Here is Tessa’s breastfeeding story. You can find her over at The Pumping Mama:
The details of the next few days are sketchy too. M was sleepy and jaundiced. She was woken to feed. Her latch looked right to me, from videos and images I’d seen when pregnant, but my nipples were bleeding on the ends, so something was wrong. M would scream when I held her and pull her head away from my breast. She only suckled for a few seconds at a time. I began hand-expressing colostrum. I didn’t know how much was normal to express, but I was given the impression that I wasn’t expressing much. Just a few drops into a syringe. There were lots of different staff. I remember one named Debbie being helpful, but then the shifts would change and it’d be someone new. M was almost forced to the breast at times, screaming and red. I just wanted to sleep.
I woke up on the 24th and my milk had come in. My breasts were rock hard and engorged. I hadn’t tried to feed her since I’d come home. My Mum had stayed to feed M over night, but I made one bottle of formula. The bottle was on the side in the morning when the midwife came. It was very thick, obviously made up wrongly. I cried that I couldn’t even make up a bottle right. I cried that I had to worry about such a thing. I was distraught that breastfeeding hadn’t worked, but with the midwife to support me, we decided that it wasn’t too late, I could give it another go.
The next few days blend into a muddle. I expressed with a manual pump. I fed M with a cup and syringe. I think we ditched the bottles. M was still very upset at the breast. My midwife was encouraging, but my main support came from a parenting forum. I learned about tongue-tie affecting latch. I asked for M’s to be checked and an infant feeding specialist was called. Tongue-tie was diagnosed, but I was told to establish breastfeeding first, to see if the tongue-tie was an issue or not. The specialist helped me to biologically nurse M. She fed properly for the first time, although she would fall asleep at the breast and there would be a lot of milk wasted from her mouth.
I spent evenings in bed asking my husband to run away with me. I wanted to leave M with my Mum. My husband wouldn’t come with me and leave her. He was choosing her over me. I’d have to go on my own. But where would I stay? I had no money. A b&b? I’d have to leave my mum behind. I was filled with desperation and so regretful.
The infant feeding specialist was eventually called to see us again. She observed M feed from a bottle, as well as attempts to get her to feed from me. It was decided M would have her tongue-tie snipped. It was booked for the following week. By then I’d begun offering M the breast less and less. Her rejection of me was heart breaking. At the tongue-tie snip, I didn’t try to feed M after, but she immediately fed from a bottle. No milk was spilt. I couldn’t hear her taking in any air. The change in her was much more noticeable than I thought it would be. She could stick out her tongue! I hadn’t even realised that she couldn’t do that before.
I called it a day at 6 weeks.
I will always regret it and wonder ‘what if?’. I should have tried for longer, I should have called on more help. I should never have agreed to give M bottles, I should have been strong enough to go into hospital. I should have insisted her tongue-tie be dealt with sooner. If my body had been better at giving birth, I could have had lots of skin to skin. I should have done more research when pregnant. I should have stood my ground in hospital and told them to stop prodding and poking her. I should have paid for a breastfeeding specialist to see me.
As M began to want milk less often, I dropped some pumps. But I still found myself with extra milk. I began freezing some. I couldn’t believe that I’d begun with a few drops of colostrum squeezed into a syringe, to having enough milk to freeze. 6 months had been and gone, my new goal became a year.
I toyed with the idea of teaching M to latch at the breast. I’d read articles about adopted babies learning to breast feed at 18 months and it would make me hopeful. I occasionally tried to get M to latch on, usually when she woke at night so was sleepy. I didn’t ask for support with this, or even confide in those around me, I was embarrassed that I was still hoping. I knew it would seem ridiculous. She latched once, and suckled for a few seconds. I tried to savour every moment, knowing that it wouldn’t last. It’s my best breastfeeding memory.