Weigh ins become the normal with a newborn and done quiet regularly to begin with and the first one there is an expected weight drop within a small percentage of the babies birth weight. After this a study incline in weight is aimed for and to watch your little bundle turn into a milk blob, grow and continue this for awhile. With my eldest daughter I bottle fed her and she put weight on and plenty of it each week, with my newborn daughter this journey was a bit more different and difficult for us all. To start with the only part of weigh ins I dreaded was having to disturb baby whilst she was peacefully sleeping and knowing I would have to feed her afterwards, other than this the weigh ins were not too painful to endure. It was something I remember having to do with my eldest and did not think too much into these clinics to begin with, getting there and back though not far was more my worry with the pain I was in, to start with. It was a good place to go and get me out the house too, helping with the fear of being in and feeding in public. This soon changed within a week or two, with pressure to feed baby enough and with my ever on going self doubt if I was feeding her correctly or not, brought us to our journey with weigh gain.
Each week would bring dread and fear and forgetting the bigger picture that baby was actually still gaining weight, not losing any but this did not even compute in our brains each time weigh in came around. It became this negative experience for us, or mostly myself as my partner would not always be able to make appointments but would try for the majority. It was extremely difficult watching other parents come in with their babies, smiling, no crying even when being weighed and gaining so much, being told they were doing a great job and they were on their way again. This I think is where one of the biggest strains on breast feeding was as I really did question whether or not I was enough for our baby, producing enough, being able to give her the right nutrients she required. This also led to heated moments with my partner, some evenings saying that maybe she should just go on the bottle and these comments stung somewhere deep inside where I never knew it was physically possible. Apart from feeling like I had failed her it also felt I was letting her down massively, why was I not enough for her? Or why could I not give her what she needed? Was I not meant to be a mother? Again plenty of question I would ask myself in this moment. In reality I think reassurance from my partner was very much needed rather than maybe we should bottle feed, but he was struggling with his own demons to do with parent hood and I knew this, so it would leave things feeling tense between us.
The ladies at the weigh ins for the most part were lovely, there was the odd one I would hope so badly I would not get as I always felt a lot more depressed and down when I saw her and I do not think by any means this was her intentions. For the first few weeks was where I really did not know if baby was getting enough from feeding from me and I felt I could not feed her physically anymore as it felt constant and I would say this when at the clinics. They would just reply with keep doing with what I was doing and come back the following week, which left me feeding baby in the corner at the way of everyone, continuing to see everyone else succeed where it felt I could not. I also noted that I never saw anyone else breast feeding with the babies that came in, so wondered if it was more difficult for breast fed babies to put on the weight and used to watch other parents bottle feed and just feel powerless almost. This obviously does not mean that none of the other mums did not breast feed, I just never saw it for weeks to begin with and felt so alone with it all with weeks were I would silently sob in the corner of the room watching everyone else’s happiness. This would mostly be on the weeks my partner would not be there as I would also try keep it together with him around, try and at least act strong even if I felt incredibly delicate and fragile.
It was not until Christmas time when clinics were shut for a couple of weeks that I had a bit of a mental clearance, not in the beginning but nearer the end of the festive period, realising that all the stress was not helping or healthy for baby and myself. Our first weigh in after the new year for me was again I dreaded experience but I felt that baby had put quiet a bit on over those 3 weeks and secretly looked forward to the results. I also did not want to get my hopes up either as these weigh ins had already caused so much negatively and mental exhaustion that having not much of a weigh gain I think would of broke me. Baby did put quiet a bit on this week and my partner and I were happy with the results, though the midwifes were not, saying it basically was not enough, even if a steady weight gain. Soul destroying within itself as I was proud of my baby girl in this moment for putting this weight on she had and myself for trying to not let everything and everyone influence how we felt. It was not until after this week that things began turning around and getting more weight gain on each weigh in and being able to leave it every couple of weeks, rather than weekly. This helped massively and the weight began consistently increasing and the babies chart was looking a lot better with everybody happy all round.
The other things within the mix of feeding:
Sore mouth and dribbling
Pretty much from when I could remember, baby would dribble constantly and I did not really think too much into this to start with. It was not until I noticed a sore in the babies mouth within the first few weeks that I questioned what was going on and mentioned it to the health visitor on one of her visits, and then spoke to the doctor. It turned out to be simply that she was teething already, which explained the extra salvia all the time and the painful sores which were tooth buds in her mouth. I found she would feed more and be a lot more wanting to be close when her dribbling intensified, but no teeth appeared for months – just the affects and joys of teething.
Green poo nappies
Around 5-6 weeks old baby started producing some green coloured, not so pleasant nappies – as though you get some interesting coloured ones anyway in the beginning, these were even more unpleasant. I worried this meant she was not getting what she needed and considered whether or not she may have an allergy to something I was eating or drinking. This probably did not help at all as this made me over think food and drink, instead of focusing on nutrition for us both I cut milk, cheese and anything dairy all but to a degree in case it was a lactose issues as I knew I could be sensitive to dairy sometimes. I went to a breast feeding clinic and felt so out of place there, which I did mot expect too but did, however there was one mum who approached me and had a chat. She checked how I latched baby and said all seemed fine there which was the response I always got for the latch and then mentioned she had problems with allergies with her baby when she fed hers. Obviously for a week or two I worried and did not know what to do, thinking may be baby was better on bottle if I was causing problems – but then they just stopped and she has never had them since. Maybe an unsolved mystery there? It was just an extra stress which made my partner and myself wonder if we were doing the right thing and kept tensions high unintentionally at the time.
Was she really getting enough from me?
Best way I can answer this to myself is to say yes she was as she was putting weight on, not loosing it each week. Baby was happy, alert and meeting all expectations for her age, it was just the small weight gain each week which caused a stir. It was extremely easy to let my head believe I was not enough, that because I did not understand breast feeding remotely or how it felt that I was not doing it correctly or may be my body was just not cut out for it. With little support it is easy to focus on the negatives rather than what has been achieved as the weeks go by and my partner would also be worried about baby so would be moments he would suggest the bottle. If I suggested the bottle, it was more for reassurance from my partner to be, no we do not need that, your doing a great job – but we all know reality is a lot more different and he can not read minds and was equally worried and thinking what may be best for baby. It was very difficult to believe that I was enough and providing enough to keep baby healthy for the first 2 months, at this point I did not think I would last past Christmas feeding her exclusively.
Stress, depression and anxiety of it all
This played a massive part in the beginning of the breast feeding journey without overly noticing to start with. I think mixed in with the emotions you have after having a baby it was just a mixture of all kinds of negatively and worry. In the beginning you have all the adrenaline and excitement of meeting baby for the first time and all getting to meet her but this is shortly followed by exhaustion without realising to begin with. Once a week has passed of not much sleep, things do start to cloud your mind and you begin to question whether or not you are doing the right thing. Also just looking after a newborn is not easy and requires a lot of time and attention, then adding on the breast feeding and not fully realising how much it takes out of you and your body. There is also the emotions of everyone else within the family, partner doubting himself as a father and eldest feeling left out and not liking it when the baby cried. With the weigh ins felt there was judgement and eyes constantly staring at you, waiting for you to make a mistake, slip up or show any sign of weakness – when really even if you did, it would be perfectly normal.
There would be the odd week, around 6 weeks in that I was struggling with all the emotions and everything and started to think that I needed to speak to someone about it and get help. Having suffered with anxiety and depression in the past I was able to notice how I was feeling and managed to get my head together a bit for one of the health visitor visits and mentioned my concerns to her, but by this point I was not as bad and she said not to try deal with things alone if it got that bad again – basically ask for help, you are allowed it is not a weakness. This brings the next topic into play:
Others influence and expectations
It was so easy to get lost in other peoples opinions and what they would say to you. It was also very easy to interrupt what one person said as a negative, even though it may of not even been meant that way. When we would go to the clinics and discuss the weight gain and feeding, most of what the midwifes would say would be recommendations or suggestions to help, rather than to make us feel like failures – I can not imagine this is there intentions at all! When seeing other people, such as my partners family I would worry about the pressure of being a good parent and not coming across as weak and unable to support my family. I also worried about feeding in front of anyone that I was unsure of, and would be so worried about what they could be thinking, which in reality and to be blunt with myself, they probably did not care at all or even notice. I was the one who would make these situations up in my head and the dread, where a lot of people were actually quiet supportive and lovely over it, with comments made on how cute and lovely baby was, rather than the fact I was feeding her.
After about 4 – 5 weeks I finally gathered enough balls? (not the best expression but all I could think of) to attend a breast feeding clinic a week later when baby was having the green poos. Though I was anxious about going I was quiet excited to see other mothers feeding too, as I had not up to this point and I looked forward to not feeling like the only one out there. When I entered there was only around 4 mothers in total, one of which was bottle feeding a newborn and I instantly thought I had got the wrong day and clinic but I believe she was friends with the other mothers there and had come along for the social side of being able to see her friends. It was safe to say apart from a bit of advice from one mother who only stayed for a short time, it was the longest hour of my life, where my back was in agony and I felt so uncomfortable. One mother was feeding her newborn with her older child just over 2 years would come over and have milk from the other side – it looked so easy and painless to her and she was not shy of getting her breasts out and very visibly on show. This was not a problem for me but not something I was comfortable doing or felt I needed to do, so I felt quiet down that the two mothers there that did feed, seemed to find it so easy and were not shy in the slightest. Both of these mothers however did have children just over 2, as well as the one having a newborn but I just did not feel like I did not fit in at all. Safe to say in this situation I did not return to this clinic, I think I was hoping to find someone feeling the same and in a similar situation to myself that I could potentially talk too. Instead I left feeling overwhelmed, way over my head and deflated, which if I had maybe found other groups or reached out more, may of not been the case.
It was strangely seeing the doctor for a check up, I cannot remember when but for stitches check and baby weight and check up that I relaxed a little, as up till then everything felt so tense, but it was the doctor who was lovely and reassuring which gave me the feeling I must of been doing something right – right? I also mentioned my back pain to him at this check up and he just mentioned if it continued or got worse to come back, which even to this day, I have not, I just powered on with this (probably not the best idea). I was so anxious for this check up though as knowing weigh ins had become a negative for myself at this point and it just filled me with dread. It was too easy to presume and think the worst, rather than consider everyone that I spoke to were just meaning things in good intentions rather than letting my mind and emotions run away with me.
Having a good couple of years to look back on this situation, there was so much going on and happening that is would be too easy to turn around and say it will be fine, stick it out and stop worrying. Once I stopped stressing so much over everything, weight, feeding, nutrients, what people thought and so much else – everything just seemed to relax and just fall in to place. Baby put weight on more and partner and myself were a lot more relaxed with each other too after having a chat about everything over Christmas and new year. In the beginning it is easy for myself to forget how much pain I was in with my back, stitches and feeding and not realise how much of an influence that had on the first few weeks. I would spend more time trying to get comfortable or hide the pain from others whilst feeding so as not to cause any alarm or upset baby – I should of probably worried about myself a bit more in this time too. Once I managed to get on top of some of the anxiety and worry it gave me more head space to just think more logically rather than feeling like a bunny stuck, running from head lights. Think it is important to take a step back and not feel guilty about thinking about yourself for 5 minutes to put things into prospective and to stop worrying about everything else going on and focus on your family – cut everything else out for a bit from your mind.
This was one of the most difficult parts of our breast feeding journey and was one of the most memorable ones with how much of an affect weight gain had on us. Both my partner and myself would forget that actually our baby girl was gaining weight, she was not loosing it at all, just not gaining it as quick as other babies. There was not once apart from the first weight in where the drop in weight is expected that our baby actually lost weight, and this kept getting over looked and my partner would say some weeks that she had still gained and I would others. It was not until after new year that we both sat down wondering why we were worrying so much when she was gaining weight and it was months on that we wondered why we let it stress us out so much. This is the whole, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it was a learning curve and one we managed to get through all together.
I feel the what works for one person does not always work for another falls into this category very easily and something I should of reminded myself a bit more often. Just because I found feeding difficult does not mean it was wrong, it was just a new experience that was even with all the lows – amazing and I would do it all over again without a second thought.