  Then during one feed Sam bit down on my nipple and drew blood.  I swear to god it was the most painful thing I'd felt since childbirth.  I took him off and put him on the other boob and he was fine so I thought it was just a one off.  At the next feed I put him back on the bitten boobie and he did the same again.  He drew blood again and it was pretty much in the same place as the first bite.
Because I wanted to keep feeding him myself I decided to put up with it.  It wasn't that easy though.  Each time he fed he was biting and it was usually getting me in the same place.  This meant that the bites were never healing and with him sucking so hard it was agony.  My nipple started to swell and I found it unbearable to even wear my bra.
I mentioned it to the support worker next time I went to group and I was totally shocked at her advice.  I showed her what he was doing and told her that it was getting so painful that I was thinking of putting him onto the bottled formula for 2 months until it was time to wean him.  That way my boob could start to heal and Sam didn't need to fear being flung every time he fed.  She turned to me and said "oh no you shouldn't do that.  Part of being a mum is putting up with the pain and carrying on so he doesn't suffer by not having breast milk"
I went home and cried.  I sat on my settee and cried.  If anyone ever wanted to make me feel like a failure then she just did.  I cried. I'd tried so hard to do what was best for Sam and I knew it wasn't his fault for biting but I also knew I couldn't carry on.  My other half came home and found me in a state and we sat down and talked about it.  He told me he was so proud of me for being able to feed him for as long as I did and that he would be fine going on formula.  It was such a hard thing for me to accept but together we did it and I'm glad I did.  It helped that Steve backed me all the way and he constantly re-assured me that Sam had had the best start and I done everything I needed to do for him.  It was great to have this support from Steve but shouldn't I have been getting this from the professionals??
The bottle meant that Sam could now having bonding time with his Dad and my nipple was finally starting to heal.  Sam thrived on the bottle and was as happy as he'd ever been.
I tried to go back to the group to catch up with some of the other mums and babies that we'd bonded with for the past 6 months but I was told that as I was no longer breast feeding I would have to attend another group!  Needless to say I never did go back to the centre after that!
I totally understand that these support workers, midwives and health visitors have the interests of baby at heart but surely they need to start thinking about the mums.  The fact I was so tense and in so much pain while feeding Sam couldn't have had any benefit to his feeding experience with me surely?
I tried my best and as mums that's all each one of us can do.  Situations change and so do mums and babies and as mums we have to change what we do to best fit the new environment, and if that means not breast feeding then so be it.  We have the right to be supported by these professionals whatever method we decide to use.  As parents we constantly feel guilty about decisions we make when we shouldn't and I don't think that health professionals should add to that guilt.  
I am pro breast feeding but I'm also pro supporting parents - no matter what.

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