So why don’t you breastfeed?

This blog is about my breastfeeding journey with George. When I first became pregnant I wasn’t convinced I wanted to breastfeed. I was really worried that it would hurt and I would hate it. I was scared of breastfeeding in public. I just thought the idea of giving a bottle of formula was so much easier. I certainly did not want to breastfeed a toddler.

As part of our NCT antenatal course we went to a breastfeeding workshop. The breastfeeding counsellor running it told us that 95% of women can breastfeed, that if the latch was correct it wouldn’t hurt, and that it was easy. She told us the baby would know what to do. She gave us very little information on formula feeding and portrayed it in a very negative light. I fell in love with the idea of breastfeeding. I looked forward to the tender cuddles between me and George, and to seeing him grow and flourish on my milk. I had dreams where I was breastfeeding him and was absolutely spilling over with love for him.

We agreed that I would try and breastfeed him as soon as possible after birth, and that once breastfeeding was established, I would express so Katy could give him some bottles. We bought a breast pump and basic bottles, along with 2 cartons of formula “just in case”.

George was hungry soon after birth. The midwife encouraged me to try feeding him, but as I was flat on my back with canulas in both hands, she helped position him and guided him towards my breast. He rooted, licked, and screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

After about 10 minutes of screaming, the midwife suggested hand expressing some colostrum and syringe-feeding him. As I didn’t know what to do, she did it for me, commenting on how much milk I had. I was happy knowing I had lots of milk, and I looked forward to a post-birth nap and the next feed.

At the next feed he screamed. And the next. And the next.

I became exhausted, dehydrated, and heartbroken. My baby was refusing my breast. I had no idea this could happen. I tried to carry on hand expressing my colostrum, but gradually it started to dry up, until there was barely anything there. I wasn’t allowed any liquids, so how the hell was I supposed to produce milk?

George became very jittery later that day, and the paediatrician declared him dehydrated. He was still refusing my breast, and she advised that he really needed a formula supplement. Of course I agreed to this; it wasn’t what I’d wanted but my baby was dehydrated and I had no milk for him.he had formula from a cup for the first few feeds, plus any colostrum I had, until the midwife told us that cup feeding wasn’t considered “established feeding” and they wouldn’t allow us home until he was successfully breast or bottle feeding. At this point my milk had all but dried up, and I was finding each failed breastfeed more painful than the last. George would go red, scream, arch his back, and claw at my chest. The midwives forced his head onto me. He became traumatised. Clearly something was very wrong and I was not prepared to put either of us through the pain. I decided that George would be bottle fed formula and colostrum, and I would address the breastfeeding issues at home, when I had recovered from the spinal headache. The hospital staff advised me to pump every time he fed to kick start my supply. I wish I’d listened.

By day 2 I had stopped trying to latch him. I was using the hospital pump once a day… It was all I could manage. At home I started to use my hand pump. I got barely anything, even when my milk came in there wasn’t a lot. I wasn’t engorged, just a little puffier. Essentially I gave up, the baby blues hit me hard and I could only manage one pump every 2 days. Never enough for a feed. I would give him his dribble of breastmilk before a formula feed and he seemed to enjoy it so much more. I felt incredibly guilty that I couldn’t give him more. At most he would get 30ml in those first couple of weeks. i tried a few times to latch him, but he seemed even more distressed by it. The sight of my breasts and being placed in the cradle hold was enough to make him hysterical. I decided I was not prepared to carry on putting him through this, and that the grief of not breastfeeding would be lesser than the continual rejection of my breast.

And so our heartbreaking, formula feeding journey began.


One thought on “So why don’t you breastfeed?

  1. Pingback: Dear Breastfeeding Mother | This Academic's Life

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