During my pregnancy I made the decision that I wanted to give breastfeeding a go. I read so many books, attended the NHS breastfeeding session, and even went to a support group. I fully prepared myself for how difficult breastfeeding may be. I had heard from friends of the sore nipples, mastitis, thrush; the list goes on. What I didn’t prepare myself for was that it may actually be my baby who struggled with breastfeeding.
When Harper was born I felt like Wonder Woman. I had a wonderful birth and I felt on top of the world. I latched her shortly after birth and she suckled, or so I thought, for a few minutes.
In the 24 hours that followed she was never able to latch again. We had multiple health care professionals trying to help us with different positioning techniques, and when each failed they told me to just keep trying. As 24 hours was nearing, a midwife taught me to hand express and my husband used a syringe to catch the drops and then feed H. This satisfied her somewhat.
As 36 hours neared, these small droplets proved insufficient for her. Whilst babies tummies are tiny, it was clear that even this small amount was not enough. H would not stop screaming, and every time she was placed near me she would scream harder and the screaming would subside when my husband took her. Looking back I realise it was the smell of my milk that was sending her wild, but at the time I felt like my newborn bundle of joy hated me. I couldn’t keep it together any longer and I began to cry uncontrollably. It was at this point that my husband went out and demanded to speak to the head of midwifery on duty. She came in, took one look at me and took action. Things are a bit of a blur from here but I know Harper was given some formula from a little cup and was given a hospital grade pump. I pumped 12ml of colostrum, which seemed mega compared to the 1-2ml I had been getting from hand expressing.
Two days later, feeling confident with pumping and cup feeding, we were discharged. This was hard work and I felt like I was working round the clock. Harper’s instinct was to cluster feed, meaning she was constantly asking for food by sucking her hands and grizzling. I was pumping non stop and felt like I was either pumping or cup feeding her. I kept trying to latch her but after nuzzling on my nipple multiple times Harper would get frustrated and begin screaming, so again I would need to cup feed.
After two weeks and many attempts, Harper finally began latching using nipple shields. This was a real leap but was still challenging. Using the shields was difficult, feeding in public was hard as with holding the shield in place was and her was like a juggling act. the shields would fill up and when she would unlatch the milk would pour over me and give me wet patches. Feeding discreetly was near impossible.
I still wasn’t convinced that Harper wasn’t tongue tied and at 4 weeks old we decided to see a private specialists. He confirmed that she was 50% tongue tied and we made the decision to have it corrected there and then – a simple procedure whereby they snip the tie with a scalpel-looking object. The poor little love screamed and there was a lot of blood, but she was fine in herself afterwards.
That evening, the minor procedure already seemed a distant memory. I had just finished feeding Harper in bed and passed her to my husband to burp whilst I went to brush my teeth. It was then that I heard the chilling words “Jamie, she’s bleeding from the mouth”. Sure enough, little Harper had blood pouring down her chin. She seemed unphased so I called 111 for advice. Whilst waiting to be connected, the amount of blood increased so I hung up and called 999. Then began the longest 20 minutes of my life.
Halfway through waiting for an ambulance Harper’s breathing began to shallow. My husband passed her to me and moments later her whole body went limp in my arms, The lady on the phone advised me to lay her down and listen to her breathing – it then became evident that she wasn’t. I was instructed to begin CPR. Looking back at this moment still brings tears to my eyes, I genuinely thought we were going to lose her – our precious little girl that we had only been blessed with for four short weeks.
By the time the ambulance arrived Harper had begun breathing again but was still unresponsive. We were blue-lighted to Gloucestershire Royal, her tiny body hooked up to multiple wires. I kept analysing every look the paramedics gave each other, petrified that they weren’t giving much away. After arriving at the hospital, and after many thorough checks by multiple staff members, it was concluded that Harper’s tongue tie had reopened and the blood had caused her to go into shock. Me performing CPR on her had reminded her to breathe and come out of the fetal state her instincts had caused her to revert to.
At 15 months old, Harper is now flourishing. We have been assured that what happened to her was a total fluke and multiple professionals have said to us that they have never encountered a case like that before. Despite our ordeal, I don’t regret having her tie cut. Within weeks she was latching perfectly without the nipple shields, and whilst I wouldn’t say breastfeeding became a walk in the park, it was 100x easier. We breastfed until 13 months when she self weaned and I am so proud of both of us for that! I am so glad I have been able to experience breastfeeding. I have even donated expressed milk to two poorly babies who mummy’s had supply issues. If you are struggling with feeding then there are lots of places to seek support. I attended BAPS and also have called the National Breastfeeding Hotline and found both really supportive.
Hang in there mama, you got this.