Breastfeeding journey of a midwife

There was never any question about how I would feed my baby. I know the Baby Friendly guidelines, I know the WHO recommendations, I know the poor breastfeeding stats in this country. My thoughts were along the lines of:
– why doesn’t every woman just breastfeed?
– why do people make such a big deal of breastfeeding, it’s what boobs are there for?
– why would you give a baby cows milk when they can have human milk designed exactly for them?
– surely it is more convenient with no sterilising or making up bottles- it’s a no brainer. 

So I set about getting myself ready for this breastfeeding journey early – at 38 weeks gestation to be precise. I started hand expressing colostrum every day into little 2ml syringes to freeze for my baby – my baby wouldn’t be getting formula if they needed a ‘top-up’ on the postnatal ward, hell no! As time went on I was getting bigger volumes each time and ended up on 10ml syringes. When we arrived on the labour ward with my stock of milk in my freezer bag, I knew I was ahead of the game with this breastfeeding lark! My colleagues in maternity were mixed in their reactions – a mix of amusement, enthusiasm and scepticism!

Baby arrived without too much drama (birth story here), over 10lb in weight and I did my skin to skin and got him breastfeeding, boxes ticked, all going to plan. Ok my nipple looked a bit red after but no pain, all good.

24 hours later… baby reluctant to feed, precious expressed colostrum all used up, 3 formula top ups given and me slightly delirious with no sleep and rather large post partum haemorrhage. First fail on my journey.

Day 2 – major improvements, I’m home, baby is breastfeeding – ALL THE TIME! It’s ok though, using my lanolin ointment religiously and the multi-mam compresses. Even got some sleep. I have this in the bag.

Day 3 – tired, so tired. Stitches are sore, everything swollen, popping pain relief tablets as often as allowed. Baby feeding often, very strong suck but still not sore, good supply judging by the milk spilling out of his mouth after feeds and many wet and dirty nappies. That antenatal expressing must have helped. Daddy is great, doing all he can to help me and I’m trying to sleep when baby sleeps as that’s the advice I always gave new mums. No formula given since we left the hospital, I think I’m winning!

Day 4 – the pain. That first 30 seconds of each feed is excruciating. Totally drained, definitely not sleeping when baby is sleeping except for an hour here and there at night. Public Health Nurse out – observes feed and sees he has a great latch and position, bottom lip turned out, full cheeks, sound of swallowing, chin in and nose out. Pure textbook. She can see no sign of tongue tie. The pain will ease and in the back of my mind I hear myself telling mums – give yourself 2 weeks to get the hang of the breastfeeding, everything should be settled by then. I tell myself if I get to 2 weeks I’ll be winning…

Day 5 – meet my rock boobs. Milk dripping out and baby still feeding well. The pain relief is helping!

Day 8 – nipples are truly traumatised – as in split and cracked and about to fall off despite ‘perfect’ latch, lanolin, etc etc. In tears at every feed. In tears at the thought of a feed. In tears when baby starts stirring for a feed. Enough is enough, out with the pump and I express all his feeds for 24 hours to give the nipples time to heal. See I can work through these issues!

Day 9 – baby back on the boob. All going well until the evening when baby decides he needs to cluster feed for about 4 hours – yes nipples in tatters yet again and mummy crying again. But he’s so cute when he finishes a feed and has that drunken look on his little face – more mummy crying but happy tears! Daddy thinks mummy is losing her marbles. She probably is.

Day 10-17 – more of the above. Also in the mix are some nipple shields, contacting a lactation consultant who couldn’t see me for over a week so I never saw her, many baths where nursing bra had to stay on because nipples were so raw that if a towel even brushed past them there would be so much pain. Could barely leave the house, looked like a total wreck due to lack of sleep, emotions all over the place, iron levels in my boots. The 2 week marker came and went in a haze.

Day 18 – enough. Breastfeeding over and out! Guilt trip ensues – more tears. Negotiate with myself – as long as baby keeps getting breastmilk then I’m not a total failure as a mother and midwife so decide to express for every second feed. That’s the deal. Still feel guilty as hell and totally useless.

Week 12 (the present). I am nearly over the guilt. I feel bad to say this but my life changed for the better when I gave up breastfeeding, I felt I got my body back, my confidence back and my sanity back! Baby is still getting a 7oz feed of breastmilk a day (he was getting 3 to start, then 2 of them until last week but supply is starting to dwindle), he is thriving – he weighed 14lbs 15oz last week. And yes pumping, sterilising pump equipment and bottles, and making up formula is time consuming. Without the great support of my husband there would be no pumping.

To conclude – I salute every woman out there that has ever breastfed – whether it was once or for 2 years or more and everything in between. If I have any more babies I will do it all again because I know it is the gold standard for feeding baby. BUT I will see a lactation consultant in the first week to iron out any potential problems. I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t work out (ok I probably will but will try not to) and I will try to be as supportive as possible to anyone giving it a go.

UPDATE! Since writing this post, I have now had my second baby and a whole new breastfeeding experience, click here to check out how I got on!

Please note – this is my personal experience, some people do find breastfeeding comes naturally, some people have no problems, some people have a few minor issues and some people have far worse problems than I had (and keep going!). Every experience is different!

Advice for anyone considering breastfeeding:

  • go to a breastfeeding group before you have your baby – seeing the real thing is better than reading the books
  • get as much support as you can when in hospital – literally ask for help at every feed if necessary to make sure you have the right latch
  • see a lactation consultant as soon as possible after baby is born
  • join local support group – you can guarantee others who are breastfeeding will have experience in everything you come across!
  • join an online group – a forum or a facebook group, similar to above
  • youtube is great for videos about position, attachment, tips, etc
  • have your stock of lanolin ointment (I used lansinoh – it’s expensive but worth it), multi mam compresses (I didn’t find these great but others swear by them – keep in fridge), breast pads, nursing bras etc before you have your baby
  • when breastfeeding have water, your phone and the remote control to hand before you begin!


Useful Links:

Breastfeeding information and support in Ireland:

Baby Friendly Initiative:

Find a lactation consultant near you:

As a midwife, I thought breastfeeding would be easy as I knew all the theory. I couldn't have been more wrong. Many lessons were learnt!

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23 thoughts on “Breastfeeding journey of a midwife

  1. A tough journey but you stick with it very well. Fantastic to be pumping for so long. Well done

  2. Fantastic account of your journey, you are truly amazing to express even after all of that. Well done!

  3. It’s a tough journey – even more so when it seems so easy until you have to do it! I put up with 9 weeks of nipple shields, being told my baby wasn’t being fed enough, the guilt over supplementing – and in the end he’s now 2, happy and healthy and the move to formula was what saved our sanity. Do what you need to do to get you and baby through the day!

    1. Absolutely Lisa, fair play for doing the 9 weeks with nipple shields. Great to hear you have a happy, healthy 2 year old. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  4. An interesting post – I breast fed my first for 21 months and am still feeding my second (20 months) – luckily it all came fairly easily for me although we did overcome tongue tie second time round. I’m sure this will help someone else! #fartglitter
    Crummy Mummy recently posted…Why my allotment makes me a better mumMy Profile

    1. That’s fantastic going, I think all babies are so different. Delighted that it worked out so well for you and thanks for your comment.

  5. Such an honest account of your breastfeeding journey! I had a very similar experience to you in the beginning with my first. (Inc the hemorrhage – eek!) Everyone kept telling me that our latch was great etc etc but the pain!!! It was just unreal. I was very lucky in that for me it did totally disappear after about two weeks, but that isn’t the same for everyone as you say and if it hadn’t I would have done exactly the same as you. A momma has to do what a momma has to do! (And if a momma is breastfeeding well then a momma needs to be applying Lansinoh. Aprox every 12 seconds should do it). Brilliant post and in my opinion all new mums would benefit from reading this x
    Thanks for linking with #fartglitter

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, delighted it worked out for you and hopefully, if there is a next time, it will work for me 😊

  6. Ahead of the game with this breastfeeding lark, lol. Tears at the thought of a feed and just all the tears and daddy…and mum’s marbles. I have to say I never read posts on breastfeeding because well, my kids are much older and the baby stuff is behind me but as soon as I saw this was a post of yours, I clicked. So glad I did. You do make me laugh. On a serious note, it’s amazing just how hard the feeding can be isn’t it? What we go through for these babies eh? And bravo for saying you felt so much better when you gave it up. I fed my 3 with a combination of breast and bottle and I’m not pro/militant about either method as long as they’re getting fed. So well done for the honesty. #Fartglitter
    absolutely prabulous recently posted…How has it come to this and when will it stop?My Profile

  7. Everywoman has their own story and reasons for and not breastfeeding. I’m still breastfeeding at 1+ years and I am fortunate that I got through the first weeks fairly unscathed. #fartglitter

    1. That’s fantastic Karen, even when it comes relatively easy, it’s a big commitment and I admire you for how well you’ve done. Thanks for reading.

  8. You gave it a good go by the sounds of it! It took me 8 weeks to exclusively breastfeed (theres a post on my blog about it) and I dithered about giving up so many times. One thing that kept me going was the faff of pumping and sterilising was draining me! #fartglitter

    1. Thanks for your comment and well done on persevering with the breastfeeding. Pumping is hard work alright, takes so much time.

  9. So glad I found this! Like you I’m a midwife as well and had a very similar experience. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake!! How wrong I was. I had an instrumental delivery – which was the easy part despite it seeming traumatic at the time! I found my time in hospital generally ok but found it awful hard when we went home. She was born 9lbs and was a hungry hungry baby. If you stuck her under a cow she’ suck it dry!! Ended up back in on day 5 for a night of phototherapy. I was so sore down below and I remember the pain of each latch…nipples were on fire despite being told latch was perfect by everyone! I used to dread each feed, which was all the time actually! Don’t feel like I bonded with her, poor little thing. I eventually gave in on day 12. The guilt feelings were horrific, she’s nearly 12 weeks now and I still feel quite guilty over it all but not near as much as I did. But I can happily say after a rough month at the beginning I’m finally bonding with her now having so much fun. I really do believe If I had a normal delivery I would have succeeded a bit better with the breastfeeding. Hopefully the next time (whoever that’ll be) it’ll come a lot easier to me. It’s hard enough dealing with the overwhelming feeling of having your first baby! Thanks for your very honest experience it’s really after making me feel better! 🙂 X

    1. Oh Rebecca, I think being a midwife makes you much tougher on yourself too. Glad your little one is thriving now, the mammy guilt never ends but we can only do our best. Glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for reading x

  10. Aw, Lisa, I feel for you! I can hear how disappointed you were that nursing did not go as planned, despite your best efforts. Wonderful how you turned it around, finding a way to give others hope, encouragement and great advice. Excellent post, thanks for sharing Mompreneurs Unite.
    Lauren Kinghorn recently posted…Tandem Nursing TwinsMy Profile

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