JESSICA WIMPENNY, Silsden, West Yorkshire, UK
Originally published January 2015 and republished with the express permission of the author.
Prior to my baby’s birth I decided to opt for breastfeeding her. This decision was based on the apparent ease of it as a feeding method, the knowledge that I could be anywhere at any time and be able to feed my baby.
I remember shopping with my sister and looking for clothes that would be suitable for feeding in and my sister saying that not everyone is able to breastfeed, so not to spend loads of money on special clothes in case I didn’t manage to do it.
Before I actually came to try breastfeeding, I imagined you just put your baby to your breast and he would suck away. The first challenging eight weeks were proof this was not necessarily the case.
The demands of motherhood soon became reality. My breasts were extremely full of milk, making a good latch very difficult. Then a dreadful fever set in. We had a Sunday evening trip to Accident & Emergency at the hospital, where the doctor confirmed I had mastitis and prescribed a course of antibiotics. Mastitis was very persistent and I was on antibiotics for a total of five weeks, which led to my immune system being sorely tested. Then I gained a burning sensation in my nipples and sat in bed with tears streaming down my face. The pain was unbearable. At another trip to an out-of-hours clinic, the doctor diagnosed thrush. After this cleared up, my breasts began to feel lumpy, so I booked another doctor’s appointment. I was referred to hospital and after various doctors prodded and poked me, I was told I had cysts caused by blocked ducts. The cysts were drained. I had to attend a breast clinic weekly to have this unpleasant procedure carried out.
The final feeding issue I had to overcome was an overproduction of milk, which was tricky to get under control, but necessary to prevent Isabella from choking on the fast flow of my milk. And my clothes were continually drenched in milk! When you have recently given birth to a baby, you want most of all to be at home having cuddles, getting to know your new family member. Instead, I found myself on a roller coaster journey having to overcome all the challenges thrown at me.
I had never felt more pain, emotion and exhaustion. At the same time, I had never felt such drive, determination and passion. La Leche League mothers were amazing in providing one-to-one support, information and encouragement. I have one Leader in particular to thank: Jo, you were fantastic, being there for me when I needed you the most. How can I ever repay your knowledge, care and kindness? When you came to my home to watch me feed and offer help—that was special, beyond words. It’s no coincidence you have the digits 999 in your phone number—you are the fourth emergency service!
Thank you to my supportive boyfriend Adam for being with me every step of the way, providing encouragement whenever I needed it. Thanks mum and dad for being there for me, to my sister Natalie for her advice when I didn’t know which way to turn and to Sue for taking time off work to help look after Isabella while I attended my doctor’s appointments.
A recent LLL meeting I went to had the theme “Was it worth it?” Any mother who has experienced that incredible feeling of the warm connection with her baby, the best cuddle ever, will know that even with all the struggles and tears, breastfeeding is definitely the best thing to have mastered.
I have continued to attend the monthly LLL meetings, as they are a great way to make new friends, share experiences, and chat with like-minded people.
I hope my story provides others who are struggling with comfort that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can be tested to the limit yet overcome such problems to reach your breastfeeding goal.
Find your local LLL support here https://www.llli.org/get-help/