Another week, another honest look into the realities of newborn feeding through The Newborn Feeding Series.
This week I’m featuring Emma from Power Porter, and how she fed her daughter, Cordelia.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, my little girl, I was absolutely adamant I did not want to breastfeed. The thought of it made me uncomfortable. My breasts had always been a part of me that was quite a sexual thing and the thought of feeding a baby with them freaked me out in all honesty. My Step-mum and Grandma played hell at me, “give it a try” they would say, “it’s the best thing for the baby”. Being the strong willed individual I can be I was not open to listening to them. So we bought all the kit we needed, bottles, steriliser, bottle warmer you know the first baby works! I was bottle feeding and that was that! As my pregnancy progressed my breasts started to leak, it was very odd at first but to be honest by the time you are that late in pregnancy you just resign yourself to your body doing crazy things you can’t explain! It did make me think if my body is producing this milk maybe I need to use it, but the thoughts were short lived and I was back to being freaked out by the idea.
Fast forward to the big moment, the arrival of our baby! This tiny bundle is placed on my chest and what did she do? Went straight for my breast! It felt so natural, so right for her to feed from me. I was transformed in an instant! It wasn’t quite that straight forward though. With Cordy being premature my milk didn’t arrive for a few days so she was being cup fed, the special care nurses asked what milk I wanted her to be fed Formula or Donor Milk? We are so lucky in our area to have access to the facility of Donor Milk and there was no doubt in my mind that I was going for that option. It’s funny the reaction that gets from people though, I’ve heard many a negative comment about me giving my baby ‘someone else’s milk’ but for me this milk is a gift while I can’t give my baby what she needs. Is it any worse than formula? Anyway, so I was put on a 3 hourly express routine while the special care team came and fed Cordy from her little cup. Every now and then we would try her to the breast but as she was so small (born 4lb 13oz and dropped to 4lb 8oz) the hospital didn’t want her to be too tired to have the milk they were giving her as breastfeeding is quite hard work for them. The other issue was she wasn’t latching with people around us, in the daytime the midwives would come round and try to help me but this entailed them getting me in one hand and baby’s head in the other and making the two meet. I am not sure it was a particularly comfortable situation for either of us and it wasn’t working. At the local hospital they have a latch specialist who was asked to come and review us who again tried the man grab concept to little avail. So she had a look over baby and said she thought she may have tongue tie which was what was stopping the latch. She explained that she would need to do a quick procedure of snipping the little bit of skin that was pulling down Cordy’s tongue and preventing her from feeding. In my emotional post partum state I was in no frame of mind for people coming near my girl especially after all the poking and prodding her little week old body had already endured, so we decided not to go down that road.
So the day came for us to go home, I had very little stock of expressed milk so we left on the premise that I would top Cordelia up with some Aptamil milk. In my head though I was thinking I will have a better go at feeding once we are home. When I think about it I had never seen anyone breastfeed before and as you have heard it wasn’t something I was really comfortable with. Especially not in front of a whole load of medical staff when I was on the verge of tears every moment someone else came to interrupt our first days as a little family. But when we got home from the hospital I got myself all cosy on the sofa, stripped down and just cuddled my girl and offered her the breast and, yes you guessed it, she went straight on! From that moment Cordelia fed from me a dream.
Okay, so in the 14 months that I fed Cordy I’m not sure it was always quite a dream! In those first weeks it was hard, trying to master sleeping when she slept, waking yourself up enough in the middle of the night to keep your eyes open to feed her was tough, keeping on top of her feeding demands when she had the notorious ‘growth spurts’ at times had me thinking I was going mad! So much so at about a month old my husband tried to give Cordy a formula feed in the night to let me have a sleep, thankfully she took to the bottle fine but after a big long guzzle she brought it all back up! When I say back up it was projectile, and it was coming from everywhere her nose, her mouth. I was inconsolable. I felt so guilty. My tiny baby girl needed me and because I selfishly wanted to sleep she had been made to be so sick. From that moment she never had another bottle again. Did I hear someone say rod and back? Yes, this was my biggest breastfeeding mistake as a beginner! Because we didn’t continue to offer Cordy a teat every now and then when I came to go back to work at 6 months there was no chance of her taking a bottle! We tried and tried but she just would not take it, in the end she was having breast milk in a sippy cup. In hindsight it had its benefits but it was a very stressful time for her dad who I had left at home on extended paternity leave!
One of the other challenges I also found hard as a newbie was feeding in the outside world. Because breasts are viewed in such a sexual way in today’s society I think there can be a real stigma to the way people view them. I myself will admit I wasn’t comfortable with the idea so how could I expect other people having a coffee in a cafe or eating their dinner in a restaurant to be? Hiding her under my scarf was an art in itself and if I was alone with her it made me feel so vulnerable. I could never tell if people were looking at me to say “you go girl” or “how disgusting”. I did once get a member of family say in a pub “oh my god you can’t do that in here”, where else did she want me to feed my daughter? Thankfully I was a few months in and was not tolerating comments like that! I found the more I fed in public the easier it was and the more comfortable I became.
I am now on week 12 of breastfeeding my newborn son and even after feeding Cordy for so long it still feels at times like I’m a first time mum again. Babies are all so different and you really have to find your own rhythm. As I sit here now breastfeeding in the wee hours of the morning it’s no easier to be awake because I’ve done it before. In fact my husband has tried our little boy with formula twice now, something I could never have done with my girl, but he won’t take to the one we have given him. So at the moment I’m persevering with feeding him myself but I know I won’t feed him as long I fed his sister, famous last words!
So the moral to the story? It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or not everyone struggles at some point, you may have an idea in your head when your pregnant about bottle or breast but just see how you feel about feeding once baby has arrived, having a newborn can be hard but you are fantastic. And lastly, if you want to get your baps out in public to feed your baby you go ahead and do it ladies!
I love Emma’s story! It’s so hard to know what to do or what advice to take when you’re pregnant, but your instincts really do kick in when you see that little life in the flesh – rely on your Mama-sense, you know what’s best. Go have a read of Emma’s blog, and she can also be found on Twitter @powerporter, and Instagram @powerporter1878.
Please get in touch if you’d like your experience to be featured, I’d love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.