Birth boobs and bad advice/Zoe Kleinman

I nearly snogged the postman!

It arrived in the post today.

A book with my name on it.

I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to have my actual physical book in my hands right now (yes, yes, there will be an e-book too but I won’t be sleeping with that under my pillow).

One of my friends – an Oxford University lecturer, natch! – messaged me on Facebook to inform me that I have beaten him into the book game. I assume my honorary degree is in the post, Dr P 😉

I am pretty bloody proud right now. It’s been an epic experience, writing a book,  raising a child and holding down a full time job and I’m not entirely sure I’d recommend it…. but somehow I’ve managed it.

Perhaps for this reason Birth, Boobs and Bad Advice is more TS Eliot than JRR Tolkien in the word count department but there are a hell of a lot of voices in it and they are all saying one thing – why are we beating ourselves so much over breastfeeding?

If it helps just one person then it’s all been worth doing.

Now if you’ll forgive me, I have to get back to running around the house and shouting “squeeeeeeee!” for at least another 20 minutes.

And then I have to proof read the bloody thing. Again.

And THEN it can finally hit the virtual shelves! Very very very soon, unless there’s a glaring horror I haven’t noticed until now – which isn’t impossible. Apparently I have unwittingly misspelt Alanis Morrissette’s name since time began – this book has been a learning curve for me in more ways than one.

(Sorry Alanis).


“the thought of going back to breastfeeding is making me feel a bit trapped”… Sarah’s story (guest post)

Sarah’s story

I’m pregnant! Not exactly planned but there you go. Anyway, first things first, take seven pregnancy tests to make sure (all positive), then it’s off to the doctor to get booked in with a midwife.

I get the appointment and a 100 page booklet wanting to know everything about everyone on my family tree. I’m starting to think that pregnancy isn’t just nine months of sitting about picking baby names and getting lots of presents.

The day of the appointment arrives, I’ve got my booklet, urine sample and an increasing anxiety that the midwife is going to make me take my underwear off and ask me embarrassing questions about sex.


First question (as I’m barely sat down): “How are you planning on feeding baby?”.

Admittedly I’d already decided to give the old breastfeeding a go but I didn’t think it would be such a vital question at the first appointment.

Fast forward 40 weeks or so, the baby arrives without incident and I remain true to my word on the breastfeeding front. It goes well! Puffin knows what he’s doing and my milk is good to go.

I’m an absolute hit on the maternity ward, midwives faces popping through the curtains while I’m feeding smiling saying, “Look at him, he knows what he’s doing” or “Look at you, clever Mummy”. This breastfeeding lark is making me into some kind of hero!

Back at home the breastfeeding continues (with lots of gold stars from health visitors and community midwives). Everything is going well, apart from some absolutely mental screaming in the latter part of the day, which is finally resolved by Gran announcing “He’s got wind”.

Wind? I thought breastfed babies didn’t get wind? Well they do, and sometimes the only cure is to put them on their tummies for a little nap (over two years later and he still sleeps on his tummy).

Hurdle number one jumped and cleared.

Seven weeks in and things are still going well but I’m starting to get sore nipples so on goes the nipple cream. A week later and it’s getting worse. I haven’t worn clothes above my waist for days and feeding feels more like passing broken glass.

Two weeks later and it’s still no better, feeding is now excruciatingly painful and there have been plenty of tears. Finally I ring the health visitor who announces “That sounds like thrush to me”.

THRUSH! IN MY NIPPLES! She can’t be serious?

She absolutely is – and now I can’t feed my baby for a certain amount of time because of the tablet I have to take.

This is where the problems start.

First of all I get the guilt that I can’t feed my baby and obviously that makes me a rubbish mum.

Next on the list is a bit of relief. Daddy shares the night feeds – oh, and is that a bit of a social life I see in the distance now my breasts are officially signed off sick from work?

Final problem. I’m thrush free and essentially ready to go again but I’m not sure if I want to. Don’t get me wrong, Puffin took to it like a duck to water and I had the milk, but now I’ve had a few days off, Daddy’s done some of the feeds and I’ve had a bit more sleep, I’m starting to see that there are benefits to the bottle, and if I’m honest, the thought of going back to breastfeeding makes me feel a bit trapped.

It would be all on me again, I’d be the one getting up in the night, and if I did nip out for a bit of dinner with a friend I’d be on the clock from the minute I left the house.

I know these sound like selfish reasons and I’m not pretending they aren’t but it wasn’t like my baby became ill the minute the Cow and Gate touched his lips.

He was still a happy baby and continued to do all the things newborns do. What I didn’t account for were the crazy hormones, because now I felt like I had a decision to make but if I didn’t decide to carry on breastfeeding I would automatically be a failure.

Luckily, I have a very sensible older sister. I started to tell her that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to breastfeeding but if I didn’t I’d feel like I was f… and before the F word was out of my mouth she explained very clearly and firmly that bottle feeding my baby did not make me a failure.

It was just what I needed because I’d gotten to the point where I actually felt like I needed permission to stop breastfeeding. I do plan on having another bash at breastfeeding with my next baby but this time I will be on high alert for the thrush because they sure as hell don’t warn you about when they’re giving out the gold stars!

If you’d like to write a guest post like Sarah did email breastfeedingbattles@gmail.com

The one about the radio phone-in

mini media mogul / by Lewis Coombes

My son came too – working parenthood in action! The producer’s chair suits him… (pic by Lewis Coombes)

This morning I talked about  breastfeeding battles on BBC Radio Solent’s breakfast show.

I work at the station part-time myself so it was very strange to be on the other side of an interview – but the presenter decided to host a phone-in on whether there is too much pressure on women to breastfeed and asked me to be involved.

I told my story, and some of the stories of other mums both here on the blog and in the book (which will be out SOON SOON SOON I promise!) and waited for the inevitable backlash, for people to phone in and tell me once again what a bad mum I am.

It didn’t happen.

The response was astonishing – women from all generations (one caller said her children are now in their 50s) who have been badly treated when breastfeeding didn’t work out for them. In the book I’ve written a whole chapter on the basics of postnatal care and how they haven’t been updated since the early 1900s. Today I saw that first hand.

Much more recently, one lady – and this has haunted me all day – said she was told her newborn daughter must be a witch because she couldn’t breastfeed. I actually gasped out loud in the studio at that.

A midwife rang in and said she was in tears listening to the show. She didn’t want to give her real name (which is interesting in itself) but agreed that bedside manner was an issue.

I’ve worked so hard to get the book together and now I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. There are just SO MANY of us out there.

Have a listen and let me know what you think – link only active for 7 days so GO!

“I still have a friend who judges me for choosing to stop” – Ellen’s story (guest post)

Ellen’s story

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was quite happily going with the flow.

No birth plan needed – I told the midwife if I couldn’t bear the pain I would ask for assistance and if not I would crack on with the gas and air. The same with breastfeeding, I was keen to have a go and see how I got on.

I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those women that felt robbed of a natural experience or guilty about not breastfeeding…. but all the time hoping deep down that both experiences would be ‘perfect’.

As it turned out my labour ended in an emergency c-section with partial cord around the neck incident and a 9lb 6oz boy.

Then came the feeding.

The hospital staff were amazing, although it didn’t get off to an amazing start. After two days of no interest from my boy, he soon caught on and enjoyed eight straight hours of feeding through the night. I turned out to be one of those women with the boobs and the baby which knew exactly what to do and plenty of milk to do it with!

However, things weren’t as they seemed.

I hated every single minute of it. So much so that I got no enjoyment whatsoever out of the first six weeks of motherhood. I would spend hours and hours secretly trawling the internet looking for someone, somewhere, anywhere that would tell me that I could stop without breaking my baby – but to no avail.

I was a shadow of a person with a smile constantly nailed to my face when what I really felt was that I was dying inside a little bit each day. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. Looking back I was clearly depressed.

It didn’t help that everyone was telling me how marvellous it was and to stop would mean the poor child would be afflicted with every disease known to mankind.

I was lucky as a lovely midwife took me in hand and encouraged a bit of mixed feeding. It saved my life – I could still cry when I think about her visit and that was three years ago.

I know some people will think I was lucky and would have loved to have been able to breastfeed. I still have a friend who judges me for choosing to stop.

The point I am trying to make is that being a mum comes with so many, many emotions that, having just given birth and not having slept for four nights, I was ill-equipped to deal with.

I don’t doubt that breast milk gives your baby the best possible start and should I have another baby I would do it all over again, and would advise all new mums to have a go.

But next time I will also think about giving myself the best possible start at enjoying my baby and not do what I think everyone thinks is best.

I’m no medical expert but surely a happy mother parents far better than a depressed zombie.  Anyone that judges you for thinking otherwise can bugger off!

If you’d like to write a guest post like Ellen did email breastfeedingbattles@gmail.com

“All I wanted was for someone to tell me to stop…” (Guest post)

Jenny’s story

Admittedly my first venture into the world of breastfeeding didn’t quite go as planned.

Twin Boys born six weeks early and residents of the Neonatal Unit for almost four weeks was not the greatest of starts.
I had always planned to breastfeed but I’d be lying if I said finding out I was having twins didn’t make me think twice about it. The Midwives were lovely and very supportive – if a little over enthusiastic – and I had no qualms about getting started once the babies arrived.

I, very stupidly, thought it was going to be easy. I mean, you just put the baby there and ‘hey presto’ right? Wrong! Because I didn’t have access to the Boys for the first 16 hours due to recovering from an emergency caesarean and the Boys needing urgent medical attention I had to use a pump.

A pump my Husband now tells me (two and a half years later) he didn’t put together right. He basically left off the valve needed to create suction because he didn’t know where it went. Anyway, once we solved that problem – 3 days of pumping and not a drop later- I was on a roll. My milk came in and I was given plenty of opportunities to try and feed my babies.

Now, here’s where it got tricky, because no one told me that sometimes baby doesn’t want to feed.

At first I assumed it was because they were small and poorly but as the weeks dragged on it became clear that one boy in particular just didn’t feel the need to feed. An NG (nasogastric) tube and EBM (expressed breast milk) put down it every 1, 2 then 3 hours was all this child needed.

Baby One was better at latching on and feeding for all of 5 mins – it probably took me longer to get him in the correct position – but it was so hard. Did I mention I was sat in the middle of the neonatal ward with various, lovely nurses helping me and giving me advice while I had my bosoms on show? Not quite the calm, quiet, private experience I was hoping for.

As the Boys improved I could have them in my room so I had more privacy but the nurses had to come in after every feed to check how long they’d fed for. Going home became goal number 1.
I vividly remember one night; it could have been the first night they stayed in my room overnight. It was about 3am and I’d fed one boy, this would be the least enthusiastic feeder, and was feeding his brother.

Mr Unenthusiastic began crying and ‘rooting’ around on Daddy (who was thankfully staying the night with us). I finished feeding number 1 and tried number 2 again 3 mins later he’d apparently finished. Wrong. The crying and feeding went on for a while until we admitted defeat and called a nurse for help. She took one look at him and said “he’s got wind and he’s hungry”. Thus disproving the theory that breastfed babies don’t get wind.

She winded him and asked if I had any milk in the fridge – the last thing I wanted to do was latch this baby on again. He took a bottle of EBM without suffering from ‘nipple confusion’ and went to sleep. I think from that moment on my husband became the bottles biggest fan………….and maybe so did I.

The final straw with breastfeeding came when I tried a weekend of exclusive breastfeeding. This meant no tubes, no top ups and no expressing. Two days in and the tubes were back in due to high sodium levels brought on by lack of fluid.

That was it, I felt so useless and like a failure. Feeding was the one thing I was supposed to be able to do and I couldn’t even do that in fact my attempts actually did more harm than good. Or so my crazy hormonal self thought at the time. I started expressing again but wasn’t producing half as much as had previously pumped. This depressed me even more.
All I wanted was for someone to tell me to stop and give them formula. For someone reason I felt I needed permission from someone¸ anyone! I know my experience could have been different but it’s a lot of ‘Ifs’ really. If the boys had gone to term. If I had taken them home at 3 days not 3 and a half weeks. If my milk had come in straight away. If they had ‘read the book’ as my Mum likes to say. Yes, if all those things had happened then maybe I’d have persevered and breastfed for longer?

Who knows? I had lots of support and advice on how to breastfeed but in the end all I actually needed was for someone to say its ok to breastfeed but it’s ok to bottle-feed too. The choice is yours.

If you’d like to write a guest post like Jenny did email breastfeedingbattles@gmail.com