Listen to us when we say Breastfeeding isn’t working out.

I was invited a couple of years ago to go and give a speech at the ‘Voice of the user’ conference at Trinity Park in Ipswich. 

I am dreadful at public speaking, and it is something I was usually run a mile from.

But I knew I had an important message to get across to this roomful of medical professionals about how not listening to parents about whats happening with their little ones can affect us mentally, emotionally and physically. 

Despite this speech being a few years old now, I still feel incredible pride at myself for standing up on that stage and giving this speech so wanted to share it with you all.

Things are different now with tongue tie in our area, you used to have to wait months to get into the N&N hospital for a division and finding someone in our area actually being able to diagnose it was like finding a needle in a haystack. I don’t know if I had any doing in these changes taking place but even if it made one of those powers that be listen and think damn we need to sort this then it was well worth getting up on that stage. 

My first birth back in 2013 isn’t what people would call text book, but for me I know it was the right birth on the day. I managed to walk into hospital calmly and easily whilst laughing and chatting with my husband and much to the midwifes surprise I was 9cm. A short while later once in the pool I felt I was ready to push and as much as I tried nothing happened, nothing happened for hours and hours until I felt that I had done my absolute best and I was ready to hand over to the professionals. I remember hearing the Doctors and consultants say over and over again that theres no reason why this baby isn’t coming out so I agreed to a forcep delivery. 


To this day I believe the fact that I cant stand being in the hospital environment, that I don’t feel safe in a hospital environment and that I get incredibly anxious and self conscious whenever I am being watched to be the reason why my body refused to go any further.


During my first pregnancy I had completed the wise hippo birthing programme to help prepare me for the big day, I moved from being petrified to give birth, to grinning from ear to ear the day my waters broke and labour began, it was this transformation I saw in myself that made me give up my high powered job, working in management for Apple to retrain as a wise hippo teacher. 


For nearly 4 years I helped women in our area learn the same tools and techniques that I had learnt, but also during this time I had also learnt from them what challenges and brick walls I may come up against during my next pregnancy.


When I got pregnant the second time around I was adamant that I was going to have a home birth, I even toyed with the idea of free birthing. I knew and had total belief that my body was capable of a vaginal birth and I was on a quest to achieve it. 


I had a fairly straight forward pregnancy, I’m a pretty easy going person and don’t tend to let things phase me. Everything was on track for my home birth until I handed in my birth plan. 


I didn’t want any vaginal examinations as routine, but only when I requested them. I knew this was going to be a fight but it was a fight I was willing to go into if I was to achieve my home birth. I knew my rights and I knew that I don’t have to agree to anything that I don’t want to. 


I knew that this simple procedure, that is carried out on labouring women every day multiple times a birth could be something that prevented me achieving my vaginal home birth. 


Eventually I was listened to, but I always had at the back of my mind that the midwife agreeing to me not having VE’s might not be the midwife turning up on the day and it wasn’t a fight that I wanted to have on the big day. 


As well as not wanting VE’s I desperately wanted to be left alone in labour, I had the longest birth plan that could quite simply have read ‘Please Leave me alone’. As mentioned before I can get quite self conscious if I am being watched, I knew this anxiety would creep up and potentially stall my labour. 


Thank fully at my house, the room I was going to be labouring in had glass patio doors which I could be observed through, it was agreed that I could be left alone but observed from the adjoining room through the doors. 


Satisfied that I had both these main wishes of mine agreed to I decided that I would attempt to go as far through labour as I could so that the whole VE thing wouldn’t be an issue. 


I needn’t have worried. 


My first signs of labour began on Sunday 4th December, I laboured beautifully through the night, up by myself bouncing on my ball, binge watching films that had been on the planner for an eternity, occasionally pausing the film to breathe through my contractions. 


Unfortunately for me as the sun came up my labour stopped, this happened for 3 nights. By the Wednesday I was starting to get a little twitchy so I asked my midwife to pop out and see me, she checked the baby was in the right position and reassured me that all was ok. 


Later that day my labour came on thick and fast, I retreated up to my bedroom to be alone, leaving my husband to fend for himself and my little boy. I blared my favourite music into my ears and settled myself in for the long haul. 


My little man usually goes to bed at 6.30 but for some reason my husband decided to give him a bath before bed way later than usual, I can hand on heart admit that there was a moment in time whilst I could hear this bath taking place that I thought that I was going to have my baby on my own in my bedroom, in my tracksuit bottoms, but I was totally fine with that. 


Eventually my husband popped his head around the door advising me he was going to put on some chips for dinner, to which I replied you need to blow up that pool, get it filled and call the midwife. 


Of course – his response was he’d start that after he’d put the chips on. Im not sure if it was the death stare that I gave him or the almost tribal growl that come from my mouth as another contraction hit that he suddenly sprung into action calling the midwife. 


A while later my husband re-appeared to tell me the midwife had arrived, I had a feeling that they may not allow me to walk downstairs in blatant full blown labour so I told him that I would make my way down and for him to go and talk to her. 


It took a fair few minutes and couple of contractions to make it down the stairs but down the stairs I made it. Into the front room where I collapsed onto my knees leaning over the sofa to have another contraction. 


After it had passed I looked up to the midwife and she said exactly what I needed to hear which was – ‘Well I can definitely say that you are in labour, so I wont be giving you any vaginal examinations’ 


My heart almost exploded with joy, as I lent over the sofa I surveyed the carnage that was happening in my kitchen – Every pot and pan was on our stove as my husband frantically boiled water to fill the birth pool as our boiler had run out of hot water. 


As he ran back and forth slowly filling the pool I was just left alone as the midwife set up her things. She was obviously listening to me as she come over to me and asked me if I definitely wanted a water birth, to which I did. 


Her response was then you need to get into that pool immediately or its going to be birthed here on the living room floor. 


Later she said to me that she had never seen anyone get naked so quick. 


Unfortunately for my husband I was still wearing my tens machine and was shouting at him to quickly get it off me. The bad news for him and his hands was that the machine was going at full pelt. As he shouted at me that he was being electrocuted and that it hurt I shot him another death stare and demanded he man up and just get it off. 


Before I knew it I was in the pool and 2 contractions later Hattie was born. 


The midwife had been in the house less than 10 minutes and hadn’t even finished unpacking her bag. 


You would think that when I think about my birth that I would be filled with a sense of achievement and a sense of pride, not only did I achieve my home birth but it is also a great story. Unfortunately when I think about Hattie being born all I can think about is how I let my little girl down. 


The birth pool had not been warm enough for Hattie to stay with me whilst I was birthing the placenta so she went to my husband. When I made it out the pool and we tried to initiate breast feeding things didn’t go to plan. She was incredibly fussy and just didn’t want to latch on. 


I was told that this was maybe because she had been away from me for that hour or that she was so hungry that she wasn’t latching on. 


I had been desperate to breast feed this time round, my first born had had an undiagnosed tongue tie and I stopped breastfeeding at 10 days because the pain was unbearable. 


I was so desperate to breastfeed this time that whilst pregnant I trained through the NCT and ECCH to become a breastfeeding peer supporter, hoping that this would give me the best chance possible at breastfeeding this time.


As my baby was crying I noticed the good old tell tale sign of tongue tie as the tip of her tongue was heart shaped, my thoughts of tongue tie were dismissed and I continued to attempt to breastfeed. Eventually the midwives left and we were left to fend for ourselves with the promise that the breastfeeding lady would swing by the following day on her way into work. 


That night, quite simply was hell, Hattie screamed all night and would latch and unlatch constantly. 


The breast feeding lady arrived as promised the following morning and tried to get Hattie to latch on, she would for a while but as had been the story all night would unlatch without managing a full feed and she was getting increasingly fraught. 


I mentioned to the breastfeeding lady that my nipple looked like a lipstick after Hattie had fed and that this was a sign of tongue tie but again that notion was dismissed again. 


I persevered, constantly doubting myself. Surely the midwives and the breastfeeding lady must know what to look for. 


At Hatties 3 day checks she had lost 7.9% of her birth weight and my nipples resembled something out of a horror movie. We were told to go and see a midwife again a few days later to check on her weight loss but when we did the midwife we saw dismissed everything and said we were just off of the guideline loss of 8% so not to worry about it. 


By this point I was in so much pain every time I attempted to breast feed that I was beginning to dread attempting to feed Hattie, every time she latched on I had to count loudly up to 10 to try and distract myself from the pain. 


Unfortunately this started to affect my mental health, I was beating myself up about how could a new mum not want to feed her beautiful baby, how could she not be filled with joy at that beautiful thing that breastfeeding is. 


I have suffered from severe depression historically and I work extremely hard to stay on top of my mental health, I know that once I hit a certain point theres no stopping it and it takes over. 


At this point I felt there was no option but to stop breastfeeding and to move to bottle feeding. Bottle feeding was no easier for Hattie and she still suffered with everything a tongue tie baby does so I booked an appointment to see a private tongue tie practitioner who confirmed Hattie had a tongue tie and separated it for us. 


This is where our next lot of problems begin. Hattie suffers from multiple food allergies and intolerances (I’m still not quite sure what the difference is) at present moment she is CMPA so cant have dairy but also reacts to Soya, Oat, Wheat, Gluten, Nuts, Rice, Bananas, Apples, Blueberries, Raw Carrot, Corn flour, Maize and more. 


Every time my little girl spends time howling in pain through her allergies I beat myself up that little bit more, I constantly ask myself what if I had trusted my instinct and got her tongue tie sorted earlier, and continued to breastfeed  would my milk have made a difference. Would my milk have helped her gut, would it have helped in any way. 


I went back to work teaching the wise hippo birthing programme to women quite soon after giving birth. Its a nice thing to do to go and sit in peoples front rooms and talk about birth for a couple of hours so going back to work a couple hours a week wasn’t hard. 


What was hard was that in my first month back at work, once my clients had had their babies and I had gone to have a visit to see how they were getting both my clients were having the same feeding issues and not getting the help they needed. Again I could see what the issue was and sent them off to see the private practitioner who confirmed both were tongue tie. 


Tongue tie seems to be so common right now, and its affecting the mental health of the mothers we aren’t helping. The sleepless nights, the constant crying from our hungry babies, the beating ourselves up for not being able to do something that is pitched at the most natural thing to do in the world. 


Please, please start listening to us when we tell you breastfeeding isn’t working out, please sort out some form of process to help women with tongue tie babies get the help and support they need.