I’ve decided to come out of my shell a little bit and every week, share a more personal post that is a little “off topic” to my usual blog.
This week, it’s breastfeeding. My son, Eric, is 17 months old today. He’s nearly one and a half, and wow, what a journey it has been with breastfeeding!
I am so passionate about breastfeeding and supporting others, especially with tongue ties. I have been told so many times I should share what happened to us as it could inspire other mums who are struggling.
This is our story. It gets graphic!
Here’s some background information…
- Eric was born on 26/10/15 at 42+1 by EMCS
- He was 7lb
- Eric is my first born, my second pregnancy
- I had a healthy pregnancy until the end, I was diagnosed with pre eclampsia and it all went down hill from there!
- Eric was exclusively breastfed until 6 months
- Breastfeeding was awful to begin with, terribly painful, I cried and hated every moment, dreaded feeding him. I used nipple shields for 5 months.
- We started baby led weaning at 6 months, though he didn’t really eat until 8 months!
- We all bed share and Eric feeds through the night still
- He’s very much still breastfed and loves his boob!
- Sometimes it is mentally hard for me, sometimes I feel super touched out, but mostly I love it.
- I’m very proud that I’ve got to 17 months as we had an awful beginning and a terrible 6 months.
When I was pregnant, I knew I was going to breastfeed. I spent hours reading up on it and what to expect. I thought I knew it all… baby comes, baby goes on boob, the rest comes naturally.
Unfortunately my labour was awful, I had pre eclampsia but wasn’t induced until 42 weeks, I ended up being rushed to theatre for an EMCS. I was so scared I wouldn’t get to feed him after the birth during the “golden hour” especially as I had lost 2.5 litres of blood and had a terrible time in theatre. I begged and begged to feed him, I could barely see straight or hold him but it was all I wanted to do.
The nurses and midwives warned me that breastfeeding through my recovery might be hard, I was very tired, ill and dehydrated. I had nearly had a hysterectomy and was in a lot of pain. I just remember my vision being so fuzzy, not being able to even latch him on, but telling myself that I had no other option. I had wanted to do it for so long.
Eric was attached to me, feeding from then on for days on end. I was in hospital for a week after birth and I don’t remember a time where he wasn’t on the boob. He went without a feed for about 20 minutes. I held him and fed up sat up in my hospital bed for hours on endand all the staff said to be was, “wow, he never stops, does he?”. It was absolute agony.
I was exhausted but he cluster fed non stop going from one boob to the other. We were both on IV drips and the wires always got in the way. I felt really depressed. My nipples killed, they were so sore, I had bruises around my aerola and I felt lonely. I was given nipple cream and told it was normal.
Once being discharged home, I thought it would get better when we were both off the drips, being more relaxed and in our own surroundings. But it was just as bad at home. Eric breastfed 24/7. The minute he unlatched he screamed for more. He cluster fed for 9 hours at a time. I would sit on the sofa from morning until night putting him back and forward. He was never settled unless he was latched on or laid on my chest.
His latch was awful. He barely opened his mouth and he only ever sucked the end. But he was gaining weight and so everyone said it was fine and it was normal that breastfeeding hurt.
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, I was dreading feeds, had bleeding nipples and couldn’t bare it. Ollie (my partner, Eric’s dad) went to Boots and bought nipple shields, dummies, cream, and all sorts of breastfeeding gadgets. I got in touch with my local breastfeeding support worker and texted her basically begging for help. When she came to visit, she advised me that breastfeeding does hurt some women and nipples do heal. I just had to ride it out.
I wore Eric in a sling and that did help. He would settle with Ollie in the sling for about half an hour, which gave me a break from feeding. Deep down though, I was exhausted. I hurt everywhere.
I was so discouraged, disappointed and scared. I didn’t want it to feel this way. I didn’t understand why everyone, including health care professionals, were telling me that the pain was normal. Something was just telling me otherwise.
The nipple shields helped a little, they took the edge off but the pain was very much still there. When he latched on I would have to tense my jaw and curl my toes to deal with the pain, then throughout the feed constantly motivate myself to stand it. I hated using the shields. They didn’t feel right, they were a hassle, they fell off and it made breastfeeding in public an absolute terror. I hadn’t imagined in a million years I would have been in that situation. A screaming baby, bleeding nipples, fiddly shields and tubes of nipple cream wasn’t what I expected.
But still, I was told it was normal. Eric was gaining weight so that was that. I was even told that I might just have oversensitive nipples.
It started improving around 5 months. I learnt how to breastfeed in bed laying down which was a life changer. Eric’s latch finally improved and I started trying to wean us off the shields.
Sometimes I couldn’t bare it and it still hurt too much, sometimes I managed a feed without them. Never though, did I enjoy using them. I felt like there was something wrong with me and I couldn’t breastfeed properly.
Around this time was when I started to join breastfeeding support groups online. Something didn’t sit with me, I had a feeling it wasn’t right with the advice I had received telling me it was normal to struggle this way. I joined UKBAPS on Facebook and posted asking for advice. Straight away, I had lots of replies telling me it sounded like Eric had tongue tie. I was asked if he had been checked, why no one had asked me so far.
I was shocked straight away as I had been reading up about tongue tie. As soon as I got these comments, and had a lactation consultant confirm it sounded like tongue tie symptoms, I just cried. I cried with relief, frustration and anxiety. I was angry. I was tired. And I felt incredibly let down by health care professionals.
I had Eric’s tongue tie confirmed as a posterior tie. He also has lip tie. I had fed him, exclusively, through agony, with that, whilst being told the pain I experienced was completely normal. I can’t believe it.
Guilt has swallowed me up about it before. I was questioning whether it was actually my fault. How did I not know? Had he been hungry for the last 5 months? Had he hated breastfeeding as much as I had? Did I put him through feeding problems because I didn’t have the knowledge of tongue ties myself to know that he had one?
I was happy to have answers but upset that the diagnosis was so late. Had the tongue tie been found in hospital or when I was showing all the symptoms of a tongue tie, it would have saved both me and Eric a hell of a lot of stress and pain. It took me a while to accept the truth, I did feel a grudge.
However, I did manage to get help and support from friends, online communities and family. The sling community was a life saver for me and the Sheffield Sling Surgery was invaluable. Meeting like minded people, getting advice on slings and breastfeeding on the go changed my life and prospective on breastfeeding completely.
We were able to wean off using nipple shields and eventually Eric was a breastfeeding pro! Learning to breastfeed took us 6 months. It was a long, hard time and difficult experience. But I believe that due to what happened, is why we still have such a strong breastfeeding relationship at 17 months.
Lots of people will tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t breastfeed. You CAN! It is so hard when there are underlaying issues but you can do it!
I have researched and learnt so much about tongue ties because of our experience, and read up about breastfeeding support on the NHS. It fueled me to train as a breastfeeding support worker but the training course required the parents to be without baby and at that point, Eric was still feeding constantly. I really hope to do it in the near future and would love to eventually train as a doula.
There is not enough support or knowledge about tongue ties to help new parents and their babies whilst in hospital. This help could save millions of breastfeeding relationships, stress, fear and post natal depression. It is not normal for breastfeeding to hurt. Pain is a sign that something is not right; it is a symptom of a deeper problem. Please, please don’t ignore the problem or listen to any advice about it being normal; because it is not. A lactation consultant can give trained professional advice on feeding problems for tongue ties on all ages of babies both breast and bottle fed. Health care professionals need to be trained on tongue ties and feeding problems so they can help mums and babies who are struggling to feed.
Did you have problems with tongue tie or know anyone that has? Share your experience in the comments.
Thank you for reading!