29 May 2012

My breastfeeding scars

Is it only me or are you getting sick and tired of reading articles about breastfeeding in some form, which then turns into a debate on "breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding"?

Breastfeeding "Cherub" in hospital, one of the moments I enjoyed.
It upsets and annoys me when people, not just Mums, judge other people because they aren't breastfeeding or because they had to give their child formula, or as one person quoted "the artificial stuff companies are trying to push".

People should not be judged on whether they breastfeed or bottle-feed their babies, as long as their baby is healthy, being fed, and are being brought up in a safe environment with parent/s doing everything possible to make sure they have a healthy & happy child is whats important.

Don't get me wrong I am not against breastfeeding, if you can do it, that's great. It's a lovely bonding experience for you and your bub, and your bub is getting all the antibodies and nutrients from you.

I guess I'm a little sensitive on this topic because I didn't have the greatest experience with it. Cherub is now 8 months old, and is on formula and solids. She was breastfed until she was 8 weeks, I would have loved to been able to have breastfed her longer.

Most of my memories are of my girls not being able to suckle or latch on properly or get any milk out of me, which made them cry uncontrollably and resulting in me comp feeding them with a full bottle of formula after spending 30 minutes to an hour trying to breastfeed. Only when they had drank the bottle, were they happy and content.

Popette was born at 29 weeks + 3 days gestation, due to me developing severe pre-eclampsia and Hellp syndrome. As a result of me being sick and having polycystic ovarian syndrome my milk didn’t come through properly, and I was put on motilium for 3 months with Popette being comp fed with breastmilk and formula.

Over the first 4 months I tried so hard to breastfeed her, but had a lot of obstacles in my way. I had flat nipples so tried a nipple shield, but Popette had a hard time sucking because she was still so small and had issues latching on as she was also tongue-tied. I desperately wanted to breastfeed Popette as I thought it would be the best thing for her, especially since she was born premmie and missed out on the important stages of growing during the last trimester. So I expressed every 3 hours by her bedside in the NICU, as well as hired a electric breast pump from the chemist so I could express every 3 hours at home...which is the hardest thing when you don't have your sweet little baby lying next to you. I had gotten help from a lactation nurse and the nurses within the NICU, but still struggled with breastfeeding my baby.

After months of struggling to breastfeed, and a depleting milk supply, I finally decided that I would stop and put Popette on formula full-time. It wasn't an easy decision to make, it upset me that I couldn't give Popette the nutrients she needed and I felt a failure that I couldn't breastfeed her.

I had a very similar experience with Cherub, who was a healthy, full-termer born at 38 weeks.

While I was in hospital my milk never properly "let down" so I never got to experience my breasts becoming hard and painful because they were so full of milk. So when Cherub was 3 days old I was placed on motilium (again) for approximately two months to try and increase my milk supply, it worked for a little while, but once I was weaned off the medication my milk dried up again. It was very upsetting as I wanted it to be a different experience with Cherub.

It upsets me when people suggest it's the mother's fault for not being properly informed, or for not getting advice from the ABA, ECN, Midwife or Lactation consultant etc.

With Cherub I had all the information, but not good support. When I was in hospital with Cherub (which was a very new experience for me) most of the time I had uncaring, unsupportive, rude nurses and midwives, which made it an upsetting time, instead of the joyous, exciting time it should have been. There was one lovely nurse who helped me a couple times when I buzzed. But the others were too busy helping other mums. What annoyed me is that they "assumed" that I should know how to breastfeed because I already had a child. Boy, where they wrong!

Whenever I asked for help, they would only pop in for a minute to tell me the baby was correctly attached and then would leave to help someone else. I had a hard time trying to breastfeed, and on day 2 had cracked nipples because of incorrect attachment causing me pain. After struggling to breastfeed Cherub I gave her a bottle of formula which was frowned upon by the nurses.

When it was time for me to leave I was so upset and miserable. I left the hospital feeling helpless and unable to cope with a new baby, not to mention a toddler who was having issues with Mummy being away from her for so long.

I think healthcare professionals need to be more supportive to mothers and their babies, and be there for them if they decide they want to breastfeed or give their child formula. Sometimes you don't have a choice but to put your baby on to formula.

My girls are now 3.5 years old and 8 months and are strong, healthy, happy girls. I don't think they get sicker any more than children who have been breastfed, this has been proven by many of my daughter's friends who are sick a lot and were breastfed up until 1 to 2 years of age.

I'm so grateful (this should have been my grateful post!) that there is and was formula to feed my two girls. I don't know what would have happened if the NICU didn't have formula to give Popette when I was unable to express enough breastmilk. There was times when I could only express 10-30ml, not enough when your baby is up to 70ml or 120ml - 4 hourly feeds. I remember my husband dropping off the precious breastmilk I tried so hard to express before heading off to work, and at times it was too late as they had already fed my daughter formula.

This has been a very hard topic for me to write about. It still gets me upset to this day, even though its been a long time since I breastfed both my girls.


  1. Your story sounds very familiar... I wish there wasn't so much guilt attached to this decision. My memories of the early days will always be dominated by this struggle- carting around a pump, sterilising, trying to breastfeed a baby for 30 mins, comping, and repeating this process. As my Doctor said 'breast is not always best'.

    1. Unfortunately the Early Childhood Nurses didn't make the decision any easier, they had a way of making me feel guilty for giving up even though I tried so hard to make it work.


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