Lilli, Olsson (5 years), Camden & Bowie (2 years 9 months)
"So at 19 I had a breast reduction for several medical concerns which were becoming harder to mange with the increasing size of my breasts. At this time I was in a relationship but so far off having children, when I was told my chances of breastfeeding after the operation would be small, I didn’t give it any further thought, because there’s formula right?!
I had the operation which turned out to be a little more complicated than planned because my tissues were ‘very fibrous’ rather than solid fatty lumps which would have been easier to remove. One suggestion was that my running (long distances) had encouraged the fatty cells to break apart but its why I had multiple lumps etc. Due to the way they healed, my consultant said I wouldn’t be able to breast feed as too much was damaged etc and had needed to be removed. Anyway, healing wasn’t great due to keloid scarring, which I received treatment for over the next 2 years. Deep painful lumpy, angry looking scars. At the time I wondered whether I was better off with the larger breasts, but I was (after a few months of healing) able to run and exercise more easily, so I convinced myself it had been worth it. It definitely changed male opinion towards me, and as much as I didn’t like many of the responses I had pre-op, it was strange to basically lose that identity.
One day I was hanging the washing in my garden and my neighbours daughter said hello, and asked if I was going to breastfeed because she was a peer supporter and was happy to support me and had a contact for a lactation consultant. I remember I became defensive and explained it wasn’t possible for me.
I wanted to be a mum, The friends who had children around me before I had mine were mixed with breast or bottle feeding. I still ‘knew I couldn’t. My husband was indifferent. My mum had breast fed both her children for 6 & 8 months. I had two miscarriages, then became pregnant with my daughter. When I was in early labour, bouncing on a ball, I had this overwhelming urge to need to know if I could. I got in touch with the IBCLC (who my neighbour had suggested). She came to visit that day, and taught me how to hand express, and said this would be the way to discover whether I had any remaining ducts left. Well, after several minutes, we had golden droplets coming out of a couple of holes in each side. She gave me the information I would need for immediately post birth , rooting, positioning, hand expressing etc.
I was very fortunate to have a swift (1 hr 21 mins), simple water birth, so my daughter was able to be put straight onto my chest where she remained and rooted, and fed following the guidance i'd been given. The zing pain, I remember but apart from that I was just amazed I was doing it.
I researched so much over those next few days to ensure I knew what I should be seeing, how feeding should be and whether she was getting enough. I learned so much. Things weren’t going well, day 6 I was torn severely on both sides, every feed was bloody and excruciatingly painful (i'd do labour again in comparison to this!) the IBCLC, found she was tongue tied, but that with the correct positioning we could work on this and help my nipples to heal. But at 5 weeks, she was still only around birth weight, was jaundiced, and lethargic. First time mum I didn’t know, I went to the breast feeding clinic and said I needed the IBCLC to tell me if it was just that my body wasn’t up to the challenge, I needed to know what was possible, and to ensure my baby was getting what she needed. She needed to have top ups of my milk expressed, and this went on for 2 weeks and we seemed to then turn a corner, We used the exaggerated latch / flipped technique for every single feed to guarantee comfort for me and milk transfer for her. Her tongue would click if she didn’t. Blebs came over the course of the next few months along with blocked ducts. I then got pregnant when she was 8 months old. Feeding became sore but she loved the taste of the milk which increasingly went back to a thicker substance. My son was born, a 38 minute labour and water birth. He fed instantly, and from that first feed, it was pain free, I was more confident and trusted what my body was capable of. I came home 9 hours later and after an initial cuddle, we tandem fed.
This continued for 16 months, my husband and I were debating whether to have a third. Then miscarried, it was painful to feed through the hormones, but my milk supply continued. Then when my son was 18 months, we conceived again. I knew due to nipple pain I was pregnant. At 6 weeks pregnant I was tired out, my daughter then turned 3 said ‘that's because of the babies in your tummy mummy’, we hadn’t even told them we were pregnant. Let alone ‘babies’. At 12 weeks we went to the scan. We took my daughter so if we had bad news (as previous MC was found at scan) I could just focus on her, but if it was good news, then she could be part of it. All I saw was a blank screen and I remember lying there holding my face and saying to the sonographer, please say something is in there, and his response was , 'which one do you want to see first?”… shock! I went into physical/medical shock until the following afternoon, I was so scared to now keep two babies alive. But we did.
They came at 34 weeks, I had harvested colostrum, I spent the pregnancy researching. I knew I was unlikely to come across staff who would think I could nurse 4 children at the same time , let alone twins. Formula was pushed on several occasions, I said no each time. The lead consultant who happened to visit on a Sunday afternoon, with the calmest of tones, agreed my milk would come, my stress levels would come down and we (myself and the twins) would be able to use Breast-milk. He also made arrangements to have me stay in the hospital so I could be with the twins and be available for breast time (I was being told I had to be discharged from post natal and I couldn’t stay on NICU - I had said I would sleep in the chair next to them or even the car outside!). I was given a double pump to use, so many hours were spent next to the incubators to help induce supply. The boys were then fed my breast milk and when they were strong enough I was allowed to have breast time with the boys and encourage them to feed. After 13 days in hospital we were allowed home due to a programme called PINC, which meant the boys kept their tubes in, but NICU nurses would come to my home to assess them every 2 days (this service is no longer in place, if this happened now, the boys would have stayed in hospital for 6 weeks) .
Around the clock, I breast fed, pumped, hand expressed, tube fed, then 20 mins later would start again. I've not been so exhausted in my life, but you just keep going. I was still nursing my big two( now 3 years 8 months, and 2 years 2 months) , but we had moved bedtime feeds to the dinner time, so that if the twins needed to cluster feed, I also nursed them in the morning.
We then at 6 weeks old, the day after we got discharged form the NICU team, ended up blue lighted ambulance due to Bronchiolitis…. Twin 2, had it severely, he was lifeless. The paramedics recognised it immediately and managed to make a way of providing a 5LB baby oxygen. He also let me travel in the ambulance, with twin 1 as I said I was breastfeeding, (he’d had a premature baby who his wife naturally term weaned so he understood where my needs were - how lucky to have him on duty!) Twin 2 was so poorly we were in hospital for 12 days, Due to low oxygen stats we didn’t know what impact this could have on him long term. The tubes had to go back in. I had to express again. It was only on day 11 over night that we were able to go without oxygen and see how he managed. I spent the following winter seeing the twins wrapped up and inside, I was so scared for them. But, very relieved to say there are no lasting effects.
Blebs, dairy allergy (leading to us going vegan), blocked ducts, shallow latch, edema on nipple, vasospasm, tongue tie, scarring pain etc etc … my breasts fed 4 children for 2 years 4 months, when my daughter then had her last feed on her 6th birthday. I continue to nurse the three boys."