Chelsea's Breastfeeding Story 'I had nipple pain before I left hospital'
When I was pregnant with my son, I had my heart set on breastfeeding. No one in my family had breastfed and only one of my friends had. But I found myself being completely in awe of the idea that a Mother could feed her baby pure liquid gold whilst creating the most incredible bond.
My son, my firstborn, is 20 months now and we’re still enjoying breastfeeding thanks to The Thompson Method. As we approach two years of breastfeeding, (my original breastfeeding goal) I find myself looking back on our journey.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing…
As I write this for you, I feel a mixture of emotions. Of course, I am thrilled that I have been able to enjoy breastfeeding my son—without a drop of formula, but I also have a few regrets from those early weeks.
I want to share my story in the hopes that it not only encourages you but to offer you the insight so that you can avoid those breastfeeding complications that Dr Robyn shares so openly.
If only I knew then what I know now
My partner and I were overjoyed when we discovered we were expecting. As you’ll know, if you’re reading this as an expectant mother, it can be completely overwhelming news. Of course, I was elated. So very happy.
But am I the only one to experience that deep-set fear too?
Now, I like to think I’m quite an organised person. I like to think that I research things well and plan ahead. From as early as 12 weeks, I was working on my birth plan and I was watching videos on breastfeeding.
I was completely and utterly overwhelmed with conflicting advice
As you know, the questions from friends, family, and even the neighbors come quickly and without filter when you’re pregnant. It’s almost as though once everyone knows you’re carrying a baby, you are open to inquisition and unsolicited advice. The first experience I had with this was on the topic of breastfeeding.
I was asked if I would breastfeed and when I replied that yes, I would be breastfeeding, I was told not to get my hopes up because it is incredibly hard.
In the months leading up to giving birth, I had heard so many horror stories about bleeding nipples, crying mothers and starved babies, that I actually avoided talking about it to anyone.
Did you hear some horror stories? Were you told it may not be possible to breastfeed?
Pic: My baby Jacob having a rest and digest
Abundance of free breastfeeding education
I did continue to research breastfeeding. There were lots of free videos on YouTube and I read possibly a hundred different articles on “latching’. I even signed up to my local breastfeeding classes and attended all available antenatal classes with the NHS.
I honestly thought I was prepared.
The Love To Shove breastfeeding technique
In this breastfeeding class I attended four weeks before my son arrived, I sat there with my large belly, next to lots of other keen mothers, who were excited to learn.
I just so happened to lose so much confidence in those two hours that I’m surprised I didn’t cave and buy formula when my Father in law suggested it. (Another common experience is for friends and family to share such confidence that they advise you to have an ‘emergency stash’ of milk just in case.)
The breastfeeding class did share how beneficial breastfeeding was for both mother and baby. I learned so much about the health benefits and even discovered some ways to help my partner feel more involved in his new role as Daddy.
I did not, however, expect to be asked to (quite literally) shove a plastic doll's head to my breasts. This was my practice.
A baby doll was passed around and we were shown a few techniques on how to hold the baby and how to manipulate our nipples and angle baby dolls head just right to allow this ‘wide open mouth’ before we quickly applied the “Love To Shove”.
This is what Dr Robyn Thompson refers to as the forceful technique. It’s commonly known as the cross-cradle or nipple to nose. In Dr Robyn’s research these techniques, and other forceful methods commonly taught, can largely contribute to nipple trauma and other breastfeeding complications.
Pic: The 'Love to Shove' breastfeeding technique
The Thompson Method resonated with me
It was during my pregnancy that I discovered the Thompson Method. The free resources I found really resonated with me. I found myself feeling more empowered and calmed by Dr Robyn Thompson's gentle voice.
I remember looking into the Thompson Method Breastfeeding Course and convincing myself that I had enough knowledge and would reevaluate if I experienced any challenges once my son arrived.
Wow. Was I wrong! This is my one and only regret as a Mother.
Somehow, I made sure we had the funds for ridiculous items like 20 different patterned and coloured muslins and a handful of organic swaddles which cost more than I’d like to admit.
So, why is it that I was convinced that this very affordable and educational course was not worthy of my pre-baby budget?
I can tell you why… because I didn’t think my breastfeeding journey was worth the investment. Is yours?
My rollercoaster of a start to breastfeeding
Giving birth >
You may be asking how my birth relates to my breastfeeding experience. I would have asked the same thing. This is the first important piece of knowledge I learned…
“There is no disconnection between pregnancy, labour, birth and breastfeeding.”
This is because the decisions you make during labour and birth can directly impact your breastfeeding experience. In my case, I had a non-medicated vaginal birth and I still experienced breastfeeding complications because of the lack of education.
When I arrived at hospital, I was told I would need a vaginal examination before I was admitted to the labour ward. My partner and I were booked into the birthing suite, to use the birthing pool. This is something we respectfully reminded staff of multiple times.
So, I didn’t feel I had any other option but to have this vaginal examination where I was informed (much to the midwives shock) that I was in fact in active labor and 5cm dilated. Apparently I passed the test and was allowed to move from the waiting area… where I had been breathing through my contractions.
This is relevant to my story because when I was at home, bouncing on my yoga ball in a dark corner, humming to block out the noise, I realise now that I was actually more relaxed. Whereas being in a very bright hospital waiting room, surrounded by lots of people, lots of noises and being asked so many questions, I was understandably more stressed.
A few hours later, a midwife came along and was shocked we had been left alone when she could clearly see I was in labour. This is when I made the final pregnant waddle across the hospital to the birthing suite.
This is also when Sam, my partner, encouraged the midwife to take my birth plan as he explained my birthing wishes. My birth was a beautiful experience and I am very lucky to say everything went smoothly and my baby boy arrived safely at 10.57am on Saturday February 15, 2020.
That first breastfeed
Pic: My first moments with Jacob
What a beautiful moment, when you hold your baby in your arms and you feel their warmth for the first time. I requested delayed cord clamping, which was rushed. Then I was enjoying a cuddle in the pool but was quickly asked to get out.
Everything happened so fast.
I look back and realize that everything Dr Robyn refers to is so incredibly spot on. The need to process women in, through and out of the hospital system as quickly as possible.
My midwife, who was very lovely, prompted me several times to have my son weighed and carry out the usual routine examinations. Thankfully, I had watched Dr Robyn Thompson's video on the APGAR score and knew that we were safe and did not need to rush.
But rush, we did.
I wanted to wait for my son to feed in his own time. He was content looking at me and his Daddy. It was so beautiful. I wanted to see this so-called breast crawl that baby’s can instinctively do as newborns when allowed.
I lay there, naked, following the biggest moment of my life. I’m feeling vulnerable, but I’m also feeling fiercely protective and hugely overwhelmed. Then, all of a sudden, I’m told my son needs to feed or his sugars will drop.
A part of me thought it didn’t sound right, but I panicked and went ahead and put my baby’s mouth near my breast and gently encouraged him. That was my first WOW moment. Another beautiful first time experience.
My son started suckling before he found my nipple and started feeding. My partner and I looked at each other in complete awe as we saw our brand new baby slowly but clearly drawing colostrum from me.
That blissful moment ended quickly and this is where it all went downhill!
My midwife stepped in the room, rambling about me needing to shower, and took one look at me and said, “Oh no darling, you’re not doing that right. Let me help.”
At this point I had such a sense of shame and felt complete dread. The seed of doubt had been planted.
She approached me with speed and went straight for my boob. Then she went straight for my son's head and before I knew it, she was manipulating my nipple and shoved my son's head right onto my boob. This may have happened to many of you.
I was so tense. I just wanted to be feeding correctly so I let her do this but it just did not feel right.
Jacob breastfeeding at 9 months
The bumps in the road became mountains
Before we were discharged from hospital 24 hours later, I was already experiencing nipple pain. Five days later, when we went for my son's first check up, I had nipple trauma and was told my son had slow weight gain. I stood strong and persevered with breastfeeding.
At this point, I was exhausted and had now been told a handful of different ways to feed my baby and each one person's advice contradicted the other.
In the coming weeks, I would try one technique, it wouldn’t work and so I would seek more help and then be told that I was doing it wrong (again). Or, much to my shock, I would be told that my nipples just needed to toughen up. I can confirm, that did not happen. My nipples were in so much pain that I would cry. I was in pain, physically and emotionally.
EVERYTHING that Dr Robyn Thompson had said about this forceful technique was right. I can’t believe that I ever questioned it.
A moment of clarity
I remember the final meeting I had with a breastfeeding support worker when we were told that my son has a tongue tie and that it would need “correcting”. it just dawned on me that actually, nothing they said made sense. Finally, I spoke up and took a step back to think.
It did not make sense to twist and turn my body and force my son's mouth onto my breast in an unnatural way. And ultimately, it was agonising. It was very disheartening.
Then I remembered reading a story from a Mother who had done the program. She said she had never experienced pain. So, I finally decided to make the jump.
Within 24 hours of joining the Club, I felt more supported and listened to than I had in my entire journey. I was being encouraged to listen to my baby and my body.
I watched some key videos on attachment and how to make some gentle adjustments to help overcome the painful nipple trauma. It just all clicked!
I didn’t get my son's tongue clipped, I didn’t need to. I followed Dr Robyn’s education and I was pain free within a few days!
My partner came home from work one day, and there I was, sitting comfortably on the sofa feeding our son… with a SMILE one my face!
Overcoming breastfeeding challenges that could have been avoided
After I worked through the pain, I was guided through the relevant resources to help me overcome a few other complications. The main issues for us were reflux and a fear of not enough weight gain.
I can’t explain the feeling of relief when I knew I had a community to turn to. A safe space where I could reach out for guidance and support.
I was so inspired by this incredible team of women, that I decided to become one of them.
One of my favourite quotes by Dr Robyn Thompson, and there are many, is this:
“We must take time to listen to each woman, to quietly encourage her and not dominate, rush or confuse her with overwhelming, conflicting advice. We allow women to be guided by their maternal instincts, as they will never be wrong.”
And that is so very beautiful.
At the beginning, I didn’t want to give up breastfeeding because I knew how good it was for both of us. But I’m not sure how long I could have gone on.
Breastfeeding an older baby
Over these past 20 months, there have of course been a few times where I have needed a little reassurance. I have taken full advantage of all the resources and support available to me.
Through teething and introduction to solids, through times when my son was poorly, through moments of doubt and occasional of lack of confidence, I have had always encouragement from the very special Thompson Method community.
I will always be grateful to the education and research form Dr Robyn Thompson and to the amazing team for helping us achieve this.
Is The Thompson Method Worth It?
I cannot recommend The Thompson Method program enough. I wish I would’ve invested before my son was born so I could’ve known everything I know now. I could have been fully prepared for my journey and been able to reach out when things started feeling overwhelming.
But breastfeeding is free!
Now, let’s assume that I did take my Father in law up on the offer of buying me some formula. Did you know that a few tins of formula is exactly how much the program cost me when I finally made that choice?
AND that’s without mentioning the continued support, wealth of resources, knowledge from Dr Robyn Thompson and the empowering community that is The Thompson Method Breastfeeding Club.
If you are here because you’re wanting to learn more about the Thompson Method, or if you’re here because you’re considering purchasing the course..
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Am I determined to breastfeed?
- Am I willing to invest in myself and my journey so that I am fully prepared for any birth and breastfeeding outcome?
- What are my breastfeeding goals?
Once you have these answers, you can discover just how perfect The Thompson Method is for you!
Maybe one of these breastfeeding success stories will offer some reassurance?
Don’t hesitate. You will not regret it!
Dr Robyn Thompson has helped me to realise that as Women, we are already empowered. We just sometimes need a gentle reminder.
That is why I'm so passionate to share Dr Robyn's education with you all. You deserve the best start to breastfeeding. I just wish I had been better prepared before my son arrived.
You deserve the investment…
Thank you to everyone who helped along the way but especially to Dr Robyn Thompson for the amazing work she has done with women across the world.
And thank YOU for reading my story. I hope it inspires you.
Here’s a few pic of our (pain-free) breastfeeding journey and there’s no end in sight.
By Chelsea Kerley
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