Though it may seem trivial to some, this for me is a really hard post to write due to my previous breastfeeding guilt with J.
Breastfeeding is something I really wanted to achieve this time. I had armed myself with information which lovely people had provided, telephone numbers and ready for the support of the local breastfeeding support peers. I (foolishly) convinced myself that I would ‘get it’ this time. That we would get it.
If you have read the posts from the early days after N was born, then you’ll know that it just didn’t happen like that (parts 1, 2 & 3). Even in hospital, as much as I wanted to come home, I persevered. Perseverance worked, as he finally latched and we went home.
Once we were home I continued to express as I had been doing in hospital. The B.A.B.E.S. came out to check on us and gave me a nipple shield as even though he was latching, it wasn’t good. This was so much better and we continued using it. But even then he was very fussy, so we were mainly giving EBM from a bottle as it was very upsetting for both of us.
For me, I found expressing so time consuming and tiring. Add that to the fact that when I wasn’t attending to N, J required my attention and I couldn’t not give it to him as he is a very clingy child and would get upset easily. And if I didn’t give him attention, by the time I’d finished, N would require me again. This really started getting me down and many tears were shed.
Which led to us starting to give formula top-ups. I think this was my downfall, and where I feel I sabotaged us being successful. Once that had started, it kind of became a downward spiral from there and the formula increased, so N wanted my milk less & less. Which also meant I was producing less & less milk as I wasn’t expressing as much either.
After thinking long & hard, and this time making an informed decision rather than feeling like being partially forced into it, I have decided to switch completely to formula. This time I know it is not poison, and J thrived on it. He is a happy (most of the time anyway!) healthy child. I will not feel guilty. I will try not to feel like a failure again.
But I will feel sad.
Sad that our breastfeeding experience wasn’t as I imagined it would be this time. But happy that I managed to have a bit of one. I look at it that N has had 4 weeks of my milk, so I have given him the best start in life. I feel like I have given it my best shot this time, whereas with J I had pretty much given up before I’d even started.
But I feel like I have let down the many people who tried to support me. I really have appreciated all the support, and I thank those people as I don’t think I would have gotten this far if I didn’t have that.
So that’s it, our precious breastfeeding journey is over.
But I will treasure this photo forever. Something I thought I never would share even if I did succeed at any point. But I am proud.
No guilt, but now it’s the breastfeeding envy I have to deal with (and that’s a whole other post).
Once again, nobody said it would be easy (but then nobody said it would be so hard either).
Monday 3rd March I was hoping that we would be allowed to go home today, but as little man #2 still wasn’t feeding directly from me, that was a no go. At this point I once again considered just totally switching to formula so we could go home. But then I remembered how bad it made me feel last time so I got my determined head on and tried to be positive. We could do this.
Hubby came back to hospital, bringing little man #1 with him. As LM#1 has a short attention span, I suggested that they only stay a couple of hours then go and get some lunch, then come back for another couple before going home for the night. LM#1 was that tired anyway he ventured around the room for an hour (luckily we were in a private side room!), then just fell asleep on Daddy for a while. This gave me a chance to attempt feeding LM#2 again and to have some lunch. When the two men left to get their lunch, I armed hubby with a list of items to bring to see me through the night.
I must have been tired from all of the emotions going through me as when hubby and LM#2 came back, I was fast asleep. Again, they stayed for a couple of hours before going home. This time, I was in tears before they left – I so wanted us to go with them. The NICU nurse (the 2nd one now) asked what was wrong – she suspected I didn’t want to attempt to breastfeed anymore. Right now, I really didn’t know what I wanted. I wanted to go home but I also just wanted to feed my baby! It broke my heart when they left because LM#1 was just constantly saying Mummy, so we were missing each other just as much. They went, I had my tea, had a few more tears, then I got on the pump again (as I had been doing after every feed, ready for the next one). It couldn’t have gotten any worse, but then the HCA attempted to ‘help’ me transfer my expressed breast milk into syringes to store in the fridge, and in the process tipped half of one of the bottles all over the floor! I was on the verge of tears, again.
After I’d finished pumping I climbed back into bed and decided to read for a while rather than sleep. My Mum rang me to ask how things were going – I just burst into tears. I had to calm myself down before I told her how I was feeling. I just didn’t want to be here anymore, on my own. She said that she would gladly come for a while to keep me company but by the time she got there guest visiting would be over so suggested father-in-law watch LM#1 and hubby come up, which he did. I just burst into tears when he walked in because I was so upset at the lack of progress, and just with being there.
We had a different NICU nurse looking after us tonight. We were still continuing with the cup feeding, and trying on the breast before a feed. The nurse had gone to get my EBM from the fridge and whilst she was there, I, now reluctantly, tried LM#2 on the boob again. He fussed a bit as usual. And then he latched on (albeit painfully). He fed for 5 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. We had done it. The first time I had ever breastfed ‘properly’. Though I wasn’t getting my hopes up as I already felt like a big fat failure again, and felt it was too good to be true. He still had my EBM which the nurse had prepared though.
Once again hubby had to leave. The same old routine, me crying. Hoping we would be going home with him tomorrow. I decided to go to sleep this time as I was shattered, and the nurse would be back in a few hours for another feed. LM#2 breastfed again, but the nurse could tell I was still upset as it still felt like such a struggle, and she could just read that I wanted to be at home. She was so lovely, and we had a little chat. She said it was no bother to her whether I carried on with the breastfeeding, or decided to give him formula. I really did want to carry on though. I could have cried because she was so understanding. After this, she decided that she was happy enough that we could now be discharged from transitional care back to the midwives, then it was up to them if we could go home. I didn’t see her again after that, I was left to feed him on my own.
Tuesday 4th March I was still nervous that the midwife care would want to keep us in – I don’t know why as everything was fine now! I was woken by LM#2 around 6 am wanting a feed, and I couldn’t get back to sleep after this. I had told hubby not to bother coming until I knew what was happening and had let him know. The midwife came in around 9 am and told me that the B.A.B.E.S would be coming to see how we were doing now, and if they were happy then she would come back to check me & LM over and then we could go home. I was so relieved, so happy! I called hubby to tell him the news and he came with LM#2 straight away. We then had to wait for the midwife to officially sign us off.
I wasn’t expecting that I would have to do this, this time; but once again, I finally had that special moment of being able to take my baby home from the hospital.
Sunday 2nd March We arrived at the postnatal ward around 3 pm, greeted by a lovely NICU nurse who admitted us to transitional care due to poor feeding and hypothermia. She took little man #2’s temperature again which was still 36 degrees, and because of this we put more woolly layers on him and swaddled him up and I had cuddles with him whilst we waited for the doctor. He was doing his rounds on NICU so we still had a bit of a wait ahead of us. At this point I was glad we took the iPad as little man #1 would have been bored stiff, so I downloaded a Peppa Pig app which kept him occupied! The nurse took LM #2’s temperature again after an hour and it had risen ever so slightly to 36.2 degrees. She also took some bloods to test his blood sugar levels.
The doctor eventually arrived a couple of hours later and took some birth details, and what had happened since his birth. He checked LM #2 over and everything was OK, apart from his temperature still. It had risen a little more to 36.8 degrees, but it still wasn’t satisfactory for us to go home, so we had to stay the night. At this point I got really upset as this was the place I really didn’t want to be after spending three nights last time, and it also reminded me of my breastfeeding failure as it was the place where I gave up too easily. But on the other hand it was the best thing for us as it meant LM #2 would get better and we would have extra constant feeding support from the NICU nurse too. Unfortunately the one who admitted us had to have handover but the new one was also lovely.
After it was decided that we would be staying, hubby took LM #1 home. Our neighbour was amazing as she offered to look after him whilst hubby came back for a while – he needed to fetch my hospital bag anyway which I packed just in case we needed to be transferred during my home birth. She gave him some tea and then in fact he fell asleep there whilst hubby was back at the hospital so he stayed the night and hubby collected him the next morning.
As LM #2 still wasn’t latching on and showing no interest whatsoever – most likely because of the hypothermia – we decided that I would express overnight and the NICU nurse would cup feed him as I didn’t want to introduce him to a bottle at this point. Before every feed I would also try him on the breast. Instead of hand expressing, I was introduced to this amazing machine which became my new best friend:
I was shown by the HCA how to put the bottles and bits together and attach it to the pump – and then when I was on it hubby of course had a perverted chuckle when the HCA left the room! This first time I was on it, I got 14 ml of colostrum in total which I’m told is very good. This would be given to him for his next feed and then I would express again – the routine which became very familiar…
Hubby left around 9pm, and I just burst into tears. I so didn’t want to be here – I should have been at home with the rest of my family; my husband and my LM #1. The poor little guy. He had just welcomed a brand new human, and then this human and his Mummy just disappeared. Such a big change for him in such a short space of time.
When hubby had left I went to bed for some much needed sleep. The NICU nurse would come in every 3 hours through the night to wake me to try LM #2 on the breast, and if there was no success then she would feed him with my EBM. Needless to say, even with her help, he still wouldn’t latch on. I tried to remain positive, but it brought back so many memories of my experience and my breastfeeding guilt with LM #1.
If you managed to read my birth story, then you will know that I got my much wanted, planned, home birth after some uncertainty as to whether I would be able to or not. It truly was magical and I would love another if we ever decide to have any more children. What wasn’t in the plan though, was to be admitted to hospital. I wanted a home birth, because this was something I majorly wanted to avoid.
Saturday 1st March As little man was born in the very early hours of Saturday morning, one of the midwives came back later that day in the afternoon to do his newborn check – this which would normally be carried out by the doctor in hospital. All was fine at this check but we were still struggling with feeding – mainly with latching on. (Regular readers over the last couple of years will know that I suffered badly with breastfeeding guilt after failing with little man #1, so this was something that I desperately wanted to achieve this time). As we were struggling but it wasn’t overly desperate that he hadn’t fed by then (though would need to soon), a midwife would return on the Sunday to see how we were doing. The midwives had also contacted the breastfeeding support team (B.A.B.E.S) at the hospital to contact me about coming out to see me. I was expressing my colostrum though (which we were using a Calpol syringe to feed!) so he was getting a little something.
Sunday 2nd March The midwife arrived early Sunday afternoon, and we were still struggling. She helped me with positioning and trying to get him to latch, but he was still having none of it. As I was still expressing though she left it at that and would call me in a couple of days after I’d seen the B.A.B.E.S. Pretty much as soon as she left she was back after finding her thermometer in the car, and she wanted to take his temperature. It turned out, that it was lower than they would like it to be, at 36 degrees. She was a bit concerned so she called the hospital just to check on what to do, as he wasn’t feeding and he had this low temperature. This did turn out to be a slight cause for concern, so they wanted to see us up at the hospital ASAP. Cue me panicking (especially as it was NICU she was conferring with) – this is where the worry started all over again with a new baby! But off we went – with a nervous Mummy, a whining toddler, a possibly poorly baby, and a husband trying to keep it all together!