There has been a lot of discussion between some of my twitter peeps about breastfeeding, however there isn’t much detail one can get into 140 characters, so time for a blog post.
Breastfeeding is definitely the best thing I could have done for both Tom and myself. It’s obviously working for Tom he’s huge and healthy but for me the benefits go further than those advertised, it also gave me something to hold on to when I was feeling at my worst with the PND, no matter how crap I felt about myself I knew that Tom needed me for at least one thing.
It wasn’t easy though, I had a lot of difficulty at the start and it took Simon’s strength of character to keep me at it.
I went to the anti-natal breastfeeding class which was useful as it gave hints and ideas for feeding however the really useful part was warning that there would be really hard nights as the baby kicked up his demand for milk, so it prepared me for difficulties. But I still didn’t have any real idea of how to get a baby to latch, the descriptions in the baby books and magazines didn’t seem physically possible for bipeds and a demonstration using a knitted booby and a doll still didn’t enlighten me.
When I first fed Tom he was placed on my breast by the midwife and I was so out of it that even if she had successfully shown me how to get him to latch I wouldn’t have remembered. Back on the maternity ward I asked if I could have help with breastfeeding. I was promised help the next time I breastfed but each time I fed Tom the midwife who I had spoken to wasn’t available and the ones who did come to help me just put Tom on the booby rather than showing me how to do it myself. I watched intently but when I tried to get him on, he’d latch, but too high and I couldn’t get him to shift. I asked again and again, help was promised but they never seemed to have the time.
Tom had very hard gums which I wasn’t expecting and by the second night he had already caused blood blisters to form on the tips of both nipples, it was agony to feed him. The second night was also when he demanded almost constant feeding. I quickly felt like I had been sucked dry with nothing to give him, he wouldn’t stop screaming, I was in pain from my c-section, my back was hurting and the blisters on my nipples had burst. I asked for help, this time one of the ward assistants came, she was lovely, dried my tears, got me as comfortable as possible, showed me how to get Tom on my breast and promised that she would get one of the night duty midwives along to help me. When the midwife did turn up she was an utter bitch, dismissed my request for help with a “that’s not possible” told me off for gently jiggling Tom to encourage him to feed and left.
It was probably the worst night of my life for physical pain and feeling utterly helpless. As soon as the day shift stared I told them that I would be going home that day, there was no way I was spending a third night under the care of that cow.
So I went home, that night Tom slept right through until morning.
The midwifery care in the community was very good. I came home Sunday lunch time the first midwife turned up Monday morning. It’s a team effort the community midwife care, which meant that I had about 10 different midwives visit in all. They were all lovely and inordinately helpful, but the damage had been done my breasts felt like they had been shredded. Nipple shields are supposed to help protect but Tom hated them and it took real persuasion to get him to feed when I was using one and some days he would demand almost constant feeding. In the end in order to give myself a break and my nipples a chance to heal I modified feeding on demand, if he demanded a feed in less than two hours from the beginning of his last feed I wouldn’t feed him. This wasn’t a strict rule, if he’d had a very bad short feed before then I would feed him.
At the time it seemed to last forever, and I think I’ve blanked out some of the worst bits, but it probably only lasted about a fortnight at most. Talking to Simon about it he can’t remember me having any problems feeding Tom by the time he got his iPhone. But as he says “It was a looong fortnight.”
Now almost 8 months later we’ve hit a new problem – Teeth now Tom’s got gnashers top and bottom it’s become very painful to feed Tom on my right breast unless we are both lying down in bed. It’s not Tom’s fault as he doesn’t tend to use me as a teething toy, but this isn’t very practical or convenient during the day. I’m hoping that my body will learn to cope with the asymmetric feeding patterns, as expressing isn’t really an option. I don’t really want to stop now because I like my biscuits and I’m too mean to fork out for formula for the next 4 months so fingers crossed.