Breastfeeding Awareness Week: Clare’s Story
Clare’s eldest son is at school with my son, and Clare and I trained together as peer supporters. I think her story highlights just how important support is for breastfeeding mums, no matter how much experience they have.
When I had my first son I was keen to breastfeed him. I had a hard labour ending in a forceps delivery; I latched my son on to my breast as soon as he was born but we were both drugged up and both very tired. I stayed in hospital for 3 days to get the hang of feeding before I went home. The staff were brilliant because I really struggled; Finton just wouldn’t latch on. I then had help from a lovely old school midwife who taught me how to feed in the rugby ball position which helped a lot.
I then went home and being a first time mum I doubted everything. I was obsessed with not knowing how much milk he had, and that he wanted to feed every two hours for 30-40mins at a time, it was a mixture of emotions and tiredness and very hard work but we carried on as best as we could. I then got help from a breastfeeding support worker who came to my home every day for a week to help and give me support – she was just fantastic and without her I would have given up. I managed to feed Finton till he was four months then I started weaning and gave him a bottle of formula at night because he just wouldn’t settle. If I’m honest I was gutted he stopped feeding from me and felt a failure but my milk just wasn’t enough for him and I believe now it was because I didn’t relax and enjoy it. I was on edge and my milk just wasn’t enough for him, I felt rejected and usless and then suffered post natal depression. My health visitor took me under her wing and I joined a local breastfeeding group. I met some lovely mums, three of which I’m still friends with 5 years later. We met every Friday and it was my life line.
When my son was18mths old we moved to be closer to my mum and family. I then had baby number two, Owen and his delivery was a breeze. He was a big baby at 11lb and latched on lovely at birth, he fed well and was completely different to my first son. Owen fed every 3 hours and I felt my hind milk come in every feed. I only fed him on one side at each feed as I did with my first son but because I had the confidence I just seemed to relax and went with flow. I then suffered mastitis and I have never know pain like it. I was so ill with flu like symptoms, I had a toddler and a baby to look after and I had to feed on the breast with mastitis. I will never forget the pain of latching him on; I used to hold my breath and curl my toes but we both got through it and I had the support and care of my lovely husband. At 5 months he started messing about not latching on and getting distressed, I began to get really distressed and had the feelings of rejection back again. I asked friends for help and they suggested I top him up with a bottle at lunch time. I just hated putting a bottle in his mouth but he loved it; he wanted quantity not quality and sadly over the next few weeks he dropped more and more feeds from me to have 10oz of formula, he was a pig! I tired to express but to no avail, I just couldn’t get the spare milk off. I had the same problem with Fintan. I went to my local breastfeeding support group and spoke to the peer supporters and shared my experiences in the group with other mums. I was then asked if I would like to become a peer supporter and I jumped at the chance because with all the support I had received I wanted to give something back.
Then came son number three who was 2 weeks late and didn’t want to come out. I was induced and had a terrible labour but again I latched him on at birth he fed lovely and came home the next day. I have just loved feeding Myles, he’s now 9 months old and still feeding. I was determined to breast feed him for as long as possible and then again at 4 months he started messing about with feeds. I thought here we go again so I decided to use my own judgement because as mums we do know best, so I started to wean him. I did it very slowly and he settled down. He now feeds 3 times a day, he’s never had a bottle and this time I can feel the let down of milk. He doesn’t feed very long; I don’t know whether my milk is fast flowing or he just isn’t greedy. I also feed Myles both sides which I never did with my other boys and maybe that helps. Myles has had to put up with a lot, I have two other children and I was potty training a toddler. I couldn’t just sit for 40 Minutes with cushions, a TV remote and snacks, I just had to feed him. I would sometimes stop mid-feed put him down, sort out my toddler and go back to him, I fed him in every possible place you can think of – in the car, a tram, a park, at school, in the hairdressers at Tesco. I just got on with it and relaxed and it’s been a lovely experience.
Breastfeeding is very rewarding, only you can do it and I believe it helps you bond with your children, but without the support of Sure Start I would have give up a long time ago.