My Breastfeeding Story: Giving Birth During A Global Pandemic and Breastfeeding Without Usual Lactation Support
Next in our series of real mums’ breastfeeding stories, we hear from Amanda, who shares her breastfeeding journey in the most uncertain times, during a global pandemic. Having to manage without the usual lactation support offered to new mums, Amanda shares how she has coped in these first few weeks of her breastfeeding journey.Next in our series of real mums’ breastfeeding stories, we hear from Amanda, who shares her breastfeeding journey in the most uncertain times, during a global pandemic. Having to manage without the usual lactation support offered to new mums, Amanda shares how she has coped in these first few weeks of her breastfeeding journey.
On VE Day, a little over three weeks early, I gave birth to my daughter. After a quick 4.5 hour labour, she made her appearance, poking her tongue right out, causing the midwife to say “well no chance of a tongue tie here then!”.
I’m a first-time mum and due to COVID-19 have had various services revoked and classes cancelled. One person I was banking on being here towards the end of my pregnancy is my little sister. She’s a midwife and lives in Australia, so we had to accept that she wouldn’t be able to fly home and be here for my pregnancy or to see her first niece or nephew born.
She has however stepped up and been providing one-on-one virtual anti-natal classes for me, and one I particularly enjoyed was about breastfeeding. I’ve always known I wanted to breastfeed, and as my sister is passionate about working on postnatal wards helping new mums with their breastfeeding journey, I knew there was no one better than her to help me. She even bought me a Medela breast pump – little did I know how invaluable it would become to me!
Having spent a wonderful ‘golden hour’ having skin-to-skin contact with my new baby girl after she was born, I noticed that she hadn’t yet managed to latch on. Later, after my husband had gone home as he couldn’t stay due to visiting restrictions, the midwives kept popping by to check how feeding was going. She still wasn’t feeding so they encouraged me to hand express some colostrum to syringe feed her. I really struggled expressing with one hand and trying to syringe it out with the other. I barely had any colostrum to give her and ended up resulting to formula.
I began to wonder if I was the problem. I knew I was doing everything right, but the midwives said not to be too disheartened as it is common for premature babies to be ‘lazy’ when it comes to feeding initially. During my 5 day hospital stay (due to her being premature), I had a number of FaceTime sessions with my sister who was trying to support me she mentioned that in Australia they use breast pumps ahead of day 3 when milk starts coming in just on a stimulation basis to help mums that have struggled. I asked the midwives and I was refused the use of a pump before day 3.
I ploughed on and continued with the massage and stimulation by hand without much joy. Day 3 came around and my breasts became very full early in the day and so engorged, by 8am I was practically begging the midwives for use of the pump. Finally, I got to use it and managed to express some small amounts, but it was more than I was able to do myself and finally I was able to get this liquid gold to my baby girl. Later that day I was discharged from hospital.
At her 5-day check, we went to the clinic and my daughter’s weight had dropped slightly. I got chatting to the midwives about her still not latching and the midwife examined her and thought she could see a slight tongue tie. Not a classic one, but a posterior one. A pang of worry set in. Would she ever take to breastfeeding or was I destined to feed her only formula or expressed milk?
2 days later we went back for another weigh in, and my little one weighed only 10g under her birth weight. Due to COVID-19, tongue tie divisions had been postponed in my area, but another NHS trust was accepting babies for the procedure. I put her name down and accepted we would have to wait.
As I gave birth early, I hadn’t gotten around to ordering my breast pump, although research with my sister had confirmed I would choose a Medela pump. Unbeknownst to me, whilst I was in hospital my sister had ordered the Freestyle Flex as a gift and also a couple of the Easy Expression Bustiers to give me some freedom and flexibility. I finally got to express milk! I wasn’t producing great amounts but I was still able to give my Milk every other feed.
Slowly but surely as the hours and days passed, by maintaining about 8 pumps a day I worked up such a great supply. I’ll be the first to admit that some days the pumping dipped to 5 or 6 attempts, but the delirium and tiredness had more than kicked in. Trying your baby on the breast first, followed by prepping a formula bottle, doing the feeds, burping, settling and then trying to pump as well was really starting to take its toll. There were tears. But I was so determined to do this and make it work. I don’t like to give up easily. The midwife commented on how strong willed and determined I was and she praised me for preserving. She said most have thrown in the towel by now and given up, but it was endearing to see me plough on.
On the 19th of May, I received a phone call asking if we could come in for a division procedure the next day. She didn’t flinch or cry when she had it done and they get you to feed right away to help stem bleeding but she still wouldn’t latch on so I had EBM with me and this stemmed bleeding quite quickly.
For now, I returned to a regimented life of trialling the breast, sterilising bottles and feeding her EBM. Over the course of the next week we had a slight breakthrough with her latching on. Not for very long, and she certainly has a favourite side but small victories meant so much. I’d ordered some additional Medela pump bottles and the teats as well to give me a bit more freedom and flexibility of not having something ready to give her.
I’m pleased to say that we managed to remove her from formula completely within 2 days of receiving and using the Freestyle Flex pump and although we’re not 100% exclusively breastfeeding, this pump is my daughter’s lifeline and for that I’m eternally grateful. If we do succeed on the breastfeeding front, I will continue to use the pump to make sure my husband can do an odd feed to maintain bonding with her.
It’s easy to use, clean and reassemble and I can track my yield through the app which is great. The tears that have flowed since, are those of happiness, so once again thank you for giving me some peace, being able to sneak in an extra nap now and then and just all-round general joy at watching her nourish and flourish using what nature intended!
Thank you to Amanda, for sharing her breastfeeding experience. If you would like to share your breastfeeding story please email, firstname.lastname@example.org