Our Breastfeeding Journey – Charlotte & Jacob

Jacob was born at 06:33 on the 23rd April and we were absolutely elated. I tried breastfeeding with support from the midwife an hour after he was born, however he only stayed on for a few minutes. We were advised to stay in hospital for some breastfeeding support so a bed on Blakeney was booked for us. In the afternoon we moved to the ward and when Jacob was next hungry I pressed the buzzer and a MCA came to assist with feeding. Unfortunately Jacob wasn’t latching and was getting agitated so he was given a syringe of colostrum I had expressed off antenataly. More attempts at getting him to latch that day were unsuccessful and we were unsure what was going on in terms of being able to go home. At no point had we thought we would be staying in hospital unless there were complications with the labour but we were advised to stay in overnight for further support with breastfeeding. Throughout the night I was giving Jacob expressed colostrum via a syringe.

The next morning we had some help from another MCA who managed to get Jacob to latch on to each breast for five minutes on two seperate occasions and I thought we were winning. However, when he awoke hungry I was unable to get him to latch on. We had tried many different positions but were unsuccessful. The MCA said the next time Jacob was hungry, I was to push the buzzer and someone would come and assist. The time came, I pressed the buzzer and someone popped their head around the curtain to say if I get in position they would return in a moment. They didn’t come back. Me and my partner tried for a good ten minutes to get Jacob latched on but he got himself very agitated and in turn I became stressed and very emotional. I felt that breastfeeding wasn’t working but no one was suggesting any other ways to feed Jacob. I was adamant to my partner I was giving up and formula feeding Jacob. Fed is best after all!

Mikey pressed the buzzer as he wasn’t happy with the circumstances. That this was supposed to be a joyous time yet here we were in hospital with our newborn baby, hot, sweaty, tired and stressed! The MCA came in and we explained how I was feeling and if there were any other options. She said we could try expressing using a pump. Finally a suggestion other than breastfeeding and I was willing to try. On the first attempt I managed to express 30ml of Colustrum with the Midwife and MCA both pleased. I was told if I managed to express a good amount on the next attempt, as long as we had all the kit we would be able to go home. With that my partner went off to Boots before it closed to buy a pump. Fast forward to 11pm on the 24th April we were finally home trying to figure out how to sterilise and work the pump before Jacob woke up for his next feed.

We had both mentioned to various healthcare professionals whilst in hospital the possibility of Jacob having a tongue tie as my partner had also had one. No one checked whilst in hospital but when the midwife came to see us on day 2, I mentioned it to her. She did an assessment and suggested he may have a posterior tongue tie however they couldn’t do a referral until day three. I later realised she hadn’t written anything about a TT in the notes. The midwife who came on day 3 didn’t seem concerned when I mentioned about the possibility of a TT and the idea was dismissed. On day 5 I had in my head to mention the possibility of a TT to the midwife (a different one again) however I forgot with Jacob having his heel prick test and all the other checks that were going on.

Alongside all this Jacob had a small amount of jaundice that was taking a while to settle, so we were seen by another midwife on day 16 however she did not explore the idea of a TT after my mention of it.

On the 15th May (day 22) after suffering with flu like symptoms and having red hot areas on both breasts, I was diagnosed with mastitis and was put on antibiotics. Up to this point expressing had been going well, but then I started to struggle with being able to fit in a pump every 2 to 3 hours with Jacob having naps and being able to be put down without waking up, eating and sleeping myself, washing and sterilising bottles and managing a couple of minor chores a day so I didn’t go too insane with the mess.

I didn’t want to express anymore, I wanted to stop with the unnecessary stress and feel calmer in myself. I was again adament I was going to either completely give formula or express when I found time to give breast milk and top up with formula.

I had heard of Sian from No Milk Like Mama’s. Sian had done an assessment on a friend’s baby and diagnosed TT. I thought I’d at least go to the breastfeeding cafe 2 days later and see what support I could get. Sian was brilliant and after an assessment, she diagnosed Jacob with a posterior TT. With that I could go back to the midwifery team and ask for a refferal. Sian also gave me some pointers to get advice with getting Jacob on to the breast such as trying nipple shields and to look at paced bottle feeding.

On the 19th May (day 26) we had a home visit from a Midwife who did a tongue tie assessment and was happy to refer Jacob to the hospital. And on the 28th May (day 35), Jacob was seen and diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie which my partner and I decided to have cut. The Midwife and Nurse in the clinic said the tongue tie was very restrictive and restricting Jacob’s jaw movement. We could see results instantly when we gave him a bottle straight after. And later that day, comfortable in our home environment I was able to get Jacob to latch on using nipple shields.

It took about a week before I was able to get Jacob to latch without nipple shields comfortably. I returned to Sian’s breastfeeding cafe 10 days after the tongue tie was cut to get some support with ensuring Jacob was latching on correctly. Sian’s peer supporters were happy with Jacob’s latch and I felt so relieved.

I did feel like I had to completely relearn how to feed Jacob by directly nursing. Jacob used to wake up roughly 2 to 3 times in the night when I was expressing and giving a bottle. In that first week or two of direct nursing, Jacob was having a feed, falling asleep but waking up within an hour for another feed. It was a relentless cycle and I was told that Jacob was non-nutritive sucking which was sending him to sleep when he wasn’t full. We have worked through that and Jacob now sleeps again for longer periods at night happily waking, feeding and going back off to sleep. 

I have now been directly nursing Jacob for over 5 weeks and am beginning to feel confident breastfeeding in public. Friends and my mum tell me I have done extremely well persevering with expressing and then getting Jacob on the breast. It has been hard at times and without the support of family, friends and Sian and her team I may have given up in the first month. But I am extremely proud of myself for persevering and getting to where we are now!

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