“she was just a bit lazy about sucking” – breastfeeding round 2 for Ellen

Ellen struggled to breastfeed her first baby and bravely wrote about it here – she has decided to share her experience of feeding child number two after hearing that a friend was told to breastfeed or risk cot death.

Well, where do I start? I was the one who had the baby and the boobs who knew exactly what to do with breastfeeding the first time but I just couldn’t cope.

Second time round and I know what i’m doing, I know what to expect.  I’m going to have another go. I will be able to cope with it, because i’ve done it before. Plus my section is planned this time so, no crazy labour before a mad rush to theatre. Nope, i’ll be checking in to a weird kind of hotel and then at 1.40pm they will give me my baby. After that I know the drill – piece of cake!

Needless to say it didn’t quite work like that…

Coming out of theatre, with a bouncing baby girl who was a total surprise (we hadn’t found out and were fully expecting another boy) I felt tired but relaxed. Once she had been weighed and we were having some skin-to-skin she began to root around as if ready to feed. Here we go I thought, it’s going to be marvellous.  Me and my girl have it sussed from the word go.

Over the next 48 hours I was calm and collected, she would cry I would try to latch her on she would cry some more, fall asleep and within the hour it would all start again.

The midwives all assured me she was getting a little each time and as a section baby she would take longer to work out what to do and just to keep at it.

So keep at it I did.

Some times she would sleep for two hours, sometimes 20 minutes. everytime she would half latch, scream then pull away as if poisoned.

But that was fine apparently, she was just ‘a bit lazy about sucking’. I was convinced that each time she came close enough to do any good, my ginormous breasts were suffocating her and that’s why she was pulling away. But no, apparently all was fine – we were discharged after 48 hours and a maximum feed lasting all of five minutes.

So day three at home dawns after a whole night of screaming, not latching, screaming, dozing and screaming some more. The midwife arrives all lovely and kind until she is weighed. She had dropped from a lovely bouncy 8lb 2oz to a scary 7lb 1oz!

You can guess what’s coming next… the hospital who couldn’t wait to be rid of us the day before wanted us back.

Back we went straight to the special support clinic where we were told she was getting very dehydrated and needed cup feeding. I was asked to demonstrate how I was feeding her… but little madame was having none of it. Next came a lovely lady with a knitted (yes knitted) boob to demonstrate how to hand express.

Twenty soul-destroying minutes later I am the proud owner of 2mls of breast milk. Miss Madame is offered the cup which she drinks like a pro and promptly falls back to sleep. We are sent home again and told she will be weighed again tomorrow.The next day she has put on an ounce and a despite the knitted boob lady’s obsession with the wonders of hand expressing, I am now the owner of a hand pump.

Over the next four days we are seen daily and she is putting on weight via the cup but defiantly refusing to latch on, she just has no interest or inclination to do so.

Day five arrives and our daily visit dawns. The baby is doing very well with the cup and up until now, not a bottle has passed her lips – we are TERRIFIED of nipple confusion!

At this point I am knackered. All I do is pump all she does is refuse to feed from me and I also have a very switched on 3 year old who asks a lot of questions and understandably cannot grasp what the hell is going on.

Day five’s midwife is great. I think I may have fallen a bit in love with her. For the one hundredth time I ask, ‘is it worth it? Is she ever going to get it?’

The angel in the blue smock looks me straight in the eye and says I have to prepare myself for that fact that some babies are not going to get it.

Hallelujah! Someone has finally been man enough to tell me what I think I already knew on day two.

So within ten minutes a bottle of the amber nectar has been prepared and guess what? – the child needs no instruction.By day seven she has put on a weeks worth of weigh in two days – we are officially off the naughty step.

For four weeks I managed to hand pump almost every bottle until my supply dwindled and I realised I needed to to be a mum to two people now. I still think breast milk is the best start for your new baby, but it’s not always an option you can choose.

This time round, I feel less damaged by my feeding debacle. But, there will always be a part of me that wonders. Should I not have had that  elective c-section? Should I have tried harder with her brother? Is this my punishment for ‘giving up’ the first time?

My bouncing baby girl is almost six months old now and it has taken me that long to write this post without it coming out like scribble. But just this week my best friend who is now 36 weeks pregnant has been told (for the second time) that in order to avoid cot death she needs to breastfeed.

It made me realise the most important thing for new mums out there is information, support and preparation for that fact that sometimes the babies, or the boobs or the mummies just can’t do it and that is FINE.

Read more stories in Birth, Boobs and Bad Advice – the book!