Sailor may be my third baby, but in so many ways I feel like he's another "first"...I'm not sure why that is, except that I feel that after 3 years as a Mum I have finally started to find my feet and understand what matters to me as a parent and what kind of parent I want to be.
I struggled for a while to find this out for myself, and to stay true to my own wishes and thoughts without being influenced by people around me or by the preconceptions I'd had before having my own children. The idea of me as a mum I had in my pre-children mind is a pretty far cry from the Mum I have naturally become, I think that's probably something that happens for a lot of people...but it's taken me a while to realise it.
Infact it's taken me until my third child to actually decide to try the things I want to try and do things the way I want to do them.
So far with Sailor I've done a lot more baby wearing than I ever did before and it's something we're both enjoying and getting a lot out of. I've shunned the purchase of a double pram in favour of a wrap, and I'm spending far more time with him physically attached to me than I did with either of the others .
That's not to say that I wasn't very hands on with Tyne and Noah because I was and I have always considered myself something of an attachment parent, but I fell into the idea that a pram was an absolute necessity for a baby because that's how its always been for people around me...so I didn't ever bother to think about alternatives or what I might prefer.
Another area of change, or at least...so I'd hoped... was the way in which I wanted to feed this baby.
When I was having my first child, I was undergoing treatment for my graves disease - an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid gland - Graves disease is quite serious and can be fatal if not well managed, and so when my specialists advised me that it would make life a lot easier for them when it came to treating my condition post-birth if I would avoid breast feeding so that they had total freedom of medications to use - I agreed. I didn't really think twice about it - a specialist was telling me that this is what should happen, so I went along with it...no questions asked.
When Noah was born, I was no longer on medication so the decision was really mine to make on whether to breast or bottle feed - I decided that I didn't want to pressure myself so I would make my mind up at the hospital.
Once he arrived and the midwife asked me how I wanted to feed him, I answered that I wasn't sure as I'd never tried to breastfeed before - I think I expected some kind of help or encouragement to breastfeed as I had always heard that midwives were quite pushy about the whole "breast is best" thing but I was pretty shocked when she simply said "Well he needs feeding now, so we need to decide...shall I just get you a bottle?" - I simply agreed, she handed me the bottle and that was that.
So, when I was pregnant with Sailor, I made the conscious decision that I was going to breastfeed this baby - I wanted to try it, I wanted to give it a good go and see how we did...if it didn't work out, fine but I at least wanted to know I'd tried.
And so he was born - and when asked how I wanted to feed him I didn't hesitate..."I want to breast feed, but I've never done it before"...the midwife helped me to get into position and he latched on right away, and fed for half an hour. The midwife was delighted with him and kept saying how well he'd taken to it and what a natural he seemed to be...
How ironic her words seem now!
Sailor is now 10 days old, and our breastfeeding journey has been a nightmare...it's been so much more traumatic and stressful than I could ever have imagined.
After Sailor's initial feed, when I tried to latch him on again he seemed unable to get it - I asked the midwives for help, and they would come and show me different holds and try to help me get him to latch.
Sometimes it would work and he'd stay on for 10 minutes or so, but never any longer than that - after a couple of days things started to get quite bad.
I was trying to latch him on all the time but he seemed to have completely lost the ability to do it at all - but he was always crying, and I was so worried that he was hungry.
One morning at about 6 am when the day staff came on duty, after I'd spent all night awake trying desperately to latch him on, I rang my bell in tears and asked the midwife who came to me to help me...I told her that it had been hours on end since he'd fed, he was hysterical and I had been trying all night to get him on the breast to no avail...then I said "If he doesn't latch on soon I'm going to have to give him a bottle because he must be starving!"
Instead of offering me any help, she simply went away and returned a few moments later...handing me a bottle and leaving.
Just like that.
With my screaming baby in my arms, I didn't know what else to do - so I sat and cried while I fed him the bottle...or at least I tried to, as he struggled to latch with the teat too and drank very little of the formula.
A little while later I asked another midwife for advice...I told her what had happened, and that I desperately wanted to try to breastfeed him but it didn't seem to be working.
The paediatric doctor examined him, found his sucking reflex very weak and said that he had a posterior tongue tie which was affecting his latch - she said we'd need to have it snipped and that she would refer us to the lady at the hospital who deals with it. In the meantime she advised me to give him formula top ups from a cup to ensure he wasn't going hungry.
By the time we left hospital, Sailor still wasn't latching...his jaundice was now really bad and he had lost 10% of his birth weight. I was so worried that my keenness to breastfeed him was causing him more harm than good, and we were still waiting to hear back about the tongue tie.
I started to express breastmilk via pump, and spent hours watching youtube videos on how to help a newborn latch and googling tips on how to increase milk supply when exclusively pumping.
At the time of writing this post we are 10 days in and no further along - Sailor still can't latch even though I try every 2 to 3 hours to get him on. I am exclusively pumping but my supply is dwindling fast and soon I'll be out of stored milk and out of options - I'm taking fenugreek capsules to try to boost my supply, eating oatmeal and having plenty of skin to skin time - but I can't go on like this forever as I simply can't keep up with what he needs from me.
The tongue tie woman still hasn't returned our calls despite every midwife I've seen stating that they've tried to chase her - I've been put in touch with someone who can treat the tongue tie privately but I simply can't afford the cost at the moment.
I fear that its already too late, that Sailor is too used to being fed breastmilk from a bottle now and won't ever be able to learn how to feed directly.
I really thought if breastfeeding didn't work out for us I'd just shrug my shoulders and move on - after all, I formula fed my other two children so why should I mind?
I can't begin to explain how sad it makes me feel that we've ended up here.
That despite how much time I've spent with my breastpump, how much time I've spent looking up techniques and trying everything I could find, despite the cracked bleeding nipples from his bad latch and the heavy aching breasts full of milk ready and waiting for him - it hasn't been enough, and we seem destined to fail.
I see other people who've given birth around the same time as me who are able to breastfeed well, whose babies are latching and cluster feeding all night long...and I feel jealous, and like a failure.
I feel cheated.
If Sailor is my last baby then I've missed out on this bonding experience. I've missed out on one of the most natural parts of motherhood.
I don't know what else I can do or could have done, but I know that I feel like I must have done something wrong - I didn't read up on it enough beforehand, I didn't try hard enough - whatever the reason, the cold hard fact is that I didn't breastfeed Sailor directly and that's what I had so wanted to do. So in my own mind, I have failed.
And it's the worst feeling.
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