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A mothers Loneliness

I am lying in bed wondering when the next feed will be.  It is usually around this time so it feels almost pointless to go to sleep before he wakes.  It's in these moments I dare to let my thoughts loose.  The ones I have been too busy all day with my baby to listen to.  It's in these moments I hold back the tears and try to push the welling grief down.  I am led right next to my husband, he is sleeping, and although I could just put my hand out and touch him - he feels further away than ever.I am lying here knowing I am lonelier than ever. My baby is asleep in the adjoining room, he has a cold and I can hear his nose whistling as he sleeps soundly.  In that room is my whole heart, my reason for going on, my reason for living.I have never had many friends, I came from a military family so we moved so many times friendships were fleeting and even in my adult life I have also remained nomadic! Maybe it's a learnt behaviour, not holding onto friendships because I always leave…

My painful journey to breastfeeding bliss

You will no doubt have an idea of what your breastfeeding journey is going to be like.  For me I had fully immersed myself with some rose tinted spectacles. It was going to be a beautiful experience where me and my son  those wonderful intimate moments together.  I was going to provide for my baby, all his needs, and have him look into my eyes dreamily whilst he fed.

But that's not how it started out for me. Straight away I knew that something was not right. As the midwife lay my son at my breast and helped him attach he simply slipped off and went to sleep. Again and again we tried and he would suck once or twice and then slip off and fall asleep. 

 'Oh what a lazy boy you have! Don't worry he will get it!' Midwife, nurse and healthcare assistants told me again and again.  

After 4 or 5 hours I felt panic rising that my baby wasn't feeding and although everyone kept reassuring me he would feed, he just had to get the hang of it, eventually I was shown how to hand express the colostrum into a syringe and used that to feed him overnight.  I didn't get an awful lot of help on the post natal ward and although the NCT volunteers came to show me different holds and how to get him to attach, Charlie just slept through it - I felt like a failure. We went home and kept trying but when he was weighed two days later he had lost 11% of his body weight. I was mortified, still weary from labour and emotional I broke down and sobbed. I couldn't understand everyone who watched him feed said his positioning and attachment was perfect but yet he just kept slipping off and sleeping.  Thankfully the midwife swiftly scooped him up opened his mouth and said 'ah looks like a tongue tie let's get him referred'.
I have never felt such relief that there was a reason! It wasnt just me failing him, he actually couldn't latch because the little flap of skin under his tongue was too tight so he couldn't use it to latch onto the nipple.  I was given some amazing tips to see us through the 3 week wait to have the tie snipped; firstly I was told to buy nipple guards (medela close contact) so he had
more chance of latching and secondly to pump like my life depended on it so I could top up with a syringe to start off with and then the bottle. The third bit of advice was to buy in some formula because if his weight did not improve then we had no choice but to abandon breastfeeding. I fought hard through those exhausting days and my existence became purely about feeding Charlie - feed, pump and repeat.  With a hospital readmission hanging over us I was determined to succeed and felt I had to make it up to my little boy; so when he gained a few ounces I was delighted! We kept going with nipple guards and pumping right up until his tie was cut. I have to admit I hated nipple guards, they were fiddly to fit, they would fall off mid-feed and my nipples were so sore I would cry and my toes would curl as he fed. Once the tie was cut Charlie had to learn to feed without shields which he did really well - but the pain I had experienced got worse and felt like a constant burning pain. My clothes brushing against me would make me wince and I got to the point I dreaded the next feed  I was getting desperate so I lathered my nipples with lansinoh and used compresses to give me some relief between feeds.

I got to the point I couldn't bear it and was googling my symptoms to try and work out what was causing it. After all breastfeeding is not meant to hurt right!? After a quick check in Charlie's mouth I was convinced I could see white spots so I bundled him and myself off to the GP's to see if it was Thrush desperaye for some relief. My GP was not convinced but after hearing me describe the pain and checking Charlie's mouth she said it wouldn't do any harm to treat as though it was thrush. So we started the treatment of caneston cream and Charlie had oral drops. But after 7 days I was in more pain than ever and repeated visits to the GP only resulted in stronger but still ineffective treatments.  I hated breastfeeding, it hurt so much I would sob as he attached. I was desperate, my head told me to give it up but my heart was just torn up with guilt. I wanted to breastfeed so much and I knew all the benefits and I loved how calm and relaxed Charlie was while he fed at the breast so I just kept going. 

Then my journey took a positive change in direction - a visit from my local NCT representative and numerous calls and text messages put me on a path that has fulfilled my original rose tinted expectations.  Thanks to their knowledge, advice and support I found some holds that were less painful (for example koala and laid back) and they gave me the confidence to go back to my GP with another potential condition: Raynauds. Raynauds is caused by poor circulation and can result in some colour changes to the nipples; mine went white when exposed to cold - this was particularly obvious after a bath. Suddenly everything made sense - the dread of going outside, the need to tie a scarf round my breasts, the intense pain, the white and purple nipples - nine of that is normal for breastfeeding!

So in the end it turned out that I didn't ever have thrush and it was my poor circulation that led to the excruciating feeds, and with having a winter baby it was all the worse. I started some tablets commonly used for high blood pressure that allowed my blood vessels to dilate and by using hot water bottles before feeds I saw some improvement. Things just got better and better and as the weather has improved I am now able to feed without the medication. I still keep warm but I can now finally say I enjoy feeding - I think my first pain free feed was at 14weeks after a short bout of mastitis (just to complete the misery of my feeding experience) and now I am lucky to say I have those moments of complete bliss I had dreamt of, where my baby looks at me while he happily feeds. The closeness and joy I feel when I feed was worth every day of the struggle we went through to get here. I love breastfeeding now but to say it was easy would be a lie. It has been a challenge and a blooming hard one but I am proof that you can get through it and it does get better.

A x


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