I'm really pleased to welcome Shona Baxter onto the blog today. It's easy to forget that BIRTH is just the start of a very long, hugely rewarding, but often difficult road of parenthood! And one of the first things we have to comprehend is keeping our babies FED! Firstly the decisions of how we want to feed them, then the muddle of actually working out how to do that! Shona shares her breastfeeding journey with us today..
It was supposed to be easy! The most natural thing in the world! But there I was, tired, emotional and failing miserably at breastfeeding…
My amazing body had just grown a miracle, knew exactly how to nurture my little bump giving her exactly what she needed and now it was the time for my boobs to take over!
After an amazing birth experience thanks to hypnobirthing techniques I was genuinely looking forward to breastfeeding my newborn. None of my friends had breastfed and I had never been surrounded by it however I just knew it was something I wanted to do.
Having given birth in the birthing pool and stared into the eyes of my (slightly alien) looking daughter for what felt like forever, I was advised by the delivering midwife that tiny 5lb 9oz Lois had a low body temperature and needed some milk in her quickly. I was happy to allow her first feed to be formula milk to ensure she got what she needed, and quick, but I was more than determined to be the next one to feed her.
After a transfer to the labour ward at NSEC Cramlington we were met with the most amazing lactation consultants, midwives and health care assistants who were happy to guide us as we needed. Lois was jaundice and extremely sleepy so simply waking her up to attempt our first latch was difficult enough. Out came cold water soaked cotton wool to dab around her face to wake her from her slumber.
In the first few feeds we managed only a few minutes before she slipped off.
Her tiny mouth struggled to fit around my (now giant!) nipple so a hospital grade breast pump was wheeled in. This helped express my colostrum and draw out the nipple to help her latch. Still we struggled with less than 3 minute feeds although we could now thankfully provide top ups via a little cup. My husband was able to give her those tiny sips of sticky colostrum and we both knew the importance of persevering with the task in hand.
Ever willing to help us succeed, a lactation consultant provided me with a nipple shield. A great big plastic nipple that I had only ever assumed was to protect against chapped nipples. Oh how wrong was I. Feeds started to last longer and Lois was finally getting the hang of things. But why did I need this god awful looking, artificial nipple to do the job of my own?! This shield of shame had made me feel like I was failing at doing the most natural job in the world!
The answer? Tongue Tie.
Something I had no clue about, but we were on our way to finding a solution at least!
Lois was booked in to have her tongue-tie snipped and that should have been the end of it.
Despite the appointment being successful, if not a little scary, I spent hour after hour unsuccessfully attempting a shield free feed. No matter what position, the encouraging hands of support workers who visited my home daily, or what time of day, we simply could not do it.
I soon began to notice Lois seemed to be uncomfortable and unsettled during the night. Her wriggling and crying were a concern for me, I had that gut, maternal instinct that told me she needed a great big trump!
I was referred to an amazing chiropractor names Zoe Freedman at NGCO Clinic who specialises in infant feeding issues. It transpired that the tongue-tie had re-attached and my poor girl was gulping down masses of air during every feed. We began exercising her tongue daily and I finally started to see an improvement.
I continued to try and ditch the ‘shield of shame’ at every feed much to the disgust of Lois who had become quite attached to it! It took hard work, determination and frustrated tears but I finally found that during one late night feed Lois happily latched on without the need for the shield. Her little tongue could curl up as it was supposed to and finally at 16 weeks old we had done it!
Attending the Blyth breastfeeding support group every week was my savior. Without those women I would not have made it as long as I did. The other mums laughed and cried with me, gave me a hug when I needed one and supplied coffee when it was needed the most. I found myself attending every week because I genuinely enjoyed going and I wanted to help other new mums with difficulties. I can honestly say I have made friends for life from that group.
One of my last times attending the group I spoke fondly with the support worker who had helped me from day one about the journey Lois and I had been on. We decided to change the term ‘shield of shame’ to ‘shield of success’ instead. And now, I have found myself unable to throw that most amazing bit of plastic out! It helped me feed my baby for 4 whole months and without it I would have never have been able to succeed at the hardest, most natural thing in the world!
I continued to feed Lois for many months, and as I knew our time was coming to an end I felt a huge sense of pride for us both. We had battled through when I knew I wanted to quit so many times.
No matter if you are facing similar or completely different breastfeeding difficulties my advice will always be to seek advice and support. There are women trained specifically in helping you overcome these problems and will be more than happy to make sure that you succeed on this journey too. And you never know, attending these groups might also lead you to making some pretty awesome friends too!
Shona Baxter is a Hypnobirthing Teacher and founder of Empowered Hypnobirthing in Northumberland.