Thursday, 22 October 2009

How I almost gave up breast-feeding

Most of you will know that I am rather pro-breast-feeding. While I won’t criticise you for deciding to formula feed, I will offer lots and lots of advice and tips if you’re undecided or having problems (which, let’s be honest, probably comes across like sanctimonious criticism). Most of you will know that I breast-fed Rosemary for over two years. Most of you will know that I felt myself to be a bit of an expert at the old breast-feeding lark, though not a trained breast-feeding counsellor.

So, when embarking on being a mum to a small baby for the second time in my life, I felt pretty darned confident that breast-feeding would come easily. She would latch on the second she was put on my chest after birth and there would be no positioning problems, no need for Lansinoh, no cracked or bleeding nipples, no mastitis, no topping up with formula. None of the problems we had last time. Because I was breast-feeding mum extraordinaire, who lived through many a tooth and gave her eldest daughter absolutely the best and healthiest start any child could possibly have.

You see where we’re going with this story, of course?

She didn’t latch on immediately. She did feed briefly after the birth and again in the morning. She continued feeding when we went home, but her positioning was really pretty awful.

I had completely forgotten about my oddly shaped nipples, which cause problems at the start – or I’d assumed they’d still be ‘fixed’ from Rosemary’s two years of administrations. The left one has a kink and tends to bleed, crack, warp in various ways at the bend. The right one is somewhat inverted and gets all horrid in the inverted bit, to the point where it looks like bits of the nipple are actually going to fall off. The left one is bearable and the baby learns quickest with that one. The right one is the most problematic. That’s where I got mastitis with Rosemary. That’s where I got mastitis with Eleanor.

The mastitis with Eleanor came at the same time as the inverted bit was so infected that Eleanor would not touch it. She actually sniffed it and turned away – sniffed the other one and latched on (with a bad latch, but latched on nevertheless). Many of you will know that what you need to do to get rid of mastitis is to feed, feed, feed on that side. But that was not happening. So I was hand expressing – just onto a muslin, didn’t occur to me to try to catch it and give it to Eleanor somehow – to try to get rid of the mastitis.

Then Eleanor was weighed. She had lost a pound. She was below 10% under her birth weight. The midwife (not my usual one) just told me to ‘Feed, feed, feed. Feed yourself, then feed, feed, feed.’ Uh-huh. Difficult when your baby won’t feed from one side. My midwife phoned the next day to talk it through with me and explained that between 10-15% under birth weight they have to put together a weight-gain plan and that if it goes below 15% they are obliged to refer it to the paediatricians.

I said I wanted to try pumping from the right side to try to get the mastitis out of the way, and Chris and his dad went up to the maternity hospital that evening to pick up the pump and a feeding cup, to try giving Eleanor the expressed milk. We tried the feeding cup, but it was no go, and I recalled that Rosemary never managed to take anything from one either. The pumping was fine and it got rid of the mastitis, but the nipple was still very infected and Eleanor was still not interested in it. In fact, by that point I was reluctant to offer it to her as I didn’t see how it would ever heal if I did.

In the meantime was starting to fret a lot on the left breast, taking 15 minutes to latch on and screaming the whole time. She wasn’t even managing to feed a normal amount of time, let alone extra in order to stop losing weight. When she did finally latch on, she’d only stay on for a few minutes and then come off and scream and scream again.

The midwife came on Sunday to weigh her. She had lost an ounce and was now 13% under her birth weight, which was scarily close to the referral percentage. Somewhere I really didn’t want to go. We’d avoided SCBU this time, I really didn’t want to end up in hospital anyway, with Eleanor being tube-fed. I told the midwife that I wanted to try offering the breast-milk from a bottle. Rosemary had had a bottle (formula top-ups, rather than expressed breastmilk) and had managed to combine it fine with breast-feeding – giving it up voluntarily after a couple of weeks and never touching it again. I knew the risks, of course, but felt it was probably the only way we had a chance of her not losing more weight, with the current state of my right nipple and her latching-on issues. The midwife agreed.

Chris gave her some breastmilk in a bottle. She loved it. Drunk it all up and I had to pump to keep up until she’d had enough. The trouble was, the next time I put her to the breast, she had forgotten what to do. She latched on and then either fell asleep, if she was tired, or came straight off again and screamed… and screamed… and screamed. I tried and tried and tried and tried and she could not do it.

I cried and cried and cried. My daughter was losing weight and she wouldn’t take my milk. I couldn’t feed my daughter. I felt useless. I felt like my whole raison-d’être had been taken away from me. I felt like I was dying inside. In fact, I even wondered, at a particularly low point, whether there was any point in my continued existence. Fortunately, a picture of Rosemary came into my head and got rid of those darkest thoughts.

By Monday morning, I was in a terrible state and didn’t really know what to do. I was expressing as much as possible, but it really wasn’t enough to satisfy her. I was reaching the point where the only thing I could really consider was formula. But I wasn’t considering it so much as a top up, but more as a complete alternative. I phoned the maternity hospital to speak to my midwife, but she wasn’t in that morning. She was due in in the afternoon. I spoke to her counterpart, who told me to keep doing what I was doing – expressing from both breasts (now that she wasn’t taking from the breast at all) at least every three hours and feeding it to Eleanor. Keep offering the breast before the bottle, but don’t leave it too long if she still refused, otherwise she wouldn’t get enough. And she scheduled my midwife to come and see me in the afternoon.

I broke down when my midwife came. Told her I thought I would probably change to formula as I just couldn’t cope any more. I wasn’t getting any sleep or any time for anything other than trying to force my baby to take milk from my breasts, express milk, and feed her the expressed milk (though other people could and were doing this sometimes, of course). I was hardly seeing Rosemary at all and just wanted to spend an hour reading with her or baking or doing something normal together, or even just having a good cuddle. I couldn’t see how it would ever be possible for me to leave the house, do any work, or basically do anything other than attempt to feed, pump and bottle-feed. Oh and cry. I couldn’t stop crying.

My midwife understood. I think she may have been the only person who really did. And she knew me well enough to talk me out of making a snap decision when I was at such an incredibly low point. She pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to stop cold turkey anyway, at that point. I’d need to keep expressing for a few days, otherwise I’d be in real trouble with my breasts. And she asked me whether I didn’t think it was a decision that I might very well regret deeply in the future, given my history. So, between us, we came up with a way to take a bit of the pressure off for a few days, so that I would be in a better position to make the decision later on.

Stop offering the breast completely. Keep pumping. Give her all the expressed milk and top up with formula (I would like to stress that, at no point did my midwife bring formula up or try to pressure me into using it; it was my idea and she agreed that it was probably the best way in these very difficult circumstances) until she’s satisfied. She said that, if it weren’t for the weight loss, she would suggest stopping offering the breast for 24 hours, anyway, maybe trying a feeding cup. Because sometimes babies and mums just need to stop and try again fresh. She also agreed to look for no loss when she came to weigh Eleanor on Tuesday afternoon, rather than looking for a gain. Which took a bit more pressure off.

And that was fine. It was still hard work, expressing eight times a day. It took 40 minutes each time and did hurt – not as much as the bad latch at hurt, but still painful. Working out the timings of expressing and feeding was a bit of a logic problem, but it worked out that I expressed immediately after a feed during the night and about an hour after in the day. That maximised the chunks of sleep I could get at night and the time to do things like eat breakfast, have baths or spend time with Rosemary, during the day. Not having to deal with the screaming and flailing of arms and the incredibly depressing feeling that your baby does not want to take nourishment from you, made me a thousand times calmer. Which was good for everyone.

The next day, I got a fever. There were no red patches on my breasts, though the left one felt very engorged. I was very shivery and dizzy and just wanted to sleep lots, just like I had on the first day of the mastitis the week before. Despite this, I still managed to keep up with the expressing, though I handed over most of the actual feeding to others. In the afternoon, my midwife came. She agreed that it didn’t look like mastitis, so the next obvious culprit is the uterus. Looks like there was an infection there, which had quite possibly been there since the birth, if the lochia odour was anything to go by (stupidly, I had no idea it wasn’t supposed to smell like that). She was onto my doctor immediately to get some antibiotics and took a swab to send off for testing (results tomorrow, though I have improved enough to know that the antibiotics are working).

Then it was time to weigh Eleanor. She had gained – just under two ounces. What a relief. And she doesn’t have to be weighed until Saturday now, then not until next Wednesday, which will be the last midwife visit and the health visitor will take over from then on (all being well, of course, but there should be no reason why it wouldn’t).

My midwife came back yesterday morning to check how I was – not to look at Eleanor at all, as she was no completely happy with her (and assured me she would poo). And then she told me I could try putting Eleanor to the breast any time, if I wanted to. She said that Eleanor was getting enough food into her and had gained weight, so there was no pressure. I didn’t have to try, but if I wanted to, I could just put her there, and she might have a bit of a comfort suck. Or she might not. But it would not be a worry, because we knew we could get the food into her. I nodded and smiled, but didn’t really feel like trying anytime soon.

Last night, Eleanor did her first proper, non-meconium poo. This was cause for much celebration, as I have already mentioned. This morning, at around 10.30am, after giving Eleanor 30ml of expressed milk, I unclipped my nursing bra and held her to my left breast. She latched on immediately and sat there and fed for over 10 minutes, then swapped to the right breast and fed for another 10 minutes. I sat there for a few moments, silent tears of joy trickling down my face. Then I called upstairs ‘Guess what Eleanor’s doing?’ ‘Breastfeeding?’ came the reply and Chris came downstairs to witness me bawling my eyes out yet again – but this time in absolute happiness, rather than despair.

She has since breast-fed a few times and is currently sleeping peacefully in her crib having fallen asleep on the breast (oops – not supposed to be doing that, but I am so not going to worry about bad-sleep-forming issues at this point!). We will continue with the formula top-ups, at least until next Wednesday, so as not to risk her losing weight again. I was only managing to express 30ml at a time, so it’s possible that I’m not yet overly productive in the milk department. I know it will come, but I’m not going to risk her losing weight again just yet, especially as she seems to now be quite happy to mixed feed. (And, frankly, it’s nice to have a break sometimes – and Chris enjoys it, too, so maybe we’ll keep one or two formula feeds in there for good, or buy our own pump.)

Hopefully you can imagine how happy I feel at the moment, because I really am not able to put it into words.

Did you have feeding ups and downs, or were you one of the lucky ones? Now I’ve come out the other end, I’m happy to hear all your stories – even if they make me a little jealous!


  1. Oh Tasha I'm a balling my eyes out here. You are my hero - I so hope this marks a turning point for you and Eleanor, and the beginning of a long and happy time breast feeding.

    I know SO well how hard it must have been and how happy you must feel now - I had horrendous trouble with Kai in the beginning. I had been so determined to breast feed and when Kai was first born he did have one small feed but then refused to feed for two days, and after that it took several days to get him feeding regularly, and that with an appalling latch and a lot of tears on both sides.

    I nearly went out of my mind. I was so scared of introducing bottles and the 'f' word was, well, like a very rude word to me. I would just burst in to tears as soon as anyone mentioned it. I hand expressed, like you, and syringe fed him colostrum till my milk came in, testing his blood sugar to make sure it stayed up (it did). I then literally spent the best part of a week doing nothing but teaching us both how to get latched on right and feeding day and night till we sussed it.

    And suss it we did. 15 months on we're still going strong. I had dreadful problems with engorgement, Kai refusing to feed from one side and cracked nipples from Kai's seeming inability to form a good latch. I had to fend off 'helpful' family members telling me 'enough was enough' and I should just stop being so silly and give him a bottle. They never understood how much it meant to me. It was, quite frankly, awful and by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

    But it was worth it, a million zillion times over. And feels all the more of an achievement for persevering.

    Well done you for being so strong - I'm so glad you've had the support you needed to make it through.

    Much love to you xxx

  2. Hoorah for you! I fed my son for 2 years and 2 days and the first six weeks was the hardest, most painful work I've done in my life to get the feeding established. But worth it. He decided to stop 2 days after his 2nd birthday, and the following night went to sleep on his own with no dummy (he never had one), no bottle (he refused them), no hassle. He fell asleep on my breast every night after feeding but now has fantastic sleeping routine (about to change now he is 2 and putting leg over cot!). Everyone is different and you have to find your own way. Congratulations! :-) x

  3. Beautiful post, made me well up as so similar to my experience with my son Monty, who was always a low centile baby, had the same probs with the feeding and expressing and incredible pain and those stupid cups!!! Then it got better, then when he was seven weeks i got mastitus, stopped b.feeding as so down, ill depressed etc then went back to it at 9 wees as felt so awful for not b.feeding. Toughest thing ever. Thinking of

  4. Congratulations, that is some story, and I was in tears with it!

    I am down to one breast with Baby Boy, he has never like feeding from my right breast as it is smaller but I am not stopping until he wants to. Although when he tries to put toys in his mouth at the same time as my nipple...

  5. What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing it with us. I have always been very uynsure about breastfeeding, I've blogged a few times about it. It really didnt appeal. I was already to stand my ground once the baby was born and demand formula, btu I have been one of the lucky ones. She latched immediately, and has been doing brilliantly. From birth to our first weigh in she only lost 50g, and since last Saturday to today she has out on 7.5oz. I was sure I wouldnt be able to do it, but listening to words of wisdom from people like yourself has meant I was more open minded and gave it ago ... and am so glad I have.

    Im really pleased things are working out for you now. Lots of love xx

  6. Josie: Oh goodness, you really went through it, too. I'm incredibly impressed with your perseverence. Spending a whole week getting it right is something many people just would not or could not do. Well done!

    Lucy: Well done for persevering through those early days. I can completely understand why people give up so often. It's amazing how it can be so difficult.

    Bec: I am amazed that you managed to go back to it at 9 weeks. That must have been a hugely difficult thing to do. Wow!

  7. Oh Tasha, what a rollercoaster! I know how much it must mean to you to have conquered this, and how emotional you must feel.

    I was unable to feed my boys because they were so prem, so I expressed for four months and found that incredibly hard. I was so determined to feed the girls, but neither were interested immediately after delivery. They had low blood sugars so I agreed to give them formula. Some how - and I genuinely have no idea how - within three days they were bottle-fed babies. I felt totally out of control, and had to fight for some support to start breast-feeding. It is far too long a story for now, but a fortnight later I had two exclusively breast-fed babies at home. I had a uterine infection like you, and three weeks after delivery I was back in hospital, seriously ill and having a D&C to remove retained placenta. I fed the babies as I lay half-conscious in my hospital bed!

    I don't think people realise what lengths we mothers will go to, to do what we think is right for our children! Well done you, and well done Eleannor for learning something so tricky xx

  8. Glad to hear you've resolved it as breast feeding is what you personally really want to do. But just wanted to say to you or anyone else having problems I think there is far too much pressure on mums to breast feed and it should be personal choice so if you did end up changing to formula at some point don't beat yourself up about it - bottle feeding does have a lot of advantages - someone can share the feeding, you know how much the baby is getting, you get more of a break and get to spend more time with Rosemary etc etc I could go on but won't!

  9. Wow, you've had a really stressful time! Takes the edge off enjoying your newborn baby doesn't it? I struggled to get breastfeeding with my first I had to express then cup feed him for the first week or so. But I mastered it and fed him for 6 months. Like you I thought breastfeeding second time would be a breeze - it so wasn't! His latch was different, he was different, everything was different! I got through it and also managed 6 months with him, but I got repeated mastitis during that time which I'd never had before. I'm hoping to breastfeed number 3 but I've no preconceptions about what it will be like. Just different again no doubt! Well done on battling through it and persevering, many in your situation would have thrown in the towel I'm sure.

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  11. Sometimes breastfeeding is the easiest most natural thing in the world. . . and sometimes it just isn't, but it’s always worth it!

    When my son was about 8 months old and we moved to England I was under a lot of stress (we were living with in-laws waiting for the house we were buying to be ready to complete) and for a couple weeks he didn't gain any weight. Actually I think he might have lost a bit. . . and I was traumatized and my in-laws kept suggesting formula as that's what my mother-in-law did with her kids. . . which just made me feel worse. Which in turn caused me more stress and further inhibited breastmilk production. . . I’d always wanted my little one to nurse until he was at least 2 because that’s what my Mom did with me.

    It took me a long time to feel as comfortable nursing here as I did in America (not sure why) and I remember crying when we finally found our nursing groove again. . . I’m glad that I stuck with it! We nursed for just shy of 2 and a half years before he completely self-weaned.

  12. I'm really impressed you stuck it out. I didn't but reading your post will make many women realise that it is possible to keep going even when you hit rock-bottom and it all seems impossible.

  13. Pippa: Good for you - Am trying to imagine what toys he's putting in his mouth, though! Never had to deal with that, though do remember the hell of teething!

    OMG: I'd been wondering whether you ended up breast-feeding! I'm so pleased that it worked out well for you in the end. (Though I am, of course, insanely jealous of your easy birth and easy breast-feeding!)

    MTJAM: My word, I am amazed that you managed to get the girls back to breast-feeding after that. That must have been a hugely difficult time. Well done. And expressing for four months - don't know how you managed. And, yes, we do go to extraordinary lengths, sometimes.

    Jennysnail: You are absolutely right. I had actually come to terms with switching to formula and felt calm for the first time since the weighing, because of all those benefits you mention (though I couldn't come up with any benefits to Eleanor, which still made me feel guilty!). It was fortunate that the midwife (and Chris, too, who suggested waiting before the midwife did - should have mentioned that in the post), knew me well enough to know that I shouldn't make that particular decision too hastily. But I know now how difficult it can be to get through and would never ever criticise anyone for making that decision.

    Whistlejacket: It does take away the enjoyment, indeed. I've only really been getting to know her properly since the start of the week, I think. It's surprising how different they can be - and how similar, too. Hope you get a good bf experience with Number 3.

    [More replies to comments in morning - Eleanor needs feeding now,then I'm off to bed!]

  14. After reading your moving post I'm so glad that you managed to get through the tough times.

    I have to admit I am also jealous.

    I really, really really wanted to breastfeed. Was quite adamant about it. Bought books equipment, clothing, slings etc. Invested my heart and soul into wanting to do it. I had problems with both my children. Totally broke my heart. I'm a jealous formula feeding mum.

    I look at my children and although I wish I could've given them the best milk for longer I am thankful they are healthy and happy anyway.

    Long may the breastfeeding continue for you!

  15. Oh darling - I'm so so sorry you've been having such a tough time. I wish you lived a bit closer and I could come and give you a hug. I so know what you're going through - I went through almost exactly the same thing with my two - I thinK i mentioned it once at the end of your post about siblings being different. I breastfed my first for 10 months and never had a single problem - just like you and R, so I automatically assumed it would be just as easy with the 2nd. But it wasn't. At all. Not only did we move house when she ws 2 weeks old, but I also had another child to look after (just like you do). I was convinced because of all the stress that I wasn't producing as much milk as with my first one. And also - and this is somethign I found hard to accept because breastfeeding had been so easy with the first - but when you breastfeed a child until they're quite big (Renée and Rosemary) you get used to them latching on themselves - they just kind of sit on your lap and do it. Positioning a tiny newborn is so different - so if you last memory of breastfeeding is of having a child (rather than a baby) sitting on your lap it's easy to get the positioning wrong - however much experience you have. The midwives told me I'd got it wrong and I kind of laughed at them (despite my nipples being cracked and bleeding and my poor breasts being engorged and hideously painful). But they were right. Wih a newborn you really need to do the wholeplating them on thing - which you don't need to do with an older child. Anyway, I'm so pleased things are getting better for you. But, if it does continue to cause you unhappiness then don't feel guilty about formula (I lasted 4 months feeding Edie) and when I finally decided to bottle feed exclusively I was gutted and full of guilt, but eventually I realised it was so much more practical for the situation I was in. Renée needed me too and I didn't have time to sit and gaze lovingly at my newborn 2nd time around. That was just the way it was. I love them both equally, but situations dictated different things for them. Both R and E will know how much you love them whatever you choose to do. Remember to be kind to yourself as well xxxxxx

  16. Good on you Tasha for hanging in there! I remember some painful days when I nursed DD - it was as though she was sucking razor blades out of my nipples! She nursed to 15 months, so I thought it would be easy with DS. At first he was too dozy (from the fact that I'd had a C-section I think), and he just wouldn't open his mouth wide enough, but eventually he got the hang of it, and I never had quite the pain I had with DD. He nursed to 20 months.

    Both of them had formula as a supplement because I went back to work and although I pumped at work for quite a while I could never get enough to get them through the next day. DD was never very keen on the formula though until we visited the UK and I bought SMA - boy, did she love that! At the time there was no DHA enriched formula in the US, so I bought lots of it to bring back with me! She quit nursing when I got pregnant - we sat down for her to nurse one afternoon when I got home from work and she took one sip and pulled away grimacing. I asked her if she wanted a snack and she climbed off my lap and headed into the kitchen. She never even tried to nurse again! I found out 2 days later I was pregnant - I think she knew before I did because the milk changed taste!

  17. Thanks for sharing, and how wonderful that you have both figured it out, Im sure it will only get better from here. Why not keep mixed feeding? It give you a bit of a break, and she will get the vast majority of her nutrition from you. Many friends of mine go this route and it is handy to have a baby that you can leave with a friend or husband for a couple of hours without worrying that she will refuse her bottle, or having to ensure the fridge is stocked with milk. Having your own pump is really handy though, I went back to work at 3 months and pumped, so had a decent one of my own.
    I recall so well the joy when your baby finally nurses a full feed, and the frustration and depths of despair when you can't nourish them. In retrospect I didn't have so bad a time, I just had terrible engorgement when my milk came in (having only read up on low milk supply issues since my friends suffered from that, I didn;t even know what it was). My tiny daughter couldn't latch any more, though she did oK in the first days after birth (it was like trying to latch onto a pea on a balloon) and I didn't have my pump at the time. I didn't even realize that she wasn't getting any milk, I thought she was nursing, but she wasn't latched on and I wasn't having proper let downs. You are so lucky having people come to the home, I was dragging all over town to lactation consultants, and it was in her office that I broke down in tears as my tiny girl took in a full feed. We weighed her before and after to prove that she had a full tummy! For weeks after though she was nursing well she would get suffocated by the force of my "firehose" nipples forcing milk down her, often she would throw most of it back up, but eventually my body learned to meet her needs. When I had my son I realized why I was blessed with such a milk supply, there was no chance of engorgement with him, he guzzled every last drop!

  18. When I was pregnant with Sam I was positively discouraged from breastfeeding by my mum and grandma. They told me because I had red hair I'd never be able to feed him properly!

    I ignored them of course and had a wonderful experience. He latched on & fed with no problems. I introduced 1 bottle of forula a day from 3 months old when I was in uni one day a week and he had no problem mixed feeding either. I had ambitions to bf until he was 2, I was going to become a bf counsellor etc.

    Then, when Sam was 6 months old he had a very bad cold and point blank refused to breastfeed. And that was that, he self weaned. I remember him having a feed on 13 Jan and crying as he hadn't fed from me for 2 days prior and we must be back on track. Nope, that was the last feed.

    10 months on I feel let down. I don't feel 'qualified' to tell people I breastfed as it was only for 6 months. I cancelled my counselling course. I'm insanely jealous of mum's who are still breastfeeding at Sam's age, indeed even those who are feeding newborns. I tell everyone I can how important it is and how they should treasure it.

    A friend is 20 weeks pregnant and has no plans to bf as she finds it 'creepy'. I'm struggling to speak to her as I'm so upset she has the opportunity to do & I would love that again.

    Sorry for the ramble but I think bf'ing is so important, not just for the baby but for the mum too. I had an emergency section & for a while that was the only thing I could do for my baby.

    You have done amazingly well overcoming all the obstacles. You have made me realise that next time (if there is one) it might not be as easy. But I am also determined to work at it. Nothing beats that amazing feeling of feeding your child yourself.
    By the way, my mum now tells everyone how incredible I was at breastfeeding and how I've completed changed her attitude. She's very pro-bf now thank god!

  19. This post had me in floods of tears. I am so glad that you and Eleanor are finding your way.

  20. I was crying, too.

    My own story is rather uneventful. With my first baby, I had quite a lot of trouble for the first week. I stayed in the maternity ward an extra day because it wasn't working. He took three weeks to get back to his birthweight and I got some complaints about that. I also had cracked nipples and I used a nipple shield for a while, which helped. After a couple of months, though, I felt like a pro.

    With my second, it felt like second nature. I still had the cracked nipples so needed to use the shields for a while. I also got mastitis once.

    I weaned both at six months, because I was wanting to have the odd night off, and I wasn't wanting to use a pump. I also wanted my body back. I loved breastfeeding, though, and like you felt rather defined by it, like that was my Purpose in Life. I would have the same feeling again with another baby.

    I'm so glad it all worked out for you in the end.

  21. Rosie: Thank you.

    Insomniac Mummy: I imagine it must be very difficult to hear about people who do manage it. I have to admit I find it quite difficult to hear about people who seem to take to it with no problems at all. Of course your children are healthy and happy. Formula isn't the huge evil it's made out to be - it's actually pretty good stuff. Of course, it would be great if everyone could breast-feed, but it's just not always possible or the right decision for everyone.

    Emily: You're right about the difference between breast-feeding an older child and a baby. It's really different and the older child knows exactly what to do and doesn't need any help. Babies are completely different it seems - and much harder work! I think I managed to come to terms with choosing formula, before coming up with 'the plan', so am hopefull that I will still be OK with it, if I need to stop earlier. I think it's certainly more likely that we won't continue for over two years this time, but who knows. And your penultimate sentence really hit home. That's exactly what was probably worrying me the most - that Eleanor would think I didn't love her as much as Rosemary, because I didn't try hard enough.

    [More responses to come... Eleanor waking up]

  22. AA: I love your description of 'sucking razor blades out of your nipples' - that's just what it feels like sometimes! I think having a formula supplement is really quite handy, as it gives you the opportunity to go out for a bit longer and have someone else do a feed. Think we will likely keep that up, if Eleanor is happy to (Rosemary rejected formula after a couple of weeks). That's fascinating that your DD self-weaned when you got pregnant. I guess the taste must have changed.

    Geekymummy: Well, it's still a work in progress. But I'm being calm about it, instead of panicking, which is a big thing. I think we may well keep the mixed feeding in, yes. Being able to hand over to someone else for longer than a few hours was one of the things that was appealing to me when I was convincing myself to switch to formula. Not that I'm desparate to get rid of her, already, of course, but it was a big tie exclusively breast-feeding Rosemary - it meant that she couldn't go off to my mum's for more than 4 hours at a time, so working was always very bitty in her first year. Am also going to look into buying a pump, as it would be good to be able to have some expressed milk on hand, too. We are very lucky over here to have midwives and health visitors visiting at home - though they're not all as good as my midwife, I have to say! I will be going to a local breast-feeding support group, too, though I'm very glad not to have had to go and find things like that over the past couple of weeks, when I've also been very under the weather with infections and just general recovery. America does seem to do birth and afterwards quite differently!

    Notsuchayummymummy: How bizarre that they thought your red hair would prevent you from breast-feeding! I've never heard that one before. Managing to go to six months is fantastic - so many people don't make it past the first couple of weeks! Though, if you wanted to continue for a lot longer, of course you're going to feel disappointed. I also find it difficult to hear that people aren't planning to even try breast-feeding. Of course, it's their choice, but that doesn't help, really! I hope you get a second chance and are able to keep going longer as you want to, and glad your mum turned her opinion round!

    Kelly: Thank you and sorry for the tears. Seems to have done that to a lot of people.

    Mwa: Hmm. I'm wondering if nipple shields might be something I should try. It's kind of been drilled into me that you mustn't use them, because they'll never learn to latch on properly, but then it was also drilled into me that you mustn't introduce a bottle until at least 6 weeks and I've clearly moved beyond that! May ask my mum to pick some up on Monday to try. The weight loss thing is often a big issue with breast-fed babies it seems, and I think they should rethink their policies - look at overall well-being of the baby, rather than the actual weight, for example. It seems to put such a lot of extra stress on mums already struggling.

    Thank you everyone for all your comments. This is clearly a very emotional issue for many, many people, and I'm sorry to have opened old wounds for some of you.

    At the moment, we've gone back to expressing and feeding just from a bottle, with the plan to just try offering the breast at Eleanor's awake periods, about half an hour after she's had a decent feed from the bottle. Thursday night, I rather jumped in at the deep end again, assuming that she would just keep feeding fine, and we had a horrible night of cluster feeding and very little sleep, where she clearly just wasn't getting enough. So we're going to do it a bit more gradually, otherwise I'll end up back at square one and in a horrible state again. And I'm going to go to the local breast-feeding support group next Thursday, where I'll hopefully get some really good help with the latch, if it's not sorted yet.

    Thanks so much again for all your comments - they mean a lot to me.

  23. I cried out of happiness for you at the end when Eleanor latched on successfully and had a good feed. you have done so amazingly well, bloody well done! It is SUCH a stressful time those first few weeks of breastfeeding - even when you don't have all that you had to contend with. I agree it so important, and you want to be able to feed your baby and it should be so easy, but often it isn't. I am so so so so happy for you now though that it is getting easier and really sorry you had to go through all that. as with the non-pooing, been there too! Dolly, for the first 6 months only pooed once a week. And Betty did too. i began to think that there was something wrong with my milk, or maybe because i was eating too much chocolate! But when they both went onto solids they began pooing ALL the time!!!
    Hope all else is going well and you are managing to get some enjoyment out of the whole thing without feeling too tired etc. you have had a real time of it. xxxx

  24. I hear you! Motherhood--along with the rest of life--is full of assumptions, fantasies and realities. I'm a breastfeeding mother myself but formula fed babies usually sleep longer. Every now and then we can all use some help with getting baby to sleep. Check me out at:

  25. Elsie: Thank you. Since Eleanor's clearly very healthy, I'm not worrying about the poos anymore. She seems to have settled into 1 a day, which is fine by me - preferable to 5 or 6, and less wear and tear on the washing machine! The trouble with so much of this (weight, pooing, etc.) is that the medical professionals are looking for babies to fall within certain parameters (understandably), but not all babies are the same, and so don't always fall within the same parameters.

    GBtS: There is a definite difference between how long and deeply Eleanor sleeps after a breastfeed and after a formula feed. I can see how more formula-fed babies are quiet and good sleepers! Am having to remember that I will probably need to feed her more often, when it's milk straight from the breast.

  26. What a time of it you and Eleanor had. I'm glad after that she's doing so well. It's definitely something worth perservering with.
    I didn't really have any problems breastfeeding mine apart from some soreness. Only problem I have now is B wanting to feed all the time! It's tiring but I do love the closeness it brings :)

  27. Clareybabble: Thank you. There is definitely a special closeness from breast-feeding. Though, having now had a lot more experience of feeding a baby with a bottle, I do see that you can still get the closeness without the breast - it's slightly different, but still very special.

  28. Award for you at mine gorgeous lady x

  29. I stumbled on this accidentally, having not read any other posts and knowing nothing about you and suddenly found myself in tears! I would blame it on the hormones, but fear it was the power of the story! Thank you so much.

  30. Hearth-mother: Welcome. How nice to be found by accident. And I'm glad you liked it - though sorry it made you cry!

  31. Oh Tasha, this is a touching, beautiful post and one you know that I can relate - thanks for letting me know about it. Your honesty helps me understand that she & I are not the only ones who have these issues (as only tangible examples can do)and your dedication and strength remind me to keep listening to LLC and trust my instincts about breastfeeding and her weight. Eleanor is clearly vibrant and healthy and you should be proud of persevering with what you knew in your heart was right for you both. Now I need to do the same. Now I need a tissue too x

  32. Tanya: It is so very difficult to trust your instincts when faced with professional assuring you that your instincts are wrong. I tell everyone that it's OK to do so, but when it came to it, I was ready to fall apart. I like to think that if I ever went through it again (no plans to, but you never know) I would be strong and stand up for myself and my baby. But, chances are I wouldn't. But... do try to trust your instincts, anyway. LLC is doing very well, and you are doing nothing wrong.