I always knew that I was going to breastfeed when I was pregnant with Noah. All the babies I knew had been fed this way and I thought I was pretty clued up in terms of how it goes. I was also comfortable with the fact that if he didn’t latch, I would formula feed. I never really thought about what if it wasn’t right for me.
Both of the boys have fed immediately from birth which I was very grateful for in the beginning. I remember after having Noah which was a bit of a messy birth, I felt claustrophobic as he was put on my chest to feed and I just wanted a minute to take all that had happened in. The claustrophobia didn’t budge much. Noah, amazingly, slept through the night from 6 weeks, and would have a ‘dream feed’ and then again around 7am. Roman, not so much. I know it is completely normal, but cluster feeding throughout the night for months on end is exhausting and mentally draining. I resented Papa No + Ro and his useless nipples and would quietly beg Roman to go longer in between feeds.
Once I described to a health visitor a feeling I got when I fed Noah, as the milk let down I got a huge wave of anxiety, it lasted a matter of seconds but it was crippling. She said that this was not something she had heard of before but was probably hormonal and would pass.
The feeling didn’t pass, I began to pump a lot more but I found that pretty soul sucking. The thought of the dreaded noise of the pump still makes me shudder!
I pushed through though, I knew how good breastmilk was and how lucky I was to have such a good feeder and there was an underlying sense of guilt, I felt ashamed to give up because I knew the statistics behind teen mums not breastfeeding, and I was so desperate not to fall into anymore stereotypes.
I managed for six months with Noah, and he became less interested and the transition to solely formula was effortless. I believed that the first time round with Noah I found breastfeeding uncomfortable in public because I was surrounded by other teenagers. There was one occasion where I ripped Noah off my nipple really fast (it hurt, he screamed) because my friends boyfriend walked into the room. Another time, Noah came off unexpectedly and I squirted milk across the room where my friend’s brother and his mates were sitting. None of them were funny about it though, it was all my own insecurities.
A few days after Noah was born, I was still in huge amounts of pain with my stitches (fucking third degree tear) and I announced to the room filled with family that I needed to feed him – or as my Grandma liked to say ‘baby needs titty’ which still makes me cringe to the core – and no one left the room. I didn’t want to be immature, so I started trying to latch him, my dad still sitting opposite. He was unfazed but inside I was dying. I’ve never even told my dad I started my period, now I had my newborn on my boob in front of him.
When I fell pregnant with Romey, I knew I was going to try to breastfeed. I hoped that these feelings from feeding Noah had passed, I was older now, more confident in my body and my mothering.
Roman basically climbed up me after birth to latch himself – another good feeder! I enjoyed the initial bond of it, it felt good. When he only dropped 8oz after birth on solely breastmilk I was ecstatic, he was such a tiny bean and I had feared that he wasn’t getting enough.
Unknown to me then, Ro was tongue tied and lip tied, he always latched well but he would feed for 6 hours at a time, within a week I had thrush and mastitis and I was in agony. Feeding hurt, not feeding hurt. I soldiered on. The feeling of anxiety when the milk let down returned, I tried to google it over and over, and my searches were fruitless. Why did I feel this? I was still the only mum out of my friends, I had no one to compare this with.
For eight months, I battled this wave of emotions. I don’t particularly like the word ‘journey’ I feel a little lame saying it, but I truly felt like this journey had come to an end. I was tired. I wanted Papa No + Ro to be able to help out with feeds, and I was itching to be able to go out for longer than a couple of hours. We got out the prep machine the same day, and I never looked back. Thankfully, like his brother, he took to the formula like a dream. I hand pumped every so often, and soon my milk supply stopped completely. I thought I might have regretted it, but I didn’t, I was so glad that this bit of my life was over.
Since having Roman, I found an article about D-MER, which is Dysphoric Milk-Ejection Reflex, which in short, means the drop of dopamine during let down causes a panic attack. When reading other women’s accounts of their experience with D-MER, everything started to make sense. It is a recognised, although little spoken of condition. I swore when I was feeding Roman, that anymore subsequent children would be bottle fed from birth. I know the importance of the bifidus factor, lysozyme, etc (I’ve done a bloody exam on it!) but I couldn’t fathom putting myself through it all again.
But! To anyone reading this, who thinks they might be suffering with what I had, it can be treated and most women it passes naturally anyway (not sure how much longer it would have been for me) my mistake was putting it down as ‘normal’ and not speaking to enough health professionals about it, so if we ever do have another baby, I’m not totally against breastfeeding and if the same thing is to happen again then I will be sure to see the GP ASAP.