The End of our Journey

I shared previously, on my blog, about how our breastfeeding journey began. (You can view that HERE). But now I’m going to talk about how it ended. 

As I’d said previously, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. It was the one thing I was most certain about before Bear arrived. It was important to me that I tried as hard as I could to face and defeat any difficulties we encountered before saying “I can’t do this anymore”. And hand on heart, I did just that. I tried so damn hard. Something nobody tells you about breastfeeding is how passionate you become about it before you begin. You become passionate about helping others who are struggling, seeking mutual support or just a friend you can talk to who understands (I’m not for one second discriminating anybody who doesn’t breastfeed or saying you need somebody else who breastfeeds as a friend). You also become passionate about fighting to do what you want, for whatever reasons you may have, for you and your baby.

Whether you breastfeed, formula feed, exclusively express, tube feed, or feed your baby in any other way, I want you to know that you’re amazing, and you got this mama! (and daddies too!).

Near the beginning of our journey, Bear and I had to get treatment for a painful case of thrush. He had it on his tongue, I had it on my nipples. He was prescribed Nystatin medicine to help clear it (I wasn’t given anything, the GP didn’t believe it was that bad at all). After taking the medicine for a couple of weeks, I’d found that it wasn’t really helping to clear the thrush in his mouth very much, so off we popped back to the GP. This time, he was prescribed Daktarin gel for his mouth, I was also told to use this on myself. Not knowing what I know now, I probably would have pushed to have been treated with something entirely different myself. Though using the Daktarin 4 times a day really seemed to help.

We reached 6 months of feeding and honestly, I was so so happy! For the majority of the time, breastfeeding had gone really well for us, it had been mostly painless and not at all problematic. I’d set myself the goal of reaching 6 months ebf (exclusively breastfeeding) and then aimed to get to 1 year. But shortly after, is where it became a bit difficult for us.

Us at 6 months of feeding! I can’t believe this is the last picture I’ll ever have of our feeding journey.

Bear was not a great sleeper at all. I honestly couldn’t work out what it was. I’d feed him for the night and put him in his Snuzpod but then half an hour later, he would wake. For the last couple of months, I think he practically lived in my bed as it was just too exhausting with all the waking etc. I’d wake when he stirred of course but all I had to do then was make sure he could latch on properly and he wasn’t going to hurt himself by rolling back and we snuggled up together and went back to sleep. He even made it a regular thing to sleep in until 10am. I sure wasn’t complaining haha! (I still actually get this now some mornings). But this was never an issue, like I said, we tackled the sleeping issue and he was always happy and healthy. We’d started weaning at 6 months (and a couple of days I think) this was when his weight gain rapidly slowed down. I would get him weighed every couple of weeks normally. Due to  us housesitting for my father in law, It had been 3 weeks on this one occasion. I took him to get weighed and he’d only put on 3oz in 3 weeks. Obviously, the health visitors didn’t see this as any cause for concern whatsoever and it seemed that it was “normal” for babies to experience such a slow gain at this age (due to change in diet, moving around more etc.) They asked me to come back in 2 weeks time as usualy and we can see what’s going on. So 2 weeks later, I went to weigh in clinic and this time he hadn’t even put an oz in weight on. This had me a little worried as he was no longer following a line on his centile chart and I was feeding him solids alongside breastmilk so he had a fairly good diet. They asked if I had any concerns with how he was eating etc. and all I could think was that he was dropping some of his daytime milk feeds/having less regular feeds but he was still feeding at all hours of the night.They asked me to return again in a couple of weeks and if his weight on the chart reached 2 centiles lower, then he would have to be referred to a paediatrician. 

However, this never had to happen. Before all of this, I’d also experienced a rather painful bout of mastitis. It was a Sunday and I had to ring 111 and get an appointment at the Out of Hours surgery. I’d been given the relevant antibiotics and off I went. This was then followed by the weighing experience. Once this was all over, we had a few good days of pain-free and regular feeding. All I remember thinking is he must have been teething for him to have dropped some feeds etc. A couple of weeks later, we went to Nottingham to visit Bear’s great grandparents. I remember waking up the 2nd morning we were there with an awful pain in my nipple. When I’d looked, there was a graze underneath and it was all red and swollen. When we got home, I managed to get into the Out of Hours surgery again, this time on a Saturday night. By now, both nipples had grazings underneath and what looked like, infections in them. The doctor did a full examination. He prescribed me some medicine for the infection and I’d been given the correct Daktarin cream to use on myself to help the thrush clear from the outside. I’d asked the doctor if this was the end? Did I have to stop breastfeeding? But he said he wanted to do what he could to try and prevent that from happening. So, on the Sunday, I spent the day trying to express with different pumps, trying to feed with nipple shields, trying to hand express and sat in a warm bath to try to encourage the milk to flow. Nothing. I had nothing but pain to the point where I was screaming out everytime anything touched them.

So we tried Bear with a bottle of formula to give myself time to heal. I contacted the health visitor on Monday who suggested every single one of the methods I’d tried to be able to continue with my milk production so I could carry on feeding once healed. Nothing was working at all. By the Tuesday, he was fully on formula. I couldn’t get milk out or keep my supply up no matter what, though they were definitely swelling as they became full. On the Thursday, I went to Breastfeeding Support Group as normal and decided to speak to the support worker who runs it. She helped me figure out that Bear had a huge lip tie which was quite thick. Unfortunately for me, apparently doctors won’t snip it like a tongue tie as it can affect a child’s smile. She observed me trying to feed Bear and noticed that he wasn’t eve latching on right. I tried, with her help, to get Bear on and feeding well to no avail and so much agony. So other than continuing to try the expressing, breast pumps and nipple shields, we were literally at a loose end. This was the end of the road for us. I tried to heal and by this point he’d been on formula and was sleeping really well etc. and I was also having to return to work on 2 night shifts a week so I guess this had been the easiest option for us also.

This was his absolute favourite place/position to fall asleep! Mummy snuggles are the best 🙂

I’ll never stop feeling guilty that I had to totally stop breastfeeding Bear. I’ll never come to terms fully with the fact that I had to give up, not because I chose to. Yes, formula and bottles seemed like the answer. It meant daddy could feed too (which was especially important for me returning to work) and he has slept much better since. From day one, I never had anything against bottles or formula milk at all, I’d just hoped that we would be able to continue breastfeeding. Unfortunately, sometimes life throws us a curveball and something we wanted no longer goes the way we hoped it would. BUT, we’re all happy and Bear is putting on weight and eating well and has taken to his new diet very well. I guess some things just can’t be helped.

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14 thoughts on “The End of our Journey

  1. Loved reading this. You’ve done amazing well. You shouldn’t feel guilty over a situation you had absolutely no control over. Most women don’t even make it to 6 months of ebf, so well done you! x

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  2. You shouldn’t feel guilty at all – you did amazingly well. We had thrush and it was genuinely one of the most painful things I’ve ever had – even worse than labour I think! So to get through that and the biting is pretty epic. Whatever it takes to keep you both happy and healthy. x

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  3. Well done for doing it for so long! I had to stop at 5.5 weeks because I just didn’t have the supply and my baby was dropping weight all of the time. It’s so hard when the decision is taken out of your own hands, you feel that your parental decision making has been taken away from you x

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  4. 6 moths is a brilliant achievement considering all the issues you faced. My wife had similar problems and the both ended up being bottle fed soon after birth.

    Big up to the ladies out there trying to breast feed. Not sure I could take all the hardship.

    Oh and thanks for mentioning the daddies. 😜

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  5. I hope you found this cathartic to write, I find it can help. It’s hard when decisions are taken out of your hands. Massive high five for the 6 months you did. I have done it all and had some problems (a horrible abscess with my first – joy!). But I used to get a curious enjoyment out of the ritual of measuring out formula, heating up the bottles so they were just right, and then enjoying the direct eye contact (as did my husband). How ever you can feed your baby, its just amazing watching them grow. What it’s worth, a little well done from me! Kate x

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  6. 6 months will have provided your son with an excellent start, breastfeeding on demand is time consuming. I returned to work when my eldes daughter was 3 months old and I was so upset at the time that I couldn’t continue to feed her, we do our best in the situation and circumstances that we have, you have done well and are clearly a devoted mum.

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