Monday, 23 January 2017

Breastfeeding: My Story and Views. Bullying, Smugness and All.

The breastfeeding debate is something I feel strongly about. Let me tell you my story, or should I say my nightmare, so you can understand why.

The Best Version of Kelly

My daughter Annie was born in October 2008. I wanted to feed her myself. I imagined it would be a wonderful and special experience and I had been regularly told it would be better for her.
I thought I was doing fine and the midwives told me I was doing great. I expected it to hurt but not to the extent it did. My husband couldn’t watch me feed as he hated seeing me wince in pain.  I bled a lot too. Annie would take a break from feeding and blood would dribble from her mouth, I found that upsetting and concerning.

Annie was a very unsettled baby. She cried a lot and barely slept, more than once she went 6 – 8 hours without a minute of sleep and she was so distressed. Yet the midwives when they visited just said it was normal, one said ‘babies do cry, be grateful you have your husband, I had to do it alone.’

As she tuned two weeks old I noticed she had green bits on about 6 of her fingernails. We went straight to the GP. When the GP opened Annie’s clothing to examine her she was shocked to see how thin she looked and called the hospital immediately. Me and her Dad drove her straight to the hospital, we were so exhausted and so scared.

Annie had to have blood tests and had a tube inserted to her hand ready to take a drip. She also had to have a lumbar puncture, where fluid is taken from the spine, we had to stand outside the room whilst they did it as we were told it would be too traumatic to watch. At that point I couldn’t imagine anything making me feeling more traumatised than I already felt.

We were put in a side room to wait whilst a room on the ward was found. The nurses brought me a machine so I could extract milk so they could monitor how much Annie was drinking. I tried my best but could barely extract any, they said when I was done to let them know so it could be refrigerated. My husband went out countless times to tell them but they were so busy no one came for over an hour at which point they declared the milk useless as it hadn’t been refrigerated and they poured it away!

I was defeated. I insisted at that point I couldn’t feed her any longer and for the sake of seeing how much she was drinking I would switch to bottles.

Eventually after hours of waiting we were taken to a room on the ward where I could stay with Annie and she was started on a course of antibiotics for the infection on her finger nails. I had to record how much milk she drank and she was weighed regularly.
We were in for a total of 5 days. I stayed the whole time. When I arrived on the ward I was asked if I was breastfeeding. I said no and was made to feel like a second-class citizen. I was told they only provided food for mothers who were breast feeding. I had to wait for our visitors to come each day so I could go and get something to eat.

The Best Version of Kelly

To this day, I don’t know what caused the infection, it was never explained to me. All I cared about at that time was that Annie was getting better and putting on weight. When we arrived home she immediately started to cry less and sleep more. I was still paranoid though and noted what she drank at each feed for weeks after.

In January 2012, my son Freddie was born. I had decided I wouldn’t breast feed him. I couldn’t risk having what happened with Annie happen again and I knew if I breastfed I would be constantly worried and stressed and that wouldn’t do him any good.
The midwife that delivered him asked me whilst I was in labour if I planned to feed him, I said no and explained my reasons. I felt the need to justify my answer as I knew she wouldn’t approve. I was right she didn’t. Whilst I was in the second stage of labour (the worst phase) she was trying to convince me to change my mind by telling me that he would get sick much more often if I didn’t. How cruel to emotionally blackmail a woman at that time!

The Best Version of Kelly

Midwives are amazing in so many ways. I respect the work they do greatly. I just think they can force the breast-feeding issue too much and it verges on bullying.

My advice would always be that if you are happy to try breast feeding go for it and if you’re lucky it will work for you however if it doesn’t or if you are not enjoying it then change it, a happy mummy means a happy baby.

Having not breastfed feels like a dirty secret. I’m often made to feel inadequate or less of a mother when I read articles and social media threads on the subject. Let’s please be less judgmental of those who for whatever reason didn’t breastfeed. If you did manage it then be eternally grateful and please never be smug.

For the record both Annie and Freddie are very well children. I’m scared of tempting fate writing this but to date Annie has only had two upset tummies and Freddie just one. In three and a half years of school Annie has only had one day off sick.

Thank you for reading

Kelly x


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12 comments

  1. Dear Kelly,thank you for sharing your experience. I didn't have enough milk to fully breastfeed my baby girl while in the hospital after her birth and just with that some nurses were quite rude. I was lucky and it started to be much better after we came home and I started to eat edible food and get rid of stress. She is 4months old and fully breastfeed and growing like a weed but your experience can help to a lot of moms. Have a great day, week, life with your cute and surely happy daughter and son:)

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    1. Thank you for reading. I'm sorry the nurses were rude and I'm so glad you got to where you wanted to be in the end x

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  2. You wrote this in a very balanced way, which is very strong of you because I can more than understand if you hold bitterness and resentment after your awful experiences!

    I look at breastfeeding the same way I see solids. Some parents will choose an organic vegan diet, some will rely more on fish fingers and beans. They are both doing their best for their child, and as long as said child is healthy and happy, that's what matters.

    It's absolutely not okay to shame mothers who can't or don't breastfeed. Having a newborn is the most emotionally and physically exhausting experience, and I'm really sorry that you were not supported enough through it.

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    1. Thank you so much. Comments like this mean a lot. I have been bitter at times but am trying to let go of that. It's such a monster of an issue for so many and I wanted to share my piece of that x

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  3. Thank you for sharing this post, I think the choice to not breastfeed needs to be talked about more. Like you I wanted to breastfeed my son. When he was born premature at 35 weeks, he had swallowed fluid and was having difficulty breathing. He was placed on Oxygen in an incubator, where he remained for two weeks. As my milk had come in, I was expressing it but was unable to hold or feed him myself as he was too ill. Once he came off the Oxygen we were both discharged onto the TCU ward, to try and establish breastfeeding. Up until now, he'd been fed breast milk I'd expressed through a tube. I could not get him to latch on properly. I tried every position imaginable, but my milk flow was too fast for him to stay latched on, and he was too sleepy to remain awake to take a full feed. After a further week and two bouts of mastitis later, I made the decision to express and bottle feed. He had two months of this until my milk dried up and I formula fed the remainder of the time. The whole time I tried breastfeeding I didn't feel comfortable and said so to the midwives, but as soon as I started bottle feeding they almost washed their hands of me, something that - as a first time mother - I found incredibly upsetting. I don't know why we stigmatise bottle feeding mothers but it needs to stop. As lon as the baby is happy, healthy and gaining weight appropriately, we should learn to respect a mothers choice on how she feeds her baby, not ridicule her.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's so sad such a special time can be overshadowed by the pressure to breastfeed. I agree that the stigma of bottle feeding must end x

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's so sad such a special time can be overshadowed by the pressure to breastfeed. I agree that the stigma of bottle feeding must end x

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  4. That's horrible! If for some reason breastfeeding isn't' working, your baby needs to eat and you don't need to be shamed. So sorry that happened to you mama! And trying to convince you to nurse your kiddo while you're in labor? I mean really. I'm having contractions right now! Not interested in talking about this. Or talking at all really. It would be so terrifying having a baby in the hospital with no idea what's going on. I might bawl my eyes out! Great job getting your kids fed! You're a good mom!

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    1. Thank you. Comments like this make sharing my breastfeeding story worthwhile x

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    2. Thank you. Comments like this make sharing my breastfeeding story worthwhile x

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  5. As a midwife, I'm so sorry that you felt bullied ♥

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  6. This is an absolutely horrific account of exactly how new mums should not be treated by healthcare officials. As much as I think breastfeeding is amazing, I also dont think it is the be all and end all. Fed is most definitely best and no mum should be made to feel there is a right or wrong when it comes to feeding her baby. I'm so sad that you didnt get the support you needed, but thank you for sharing your story as part of my #BreastfeedingStories series, hopefully it will help other mums to be avoid a similar experience or help new mums that have also experienced something similar. Emily x

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