BfN recently attended an event in Edinburgh run by Family Nurse Partnership, an organisation that provides dedicated support for young mums. At this event, BfN Supporter Melanie met a young mum called Susan (pictured above with her daughter Maisie). Melanie was so inspired by Susan that she asked her to share her story. Susan agreed, and has written this guest blog for us.
I fell pregnant with my daughter at the age of 19 and gave birth at 20. I have always felt very maternal and knew that my one real dream in life was to become a mother.
Sadly I lost my mum 4 months before I fell pregnant, this is a pain that never fades. However my little girl has brought so much joy back in to my life and I really believe she was sent to me by my mum.
I said from the very start that I was going to try and breastfeed as I wanted to do what was best for my baby. I told my midwife I was not going to put pressure on myself or my newborn and if it was too stressful or we had problems then I would change to bottle feeding.
On 4th November 2017, I gave birth to the most precious gift I’ve ever received. My daughter Maisie. I had a horrendous pregnancy and suffered with hyperemesis gravidarum and was in and out of hospital constantly. After a traumatic birth, I was very weak and I was kept in the labour suite longer to be monitored. During this time I had Maisie laid on my chest, skin to skin. The best feeling in the world. Within a few hours of her birth she became hungry and knew exactly what she wanted and how to do it. I was in total awe of this magical feeling and bond I was sharing with my baby and I knew in that moment that I wanted to give this “breastfeeding journey” a real go.
For the first few weeks it was quite a blur and some days were tough as she cluster fed. I worried that she was hungry and wasn’t getting enough, but with the support of my health visitor and support groups I soon realised this was all normal behaviour. I planned to breast feed until 6 weeks.
By 6 weeks we were doing so well, I wasn’t willing to give up. Maisie was very unsettled and colicky and so people would come out with retorts such as “its cause your breastfeeding” or “she will sleep better on formula”. I tried not to take any of these comments to heart but in the end I was exhausted and I decided what harm would it cause if she just took 1 formula bottle a night from daddy so I could rest?
Well if only I had known! She broke out in a horrible rash and I freaked. We rushed her straight to the hospital who ran tests and then came back to us with “its just baby acne”. So off we went home, I felt awful for over reacting and wasting hospital time.
However over the next few weeks this rash persisted and she became so unsettled and I knew something wasn’t right. It took a lot of trips to the hospital and GP to get an answer. When she started to have blood in her nappies I was adamant that there was something wrong so pushed for a diagnosis.
This is when we finally discovered she had CMPA. This is an allergy to the protein in cows milk. We cut out the added formula top ups straight away. I felt so ashamed and upset that I had been feeding my daughter something that was causing her so much pain.
At this point, I had two choices. Stop breastfeeding and feed special prescription formula, or change my diet to exclude cows milk and continue our breastfeeding journey.
I wasn’t ready to stop and wanted to give my daughter the best again after what she had gone through. So that’s what I did.
It was very hard and on some occasions I was so ready to give up but watching her feed and seeing the comfort and love she got from it I powered on through.
We did trial some special formula to which she couldn’t tolerate either so it became clear that breastfeeding was our only option.
None of my friends really understood, a few did but not all. I often got comments like “just put her on the formula it will be easier for everyone” or “well you can’t breastfeed her forever can you!?”
These comments really got to me, and I tried my hardest not to let them eat away at me.
I was part of online support groups and these really helped me through the darkest of days.
Watching my daughter grow and learn boosted me though and helped me to keep going with our breastfeeding journey.
I returned back to study when Maisie was 9 months old. I was worried how I was going to manage to feed her and keep my supply up.
Thankfully my college have been so supportive and have gave me my own private room with fridge to express in. Everything went smoother than expected with this transition.
My daughter has just turned 1 year old and I always thought I would definitely want to stop by this stage but, after everything that we have both been through to get to where we are, I’m now in no hurry to stop.
I will continue to feed my daughter for as long as I see fit and as long as she wants to, I have learned to ignore the negative comments and focus on how far we have come.
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t, and if they do, use it to fuel your fire to keep going. Mothers have hidden strength inside and you will find it. So when any of you new mummies are having a bad day please remember you are not alone and that it does get better.
The good days will always outshine the bad ones.
If you need breastfeeding support, please contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline, or reach out to the BfN through our website or social media channels (click here for our Facebook, Instagram & Twitter). We will always strive to give evidence-based, mother-centred support and information to help you make the right decisions for your family.