I had a mixed feeding bag with Ezra’s older brother but achieved breastfeeding happiness in the end so was confident about feeding him myself too, however, it hasn’t been as straightforward as I’d anticipated.
He popped my waters the week before his planned section so we were a bit flustered on his arrival but he was happy and healthy enough. I, on the other hand, was having a spot of bother. The recovery room closes at our local maternity hospital at 9pm and as it took them quite some time to finish rummaging behind the blue screen I wasn’t out until 9.10pm. This meant I was deposited back onto labour ward where the poor midwives had to look after me as well as all the ladies pushing their babies out the proper channels. No worries, I was sore but coping and managed some skin to skin. I did have an initial moment of complete panic as he seemed completely unable to latch and I didn’t know what to do. It was as if my world was crashing down around me, I was failing, he was going to starve, we were all going to die but a passing midwife shoved my breast into his face in the brusque manner some have and we achieved feeding. Apocalypse averted.
Then my spinal block wore off.
There was nothing between my nerve endings and whatever had gone on behind that blue screen and I have never been in so much pain in my life. I couldn’t hold the baby let alone feed him and he spent the next couple of hours tucked up his Daddy’s scrubs while they both dozed on the sofa in the corner. (Actually, he is a real Daddy’s boy and I’ve often wondered if it’s a result of all the ‘power of the first hour’ type stuff. They bonded anyway.) My anaesthetist had gone home (of course) so someone else had to be procured. Eventually a lovely lady sat by my bed with a syringe of morphine in each hand and just kept shooting it in until I regained consciousness and stopped weeping with pain. I was hooked up to a pump of the good stuff and spent the next couple of days fairly spaced out. If you came to see me then I thank you and apologise if I don’t remember it.
Meanwhile, back on the ward…we all know breastfeeding can hurt to start with and I was prepared for that but either I’d forgotten or this was a whole new level of pain. And I was drugged to the eyeballs remember? My nipples were bleeding already (thank goodness for Lansinoh), he was feeding ALL THE TIME but never seemed satisfied and it was so much harder than I remembered. I asked whether it could be a tongue tie as his teeny tiny tongue could hardly poke out of his mouth and it was heart shaped at the end. I was assured he was fine. I was given this assurance many times by multiple midwives and health visitors despite his lack of weight gain.
I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong and why I was failing at this feeding lark until I went to our local Bosom Buddies and their resident expert said she thought I was right. (HUGE sigh of relief and a massive shout out to Mrs N!) On the strength of her expertise our GP referred us to the clinic, they confirmed he was tongue tied and snipped it on the spot! He was nine weeks old. I was told at this appointment that ‘many women find it more comfortable straight away’. To put it mildly, this was NOT my experience. We had to completely re-learn how to feed and that wasn’t comfortable and it took us another couple of weeks to really find our groove but once we’d cracked it we’ve never looked back. He’s 15 months old now and latches on like a dream.
Now, that would be a good place to leave our story, you know, like in ‘The Sound of Music’ when they should have stopped at the wedding? But sadly for us there’s more. Although The Snip made it possible for us to feed without pain my poor little baby was far from comfortable. He would have screaming fits day and night, had epic reflux and was not a happy chap. I’ve been told that reflux is ‘just a laundry problem’ but Ezra’s pain had nothing to do with the washing mountain. Having been down the food intolerances path with his brother I went on an elimination diet and within 3 days of cutting out dairy he stopped screaming completely and his reflux improved dramatically. He does seem to be very sensitive, a couple of squares of chocolate in the evening for me and the next afternoon he’s screaming in pain, so I don’t test it any more. When Ezra was about three months old we saw a paediatrician who diagnosed him officially. Although I do miss cheese I’m getting pretty good at dairy free cooking now and breastfeeding is for such a short time really that I think it’s worth the sacrifice.
Sadly, that feeling was not shared by our Health Visitor at his 12 month check up. Despite thriving on my dairy free milk (he’s only on the 2nd centile but he’s healthy and happy and someone has to be there!) we had one of those circular conversations where you just can’t find common ground…
HV: So, what does he drink?
Me: I’m still feeding him myself.
HV: Ok, but what is he going to drink now?
Me: Well, he’s dairy intolerant (you’d know that if you’d read his notes) so I’ll keep feeding him myself for now.
HV: Yes but what are you going to feed him?
You get the idea! This went on for an intolerably long time until she recommended a special formula costing £50 a box but I could get on prescription if I was quick. When I expressed concerns over what it was made from she assured me it was ‘completely synthetic’. Er…no thanks!
I understand that health professionals are overworked and underpaid and I hold out hope that there are a whole load of gems out there. We did have one wonderful midwife who taught me to feed lying down, for which I profusely thank her! On the whole though, we have had some dreadful advice and it has been Google, my Mother and our own determination which has kept us going. My husband and I recently stood in the reception area of our local clinic looking at the ‘who’s who’ board and to us it read like ‘wanted’ posters for crimes against new Mums and breastfeeding. We stood whispering to each other, ‘Is that the one who told us to put H. on the bottle?’ ‘That’s the one who told me I had to get dressed first thing in the morning days after my section.’ ‘That’s the one who offered me sleeping tablets when I asked for help.’ ‘Which one said…’ Again, you get the idea!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if the advice of the professionals doesn’t ring true to you absolutely get a second opinion, it made ALL the difference for Ezra’s tongue tie. We found the Bosom Buddies to be absolute lifesavers, you ladies are AMAZING!
Now, if I could only get him to sleep…