Its ‘BreastFeeding Week’ and I thought I would share our journey as it was one of the most asked about topics since my motherhood journey. I really hope I can help someone about to embark on their journey as I could not have done it without the support and advice from others.
I would start by saying don’t put yourself under too much pressure and remember due to different reasons ‘outside your control’ it my not happen, so please don’t beat yourself up.
Naive & Green
I went into the whole thing very naively and green, I have to say… During my pregnancy I had attended a zoom call that was run by my local ‘Sure Start’ group to find out about breastfeeding and they also introduced me to a ‘breastfeeding early support WhatsApp group’… during this time I really didn’t think too much about it and didn’t make any set plan in my head what we would do. I finally joined the WhatsApp group on the 8th July ( I was due on the 27th July but was going in for an indication on the 22nd July). Messages came and went and it wasn’t until 15th July that I started to really have a closer look at it, as time was running out. I think I deliberately avoided doing any proper research or reading up on it until I really had to, as it frightened me so much and I found the whole thing very daunting. I recall seeing a message come in about ‘colostrum harvesting’ which I had never heard of until now… the next day I picked up some syringes from the midwives and I tried it myself, with no success, I added my first chat into the group to that effect and got lots of responses with advice, but after a few more attempts, still nothing.
It’s Never to Late
Then 3 days before I was due to go in for my induction, the local lactation consultant in the group offered me an appointment for later that day… I recall really considering if I should go or not mainly because I as so scared about the whole process and I felt nervous about the vulnerability side (that all soon went out the window)… so off I went very nervously to the appointment and met the most knowledgeable lady in BF, who later turned out to be my life saver in my entire journey. I was in the best hands literally (excuse the pun) and we managed to get some colostrum ‘liquid gold’ as it’s referred to. She had shown me the technique of how to get it .. so for the next 3 days, time was of the essence, I collected as much as I could at home myself, and I managed about 10 syringes in total… I was absolutely ecstatic about having this stock and I thought at least I have this if nothing else. From this point I didn’t really stress or worry about what was to come ahead . Having this ‘liquid gold’ for Mollie definitely took away stress about what would happen next as I knew how much goodness was in this alone for Mollie.
The First Feed & Midwife Support
When Mollie was born they asked me if I wanted to try to breastfeed her which of course we did and I was so lucky that she latched on well initially. She also got the ‘liquid gold’ that I had expressed which she got over the first feeds and so was off to a great start. But of course it wasn’t straight forward from there… in the hours and days ahead we were having a bit of difficulty getting the latch right, so the midwives advised me to express what I could to ensure we met feeding demands. My supply was really good which was great, so I was able to express lots and it also kept the pressure off me if Mollie didn’t latch.
Down Syndrome & Breastfeeding
With Mollie’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome it meant we were kept in the hospital for a week and when I look back, having this extra time in the hospital, was also our saving grace to getting the BF perfected. We were also told that due to Mollie having Down Syndrome that she may having trouble attaching effectively due to the potential of low muscle tone but it wasn’t the case for us in the end, as we just had to work through it and get it perfected for us.
How lucky I was to get lots of the midwives spend time with me to really help me along. Some days we were making great progress and the next time we felt we were going backwards. Then day 4, this midwife whom I never met until now, appeared and wow is all I can say, a god send, how fortunate I was, as she basically spent a day with me, introduced me to a ‘nipple shield’ and we never looked back. This really was the difference in me being able to continue with my journey…. And I am forever grateful for her support and dedication to me.
The Pumps & Lactation Consultant
After we got out of hospital the feeding was going well and my supply was really good, so every time I fed I was getting the let down on the other side. I started off with the Haakaa pump and once I knew all was going well and I had a good supply I decided to get the Elvie pump. It’s quite an investment but which after lots of recommendations from the WhatsApp support group and from one other very helpful mother who also lent me so much advice and support, it was a no brainier. It was all about making life easier and this did exactly that.
Once I got out of the hospital I visited the lactation consultation for an appointment to help continue with our BF journey, this was one of many many appointments I had with here through the weeks and months ahead and I can honestly say that without her and her support, knowledge and advice I really don’t think I would have got so far. So again I’m truly thankful for this.
About 2 weeks after Mollie was born she had lost quite a bit of weight, so my lactation consultation introduced supplement feeding to me, which was expressed milk in a bottle and then fed through a little line into Mollie’s month while she BF of me. This way I was able to know exactly what she was taking in each feed. This was a bit cumbersome and not something I would have personally felt comfortable doing in public as you really needed the comfort of your own home.. plus with using a shield it’s hard to be discreet. This by no means didn’t mean I didn’t go out and about as I went out nearly every day, I had to for my mind, but I went between feeds. This approach worked personally for me.
Luckily my supply was good for expressing so I did as much of this as I could to aid the supplement feeding and at about 8 weeks we also started to used some of the expressed milk for night time feeds, which I also found really good as it shortened these feeds, (previously I could have been spending 2 hours per feed at night which was incredibly draining ) and you knew exactly how much they had taken. I should say absolutely none of this was planned and things seem to keep changing. Its’s just how it all evolved and it’s a case of going with it.
A Bump in the Road
Then at 10 weeks Mollie took covid and went off BF from me completely!!!… thankfully I had good supply to meet feeds and this is when I started to express FULL TIME!… I got a second Elvie pump, for me this was another life saver, I was able to pump on the go… literally I went shopping with them on, out for walks, you name it… it meant I wasn’t house bound and had freedom to do things, otherwise I really don’t think I would have coped mentally, as I was pumping 5 times a day, which also means having them washed out and charged and ready for the next session, so lots of planning had to happen.
My supply was still very good up until this point, but then I too took covid and my supply really took a set back… because I had exclusively only given Mollie breastmilk up until this stage I was reluctant to introduce formula, silly I know, but I knew this was just a blip in the road and my supply would come back… so I persevered and I managed to just about express enough milk for each feed, I was literally going feed to feed and had no stock to work from, so every ml was like gold , there is no lying it was so so stressful and no one only myself made me do what I did, looking back I feel a bit silly that I just didn’t top up with formula, but in that moment this is what I wanted to do, for some reason I felt guilty and as if I was ‘giving up’, but your emotions and head is all over the place and we do different things in different situations. Within a week my supply started to come back up and we were back to normal. I have listed below the supplements I took to help with my supply. Generally it was always very good but there were times when it dipped when I got Covid, time of the month, and times of high stress (which definitely happened now and again)
From this point I didn’t go back to feeding Mollie myself, again not how I planned it, but we were in a good rhythm with the expressed bottle feeds. It also meant I could let others feed her, which was so nice too.
The Reality of it All
I am not going to lie… exclusive expressing is definitely tough work, its stressful, time consuming and demanding but I was happy to do this for Mollie. At around 5 months my supply started to take quite a drastic dip and we were really struggling to meet feeding demands as Mollie was needing more and more at this stage… so we decided that it was time to introduce formula and start topping up with it … the less I expressed, my supply seem to keep depleting…we kept going to 8 months and by this stage it was time to call it a day…. I had stopped expressing completely and it was formula all the way.
What a Journey
Such a journey it was, emotional, rewarding, scary, stressful… but worth it all. Looking back on it all , it honestly feels like a blur, because so much changed over time, lots of it was out of my control and it was about going with what you had to do and juggling feelings and emotions along the way. The anxiety of having enough milk for feeds, the guilt when you didn’t have the supply and had to top up.., the stress of the sterilising the bottles, washing pumps, having them charged and ready for the next pump ( didn’t find out until about 6 months that you didn’t have to sterilize bottles when using breastmilk!!!), and finally the sadness you feel when the journey is over…. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, but its incredible how 1 year on and you really do forget the worry, anxiety, fear and stress of it all and what I remember more is the joy of it, the reward and the bond and i wish i could go back to that time and enjoy it more, be in the moment more and not stress it all … I’m so lucky that were able to go on this journey with Mollie which would not have been possible without the support of the midwives in our hospital, our lactation consultation, the sure start group and those mothers who offered me such invaluable advise and support. It’s so incredibly important to take and get any help and support you can. Know you are not alone
More on our Journey
To see more on my journey – head to www.instagram.com/ealinesrovesntroves and ‘click my ‘Breastfeeding’ Highlights. Here you will see lots more of our journey.
I hope this helps and I really wish you all the success in your journey and just try to enjoy it as best you can.
Elaine & Mollie x