Breastfeeding Awareness Week: Lisa’s Story
Lisa has been a Sure Start volunteer for some time now and recently completed her Peer Supporter training. Her story shows the difference that a supportive partner and a good health worker can make.
I had decided from the start that I was going to breastfeed my child. I can’t tell you why I was so determined, I just felt natural about it. I have two sisters-in-law that had had 3 children between them and none of them were breastfed. I had heard the horror stories of how they tried for two feeds and said that it wasn’t for them.
Complications in my pregnancy made me more determined to give my child the best I ever could. Labour was quite long and further complications meant we were prepared for theatre. Moments before I was taken to a waiting c section (which I didn’t want) my best friend (who is a midwife) came into support me; three pushes later and a 8lb 9oz little boy, Isaac Alexander arrived naturally. They took a few moments to check him and then all was well, so we went straight to skin to skin contact and we became one overwhelmed first time mummy and daddy….
I remember my parents being in the recovery room as they were due to fly on holiday in the next hour and wanted to get a glimpse of him before they went away for two weeks. I was willing them away because I knew Isaac needed feeding and I didn’t want to be embarrassed whilst they were there. When they left I fed Isaac and at the time thought this is ok, what was all the worry for? I clearly still had the effects of gas and air inside me!
The next two days and nights were a different story! I was lucky to get a room on my own in hospital and therefore when Isaac cried I didn’t feel that paranoid. I buzzed and buzzed and buzzed each time I wanted the health care support worker to check I was doing it right. I was finding it painful, I didn’t know how long he should be there for or how much he needed or anything. I remember the lady saying ‘on demand’; “WOW!”, I thought, “here I am routine queen!” And now I didn’t have a clue what to do with this bundle, never mind when the next feed was going to be or how much he had or how much was enough etc. I left hospital on my 3rd day feeling much the same; I got home and my security of that buzzer had gone! My husband at this point was blinking fantastic; Mark would have skin to skin cuddles, Isaac was so settled with him and each feed he would say” tummy to mummy, nose to nipple”, I would be there taking my time concentrating getting Isaac latched on correctly. I so wanted it to go right. I would count to 20, curl my toes ready for that pain to hit. The pain would ease by the time I reached 20 and as silly as it seems I would distract myself by imagining myself horse riding on a hot beach somewhere then the pain would drop off…I would sweat and get stressed every time, but I still never once thought of giving up until…………….
Day four – that was it, I was crying, Isaac was crying, my boobs where killing! My husband was so concerned and was running up to the nursery for the bottles, but I insisted on doing this. My assertive hormones had also kicked in! So Mark supported me; he rang Helen (community midwife) and I heard him saying on the phone to Helen that I was very upset and Isaac was crying and I needed help because I was determined to breastfeed. Two seconds later she was at my door, she must have flown!
Helen told me my milk had come in! She got Mark to run the bath, she gave Isaac to him once he had calmed down and I got my flannels on my chest. She explained what was happening with the changes and that some people don’t even notice when milk comes in but some do. It’s funny because as soon as she walked in my home there was this calm, serene atmosphere, and I knew that I was going through was in fact normal. So ten million cushions later, she showed me positioning and how to sit feeding; Helen spent a lot of her time with me that day and I will always be truly grateful. She gave me the courage to continue feeding and by the end of that day the world was a better place.
I spent the next two days with the patio doors opened wide to stop me getting too warm and stressed (we had a heat wave that summer). I continued my journey. It took me ten minutes each time to sort the cushions! Isaac was sleeping 6 hours during the night; I told my husband that this was a doddle now.
Helen returned to see how I was getting on. Isaac had lost more than 10% of his birth weight originally and now a little bit more; I was already concerned about his weight loss, so I had kept a feeding and nappy changing diary. Helen had taken a look at my diary and I had told her that Isaac was a good baby and was sleeping six hours at night. She said I needed to start waking him every 3 hours at night as well; my look must have said it all. However we needed to get his weight up and that was the plan, so my alarm was set and I tried to prepare for less sleep! Isaac started to wake naturally every two hours, I was properly shattered and my husband had to go back to work after paternity leave.
I felt I could confide in my sister so I told her that I felt tired (she could see the two hourly feeds were killing me). She asked me (once) if I really wanted to do this and I must have just given her the look because she said “OK! Let’s do it”. She spent the next two weeks of her annual leave by my side replacing my husband in the “tummy to mummy and nose to nipple” stakes, ensuring the 5 million pillows were right and making me eat and drink.. She cooked, cleaned washed and ironed; she was a gem. I got used to sleeping when Isaac did, my boobs were sore and almost bleeding and I was shattered. I used nipple shields and brilliant cream called Lasinoh, £10 a tube, until I got it free on prescription! Our house is in a quiet, private cul-de-sac and our living room is at the back and so I would walk round topless to get the air to my chest! I must have looked a sight, but I didn’t care; they were sore. For days I struggled through the pain and all my close family (with the exception of husband and sister) would tell me to switch to formula. I was angry; I needed support, someone to say “you know Lisa, you’re doing a good job” or “keep up the good work”. They used to why I was putting myself through this. All I can say is that when I have set my mind to do something I can be determined. My parents returned from holiday and said the same; they were more concerned about the tears I think. My brother-in-law felt embarrassed when I fed whilst they were visiting, as did most male company in my family. I had more to worry about than their feelings.
By the fourth week everyone was back at work and I was still sore on my right side, so I decided to visit a breast feeding group (mentioned in a leaflet from the hospital) which was a 20 minute drive away. We had taken Isaac out together but I hadn’t taken him anywehre on my own. I managed to find the place, unloaded the pram out of the car. I was so proud of myself that I was even early; for the last three weeks I was barely dressed by 11.30, if at all. I got to the group early knowing Isaac was still feeding every 2-3 hours but the car journey had made him sleepy. The place wasn’t the best and it was beginning to rain, I was struggling to open the door, never mind get my pram in; no-one helped, so I was getting a little stressed and I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone or what to expect. I wasn’t greeted, a lady was getting the chairs in a circle and putting toys in the middle, but ignored me. I was the first person there, so I sat out on the outer chairs not daring to go to the middle circle. When the second person came in they got chatting and I was still left there with no acknowledgement. Isaac woke so I tried to feed on my problem side (as I call it) and I was trying to get him latched on I was told that my brand new pram had to go outside (in the rain) where there were no cameras so anyone could pinch it. (My dad had bought me a really expensive pram and I didn’t want it out of my sight). She then proceeded to take it outside! She came back to tell me everyone paid a pound for a drink. By this time the room was filling up with mums and children and I couldn’t see anyone feeding or giving advice, I could only hear one lady talking quite openly about a family who was sending their young kids to school in a taxi because of a social services case and proceeded to give full details which I found distressing to hear. I changed Isaac’s nappy, gave her my pound and left! No drink (although I was gasping), no help for my problem side. I got home and cried; all that effort for nothing.
The next day I rang Helen (who needs a medal) and told her of my concerns about my right side, so she came over and she gave me a new position (rugby hold), re- establish attachment on that side and off I went. She had a lovely way of making me feel confident and that it was all worth the while and effort.
I can honestly say after that fourth week I had cracked it; it wasn’t always easy, I got the growth spurts and cluster feeds and my husband would get up with me every night to check I didn’t fall asleep feeding Issaac, he supplied me daily with sandwiches, used to ring every few hours to say “tummy to mummy” etc. I know sounds silly, but a first time mum I needed that; he used to tell me how proud he was that I was doing this for our son. He had researched and realised the benefits of breastfeeding far outshone the bottle feeding. We were actually turning a corner I think, because a routine was forming naturally and Isaac was putting loads of weight on; we felt more confident as parents.
The next hurdle was venturing out. My first restaurant experience was an Italian restaurant called Zizzi’s in Nottingham at lunch time; my best friend and I sat there ordering and I was so looking forward to anything but sandwiches and something warm, because you don’t experience much hot foot whilst feeding every two hours! We ordered and then came the famous cry, tingly boobs that are flowing with that much milk and I wondered what to do. My friend said ” feed him!” and I remember asking where, should I take him to the toilet to feed him? She turned round and asked if I would eat in the toilet? So there I was, with lots of muslins, I had all the wrong clothes on, milk flying everywhere! How embarrassing. I was so nervous, but my friend was doing a super job of making me laugh, giving mega encouragement so that I didn’t get stressed. I managed to disguise feeding in the end but worried constantly that I might suffocate Isaac with the muslin. He fed, settled and I had hot food for the first time away from home and then I wrote my diary that night, “right from today I will feed Isaac anywhere”
I fed Isaac through his first year; he naturally fell off the daily feeds first obviously enjoying mummy’s homemade cooking to booby juice! He still kept his night time feeds a little longer but I didn’t mind; they were quick feeds and I learnt how to get through the nights with little sleep. I never looked back. Isaac hardly ever gets ill and I know I gave him the best start in life.
I met an old friend, Louise, at a baby group we used to go to and she told me she had started a breastfeeding support group with Sure Start in Selston. I vowed there and then that I would get involved and help. I have been a volunteer for Sure Start for a year and half now and have recently completed my breastfeeding peer support training; I am so passionate about breastfeeding and the benefits that it brings to any child and mother. I will continue throughout my life now to support our breastfeeding groups.
I am currently 3 months into my second pregnancy and I often get asked by family members if I will breastfeed again. I give them the look, silly question! The difference this time is I will personally have more experience and knowledge. I have the same supporting midwife Helen, as well as those people and friends I have met through breastfeeding groups and peer support training that I know I can call on. We all have different stories and different experiences and I know I can ask anyone of the ladies I have met and they will be happy to help if I did have a problem. We all share the same passion with regards to breastfeeding. I cannot say for definite that it will be easier this time, as quite rightly every child is different, all I can say is that I have the same determination to give it my best shot.
I hope this story will inspire people to give breastfeeding a go, it’s worth every second.