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Anna's Breastfeeding Journey

Author: Anna, head over to instagram and follow her at @playellasway. 
Photo: Jemima, @mummy_duck_
I’m a planner by nature (and a collector but that’s a whole other story!) so for the 42 weeks that I counted down as we waited for the arrival of our first child there wasn’t a parenting blog, podcast, YouTube channel, Facebook group or Instagram live video that I hadn’t watched, listened to or fully immersed myself in. I had clear birth preferences, my hospital bag was packed and by the front door from 30 weeks and at least 40 extra large muslin cloths were washed and in baskets spread around the house (told you I was a collector!) but the one thing that I hadn’t really thought much about was how we would feed the baby once they had arrived. I’d heard horror stories from my mam's friends about breast feeding, the pain, the biting, the hard boobs but honestly I hadn’t thought about what I, as a new mam, wanted to do for our baby. My husband was very open-minded and said that whatever I felt best to do, he would fully support my decision making-which, for any dads or dads to be reading was absolutely the right thing for him to say! I decided that I’d like to give breastfeeding a try, even if I only managed a short period of time.

Fast forward to the arrival of our baby, a girl-Ella, I gave birth in a local hospital where a midwife with specialist breastfeeding training could visit within the hour of birth to help support that first feed. I remember the midwife having all the time in the world to support Ella and I. She helped with positioning and talked about her latch and how she should lie during the early days of feeding. That night my husband went home and Ella and I were left to try and figure this all out. The next day midwives observed my feeding and looked at Ella’s latch, I was eager to go home as the following day would have been the second anniversary of losing my own mam and I didn’t wanted to spend that day in hospital. My community midwife came to visit me on the ward and said that if I agreed to some extra home visits during the early days to monitor Ella’s feeding then I could go home.

Once home it took around 3 days for my milk to come in so initially Ella did lose some weight which, although my health visitor said was pretty normal, really knocked my confidence-I felt like I was trying my hardest with feeding but that I mustn’t have been giving Ella enough of what she needed. Over a period of a few weeks with extra weigh-ins for Ella, things started to get pretty painful. I didn’t mind the cluster feeding or the fact that Ella wanted to be close night and day, I spent some time researching the ‘fourth trimester’ and found it comforting to hear that my newborn wasn’t broken! But things were getting so painful, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, I developed mastitis and Ella and I both had thrush. I can remember scrunching my toes as Ella latched on at the beginning of a feed-I used to ask my husband to leave the room because if she came off the breast to look up at him and needed to reattach again the pain was just too much. I was honestly starting to consider ending our journey here.

My health visitor was around one morning while I fed Ella-my husband used to joke that they knew they would get a nice cup of coffee at our house so they’d just pop in for that! My health visitor was shocked when she saw how much pain I was in feeding Ella, she asked if she could look in her mouth and instantly said that Ella had a tight upper lip tie and a clear tongue-tie. The relief I felt just hearing this was almost instant. I felt like something could be done to stop the pain, help Ella gain some weight and hopefully our journey could continue.

My health visitor told me about a local breast feeding support group that offered drop in sessions where a group leader could observe a feed and either recommend alterations to latch or positioning or could even put me in the right direction of an appointment to see a health professional about having a frenotomy—dividing a tongue tie. Ella and I went along to the support group on the Monday morning and by that afternoon had an appointment for Thursday evening to have a frenotomy. My husband and I discussed the procedure and if indeed we should go ahead with it-after all, Ella was so young but for us we knew that for her to start gaining weight and be comfortable feeding it was the right thing to do.

The frenotomy was completed quickly and Ella was given to me to feed as soon as it was over-the relief was incredible. Ella had a big feed and then slept with a full tummy, something she hadn’t really done previously. The next day we went for a check up and discussed some exercises to help ensure that the tongue wouldn’t attach during the healing process.

Sitting here now thinking about these first weeks, they feel like a lifetime ago. Ella is a healthy 10 month old, she is still breastfed and has continued to gain weight well after the procedure. As the months have gone by things have become so much easier, we are both more confident and know what were doing-I no longer need my husband to leave the room! People talk about the bond that breastfeeding creates and it really is so lovely, she holds my thumb through the night as she feeds-which melts my heart! As we get close to Ella turning one I’ve been wondering when our journey might end but right now I can’t see that happening any time soon.

My advice for anyone beginning their journey is to get support if you need it, make sure that you are well fed and watered (my husband was a brilliant support, providing constant water and snacks to fuel our feeds day and night) and make the most of your time spent together breastfeeding-enjoy all of the baby cuddles!
Author: Anna, go check her out on Instagram at @playellasway. 

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