Breastfeeding Awareness Week: Hannah’s Story
Hannah and I met when we were training as peer supporters with Sure Start. I think her story is inspirational.
When I first found out I was pregnant I was 21 and breastfeeding wasn’t an option for me it was formula feeding all the way, none of my family had breastfed and to be honest I always thought it was the ‘older’ mums that breast fed. It wasn’t until I was 30 weeks pregnant I woke up in the middle of the night and something told me to try breastfeeding. It seemed like a good option; I was living with my mum and 4 younger siblings and I was going to be a single mother living on benefits. I knew I’d get milk tokens but I knew that they could get me my fruit and veg every week so breastfeeding would cost nothing and no getting up in the night to make bottles up, no sterilising bottles and no running out of milk – it sounded great.
40+14 and my son arrived. Half an hour after he was born I gave him his first breastfeed. It was like he’d done it all before; he latched on straight away and I thought “weh hey, this is great!”. No pain or anything, it felt like the most natural thing to do and from that feed on I was determined I was going to carry on breastfeeding. I was in hospital overnight and I found that a nightmare; I was buzzing for 2 hours for a midwife to come and make sure my son was latching on properly as I had not done it before and not read up on it – I hadn’t a clue what I was doing even though my son found it easy to latch on, I just wanted some reassuring I was doing it right but I got no support whatsoever from the midwives in the hospital. I went home thinking I knew what I was doing even though I hadn’t a clue.
Day 5 came and my milk started to come through. By then my nipples werevery sore, my son hadn’t slept since I came home and I was very tired. My midwife came and she said my son wasn’t latching on properly so I tried my hardest to make sure he did. She gave me leaflets showing me how it was done. When my health visitor came on day 10 to weigh my son he had only lost 3oz which was really good but then when my midwife came to weigh him at 4 weeks old to make sure he had put that 3oz back on before she discharged me and he hadn’t. She told me to top him up with formula milk, which I did but it was just going straight through him; I tried him on all different ones. I took him to the doctors at 6 weeks old and I didn’t get anywhere with them. I just had to keep going back every 2 weeks. I got mastitis when my son was 6 weeks old. I was at the point where I couldn’t carry on breastfeeding any longer and I told my midwife how I felt and that’s when she got me in touch with a breastfeeding peer supporter who met me and took me to the Sure Start breastfeeding group and I found that such a help. It was a release for me because it meant I could relax while my son could interact with other babies and there were times I just went and cried because I’d been up all night feeding. By 3 months my son was feeding every hour and he would scream through the day with colic; the peer supporters would just take him off me and just give him a cuddle for me just so I could have a drink and it was my life saver.
It took 3 months before I got my son referred to the hospital; by this point he hadn’t put a pound of weight on. All I got from family members was it was my fault my milk wasn’t good enough for him and he needed to start on solid foods. That made me feel horrible. I didn’t get anysupport from my family or friends. My son had to go on a top up feed on neocate milk because he had an allergy to milk protein but he still wasn’t putting on enough weight on, so the hospital told me I had to either pack in breastfeeding or cut dairy products out of my diet. There wasn’t an option for me – it was cut out dairy products; I had gone through so much with breastfeeding no way was I going to pack in. So, I cut our dairy products and at 4 months they told me I had to introduce rusks in his diet as he was still feeding every hour. I was very disappointed as I just kept blaming myself for my son not putting weight on but week by week I was going to breastfeeding group and they kept reassuring me it wasn’t my fault. Finally he put weight on steadily and I ended up breastfeeding until my son was 17 months old and I would have carried on even longer if my son had wanted it.
Evan though it was a struggle for me I loved every minute of it. Yes, it was stressful and there were lot of tears but it was so enjoyable. I felt needed, there was only me that could feed my son and I had such a close bond with my baby. My only disappointment was that there weren’t any mums my age that were breastfeeding or more mothers like me (being a single mother). Now I have an aim and that’s to get more mothers under 25 breastfeeding. I didn’t feel embarrassed to breastfeed my son and neither should other mothers. If I can do it any women can, no matter what age they are.