Let’s face it, my first attempt at breastfeeding was nothing short of a disaster. Turns out being a midwife doesn’t mean that you will be automatically successful at breastfeeding. You might be able to give pointers to other mums but trying to sort yourself out can be a different matter. This time around, I was determined to make it work because I’m stubborn as feck and fiercely competitive even with myself.
So in the later stages of pregnancy I hand expressed colostrum (again), this time it was even more important as I had gestational diabetes and baby was at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugars) after birth and might need top ups of milk. It went well, I had quite the stash in the freezer. I was getting 10ml a day at 38 weeks after starting at 36 weeks. If you’d like to know more about expressing colostrum antenatally check out La Leche League for useful information.
I’m not going to do a full post about my birth story this time as it’s very similar to my first birth which you can read about here. The main differences were that I was 9 days early instead of 10 days late, I didn’t have a postpartum haemorrhage and it was very slightly shorter. I had the same pain relief, it was the same time of the night that I arrived to hospital, I was in the same room, I delivered in the same position and even had one of the same midwives! Following delivery, I got over an hour of skin to skin time with baby who breastfed well. So far so good.
Breastfeeding Day 1
After the first feed, he settled very well… too well. Apart from bringing up lots and lots of mucus all day, he had no interest in feeding. Despite this, all his blood sugars were perfect so I wasn’t too worried. I did try to give him some colostrum via syringe but to be honest, half of it spilled out of his mouth again. He had plenty of wet nappies which I think may be due to the IV fluids I had in labour. That night, although I felt great all day, I realised I had been up 36 hours without any sleep. When the midwives offered to look after baby to let me sleep, I jumped at the chance and admittedly told them to give him my expressed colostrum and formula if he would take it as he had drank so little all day. I then conked out for a solid 8 hours.
Breastfeeding Day 2
Revived from my amazing sleep and feeling fantastic, I was ready to take on the breastfeeding again. And to my delight, despite having two formula feeds overnight (and bringing most of them back up thanks to all the mucus), he latched on and fed every 2-3 hours that morning. After maybe 3 feeds the nipples were starting to get sore. I had flashbacks to my first breastfeeding journey and started to worry. Added to this, I was getting home and he had already lost a good bit of weight (unsurprisingly). When I got home, I carried on trying to make sure he was getting a deep latch but that night one of the nipples started bleeding.
Breastfeeding Day 3
It’s sore. I feel like I’m repeating my first breastfeeding journey which didn’t end well. What’s worse is that after feeding frequently overnight, baby is now refusing to feed altogether, he would not latch on. Public health nurse arrives and he has now lost 8% of his birth weight. She is worried because he’s refusing to feed and the inevitable question “I wonder would he take a bottle?” comes up. I am almost in tears, emotions and hormones are all over the place anyway so this brings me near tipping point. Then I remember my stash of colostrum in the freezer. So we tried him with 30ml (1oz) of colostrum in a bottle – he guzzled it of course. The PHN suggested I try him with a bit more as he seems so hungry and his weightloss was worrying. So another 60ml of my precious stash was guzzled up and he was off to sleep satisfied after his 3oz that took me over a week to produce. That was it, as soon as PHN was gone, I sent my other half to get me some formula as I was done with this breastfeeding. I couldn’t face the same battle again. He got formula that evening and of course – guzzled it. I decided to try nipple shields that night.
Breastfeeding Day 4
The nipple shields worked. He latched and fed frequently, I wasn’t sore. He had one more bottle of formula that day and 6 weeks later he hasn’t had any since. I felt a huge relief. I decided that I needed to be proactive, I contacted a wonderful lactation consultant – Pauline McLoughlin in Sligo and she was able to see me 2 days later. I continued with the shields. I knew they weren’t a permanent solution but they were enabling me to breastfeed so for now I was happy.
Breastfeeding Day 5
Milk is in, rock boobs are back but my little man is feeding like a dream and nappies are soaking and everything is good.
Breastfeeding Day 6
Appointment with lactation consultant. I went to see her in her office and she made me feel so welcome. She did a full assessment and the consultation lasted just over 90 minutes. By the end of it, she had determined that he had a shallow latch and felt it was due to jaw and neck tightness from delivery and would benefit from osteopathy or cranio-sacral therapy to work out the tightness. He also has a posterior tongue tie but she felt this wasn’t causing the problem. The plan was to continue with nipple shields but to try to feed without them also towards the end of a feed. To have plenty of skin to skin and laid back feeding. She also gave me exercises to try to get him to open his mouth wider.
It’s not recommended to express breastmilk until baby is 6 weeks old as you are establishing your supply and could end up with oversupply problems. However, I came across the Haakaa pump (I will do a separate post on this) which was brilliant for collecting what leaked on the opposite side when you’re feeding. I ended up being able to have enough for one bottle of expressed milk to be given by my other half around 11pm so I could get some sleep. It did mean waking at around 2am about to burst but baby would feed then and I would usually express with the pump on the other side. If you are going to get your partner to give a bottle to a breastfeeding baby, I would advise using the paced bottle feeding method as shown in video below.
Breastfeeding Eight weeks on…
Baby was back to his birth weight at just over 2 weeks. He’s still breastfeeding with nipple shields. He had an osteopathy appointment last week – there was a waiting list for this lady who is supposed to be fantastic – I’ll do another post on that. I’ve managed to get him to feed without nipple shields most days but the majority of the time I use them in case I do any damage. It will be far more convenient not to have to use them out and about though. I am also considering getting the tongue tie snipped in case it is a problem down the line. Last time I lasted 19 days breastfeeding, this time I’m at 57 days and counting… I am exhausted between cluster feeding and night feeds but I absolutely couldn’t be happier.