The Parent and Family Network are pleased to share some stories from staff across the University and their experiences with breastfeeding. These stories were gathered as part of World Breastfeeding Week 2022, however we welcome any stories staff are willing to share at any point in time. We recognise that breastfeeding can be a challenging journey for some if not most, so we hope that those of you in the midst of your own journey find comfort and solace in the below.
Beneath the stories you will be able to find links to breastfeeding support.
Dr. Sarah Jewell, Parent and Family Network Committee Member:
I had my first child, Lizzy, during the pandemic. Whilst pregnant I was very keen to research as much about breastfeeding as I could, to be as informed as possible. With so many questions unanswered I decided, as academics tend to do, to start my own research project on the topic! I was very fortunate, along with my co-investigators, to secure funding from the Nuffield foundation to explore infant feeding decisions and return to work. My own breastfeeding journey was very bumpy. Despite a very difficult birth (a whole other story), it started off well and then became very difficult when my milk came in, and being in the middle of lockdown there was no face to face support available. I rang the Breastfeeding Network helpline and they were great, but they were not a replacement for much needed face to face support. I watched so many videos and tried so many positions, but my daughter was determined to latch her way it seemed. My health visitor was not helpful, and there was a lot of pressure on me to switch to formula which I strongly resisted, as my daughter was clearly gaining weight and her nappy output good (I’m extremely grateful to the Breastfeeding Network volunteer who put my mind at rest)! Due to sheer bloody mindedness I managed to push through the pain and discomfort and we're still going at 2 years! It's hard, still uncomfortable but one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.
Emma Broomfield, Co-Chair of the Parent and Family Network:
For me, the road to establishing breastfeeding was challenging. My son struggled to get a good latch and I suffered with pain that never really subsided for the duration of the feed and would continue after It didn’t improve within the timeframe advised and I struggled to exclusively breastfeed. During this time, we substituted with a combination of formula and expressed milk, including breastfeeding where possible. Despite feeling certain before my son arrived that I would be happy no matter what feeding route we took, when he arrived, and I struggled to breastfeed I found that I was really upset and disappointed with how things were going – I knew it wasn’t possible for me to endure the pain that came when feeding.
Despite being in the thick of pandemic, we were lucky to have tons of support in various forms, and after several weeks, numerous conversations, reading and research we eventually paid to see a private lactation consultant. Charlie was diagnosed with a severe posterior tongue tie which was divided shortly after and the rest, as they say, is history. I can’t say it has been easy – it is time consuming, occasionally inconvenient, and really quite limiting at times, especially in those early days. All that said, for me, it has been absolutely worth it, and I am so proud of us both for what we have achieved.
Ruth Ng, member of the Parent and Family Network:
After I had my daughter back in 2006, I struggled with breastfeeding. Having expected it all just to happen naturally, it was frustrating, and worrying, when that wasn’t the case. I had trouble getting her to latch at the start. I remember sitting crying on the sofa in the middle of the night, not long after we’d come home from the hospital, with my husband desperately googling how to breastfeed! Because she wasn’t latching correctly, I was in huge amounts of pain, and I wasn’t sure how either of us were going to survive the experience!
Once we’d figured out the latching, the next issue was that I was massively over-producing milk, so as I fed her from one breast, I was literally dripping milk from the other breast. I remember feeding with a towel over me, to soak up the excess milk, and I could soak a hand towel through at every feed, which of course meant I couldn’t go out of the house and feed her anywhere, and if friends came, I had to move to another room to feed because it was just so embarrassing to be gushing milk. I wish someone had said that it wasn’t weird, as I really worried about it! I had to trawl the internet again to try different things, like putting breast pads in my bra (who even knew that was a thing?!) and pressing hard on the alternate nipple to discourage the flow whilst I fed. That seemed to be most effective for me, and in the end, I was able to feed normally whilst out and about.
I carried on breastfeeding until she was about 2 years old. After a traumatic start, it became a beautiful experience, and although there were many difficult, long nights, I now mostly remember just that close bond between us, all those moments looking down at her, and being able to feed her or comfort her at any time.
Breastfeeding can be such a contentious subject, but I think it’s important for any mum to just go with whatever works for her, and for her baby, whether that’s bottles or boobs! I was lucky that I was able to figure things out, but I came very close to just giving up. There’s a lot more support now than there used to be, which is great, and I would definitely encourage anyone who is having problems to speak to someone – whether that’s a breastfeeding support network, a health visitor, or a friend or colleague who has children.
Lindsey Di Rosa, Co-Chair of the Parent and Family Network:
From the minute you announce your pregnancy you are asked the question from health providers, family and friends; 'Are you going to breastfeed?' and like any first timer parent you say 'yes', presented as we are with the naturalness of breastfeeding, the ease. But what if it goes wrong? What if despite your best efforts your little one just doesn't want to latch, or your milk doesn't come in or you have a low supply, or your mental health is struggling?
I found myself in the position with a great milk supply but a daughter refusing to latch - and yes before I hear the 'did you try everything?', yes I tried everything, I stayed overnight at the hospital for breastfeeding help (though I don't feel this was of any help as it was so inconsistent), tried all the positions I could google, all the techniques, asked for help, and tried all the BF aids but I still had to pump to bottle feed my milk and top up with formula so I knew she was fed.
After about 6 weeks of this I called time on it. I was exhausted by endless rounds of feeding, pumping and cleaning bottles that I wasn't enjoying those early days. I switched to formula completely and it was the best decision I made. I still had the guilt though, the mum guilt of I've failed at something so easy and I can't honestly say every fellow parent I met wasn't judgmental about my choice but luckily I had supportive family, a great group of first time mum friends who were all open, sharing and non-judgmental and a wonderful health visitor who put me first, the first time vulnerable mum, over forcing me to keep trying to breastfeed to up BF quotas and fit a pre-conceived societal norm, who was only concerned that my daughter was fed and healthy.
Now, I have a healthy, smart, sassy four-year-old who seems to have benefitted fine from the evils of formula. Would I have loved for breastfeeding to work, sure, did I bond any less, absolutely not. If I have a second child I may try again, but I also know that I can make the choice to stop if it's not working and this doesn't make me any less of a mother than someone who did.
Dr. Sam Rawlings, member of the Parent and Family Network:
I have three children, and have breastfed them all. I could probably write a book with all my opinions and experiences of breastfeeding but I’ll try to keep it brief! With all of my children I found breastfeeding very difficult and painful for the first 4-6 weeks. I remember being really surprised with this with my second child as I thought I knew all about how to breastfeed, but I’d forgotten that babies need to learn how to do it too, and that feeding a toddler is very different from a newborn! I fed my eldest child until she was 15 months old, and stopped in part because of an expectation I perceived amongst others that I should stop. With my second child, I was much more relaxed and confident and fed her until she was 2.5 years. My youngest child is 2 years old now and I am still breastfeeding her.
All of my children went to childcare at 9 months old and we used a mix of nursery and grandparent care. The nursery on campus was great at supporting me in breastfeeding, and I was able to come in regularly to feed my children and cut down day feeds (on nursery days at least!) gradually. On days when grandparents looked after them, I would pump milk. At the time when I was breastfeeding my eldest, there weren’t any pumping facilities on campus, which made things a little awkward. However, as I have my own office I was able to pump in my office, and my line manager allowed me to store my milk in the communal fridge/freezer.
I have spent over 5 years of my life breastfeeding and I have found it an incredibly enriching experience. It has been hard at times, but I am grateful I was fortunate to have a supportive partner and network of other breastfeeding mothers who helped me when things were tough, so that I could (for the most part) feed as long as I wished