When I gave birth to my second baby Hadley, two months ago, the plan was to dive headfirst into breastfeeding as I had when my two year old son Hector was born. I took the same approach – if it worked for us, then great, if it didn’t, well then at least I would know I’d given it my best shot. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a smoother process with my first baby compared with my second, which is something I wasn’t prepared for at all when Hadley was born in November. I assumed it would just work, I’d successfully breastfed before, so why wouldn’t it? Sure it would be tricky for a couple of weeks but then we’d find our rhythm and there would be no stopping us. I actually had the complete opposite experience when Hadley point blank refused to breastfeed. I quickly found myself expressing milk for her non-stop and so here I am partnering with Ardo, the medical-grade, hospital-recommended breast pump experts and the brand I first used to express.
I’m sharing my breastfeeding and expressing story with you all because it really was quite a different experience this time and that’s not something second-time, third-time (or more!) mums really expect to happen. You sort of just assume it’ll all be fine. If you’re a first time mum planning to breastfeed then I really hope you’ll find my story helpful as you prepare to start your own feeding journey.
I’ve also learnt along the way that us mums often just need some help, reassurance and empathy for what we are going through. Our bodies and brains are dealing with a lot during pregnancy, labour and postpartum. There’s a reason why the term fourth trimester is now becoming second nature to everyone because maternal care doesn’t end the moment the baby is born. So if by sharing this helps just one other mama who reads and thinks ‘yep, me too’ then my job is done!
I was first introduced to Ardo pumps in hospital post-birth when the midwives came to my aid when they saw me struggling to hand-express enough milk for baby. Ardo is one of the go-to pump brands in my local hospital so I soon became familiar with the swish all-singing, all-dancing Ardo pump I could use freely on the ward. I then later went onto purchase my own Ardo pump, the Calypso, to use at home when we were discharged. So you can see why Ardo has been a big part of my breastfeeding journey so far! I was thrilled when they got in touch to collaborate on this piece. Ardo has everything you need to aid positive and happy breastfeeding and I hope by revealing the up’s and down’s, in’s and out’s, that other mama’s going through the same struggles can relate and not feel as overwhelmed as I did when breastfeeding didn’t instantly work out and I started expressing.
Two years ago during my first pregnancy I was fairly realistic about breastfeeding, knowing of its many challenges from speaking to other breastfeeding mums and hearing their stories and tales of difficulties. Latching on, mastering positioning, through-the-night cluster feeds and toe-curling nipple pain – I didn’t ever assume I’d be able to crack it straight away. But then there were all of the warm and fuzzy anecdotes too, the closeness, bonding and of course that it’s the one thing only mum can do – breastfeeding is a really special experience for mum and baby when it works. I listened to all of the advice shared, the positive and the negative and decided to approach breastfeeding with an open mind.
I ended up successfully exclusively breastfeeding Hector for five months and by that point we had really cracked it and the last memory I have of breastfeeding my son was a happy thought. So this time, 22 months on, second baby and in full mama swing, my mindset had changed somewhat. Of course I’d be breastfeeding, it was a no-brainer and the goal was to hit the six month milestone (but who knows, for as long as I could happily and comfortably manage it really) before slowly weaning and introducing solids. During pregnancy my midwife, friends and family would ask about my feeding plans and I’d instantly reel off my speech about exclusive breastfeeding baby, about trying to do a little more expressing this time though so that my husband and the grandparents could help take on some of the feeds. I just automatically assumed I’d slot back into the breastfeeding routine fairly easily and quickly.
When my daughter Hadley came into the world early November, I didn’t take any bottles or formula into hospital. I didn’t get our sterilising bucket out of the loft or stock up on a new bottle cleaning brush. I had a hand pump tucked away somewhere, I didn’t dig that out either. I was 100% set on Hadley going straight onto the boob for at least a solid month to establish my milk supply before starting to express. I’d slowly build up a freezer supply for when I needed to be away from baby for work meetings or the odd social event. I would be breastfeeding instantly, that was the plan. Unfortunately the plan didn’t quite unfold as hoped.
After a high risk pregnancy and consultant care due to gestational diabetes (a form of diabetes that develops only when pregnant) it was decided that it would be safer for the baby not to reach much more than 38 weeks gestation before being delivered. This was my second pregnancy with diabetes and I’d been induced with my first pregnancy so it didn’t phase me. When an early sweep kick-started contractions and labour and Hadley came at 37+1 I was just relieved that I didn’t need the chemical drip for more than an hour or so at the very end of labour.
Hadley showed all the right signs that she would latch on early to nurse. We stayed skin to skin in the delivery room for a few hours after she was delivered and she began to turn herself down to the horizontal cradle position fairly quickly. It hadn’t really occurred to me in a haze of placenta delivery, Vitamin K injections, weighing and calls to family that Hadley hadn’t fully latched on for a feed yet. We were transferred onto the recovery ward and Hadley stayed skin to skin on my chest for the next few hours. Surely she’d latch on soon, I thought. But no, she was a very sleepy, early baby who even at a very respectable seven pounds six ounces struggled to wake up for long enough or muster up the energy to feed. And so it went on and on.
As the time passed, I became more and more aware and concerned that something wasn’t quite clicking for us and the pressure began to mount. Midwives checked in regularly to see if we’d had any success. I felt more and more frustrated. And so it was a vicious circle of the medical team checking on us, me sitting there stressed and baby not waking up. All in all, not a very conducive environment for breastfeeding. It got to the point when I just knew I needed to get some food into my daughter as a matter of urgency. Mother’s instinct, if you like. If she didn’t get some food soon, what chance did she stand of waking up and finding the energy to feed?
From my first pregnancy I knew how to hand express colostrum, the very first golden yellow milk we produce, and feed it to baby via a syringe. So that’s what I did. I thought this would definitely give her the taste for my milk and that we’d be nailing breastfeeding in no time. I’d already hand expressed a few mils of colostrum prior to her birth, as the NHS recommends when you have gestational diabetes, due to the risk of baby’s blood sugars being unstable. They were lined up in our freezer at home ready to use so a family member brought them into hospital for me and I started feeding Hadley this precious first milk drop by drop, that way I could have a break from the relentless hand expressing too.
The freezer stash soon ran out though and I was back to hand-expressing more colostrum. My milk hadn’t ‘come in’ properly yet and it was so painstakingly slow to hand express tiny amounts of milk. I just felt that Hadley still wasn’t getting a good feed. I spent hours repeatedly feeding Hadley a 10 ml syringe before putting her quickly on the boob, convinced she’d put two and two together and latch on to feed. But she was still struggling and as soon as I laid her horizontally in the cradle position, she felt instantly snug and secure and fell asleep! Back to square one. Feed her with a syringe, quickly pop her on the boob and fingers crossed she’d latch. It went on and on. I was exhausted.
Of course the team at the hospital were as helpful as they could be. With mounting pressures, a busy ward to get around and piles of paperwork, it was clear they couldn’t spend as much time helping me establish breastfeeding as they’d like to. Midwives would regularly stop by our bay to see if Hadley had started feeding properly, I’d be very firm in communicating that we were struggling and constantly requested to see someone from the infant feeding team. Finally they turned up and we had a few one to one sessions with the specialists. Everyone agreed that I was doing everything possible to give Hadley the best possible chance to feed! From plenty of skin to skin to stripping her down so that she wasn’t too warm and cosy, tickling her feet and expressing a few drops of milk and brushing my nipple onto her lips, I was doing it all! The prognosis? To continue doing what I was doing, that perseverance and patience would pay off.
It wasn’t until a midwife I hadn’t met before came on shift and accessed our situation with fresh eyes that the suggestion of starting to use a breast pump came up. She could see how physically and mentally tired I was, and that hand expressing, although a really invaluable tool for any new mum (you can quickly remove milk wherever you are, in the shower or out of the house in a bathroom to give to baby or just relieve engorged breasts and so on) wasn’t really achieving the quantities of milk I needed to fully satisfy Hadley. I understand why the team held off offering the pump at first, so that we could give baby time to latch but it was definitely time to take a new approach. I’m so thankful we did because at this stage we didn’t know Hadley was jaundice and that, coupled with her early arrival, (they often go hand in hand) was exactly the reason why she was so sleepy.
When the feeding team wheeled that Ardo pump around to my bay for the very first time, I honestly can’t explain the instant relief I felt. It was the tonic to a very stressful situation, when you’ve just given birth and everything’s a bit of a haze, any change up to a tricky scenario is welcomed. That and the chance to go and grab a hot shower! We all decided the new plan was to pump milk and feed it to Hadley with a feeding cup. My past experience with pumps was limited, I’d used a handheld, manual pump the first time which I didn’t really find achieved the quantities of milk I needed for Hector’s feeds. Occasionally I’d reach for a Haaka pump which I’d use on the boob Hector wasn’t feeding from and this really was to just deal with my over-supply of milk in the early days. I froze what I collected as back up but he didn’t ever really drink my expressed breast milk from a bottle, I just found having him directly on the breast was better for me and didn’t find myself away from him for more than an hour at a time.
So this was an entirely different ball game, I really was an electric pump novice! Which takes me back to my point that arming yourself with as much information about what’s out there and available to you as a new mum is always the best route to take. You might find yourself in the same position as me, where the only way to get breast milk into your baby will be by using a breast pump.
After a quick demonstration by the team – Ardo really is easy and simple to use, with only a few key settings you need to know about to get started with pumping – we were off and they soon all left me to it. With an endless supply of tea and biscuits at my disposal, I was told to chill and let the pump do its thing. The more relaxed we were, the more the milk would flow. So much milk trickled into that bottle right away, it was a real turning point for me. I haven’t really found the milk supply to be too much of a problem to be honest, it’s my second child and there just seems to be loads of the stuff. Suddenly Hadley had as much milk as she needed, available to her at a moments notice and the stress of it all just went down a notch.
Obviously I still needed to establish breastfeeding but in that moment all that mattered was getting milk into Hadley anyway I could. I also needed to ensure my milk supply was being kick-started and stimulated and as baby couldn’t do that, it was Ardo pump to the rescue! As long as the milk was coming out, my body got the message that it needed to produce more. I quickly found myself using the Calypso pump, in double format (so on both boobs simultaneously) for twenty minute stints, every few hours. This gave me enough milk to feed baby and then some, the extra we just stored in the fridge until we needed it for the next feed. In between pumping and cup feeding Hadley was always skin to skin and I’d try every breastfeeding position under the sun in hope she’d eventually latch on.
I soon became a bit territorial over ‘my’ Ardo pump. Of course it wasn’t mine at all, it was the wards and there were plenty of other mamas who needed access to it too! We have an amazing feeding hub at our local hospital called the Butterfly Room, and it’s basically a refuge for any of your feeding needs. Whether that’s somewhere to go and sit in a comfy armchair to use a breast pump or a clean and safe kitchen space to make up your formula bottles, I would stop in and out of the room and cross paths with other mums struggling with their own feeding woes. Everyone felt for each other. Here we all were, slowly recovering from labour and getting to know our brand new babies and on top of it all, we were finding feeding tricky.
I was a bit of a regular in that room, when I needed more storage pots for the pump or a new set of breast shells and so on. The one thing I remember clearly was the rate the pumps came in and out of the room. All of the breast pumps were lined up on wheels, all ready to go at a moments notice. Each time I visited there was a different amount of pumps, sometimes the whole set, another time not one left. It just goes to show there are so many different situations where you might need to use a breast pump unexpectedly, whether baby is born early and jaundice like mine, you’re struggling to establish a milk supply or recovering from surgery and unable to be with baby right away. The pumps are particularly important on NICU, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where all the premature babies are cared for.
After chatting with the infant feeding team I discovered that Ardo pumps were actually available to buy (at a special discounted hosital rate) for new mums on the ward so that you could have the same pump you’d been using in hospital at home with you too. The Ardo Calypso pump is a smaller, lighter, more compact version of the pump I’d used on the ward, but (here’s the really important bit) with the same power and efficiency. Because these are medical-grade, hospital-recommended breast pumps, you really don’t lose any of the suction or notice any difference in amounts of milk being collected. It’s an amazing pump.
The Ardo Calypso can be used in single or double mode, simply remove one of the tubes and breast shells, cap off the end and the double quickly becomes a single. There’s also a Komikit which quickly provides a non-electrical, manual, handheld pump for speedy use when away from the baby. If you’re perhaps taking a work meeting or running an errand and quickly need to express off some milk when you’re out, it’s a great solution. For these short, quick bursts, the electric pump isn’t always necessary so I find it easier to take the handheld pump out with me. It’s lightweight and easy to throw in a handbag but I personally find that I’m not able to collect large amounts of milk quickly with a manual pump, so that’s why I use the electric one the majority of the time. The electric pump was integral in those early days for Hadley’s feeds, when it was a back to back pumping and cup feeding. The bottles pack away neatly in cool bag with ice blocks should you be out and need to store breastmilk safely. You can find Ardo’s amazing breast pump-to-go bag right here.
Armed with my new Ardo Calypso pump and a positive attitude, the midwives eventually agreed to let my husband and I take baby Hadley home. They were happy that as an experienced mum I would stand a better chance of establishing breastfeeding at home in my own environment and although we were still expressing and cup feeding her, we were going to be monitored by the infant feeding team and have daily home visits and calls to help get Hadley to feed. It wasn’t an ideal situation and if you are breastfeeding and not formula feeding, then they generally insist that you to have baby on the breast before they let you go home.
Just as we had the car seat all set up, Hadley dressed and ready to go they threw a curveball at us. One of the midwives had mentioned to another midwife that she thought Hadley looked slightly yellow. Slightly yellow in baby terms means jaundice. This was the first my husband and I had heard about her potentially being jaundice and you cam imagine the shock and upset, just as we were about to walk out of those hospital doors, they pulled the rug right from under our feet. Of course all that mattered was for Hadley to be safe and well, so we knew we just had to do what was necessary and recommended to use. They tested her bloods right there and then to check the jaundice levels. Depending how close she was ‘to the line’ would determine if treatment was needed. She was close but not at the point of needing phototherapy, but we needed to see a decline in the jaundice levels over the next 12 hours and so they let us go home overnight (we luckily only live five minutes around the corner from the hospital) and were to come back in the morning for another blood test.
Those daily blood tests to monitor her jaundice levels only mounted the pressure to ‘get Hadley on the boob’. Feed, feed, feed they said to me, ‘we need to flush out the bilirubin’. Well as if I didn’t already feel helpless enough! I was trying to feed, feed, feed but it was more pump, pump, pump. Every second I wasn’t pumping Hadley was held nose to nipple in hope I’d suddenly look down one moment and she’d been sucking away.
The cycle of pumping with my Ardo Calypso, pouring into a feeding cup and letting Hadley ‘lap the milk like a kitten’ (the actual words from one feeding specialist) went on. We did ten days straight and my husband did the majority of the cup feeding as I was forever pumping and not able to do both at once! Exhausting doesn’t even begin to explain it. We attended every infant feeding clinic in our area, every breast feeding workshop, drop-in and coffee meet and the support out there is truly amazing if you get out there and find it.
Finally, something seemed to twig, perseverance paid off and Hadley was all of a sudden on the boob. Small feeds at first, but each feed began to get longer and longer. Everything we went through stemmed from baby being so sleepy, her being born early and being slightly jaundice. Without a doubt, if it wasn’t for having the right kit to hand, I’d not have stood a chance of breastfeeding my baby. Having the Ardo pump by my side for those first ten days was the catalyst for establishing my milk supply and I wouldn’t have been able to stimulate milk production without it.
I didn’t ever expect to find myself in a position where I’d be hooked up to a breast pump for such a lengthy period from the get-go and it just goes to show that being armed with as much information and knowledge as possible, together with having access to the right kit and products can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful breastfeeding journey.
No two mothers’ journey’s are the same and if you are lucky enough to have a pretty seamless experience then breastfeeding can be an utterly amazing and heartwarming thing. But remember, breastfeeding can also be painful, your nipples might not know what’s hit them and if you’re really unlucky then mastitis could strike. (I’ve had it twice now but that’s a story for another day!) It can be heartbreaking when it doesn’t work out but whatever happens, remember you’re a brilliant mama and all that matters is, happy mum, happy baby. So do what’s right for you and go with your gut instinct.
Breastfeeding and Expressing: Tips and Advice
Whether it’s health professionals at your hospital, GP’s practice, at children’s centres or a friend, ask for help. Your local children’s centres are the best places to start because they’ll be able to put you in touch with your local infant feeding team, let you know of any local breastfeeding workshops, drop in clinics and coffee mornings. Your health visitor should have left you with some contact details too, give them a call and explain the situation you’re in. They are there to help. Sometimes a solidarity ‘it will get easier’ chat is all it takes to get you back on the positive feeding path.
Loan A Pump
If you’re not sure whether you need to buy an electric breastpump, speak to your antenatal team about popping back to hospital to try one of their pumps out. Also ask about any breastpump loan schemes to see if borrowing one is an option available to you. Head this way for more info about hiring Ardo breastpumps.
Watch An Expert
Youtube is open 24 hours a day and Ardo’s range of ‘help me’ videos and produced in response to all the questions they get asked. Watch their expert advice right here.
Never Suffer In Silence
If you’re breastfeeding and in pain then don’t just feed through it. Stop, carefully take baby off the boob and re-latch. Try different holds and positions. Rub baby’s nose against your nipple and wait for that wide, open gaping mouth before putting them on. Ask professionals for help. Maybe a lactation consultant is for you? Have you had your baby checked for tongue tie? There are so many factors – from a shallow latch to pursed lips and even a breast infection (mastitis) that could be leading to pain. Don’t ignore it! See the ‘Seek Help’ section above!
Know Your Kit
Hot and cold compresses, nursing bras, sterilising equipment… The list goes on and there’s a lot to think about but that’s the beauty of online shopping, we can have everything delivered to our doors now so don’t panic buy and only buy what you need, as you need it. A few essentials like breast pads, nipple ointment and milk storage bags are no-brainer pregnancy buys. Ardo’s selection of accessories are all a few clicks away.
This post was in paid partnership with Ardo. I used my hospital’s Ardo breast pump during my stay on the maternity ward after having baby Hadley and later went onto purchase an Ardo Calypso breast pump to use at home. Everything else you see here was gifted to me by Ardo as part of this collaboration. You can head over to Ardo for more info on their range of breastfeeding and expressing products.