Clare in Boobland - Part II

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

For those of you who haven't managed to read the first part of this blog the quick rundown is: Before my son I was terrified of babies. I suffered from fairly severe tokophobia (fear of pregnancy and birth) which had meant that I'd avoided anything to do with the little critters or their mothers.

Then I got a baby. Part II is all about how that led to me being in a career where I spend inordinate amounts of time with babies and pregnant women - and I LOVE it.

So, back to me finding out that I'm pregnant (weepy, terrified, all that jazz). Deciding how we were going to feed the baby once he arrived was another massive hurdle.

At first my reactions against breastfeeding were so strong that I didn’t think it was an option at all. The fear of exposing my body and having to be so intimate with a baby was a massive barrier. On the other hand, to my husband that was just how babies got fed, it was totally natural. His attitude, as well as being around friends nursing, encouraged me to find out more. I discovered the enormous physical and psychological benefits of breastfeeding, for us both, and I began to come round.

The clinch came when I really thought about how it might help me with bonding and Post Natal Depression - something I was very anxious about. I knew I was going to have to be brave and go for it.

Don't I look confident?

Of course, the little darling* (*for darling insert appropriate expletive) had other ideas. Can't really blame him! An emergency section under a general anaesthetic and a quick visit to NICU following a labour full of drugs would be enough to blunt anyone's appetite. He wouldn't nurse. Lots of help on the postnatal ward. He still wouldn't latch. He was getting more and more red, screamy, frustrated, tense, ANGRY. We started on formula topped up with the tiny amounts of colostrum I could express.

We went home.

I got stubborn and didn't want to stop if it wasn't on my terms!

Things continued like this for weeks. The only thing that changed was that I was eventually able to provide for him completely with expressed breast milk. We tried everything to get him to the breast. Everyone tried everything. He got to the point where I only had to lift my top and he'd start screaming.

The effect on my confidence as a new (and very vulnerable) mother could have been devastating. The thing that saved it was deciding, as a family, to stop trying so hard and just to bottle feed expressed milk for as long as I felt able. We got to 4 weeks and I really started to feel that I couldn't keep going with the pumping and started to ask for help about how to gradually wean down.

Aha! Is that the moral to the story? I want to help others to succeed where I didn't?

Not quite!

We now ended up being urgently admitted to hospital with suspected meningitis (baby, not me). In all the chaos of getting to hospital, being examined by a million people, explaining to everyone that he wouldn't latch but was on breast milk in a bottle, not having enough milk with us, waiting for supplies, dealing with poorly distressed baby...

The little darling* (*again insert appropriate term) decided that actually he'd had enough of this bottle feeding malarky because he was a breastfeeding baby, don'cha know, thank you very much. He latched on and fed beautifully. He never looked back. He continued at the breast until he decided he'd had enough at around 2.5yrs.

I'll never have the answer about why he didn't breastfeed to begin with - was it the drugs? the posterior tongue tie we later spotted? the sometimes too 'hands on' help on the ward? A little of each?

I also won't get the answer about why he suddenly decided it was okay. I have since learned that it is a noted 'thing' for babies who won't nurse to go back to the breast between 4-10 weeks. So I suspect that the reduction of pressure from us allowed him to 'reset' and this combined with him being at a good stage, needing comfort and security and being given time skin to skin got him started.

After that point things weren't always straight forward - we had nipple damage, mastitis, thrush, reflux blah blah blah - but I genuinely enjoyed it. It taught me to trust him, and myself, filled me with amazing hormones, introduced me to some of my best friends. And was ideal for my level of laziness.

When the breastfeeding group leader suggested that I might like to consider training to be a peer supporter I leapt at the chance.

Oh. My. Word! Did that open my eyes! I think I probably actually expected to be able to learn everything I needed to know about breastfeeding on that one course - it being a natural process and all. But the training creaked open the door to the vastness of lactation knowledge (and what we don't yet know) and I was soooo excited by what I glimpsed inside (I always was a geek lol). It set me on a path aiming for the gold standard - hoping to one day qualify as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Next I got an amazing job as an Infant Feeding Support Worker at my local hospital which gave me more chance to learn first-hand from experienced, knowledgeable, passionate people.

Finally, I started my own business in order to offer the information and support to those not currently served by the NHS due to funding cutbacks. It shouldn't be that way but I'm trying to help to plug some gaps whilst I continue to fight to improve the services for all.

I have met so many strong, amazing women on their own journeys and witnessed their triumphs, and their despair. The despair is the bit that rips my heart. So many women carrying the weight of guilt and shame because they feel that they haven't done the best for their child. Fortunately there is an army of incredible people fighting for a world where people can feel confident in their choices (because they've had evidence based information) and are supported to achieve whatever they want. I am proud to sit on their fringes and do my little bit.

So there you have it. That's how I got sucked in to the Land of Boobs and I hope I am content to stay here for a very long time.

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