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Couldn't breast feed first baby - what about next time?

(21 Posts)
rossa Sat 17-Aug-02 22:05:48

My baby was 3.5 weeks early born by C-section and was taken to special care for a week as she was only 5lbs. I wasn't able to hold her or try to feed her for about 12 hours. We battled with breast feeding for about 1 month but she would never latch on - just got more and more upset and frantic. Why? Her size, the fact it was 12 hours before we could start trying, her prematurity, my smallish nipples? The shame and guilt I felt for the whole of my daughter's first year was worse than I can describe. Now I am trying for a second baby. Will the same thing happen - has anyone got any ideas/similar experiences that might help me?

ionesmum Sat 17-Aug-02 22:43:08

rossa, I can't help but just wanted to say that I had exactly the same experience after my baby was in intensive care (she is now 6 mo so I'm not thinking about no.2 just yet!), and I feel just as you - guilty and ashamed. I've spoken to other mums and many have said that they found breastfeeding easier the second time. I know that there is a lot of advice available here and wish you luck with your pregnancy. Sorry I can't be more help but I wanted to say that you're not alone.

tiktok Sat 17-Aug-02 23:18:32

Rossa, I do hope you get the support and information you need this time round. There is hardly any good reason for a 12 hour delay in initiating feeding. Unless your baby was very ill and weak, you could have been encouraged to give lots of skin to skin 'kangaroo care' which is known to help with bf. I'd also suspect your baby had some rough handling, maybe only once or twice, from a carer trying to 'help' her on...that often explains the frantic distress some babies have at the breast. Did that happen?

None of this was your fault at all, and you can feel proud for the breastfeeding you did, when all those difficulties were against you.

Call one of the bf support lines, and talk through what happened; sometimes understanding can help you come to terms with it all. I hope so - and they won't tell you that what you feel doesn't matter.

tiktok Sat 17-Aug-02 23:20:44

Meant to say, that it was up to the people caring for you professionally to ensure the right moves are made to get bf off to a good start. Very few mothers are in a position to be assertive about any of this, post-birth, let alone post-section with a small, pre-term baby - so blaming yourself misses the 'real' perpetrators.

Jasper Sun 18-Aug-02 02:01:50

Next time? YES!
But first, to address the "shame and guilt"
Why are you being so hard on yourself?

I did not have the "excuse" of a premature baby or C-section or whatever but simply did not get bf established beyond 8 weeks or so with my first baby, and a lot less with my second.(could not get beyond sore nipples and gave up in desperation/frustration)
My third is a different tale completely-on the breast as I speak, and yes, I am very pleased with my beautiful breastfed 5 month baby and completely recommend persevering with the whole breastfeeding thing .
But hey, stop the shame and guilt thing please!
In answer to your original question, YES, it can be very different second (or third, or fourth ) time around so stop worrying!
You will get lots of help here when the time comes.
Have fun trying for baby #2!

robinw Sun 18-Aug-02 07:39:03

message withdrawn

tigermoth Sun 18-Aug-02 08:53:37

Speaking as the child of a mother who couldn't breastfeed, it never ever mattered to me one tiny iota. I remember how guilty she felt and throughout my childhood and blamed every tooth filling I had on her early failure, while happily feeding me a high sugar diet.

I had lots of medical checks when I was a child, due to taking part in a survey. I was in perfect health, well adjusted, totally bonded with my mum, intelligent enough to get by etc etc.

From a child's eye view, I was really glad my mum hadn't breastfed me - it sounded such a messy and unnecessary business.

Eulalia Sun 18-Aug-02 09:33:09

rossa - no it is unlikely to happen again. And the reasons for your failure are probably a combination of all the things you stated. It is not that you "couldn't breastfeed" - it wasn't your fault as the baby controls the breastfeeding. One thing I would say is that it can take longer than a month (6 weeks in my case) particularly with a small baby. Also sometimes premature babies can be fed for the first month or so with expressed milk until the baby is big and strong enough to feed directly from you.

I think the delay of 12 hours was significant also as research has shown that even just holding the baby in the first hour helps with bonding and breastfeeding. Do you know why the baby was born early and if this is likely to happen again? If so I would read up on this well in advance. As I say my ds took 6 weeks and I had problems with him latching on, poor milk supply, falling asleep at the breast. I did a combination of feeding him, topping him up, pumping milk ready for the next feed (which took hours). He had some formula which didn't help with my supply and it all seemed like a vicious circle until suddenly he seemed to get the idea of it and I never looked back. I bought a good book from La Leche League (rather militant but extremely detailed advice).

There is a lot of information on this site too so read up on the breastfeeding topics here. I too was dreading problems with my 2nd baby but she was a lot bigger and took to the breast straight away. Good luck with trying for your next baby.

Willow2 Sun 18-Aug-02 11:59:45

Rossa - I had a really hard time b/f my ds - we were both ill after the birth, in hospital for two weeks (during which time I lost count of the number of strangers who grappled with my boobs in an attempt to get him to latch on). By the time we left hospital I was beside myself and desperate for someone to give me "permission" to bottle feed. Eventually my midwife said she thought I should go on to bottles. We did - and then, while waiting for a bottle to cool down - during which time my son was hysterical - I whacked him on in an attempt to get him to shut up. He not only stopped crying, but fed properly for the first time. I ended up feeding him for a year - and yes, I am pleased that I managed it in the end. However, I still am very angry at the tyranny that surrounds breastfeeding and the huge amount of guilt and stress I had to deal with at the most singularly difficult time of my life. The point I am trying to make is that you should not feel bad about not managing to feed your daughter. You were going through hell and the most important thing for both of you was that she fed - not how she fed. Don't be haunted by these experiences - and don't let anyone bully you next time around either. Every baby is different - you might have one that sprints up to your boob the minute it's born and never lets go - you might not. The most important thing is that you and your baby are happy. Yes, b/f can take time to establish - my ds and I are proof of that - but sometimes it's not necessarily worth a month or more of hell just to fit in with some idealised view of motherhood. Good luck (and good fun) with the trying and I hope all goes well!

debster Mon 19-Aug-02 11:02:54

Rossa - I am also having similar thoughts as I am expecting my second child in 8 weeks and I had a nightmare trying to bf my ds. He was born 3 weeks early after being induced (drip, catheter, epidural etc). He was very lethargic when born as he suffered from fairly severe jaundice which meant he had to lie in a phototherapy box for 24 hours. He was given bottled milk by the midwives as I couldn't express very much breast milk. I remember being attached to the milking machine for about 45 minutes and getting about 2 oz. So soul-destroying. It all went downhill from there really. We had to stay in hospital for a week and though I tried to bf I just couldn't get the hang of it after ds had got used to the bottles. In the end when I got him home I used a nipple shield and that helped a bit but I never felt completely at ease with it. The relief on using bottles was immense. This time round I am hoping for a home birth and am really keen to give bf another chance. I am definitely encouraged by the messages here about successful bf second (or third/fourth) time around!

Tissy Mon 19-Aug-02 11:59:19

I'd just like to say that the small nipples are really not a problem! I was terribly worried about this after seeing my SIL getting out her enormous ones to feed her dd! I also had a partly inverted one, which looked "deformed" to me! My concerns weren't taken at all seriously by the midwives when they checked me into the hospital for my c/s, and I even spent the time in theatre wondering if I'd be able to feed her! As it happened dd has a tiny little mouth, which just fits my nipple, unlike her cousin, who has a great big gob!

I agree about the "manhandling" in hospital, though. When I was having difficulty getting dd to latch on, I would ring the bell, and along would rush a midwife/ Student/ Auxiliary/ Cleaning lady/ whoever, who would grab my boob stuff it into dd's mouth then rush away again. This was supposed to be a Baby friendly hospital, with the Unicef Charter. I know they're short-staffed, but I really didn't feel that anyone cared particularly about my ability to get her latched on. My Comm. midwife was marvellous, though, she spent a lot of time with me and dd, and couldn't have been more helpful.

Enough of this waffle! You can breastfeed the next one, if that is what you want to do, but don't beat yourself up if you don't manage. There are plenty of perfectly healthy babies/ children / adults out there who were bottle fed.

Clarinet60 Mon 19-Aug-02 21:48:02

Rossa, I hope you are feeling better after all these messages of support. I can only echo them and hope you have better luck next time. I had problems with my first DS - he just refused to latch on properly and wasn't getting any milk. Unfortunately, he did a good impression of feeding (just held the nipple between his lips before falling asleep), so midwives were adamant that he was OK. After a week in hospital, the comm. midwife took one look at his weight, etc, and told me I had 24 hrs to get something down him or it would be back to hospital and onto a drip. So I had mega-guilt: not only was I a failed breastfeeder, but I had starved my child as well. After a few weeks of a combination of bottle feeding and nipple shields, we got the hang of it and DS1 was semi-breastfed. With DS2, the problems were different. He latched on OK, but I had severe breast pain, mastitis and thrush for the first 6 weeks! We persevered and at 13 weeks, he is now a fully breastfed baby - with one fly in the ointment for which I would be grateful for any advice: he's a determined nipple-sucker. This means that he has to feed very frequently (often hourly) because he doesn't feed efficiently. My HV is pleased with his weight and apart from the odd green poo, it seems to be working OK. I've read the La Leche League manual and tried all their tips on improving the latch, but nothing works - he just slips back into his old ways every time. Has this happened to anyone else out there and was your baby OK overall?
Rossa, I hope it goes well for you and try not to feel too bad, you did the best you could.

sammac Mon 19-Aug-02 22:37:14

Rossa, I had huge difficulties feeding my first baby and did the guilt trip bit after putting her onto bottles. I was therefore determined that next time I would do it right. When ds was born I was so happy that thing seemed to be working although I was in agony every time! We were readmiited 3 days after leaving hospital as he had lost so much weight. I was still determined to carry on feeding, but every time he was weighed he had lost more weight. In the hospital, the staff were so overworked that no-one had any time to sit and help. Every midwife contradicted the one before her. One said this way, the next would tell me to bottle feed. On top of a c-section and a poorly baby, my head was mince! One midwife even told me that she'd sent the b.feeding counsellor away because she'd just upset me! Anyway after many tears ds is now thriving- and has been bottle fed since he was 10 days old. I am angry and upset over what happened and wish I had been more in control over the situation. Be assertive and ask for help. I think I felt that I didn't want to bother anyone as they were too busy- and I paid for it.

SueDonim Tue 20-Aug-02 06:01:00

I'm another one who didn't manage to bf feed my first baby for more than a brief time, but I went on to feed my other three babies for over a year. For me, knowledge and sheer bl%dy mindedness was the key - I think I knew Breast is Best by Drs Stanway by heart!!

Droile, have you had a breastfeeding counsellor actually watch your baby latch on? If not, it might be worth a try as they could well have some ideas up their sleeves to help. An NCT counsellor can be contacted on 0870 444 8708 and the service is free.

mollipops Tue 20-Aug-02 09:36:02

rossa, you musn't be so hard on yourself! The stress of a premie in special care as well as the ongoing pain from a C-section are enough to deal with... you have no reason to feel ashamed. A stressed-out mum with a hungry frantic baby trying to keep it together is definitely NOT a better option than a relatively stress-free mum with a bottle!

I'm sure your second pregnancy has been different to your first. Your second labour/birth experience will probably be different too. And of course, your two babies will be different. So why would you expect your second experience of breastfeeding to be the same as your first? I bf my first for some months, and was shocked and upset to find I had terrible problems with my second seemed ridiculous, since I had already done it before, shouldn't I be able to do it easier the second time around? But it's the same deal - different baby, different experience. Just like everything else about children, you really can't compare them. So please try not to worry - I know it is easier said than done. The more relaxed you are, the more easily it will happen. Please don't let it spoil your second time round - you are already a great mum, be kind to yourself!

JayTree Tue 20-Aug-02 11:06:21

It was interesting to read that Sammac felt that the midwives failed her because they were too busy and didn’t provide enough support - I was very sorry to read it and can sympathise greatly.

However, in my case the opposite can also be true. My memories of the first few weeks of my dd’s life are ruined thanks to the very real trauma that my pestering and overly persistent midwives put me through. I was typically desperate to breast feed and it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. However, the midwives just would not leave me alone - every day for day on end they would visit me at home really early in the morning and try to get me to keep going. I know that they really believed in what they were doing, but they went far too far. The way they would march past my husband downstairs, right up into the bedroom despite him telling them I was on my way down, grab hold of my sore breasts in such a matter of fact, insensitive way left us both feeling helpless in our own home. I felt humiliated and totally incapable after every visit - as did my husband. I really wish that I had complained and been able to stand up for myself - they seemed to ignore that I was giving myself a big enough guilt trip without them constantly going over the advantages as if I was a naughty, reluctant school girl. I will never forget how they treated me and feel that their handling of my situation was totally insensitive and over zealous. The problem is that at the time I was too distraught to make a formal complaint and then too ashamed/upset etc. to do anything about it for months afterwards. Now I feel it is too late. I know that they were not horrible individuals, just totally blind to my needs and feelings.
Next time I will stay for as short a time possible in hospital, breast feed for as long as I can and not get upset about it. If I manage it better next time then it will be brilliant, if not, we will do the best we can. Never again will I allow a medical proffessional intimidate and upset me in the way that they have done.
My advice to you, rossa, is the same as everyone elses - no babies are the same, just like pregnancies and just give it your best shot. If it doesn’t work out, then please don’t allow it to ruin some of the most precious times you will have with your child.
Good luck, stay positive.

tiktok Tue 20-Aug-02 11:48:10 horrible for you. True support for breastfeeding is nothing like the intrusive man-handling you experienced. Sometimes, it is forgotten that breastfeeding is far more than just a way of getting good milk into a baby - it is a relationship between the mother and the baby, and helping with it needs sensitive, gentle, restrained encouragement, preferably hands-off.

If you still feel angry and hurt, then you have a right to say so. Don't think of it as a complaint, but as a sharing of your experience with people who are in a position to work exactly the same baleful result on some other poor mum, but who are also in a position to change what they do for the better.

You could write to the clinic, or the supervisor of midwives, or the director of midwifery.

If you can bear to do something, then I would urge you to....

dejags Tue 20-Aug-02 12:07:13

I have been wondering exactly the same thing. The thing is, is that I have had a breast reduction so we were never sure if I could b/f. I did produce milk but because of my b/reduction I was encouraged to offer DS a bottle after he was born (I also had this daft notion that he would be incredibly thirsty after the long birthing business ). I spent days bottlefeeding and trying to express simultaneously which was led to disasterously sore and bleeding boobs, a very uptight mummy and a baby who was getting more and more used to bottles. The fear in me that I couldn't produce enough milk because of duct problems really knocked my confidence so in the end I gave up. I had experience of midwives from both sides of the coin - I had different midwives on alternate days, one was really pro breastfeeding and really pressured me to carry on trying and to visit the counsellor, the other totally believed that I couldn't do it. It was an awful time of my life and I can also say that I felt (and still do feel) horrendously guilty because I was bottlefeeding DS. Now that I am more experienced I am going to be more assertive when baby #2 comes along and try harder to get b/f established. Out of interest, have any of you successfully fed after a b/reduction?

tiktok Tue 20-Aug-02 15:21:56

dejags, try this site:

dejags Tue 20-Aug-02 15:55:34

thanks tiktok,

it is a really informative site. I just wish I had access to that type of information when DS was born. I even went to a breastfeeding workshop in the hope that I would get some info but came away feeling inadequate having been told by one of the midwives - "oh I wouldn't hold out any hope that you will be able to breastfeed" followed by a criticism about having surgery in the first place .

Thanks again

Clarinet60 Tue 20-Aug-02 22:41:40

Thanks Suedonim, I'll try an NCT.
JayTree, how awful, I really feel for you and agree that you should let someone in your Health Authority know what happened, to prevent it happening to someone else.

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