Thursday 23 June 2016

My Breastfeeding Journey Weeks 5 to 12

My baby is 12 weeks old tomorrow, I can hardly believe I am typing this to be honest as in some ways it has gone really fast but in other ways it has been a long journey and has felt like an age...

After I posted my birth story and 4 week update  in which I mentioned that the early difficulties of breastfeeding appeared to have been conquered and we were finally getting 'it' it seemed life had other ideas...little did I know that things were about to get so much worse.

Just as I thought that feeding was becoming pain free, I then found myself feeling really tired and generally unwell..I also noticed a blocked milk duct and tried to feed through it to clear it. I knew that if I didn't feed on the affected breast that I could get mastitis. My breast was very painful and heavy. Unfortunately I did go on to get mastitis but as I recognised the symptoms I sought help from my local GP's surgery very quickly. Taking medication sorted it out with not too much of an issue. The GP I saw did ask me if I wanted to continue and I said I definitely did. I told her how long I had managed before. She was impressed but to be honest I am just a stubborn creature and I knew that if I held on things would get better. I was sure of it....Although to be honest I was wobbling.

However during this time I also noticed that breastfeeding was hurting me once again, really, really hurting me. The searing pain was back and was getting worse with each feed. E wanted to feed almost constantly and for long periods of a time, pretty much half an hour to forty minutes - 4 week growth spurt! My breasts hurt so much I couldn't bear to have anything near them and found it hard to pick him up and hold him close, not hard actually, nigh on impossible.
I was in so much pain. I couldn't bear it and was baffled as I had thought his latch had improved. My nipple was bleeding and stinging. I was feeling down and crying so much because I felt so ill.

Thursday evening I noticed a load of blood in my little one's mouth and looked down to see my nipple shredded. I tried calling some breastfeeding helplines and no one picked up the phone. I was despairing and felt so helpless. I was desperate, in pain. I could barely function and feeling low so we gave my little one a formula feed in a bottle that evening. I was nervous, would he prefer the bottle to me? Was this the beginning of the end of our breastfeeding journey? I really hoped not. I had breastfed his older brother exclusively for 7 weeks, and then topped up his breastfeeds with formula at every feed to help his weight gain. I had mix fed until he was almost a year, I had wanted to do the same this time round. How had things gone so terribly wrong.

It was Friday, we had made it through the night and I called the HV's in desperation asking for help. I was on the phone for 45 minutes crying as she reassured me I was doing well but essentially told me that the next clinic for breastfeeding help was on Tuesday. I cried even more down the phone, how was I going to battle through till then?!

Somehow I did (with the help of the odd formula feed here and there to help give me a rest) and Tuesday I made my way to the clinic. This seemed to be just a baby weigh in clinic, around me were mothers happily feeding their babies whilst waiting to be called to be weighed. I asked someone where the breastfeeding class was, a lady told me that lady wasn't in that day.

I stood there and burst into tears. I had only got through the weekend holding on to the thought that all my breastfeeding issues were going to be solved today. With everyone looking at me, me completely broken and a snivelling mess whilst holding my crying baby, a kindly lady took me under her wing and promised me that I would get help.

My son was weighed and he had put on a good amount of weight, no worries there! That made me feel better. I was then observed feeding and the latch was checked. He fed really well, the helpers looked at me as if I was mad. Everything is fine they told me. I knew it wasn't - why was I in so much pain?

They noticed my nipples were red and sore looking. The area around them was dry and red. They suggested I made an appointment with the GP. They checked my son for thrush signs in his mouth. There was none.

The next day I was at the Surgery being seen by the GP for suspected nipple thrush - probably set off by the antibiotics I had taken for mastitis! - she gave me some oral gel for me and my son to take (him in his mouth, mine on the affected area). She also hinted that I may want to give up. She thought I was brave for continuing but she questioned whether it was good for my sanity. I reiterated that I was sure I would be fine as long as these health issues were sorted. I had been there before remember with my first son and I was determined to continue

I applied the gel for a couple of days but things were just getting worse, the pain was off the scale - the pain was like glass ripping my nipple to shreds. There really are no words for this horrendous side effect of breastfeeding. It is so very cruel!!

I spoke to a friend who is a pharmacist, she told me that the gel was pretty much ineffective for me (fine for the baby) and to purchase a cream to apply instead. The cream was great, it was soothing and for a week and a bit it seemed to be doing the trick.. Things were slowly improving. The pain was still relentless but by now I was used to it. And then the searing pain returned and this time there was a deep pain in my breast, a nasty pulling pain all the way up to my shoulder - the thrush had got into my breast. I knew I needed more medicine from the GP as the cream was only dealing with the external problem not the internal one.

All the while the pain was making me want to swear, this was really unfair I thought. I don't think I have ever cried so much in my life! I continued to stubbornly breastfeed all this while. It was truly a most terrible time in my life. I thank my family and friends for their support during this dreadful time. Without them I would never have been able to continue as they rallied around, assisting with the school runs and keeping my spirits up. I was in real danger of falling into a depressive state. My immune system was low, I had a list of eight different things wrong with me and it was getting on top of me and yet I was stubborn and refused to give in.

I had my antibiotics prescribed for the nipple/breast thrush and just continued along waiting for things to get better. I was only coping with the pain of the feeds by taking painkillers and also still applying the cream. My little boy was still being given the gel in his mouth.

Finally at 9 and a bit weeks and with the end of the antibiotics (a two week course) I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel the pain was lessening.

Things have got better. I no longer dread a feed and can give my son all his feeds quite happily. In the evening we give him one bottle of formula. He has no confusion with either methods of feeding.

It was a long, hard and extremely painful slog. Mentally and physically it took a toll. I do hope I am now through the worst and don't have to deal with them ever again!!

My son on the other hand has been positively thriving throughout. Smiling at four weeks, closely followed by proper belly laughs. He babbles away happily making the most sweetest of sounds. Today he started to bat his toys on the playmat. He is a gorgeously happy baby who is content. He feeds well and sleeps well.

I hope you have found my story interesting and can see that there are positive  breastfeeding stories. It has taken us almost 3 months but we are there at long last!

Bettina x


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