I don’t want them to go through what I went through

Catherine

So I’m Catherine and this is sunny and sunny was nine months at the weekend just gone and i’ve got a two-year-old daughter called flo

Before I had Flow I was really laid back about feeding. I kind of had the impression of if it worked it worked if it didn’t it didn’t: I wouldn’t be phased, it happens to some people. I remember going to a breastfeeding talk an NHS one and I’ll never forget the sentence and they said <Oh you know everyone can breastfeed and if they say they can’t they’re doing it wrong> So I had this immediate impression that breastfeeding would be so easy, no problems and it’ll be fine she’ll be born and I’ll just whip the boob out and that’ll be it.

and unfortunately during flow’s delivery i lost a lot of blood  and straight away she latched on fine but feeding was really difficult the first weigh-in came and she’d lost too much baby too much weight and straight away we were told that i had to pump religiously  feed constantly top her up things like that and they were going to come and weigh her again and obviously they came and weighed her again and she lost a bit more so immediately i was taken into hospital there was no option there was no talk it was first time one straight away and we go immediately i thought i’d done something wrong and thought i’d starved her

I didn’t understand what was going on. We were there for a few days  and it got to the point that she was being ploughed so much formula i had to feed her first then she was given formula then we had to, i had to pump at the same time every single two hours.

So by the time i’d finished doing all this i only had half an hour really to get my head down before i had to get her for the next one but even when we were she was full we were told that they had to they had to keep giving her the formula when she was physically being sick coughing it all up, they carried on forcing this down her.

And she was only a week old it got to the point that she was ploughed with so much formula that she wasn’t responding anymore she was hardly crying she was hardly stirring she just looked like a doll  and even the midwives at the time and the feeding team were just they had serious concerns about it. And straight away when i think i’m sure, as a paediatrician it might have been, i don’t know what, I can’t remember what it was but as soon as he came down to see her straight away he did some tests and he was like yeah we’re not really happy with this you know she’s not looking as we’d like her to look and then so i said to him

you know should this have happened?

and he said it’s like an umbrella treatment so whoever if babies come in and they’re underweight and they need to get their birth weight back up basically quickly uh they do pretty much the same thing all round.

So Flo was just put on the same feeding plan that anyone else would have been put on  even if she had had had enough and she was showing signs that she’d had enough that’s when they should have just cut it off really and not continue to try and force feed her if i had the confidence as i had now i if it was a second baby i would have turned around and gone absolutely not because i already said this time we will not be going back we’ll have a feeding plan at home and we’ll offer a formula if we need to but there’s no chance we’re going to go and do that again.

It’s it’s mentally scarred me. I’ll never forget watching what happened to her thinking that it was for the best and the anxiety of the weigh day pending looming however you want to say because it was literally like if we didn’t get it a certain weight she wouldn’t be allowed home.

It’s hard to explain. You automatically you trust the medical professionals every ounce of faith that you have is in them to do the right thing.

I had no idea what i was doing and i was just told it’s her birth weight to dropping  it’s not great. I was kind of getting told all these scary scary words scary sentences and i was… i didn’t know there was not…there wasn’t given an option…. there wasn’t given any other direction of path that we could go in.

Just this has to happen and it has to happen now. I was kind of preparing myself for a battle like that i had to fight to get this to stop. And it was when he looked at her and it was his reaction. I thought I’m not going mad here.

But what would have happened if i hadn’t raised it?

If i hadn’t heard, you know if the midwives had said… if the feeding team hadn’t been behind me as well….like what would have happened if i… if i hadn’t been that type of person to say No it’s enough now.

It got to the point in the end that you were kind of hoping that they were a bit busy or…because then you can feed your baby when you wanted to feed her or you could feed your baby when she needed to…or because she needed a bit of a ….you could say that she needed a bit of a break

You kind of wanted them to be a bit busy so she had that break…

It it felt like a battle in the end it felt…

Then they…when they’d come through the door your heart would sink a little bit because you think here we go again you’d get the anxiety would build up you start to feel sick because that was your baby you had to watch it happen every two hours it was like groundhog day. It was just like here we go again and they’d have the bottle in the mouth and it would be like can you pull it out now please she’s not …she’s not drinking… and i’ll never forget as well they used to… so when she’d stop and she’s like this they’d put the bottle in her mouth and they’d wriggle it around to try and encourage her to carry on sucking. I was like, No she’s finished, like please leave her be now and then nine out of ten times as soon as she’d go in the cot she’d throw everything back up again because her belly was just so full and then we’d have to start again because her belly was up and it was just a vicious circle it was it was it’s something that i’d never forget for months after i i blamed myself and you know we had to combi feed and things like that and i was desperately desperately trying to find out why i couldn’t feed my baby the full amount…  the sense of the training is if you can’t… if a woman can’t breastfeed she’s simply doing it wrong and i thought why can’t i do it like i’d watch friends happily feed their babies have all this milk supply be able to pump and you know i thought why can’t i provide the full amount for her why can’t i do it? 

The amount of hours that i sat pumping and i’d only get little bits but i tried i tried everything. I tried eating certain foods trying up my supply, i tried supplements, i tried the amount of pumping i did try it was ridiculous. 

And in the end i got to see a breastfeeding consultant she was amazing and she read my notes and straight away she said you lost this much blood during delivery has no one ever told you that it can cap your supply ?

and i was like no no one ever told me that but straight away i felt this instant release of there’s nothing i could have done there’s nothing i could have done i literally could not have tried anything more but to me i put so much pressure on myself  and in a way punished myself so much for not being able to give her the full amount i’m so grateful that i could feed her, i fed until she was 10 months and it’s one of my biggest achievements. 

But if there was i just wish there was more support there at the time  more so from the hospital because things like you know can… and the breastfeeding consultants after were amazing… could not thank them enough for the support they gave… but i needed that early support i needed that because what happened to Flo at the beginning and watching your child go through without giving any information without giving any support. If there was more support more guidance at the time my experience would have been a lot better

It’s a bit bittersweet the situation. So my mental health was kind of a bit sabotaged by after that and obviously Covid’s got a bit to play with that but i i i developed postnatal depression after having my daughter and again i never really understood it because before i had it i just automatically assumed it was you couldn’t connect with your baby i couldn’t understand because i loved my daughter completely i couldn’t believe it i was like i don’t know i’ve definitely not got it…but i also had this massive fear of something happening to her.

Things like that.  So obviously it battered my mental health for ages because i beat myself up about it.  i i you know i couldn’t feed my child i was doing something wrong i wasn’t a good mum but then tables flipped and I’m so passionate about breastfeeding now more so than ever.  And any new mum that starts breastfeeding i just want to help them i just want to support them. I just want to do everything i can do .

Because it’s lonely isn’t it? and it can be quite isolating. I feel protective over people who are having issues because if they don’t get that support i don’t want them to go through what i went through so i feel like i don’t know, i can’t i can’t really explain it it’s bittersweet the experience because so something so horrible i feel like it’s kind of created this drive to not want to see it happen to anyone else.

Before i had kids i always thought that if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work before i was pregnant i didn’t really want to breastfeed it kind of gave me a bit of a oh like a stereotype oh and it was only when i was pregnant the first time around that i was like actually i think i want to do this like it looks quite nice the bond looks quite nice. 

And to be honest the amount of people that have said to me just give up just give up why are you why are you still carrying on, don’t understand. So it’s like i’ve got to explain why i want to do it. Why it’s..and it’s it’s frustrating that for you and your baby you’ve got to kind of,  I don’t know, convince people why it’s a good thing to carry on breastfeeding.  And  i think it’s this this stereotype of well it’s hard why are you bothered? or if they get older – oh why are you still feeding them? Like, i’ll never get it. So it was like, seven eight months and a friend was like you’re feeding her still really? and i was like but she’s still baby she’s still getting the benefits i don’t understand. When i was feeding her i felt safe i felt like i was protecting her she was protecting me, we had this bond that i can’t even explain and when i was feeding her and she’d kind of she’d go into a bit of a milk coma

i gave her in that moment what she needed and i don’t know if someone said to me stop and it’s like why would you stop it if you had a safe place like would you you know if uh to me it was like why why should we stop it’s the same when like people say oh you know they’ll sleep through the night once they start weaning or they’ll sleep for the night if you give your baby formula and it’s like really because i can tell you now it doesn’t it doesn’t it doesn’t stop but it’s all these i think opinions come in thick and fast when you’re a mum and i don’t think you’ll ever in everyone’s eyes be doing the right thing but as long as it’s right for you at the time that’s the only path you need to follow.