Breastfeeding saved my life. That was going to be the title of this post but I thought it might put people off, making me look like one of the ‘breast is best’ brigade who judge other Mums for their choices. That’s not me. I think everyone should feed their baby on the way that’s right for them. When I say breastfeeding save my life, I mean it literally.
I haven’t yet written about the birth, which in itself, wasn’t so bad (Yes of course it hurt. I’ll write about that another time. Maybe). Even the first couple of days after the birth were ok. I was on a high, and was very lucky in that mine and Mushroom’s breastfeeding journey started well. He latched on well the first time and I felt no pain. If anything, I found it very relaxing. Apparently that’s the release of prolactin. Well, it’s the prolactin that saved me.
I went home two days after the birth and all seemed well. However, within a matter of days I collapsed while changing Mushroom’s nappy in the middle of the night. I couldn’t move my arms or legs and was terrified I was going to die and leave this helpless little baby behind… Well, with his Dad, but still. An ambulance was called and they said I was suffering from exhaustion. My blood pressure was sky high but this was attributed to the scare I’d had and once it went down a little, I was told not to worry and just to let the midwife know when she came the next day.
Well, the next day the midwife came. She checked my blood pressure again and I was immediately readmitted to hospital with postnatal preeclampsia. Yes, you can get it after the birth and no, I didn’t know that either. As I was exclusively breastfeeding Mushroom at the time he came back with me. Just as well, as being parted from him so soon certainly wouldn’t have helped me to relax. I was kept in hospital for a further ten days while an appropriate course of medication was determined. During these ten days, my blood pressure reached dangerously high levels, almost landing me in resus on at least one occasion. There were times when I could feel the eclampsia itself coming on – they had told me the warning signs – and knew I needed my medication earlier than I would get it. Most of these times seemed to coincide with Mushroom crying for a feed. Perhaps it was a coincidence but maybe he sensed something was wrong and just wanted to be held. Either way, those times I nursed him saved me, the prolactin bringing my blood pressure down to safer levels until I could take my medication. The times I almost ended up in resus were when he was sleeping. But we got through it. By the end of the ten days in hospital the medication was working and I was more than ready to go home. In fact, in the last few days I am convinced it was staying in hospital that kept my blood pressure up. I managed to persuade a doctor of this and I was
set free sent home. I weaned myself off the medication two weeks earlier than advised and felt much better for it.
So. That was the beginning of my breastfeeding story… Like I said, I was lucky. I wouldn’t go so far as to say breastfeeding was a breeze – the pain kicked in when Mushroom hit Wonder Week 5/his first growth spurt and recurred every ‘Wonder Week’/growth spurt without fail, but it always passed just as I was almost ready to give up. I also had the usual issues with leaking and engorgement (I recommend Johnsons baby or Asda breast pads. The plastic backed ones are always a bad idea) but in the end, 90% of Mushroom’s milk intake for the first nine months was my milk. Nothing against formula, he’d take it if I wasn’t around and there was no expressed milk for him but most of the time he was with me. In a way, it’s laziness/convenience that kept me breastfeeding. Bottles have to be made up, washed and sterlised, and transported around. Breasts are… Well, they’re just there aren’t they? It was just easier (most of the time).
I have talked before about weaning Mushroom in the daytime so won’t repeat that here. Since then, we have also got rid of his bedtime bottle and he doesn’t actually drink much milk anymore. He does still nurse once in the night. I don’t tell many people this as, unfortunately, it tends to get a negative reaction and I’m tired of having to justify myself. For the record – He’s still just a baby, yes I know it’s probably just for comfort, no its not different cause he’s a boy (this one really annoys me) and yes I will do something about it if he doesn’t grow out of it in the next six months.
So that’s my breastfeeding story. I’ve read a few over the past week and they have all been different but one common thread I’ve been happy to see is that there has been no judgement – everyone has been supportive of each mother’s individual journey whether it was breast or bottle, or both. I know that when I started, I never expected to still be on this journey now but here we are… and I wouldn’t change a thing.