our breastfeeding stories

Mum of Two

Before I had children, I always knew i wanted to breastfeed. I didn’t give much thought to it and like many believed it to be one of those things that would come very naturally. I also thought that once your child reached 6 months, then that was the time you stopped breastfeeding and gave formula. I also thought it quite a horrid thought to breastfeed a child with teeth! In reality my entire breastfeeding experience was quite different!

I had my son at Leicester General. After he was born, he was wrapped up in a blanket and handed to me. Unfortunately he showed no sign of wanting to feed and when prompted to, he was having none of it. After 8 hours, I was ready to go home but my son still hadn’t fed. Thankfully a very kind midwife suggested that I be discharged to St Mary's, as they were fantastic and able to offer breastfeeding support.

So off to St Mary's i went! Feeding was very difficult at first, sometimes he tried to latch on, most of the time he didn’t. It was frustrating but because I was in such good hands, I didn’t stress too much. Every time my son was due for a feed and I hadn’t been able to get him on, someone sat with me and offered advice and support. That is how I realised that to some new mums and babies, breastfeeding is a learned skill and isn’t necessarily second nature! On day 3, a health care worker sat with me for 45mins. Every time my son made a motion to latch on, she guided him and after those 45 minutes he did it properly!! It’s safe to say that once you have had a baby, you really don’t mind what people see of you!

It took about 2 weeks before my son really got the hang of it. During this time, because he often didn’t latch on properly and I was too tired to re-attach him and then wait another 10mins of ‘on and off’s’ before he attached properly, it all got quite painful, to the point where breastfeeding was excruciating! To make it worse he fed every 1 ½ to 2 hours (start to start) and seemed to take an age to feed too, so it felt like I was always feeding! He also got quite upset that he wanted food but wasn’t able to get it immediately, as latching on was usually so time consuming. During the early weeks, I had 2 trips to the doctors, many tears, mastitis, thrush in my milk ducts (ouch!) and a routine of expressing, so things had time to heal. 6- 8 weeks finally passed and things began to settle down.

During that time, many well meaning family members and friends asked if i ever considered stopping. There were times, through the tears that it fleetingly crossed my mind but I am so pleased I didn’t. I’m a stubborn person, so ‘it’ wasn’t going to win and I used to suffer quite badly with eczema. I knew breastfeeding reduced the risk of my son suffering too and this was the reason for my stubbornness! I can totally appreciate why many mothers, no matter how strong their desire to breastfeed is, decide enough is enough, if they haven’t got the advice and support they need, or the knowledge of how to make it better.

After that experience and because I was so proud of myself that I had worked through it and come out the other side, I began to enjoy the experience. My son settled into his own routine, he slept through from 7pm to 7am at 8 weeks, although i did breastfeed him at 11pm each night until he was about 9 months! There was never any crying like newborns do when the breastfeeding journey begins either! He developed a routine in the day, so when I went out I could make sure i was somewhere I could feed him at those times and his feeding duration reduced too. By about 4 months, he was pretty quick. I distinctly remember looking at him around this time and thinking how amazing it was that he was developing and growing solely from the food he was getting from me. It was a nice feeling to have. I weaned him onto solids at 6months, which was very easy and I continued to offer him breast milk throughout the day, at the times he roughly fed before. The amount he took at some of these times decreased, so I stopped feeding him at those times. I never considered stopping, I knew that milk was still the most important nutrition for him until he turned 1 and both of us were quite happy. Growing teeth didn’t cause any problems either, much to my surprise!

My son started to show signs he really wasn’t interested in breastfeeding around 13 months. He only fed morning and bedtime and once attached, pretty much came off as something else was more interesting. At 14months we stopped feeding. He was happy and I was happy. There were no weaning tears and I didn’t experience any problems by stopping overnight either. He had obviously reduced his intake over time, so that the amount of breast milk he was getting at the end was nominal.

I was lucky that I had supportive friends and family, who although did think at times that I was mad, did support me emotionally and help me deal with it the way I wanted to. My son has a small tongue tie and I have since learnt that this can make breastfeeding very difficult at first, it can also cause many problems for mum. Looking back on it, although those first couple of months seemed like an eternity, in reality they go so quickly. I then had a whole year to experience a very good and happy breastfeeding relationship with my son and I’m pleased I provided him with all the associated benefits.

My experience with my daughter was totally different. I had her at St Marys after a very speedy arrival. She was passed to me naked and we had a good long period of skin to skin contact. She fed with no prompting from me and that was that. Always a quick feeder, never more than 10 minutes on each side and usually only about 5 minutes. No pain, apart from mastitis once, in the very early days but that was because she hadn’t fed for a while. She certainly didn’t feed as frequently as her brother. For about a month, when she was very small, she did seem to feed a lot from 5.30-9pm. She soon stopped however, with no prompting from me. I was told this was quite common and referred to as cluster feeding.

I weaned her at 6 months which wasn’t too successful at first; until i stopped giving purees and let her eat proper solids off a proper plate. She didn’t really ‘sleep through’ until she was 16months old either! She is now 20months and still having a morning and evening breastfeed, although she is starting to lose interest on the bedtime feed. I know that breastfeeding her, up until the age of 2, will give her health benefits that will last into her adult hood and when she hits 2yrs, if she hasn’t wanted to stop before then herself, I may make a conscious effort to wean. In the meantime we are all quite happy. I’m happy that what I am doing is giving her the best thing I can give her and its very little effort from me too!

I believe my daughters very positive start to breastfeeding, although mainly down to her was also helped by my experience breastfeeding my son. I knew how to hold her, knew if she was or wasn’t on properly, knew what was normal and what wasn’t, so I was able to deal with it all much more effectively. With my son, I was completely in the dark on how to breastfeed.

My mum breastfed me but she lived in Scotland and she also had a fairly straight forward experience with it. Because i didn’t know what breastfeeding should really be like and because I was given some bad advice at one point, then I didn’t ask for the help I obviously needed. Some of the things I experienced weren’t necessary, or I shouldn’t have ‘put up with them’ for as long as I did. If i had known what i know now, then I believe my initial breastfeeding experience would have been quite different.

Biography of R

I had a very easy and enjoyable breastfeeding experience with my daughter. Following a natural birth, Isabelle and I had skin to skin contact immediately and she was latched on within the first 10 minutes. She was rooting for the breast and needed very little guidance on what to do, like a duck to water!

Isabelle was a hungry baby and fed every 2 hrs during the day for the first 8 weeks. She was also a big fan of cluster feeding between the hours of 5 and 9pm for her first few months which was fairly tiring and at times I thought I would never leave the sofa again! However, once she was 3 months old she was feeding every 3 hrs during the day and only waking once in the night for a quick feed, and she slept through by 6 months. I continued breastfeeding her until she was 11 months. By this point she showed very little interest in feeding from me. I was also 14 weeks pregnant so decided it was the right time for both of us to stop.

My next baby is due in 2 months and I’m really looking forward to doing it all again.

Biography of S

My son was born with the aid of ventouse after a lengthy labour. The time it took for us to be moved from theatre to a recovery room seemed forever, and when, alone, I tried to get him to feed it was almost an hour after the birth and he was nearly falling asleep. It didn’t go well and I was annoyed that because of the difficult birth I hadn’t had skin-to-skin contact or had the chance to breastfeed earlier in ‘the magic hour’.

Later, in the post natal ward I tried again and he seemed to be latching on but it really hurt and it didn’t look like he was getting any milk. After about an hour I took him off and he cried so I put him back on again. I asked a nurse if he was latched on properly and she said he was but it just didn’t feel right and she didn’t help me. I was completely exhausted and so was he, we both kept dropping off to sleep as he tried to feed but if I tried to put him in his cot he just screamed so he was pretty much permanently attached to me. I really needed some rest so a nurse gave him a syringe of formula. The lady next to me was in a similar situation so it seemed like a good idea at the time and it seemed to satisfy him even though it felt a bit wrong as I really wanted to breastfeed. After 2 nights is hospital, just as I was about to leave, a lactation consultant eventually came round. I was hooked up to an industrial scale expressing machine and she gave him the pathetic amount of colostrum that I managed to produce (I didn’t realise that colostrum is only produced in very small amounts so there was nothing actually wrong with me!) I was advised to go and buy an electric breast pump and some formula to top him up on.

Back home and a few days later and my nipples are cracked, bleeding and very sore. I automatically thought that because I have very small breasts that I wasn’t producing enough milk for my very large hungry baby. He was week old when a friend who is also an NCT teacher called in to see us. She ended up spending 2 hours with us getting him latched on properly and he had his first ‘proper’ feed. We’re much happier! I’m reassured that I’m producing enough milk by regular weight checks, the amount baby sometimes threw up and the distance it spurts across the room if he became unlatched!

After that initial first week of nightmares I had no other great problems. The only issues I had were trying to do a 3-4 hour routine as advised by the books and the mother in law. In the end I took the advise of a La Leche League Leader at a meeting I went to who said to feed him when he wanted. So I did, and stopped worrying about routines. My son cut his first teeth at 5 months but they didn’t cause any problems. It was only when his upper teeth came through and he thought it was really funny to bite me that it got a bit painful. However I carried on until just before his first birthday.

K's personal breastfeeding reflections:

MY first son was born at the Leicester General, following a very straightforward but also very quick labour. At first, he showed no interest in breastfeeding. I was advised that his indifference could be down to his quick arrival. The midwives told me not to worry, that we could try again later. They didn’t encourage me to have skin-to-skin contact with my son but instead bundled him up in blankets and gave him to his daddy to hold. For several hours, I tried to encourage my son to feed but without success.

Because we were yet to establish breastfeeding, I decided to move from Leicester to the St Mary’s Birth Centre, Melton Mowbray. Soon after our arrival (and much to my bemusement!), I was hooked up to a breast pump. The midwives used a syringe to administer expressed colostrum (the important first milk) to my son but I could not persuade him to breastfeed from me. He would not latch on and, even when he did latch on, he would fall asleep. The midwives at St Mary’s were wonderful. They sat with me for hours, stripping him off to feed, tickling his toes when he nodded off and trying endless different feeding positions. But our problems became increasingly upsetting. Other women were cradling their babies, feeding them – why couldn’t I? Worse was to come, though, when my milk ‘came in’. Because my son wasn’t feeding, my breasts became badly (and very painfully) engorged – now, since my breasts were so swollen, he stood almost no chance of feeding.

Eventually, a midwife suggested I use nipple shields. They worked! Five days after he was born, my son had his first proper breastfeed. Once we had got the hang of things, we never looked back. We went on to share a fantastic breastfeeding experience together.

MY second son was born at St Mary’s. Immediately he arrived, I insisted on having skin-to-skin contact with him. Within 30 minutes or so (and needing only a little guidance!) he had found my breasts and was feeding. Apart from just slight engorgement as my milk ‘came in’, we have had no problems and are loving our breastfeeding journey so far.