When I was pregnant with Florence I wasn’t even sure I WOULD breast feed let alone do it for as long as I did. It only became incredibly important to me once I realised I couldn’t do it easily and we were struggling. I felt like I was being told I couldn’t do something and I thought, you wanna bet?!
I struggled through mastitis and cracked nipples for two weeks, finger feeding and expressing and feeling absolutely bloody awful. I had a new baby, was all over the place and yet somehow my determination ran through and I refused to be beaten.
Once we got the hang of it and Florence was feeding properly it was a walk in the park. All the hard work and effort paid off and I fed her for… drum roll please… 3 years and 8 months! I never intended to feed for that long but I wanted her journey with nursing to come to a natural and unforced end which it did in September this year.
I felt a slight pang of loss but not really much because I knew it was the right time for her and nothing and no one had told her what to do! She’s like me I think and just has to do things her own way.
When I had Jimmy there was never any question over whether he would be breast fed. I assumed it would come naturally (it did) and I assumed he would feed for as long as he wanted to. At that point I was obviously feeding two babies and it was honestly never a proper problem. Occasionally tiring and sometimes a pain in the bum as I’m only one person but it worked for us and I was pleased.
Jimmy, just like his sister is a breast milk fan through and through; he loves his ‘milk, milk’ just as much as she did. He’s nearly 19 months old now and I have just assumed he will feed as long as she did. Why wouldn’t he? I haven’t felt like my breast feeding time with him is anywhere near to an end and it had never even crossed my mind about stopping.
Then… Yesterday morning at midnight he woke up screaming out in pain. My automatic reaction was to feed him but he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t because he was trying. So hard. He just couldn’t latch on and kept saying ‘Ow, mouth’. I knew then that he obviously had a problem in his mouth and assumed it was teeth. I sat up all night with him as my poor boy scrambled and tried everything he could to feed.
I had to take all my clothes off as he frantically searched my whole body as if the source might be the problem. He was looking for somewhere he could feed and the frustration on his face was immense. It was very hard to remain calm and not get as hysterical as he was but I knew that would do no good so tried my very best to just be soothing in my voice as he arched his back and screamed. He managed to latch for a few seconds one time but that was it. Calpol and crying sent him to sleep for the odd twenty minutes but he was so upset that there was no way the rest of us could be in bed.
In the morning he seemed a lot better and we went to the theatre and a party. He still couldn’t feed and wouldn’t really eat but was fairly happy until the Calpol wore off and we topped up so I think he had a nice day. I thought by evening that the tooth pain would be a bit better and when we got home I tried to feed him again but it was the same story and the frustration, screaming and pain started all over again.
Then I noticed under his tongue all these blisters or ulcers. We rang NHS direct and they made me an out of hours GP appointment for today. It turns out my poor boy has a hand, foot and mouth related virus and because the ulcers are localised to his mouth they are all over his tongue making it very hard and painful for him to feed.
It’s so sad to watch because all he wants is ‘milk, milk’ and he cries for it but when he tries to suck it just hurts too much. I know Jimmy is 18 months old and most people don’t even feed this long but I’m not ready to stop. He’s not ready to stop. I started to panic that he was going to be forced by this virus and the journey would not be what I wanted for him. It makes me feel so sad thinking that it might happen like that. I know it’s not the end of the world but it’s not the best way for us.
The Dr suggested expressing and feeding him my milk on a syringe. Not only will it keep my supply going but of course breast milk is like gold dust and it has, I swear, magical powers. I’ve put it on rashes in the past and it clears them up within hours, seriously! I knew that putting it in his mouth would have a healing effect so it seemed like a good idea to me and I’m so pleased I saw an understanding GP who fed her own child until the age of 2.
We just came home from the hospital and when he woke up from his short car nap we did just as suggested and it was like his whole body relaxed because he had the milk. And after a couple of syringes he actually latched on for 5 minutes before crying out in pain. At least I know now that he’s had some and he can latch still… It makes me feel much more relaxed and he looks much more calm too although obviously still in pain.
A friend of mine had a similar problem when her daughter was about the same age and her little girl stopped feeding altogether. I remember thinking that at 18 months it wasn’t too bad and that at least she didn’t end up feeding for years! But actually, now I’m in the position where it might happen to us I can see why she was so upset. I’m not ready to give up feeding my baby just yet and I know he isn’t either so it seems very unfair that because of a virus it might happen. It would be so horrid to have such a wonderful self weaning experience with Florence (no matter how long it took – and I would never have CHOSEN for it to take that long despite not minding doing it) and to not have it with Jimmy.
I looked at him last night and thought ‘c’mon, I still have two years of feeding you if you want it, we’re not giving up just yet’. It’s hard because for forever, if there is anything wrong, be it tired, a cut knee or a poorly tummy and my reaction is to feed. Because he can’t feed it’s thrown me completely out and I’ve had to watch one of my babies cry to sleep over and over for the very first time. I can’t stand it. I just hope the syringe and latching for a tiny bit works and that these horrid ulcers go away very quickly.
Yet again breast feeding has surprised me and yet again I am going to do whatever it takes to not cut short my baby’s journey with nursing. My instinct is to do this and I reckon instinct is there for a reason! I have got the long put away pump down (I feed but don’t express these days) and I will be making my milk work for him in a way that he needs me to right now just like I did when Florence was first born. Call me mad, call me what you like but this is what’s best for us and fingers crossed when he does wean it will be self imposed and not because of this yucky virus! It will never be because I forced him… (assuming he doesn’t want to feed until he’s 12 or something)! 😉