World Breastfeeding Week - Sarah's Story | Latest news

Visiting and mask guidance

Masks must be worn at our hospitals. Please see information for visitors > for all guidance on visiting.

World Breastfeeding Week - Sarah's Story

Sarah's breastfeeding story - family picture

As part of World Breastfeeding Week 2022 we have asked our UHDB colleagues to share their stories and experiences. Sarah tells us her breastfeeding story:

“I had my first baby in February 2015. I had only been in my brand-new job as Patient Experience Manager for 13 months. My daughter Megan was born 21 February 2015 and was a TINY 5lb3oz. I kept being asked if she was premature, but she was actually four days late!

I had decided even before I got pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed. I knew it was the best thing for my children and I’d heard it even helps lose the pregnancy weight quicker, so I figured it was win-win. With Megan being so small as well, it was really important to establish feeding very quickly. The midwives on the postnatal ward (ward 314) were amazing helping me learn to feed. A lot would assume it’s dead simple, but it isn’t – there’s a bit of an art to getting the right position and technique and if you don’t, it can really hurt!

Within a few days of going home, I started to really struggle feeding. I just wasn’t getting the technique quite right and it hurt like hell. I kept persevering though and in hindsight I should have called on the midwifery team a lot more in those first few days. I think at the time I felt like asking for help was some sign of weakness and I was angry with myself for not nailing it straight away (it’s crazy how much ridiculous pressure you put on yourself as a new mum to just get on with it). For a while, it was so bad I would actually dread Megan getting hungry and it was painful going in the shower washing because I was so sensitive and sore.

But after a few weeks, we were fine, and even though I’d struggled for a while, Megan got everything she needed from me. The midwives were so praising all the way through and kept assuring me that she was getting what she needed. This really helped me persevere.

The next challenge though was trying to introduce a mix of expressed by bottle and breastfeeding. We tried for weeks to get her to take expressed milk from a bottle and she just wouldn’t. This then led to what I now know is something a lot of mums feel – a total sense of being trapped and isolated. I was the first amongst my close friends to have a baby and would resent them for keep inviting me to grown-up activities like meals out precisely at times I would need to feed Megan and put her to bed. I would refuse invite after invite to pretty much anything because it was nearly always somewhere I couldn’t really take Megan with me or was at an unsuitable time of day.

When it came to planning to come back to work, I was really well supported. My manager Paul Brooks was an amazing support – we negotiated part time working quite early on and he came up with solutions to make this happen. Unfortunately, because Megan was still feeding a lot from me and wouldn’t take expressed milk, I had to delay coming back to work. I wanted to come back after about nine months, but it ended up being 11 months. Had she accepted expressed milk though, I’m not sure I would have been ok expressing at work. We worked in a really tiny office at the time and I don’t know how I would have found a space to have privacy. However, Megan made the choice for me – I was staying off work with her until she’d been weaned off her daytime feeds and could go to nursery and start having cow’s milk plus solids.

This might sound really bad but I was DESPERATE to come back to work – being a mum can be incredibly isolating and stressful at times. Yes there are lots of wonderful moments – their first steps, their first words, their laughter and smiles. But there’s also a whole load of moments where you’re really tested – cries that won’t stop, “cluster-feeding” (where you’re basically reduced to being a cow pumping constantly!), and extreme tiredness from the night-time feeds.

But the storm is only temporary. Once I was back at work, well supported in part-time working arrangements, I was much happier. I was actually only back for 5 months though! Baby number two followed in quick succession. Having two under the age of two was an absolute horror show. But again, the storm was only temporary and I was back to work even quicker the second time, still on part time hours.

I think my take-home message for all new mums is a) get help when you need it – midwives and health visitors are amazing and they can tell when you’re struggling; and b) don’t beat yourself up for whatever you’re feeling - it’s highly unlikely you’re the only mum to have felt like that.

If anyone wants to reach out to me to talk, please do. I’ll happily share the mashed potato story with you, the very pinnacle of parenting two under two!"