My Breastfeeding Battle

Sunday, November 09, 2014

I really wanted Breastfeeding to be easy. I wanted it to be natural for me and my baby. In reality it has been far from easy. For the first two days of Elsie's life I exclusively breastfed. In that time she screamed constantly unless she was latched onto me. I was told that was normal and so I believed it, my milk obviously hadn't come in yet and the constant feeding would mean when it did there would be plenty for her right? Well at three days out Elsie had lost 11% of her birth weight. So I started formula top ups with the aim of stopping once my milk had come in. We went home when she was three days old but when weighed just two days later she had lost more weight. What was I doing wrong? Elsie was readmitted to hospital for her first stay on the Children's ward at just 5 days old. We started a proper feeding routine that meant she was fed every 3 hours first on the breast followed straight after by the formula top up. She was in two days, her feeding seemed fine and she put on a small amount of weight and we were sent home.

In the following days she continued to put on weight very slowly but nowhere near as much as she should have been. Her nappies were awful and she came out in a bad facial rash. Exactly the same rash I remember Zach having as a baby. The same rash that made my Health Visitor confirm he had a dairy intolerance when he was just weeks old. I recognised all of the similarities and was sure that it wasn't just coincidence. After days of listening to her screaming in pain and struggling I had had enough and took her to the out of hours Doctor. This is where I was advised that it definitely wasn't an allergy but that the formula top ups were upsetting her and that I should just breast feed. So I did just that. It meant she was constantly glued to me but I didn't mind if it was what was best for her. Except she didn't seem fine, after exclusively breastfeeding for the next 48 hours I realised that once again she was screaming a lot more but I also noticed that she was sleeping a lot more and I was struggling to wake her. So we went back to A&E.

At the hospital I told them all my concerns and when they checked her bloods her blood sugar levels had dropped down to just 1 which is horribly low. So she was admitted again. I felt like such a failure. How can my milk, or lack of, make my baby so poorly. All I wanted was to give her the best start and instead she had gone from a healthy 8lb 5oz down to 6lb 12oz. She was diagnosed with a milk allergy and so I switched to a dairy free diet and switched her to a dairy free formula for top ups. It worked she started putting on weight and returned home. The next few weeks were up and down. for a few days it seemed like she was taking more milk from me which was great and I thought we had cracked it. However it didn't last long but I kept at it no matter how much she took as she was getting healthier and putting on weight. I started taking Pregnacare breastfeeding tablets every day then found Neuners Nursing Tea and so had three cups of that a day to try and build my supply. I fed her every three hours and expressed my milk three to four times a day. Still no joy I couldn't express more than 5ml and she started getting impatient crying when I tried to feed. She would get a couple of drops and nothing else came.

I started to hate going out. I was embarrassed to feed her whilst out in public and not for the same reasons as many women but because I didn't want people to see how short a time I was feeding before getting out a bottle. I didn't want people to see my failure to feed my baby. Elsie is now 10 weeks old and I have stopped breastfeeding this weekend. It hasn't been an easy decision but one I've been putting off for so long, I was causing myself so much stress and getting nowhere and I want to enjoy being around her. I don't want to be stressed and upset every time she wants a feed. I will never know why I couldn't produce the milk she needs. I am glad that I tried and gutted that it didn't work but I have a happy healthy baby and I guess that is all that matters.

Of course anyone reading this I don't want to put you off trying to breastfeed. It has been great for bonding and for the few days that I thought it was getting better it was a great experience and I'll never forget it. I will always treasure the photo in this post, her first ever feed and the first photo I ever took of her.

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