Welcome to the first-ever Focus on You post! In case you missed the post explaining it, Focus on You is a series where I’m putting the focus on you! Real mums, telling their stories, in their own words.
The aim of this series is to raise awareness and educate people on a range of subjects that aren’t generally discussed. It’s also to give you some insight into other peoples lives and what they might have been through or going through as a little reminder to be kind. Topics will be relating to fertility, parenthood, postnatal health and much more!
Every month, I will bring you a story told by a lovely mum who has been kind enough to share their experience with us. I asked each mum the same questions. All of the answers will be in their own words.
For my first ever Focus on You post, I’ve been talking with Ellie, who’s story is focused on breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Is Not As Easy As It Looks
I’ll be honest before I had Little J I thought that breastfeeding would be easy. Whip a boob out and the baby will know what to do. This really isn’t the case. At. All. There’s latching, getting the position right, milk letdown, engorgement…it’s not easy.
Due to having latching issues when Little J was born, I constantly had midwives and my Health Visitor checking the latch and making sure that he was getting milk. This was both at the hospital and once we’d got home.
Even though Ellie and myself are covered under the same area for midwife and health visitor care, it appears that unfortunately, not everyone gets the same kind of postpartum care which is disappointing.
Do you feel like there was enough postpartum care?
Initially yes. I didn’t feel I needed much help as it seemed that everything was going really well. Then on the day 6 check-up we were told he had lost too much weight (15.8%). This was because my boobs were too engorged and he wasn’t able to latch properly.
We were in NICU for 4 days and it was the worst 4 days of my life, constantly thinking we were going to lose our little boy and it was my fault as I should have known he wasn’t getting what he needs. He had a feeding tube, drip in his hand, and he had to be away from us in his own little room – my heart was breaking. Thankfully he pulled through and once we were home, things were much better.
Whilst I still blame myself in some respect for not noticing his lack of weight gain, I now realise that I wasn’t given any support with my breastfeeding before being released from hospital. No one came to check that his latch was correct – they watched me for the first time I tried, but after that, I was very much left to my own devices. I just thought ‘great, I’m obviously a natural with this breastfeeding malarkey’, however in hindsight I wish I had pushed for them to really check that I had the best position.
I also wish I was given more information about when my milk fully comes in and how engorged it can make you – it hadn’t really occurred to me. Nipple shields were my saviour at this point because it meant that whilst my boobs were huge, he could still latch and feed from me.
Sadly, our breastfeeding journey was cut much shorter than I had hoped, as during our stay in NICU we had to top up his milk intake with a bottle. This meant that when I attempted to solely feed from the breast, he would become agitated as he had to work harder to get his food.
I will definitely learn from this and make sure I push for help when/if we have another!
What kind of support did you have?
Very basic – a few Health Visitor appointments but that was it. When we were home from NICU I think I only saw my HV once more and then we were ‘signed off’. In all fairness, I was happy not to have any more check-ups. I was comfortable that the information we had in NICU was enough for me to ensure he was feeding. I didn’t have any other areas that I felt I needed support with.
Did you feel let down by the midwives and Health Visitor? Did you feel like more should have been done?
I guess at the time, I did feel let down by the services – midwives & Health Visitors and if I had received proper support then we wouldn’t have had the issues that we did. It’s definitely something I have learnt from.
Do you have any advice for mums going through something similar?
Don’t be scared to ask for help! If your unsure about anything, or you just want someone to say you’re doing it right, then ask! When you have just had your baby, you are in the perfect place to ask questions and get support. No question is a silly question!
Being a new mum is hard enough, but not having the right care or support from the postnatal team can make things even more difficult. I understand that Midwives and Health Visitors are super busy but I personally feel that they do have a responsibility to mums and their babies to check these things.
If you have any questions regarding breastfeeding you can check out the NHS Breastfeeding and support page or call National Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 100 0212
❤️ I want to say a massive thank you to Ellie for sharing your story with us ❤️
*You can find Ellie on Instagram at Mum after Maternity.