EMMA RICHARDSON, Washington, Tyne & Wear, UK
Originally published February 2016, republished here with the express permission of the author.
Photos: Helen Wilson Lifestyle Photography
This is my story in which I tell why I cut my hair for LLL.
Let me start from the moment Katy was born.
I’m not afraid to admit that it wasn’t how I expected it to be. I’d expected the birth to be a wonderfully perfect moment filled with love and joy. The reality was exhaustion after a 28-hour labor that ended with a forceps delivery, nausea from hunger and being pumped full of drugs, and still not knowing whether I had a baby girl or boy. When we were finally on the ward, all I wanted to do was sleep. Luckily for me so did Katy!
Day one of hospital life was a blur of visitors, nurses, doctors, and midwives. I kept asking for help with breastfeeding and although everyone tried to help, we just couldn’t figure it out. I was advised to hand express and syringe feed. By the end of day two, she still wasn’t feeding and was very distressed. I syringe-fed all that I had managed to express (less than 1ml) and she continued to scream. I felt awful. Worst mum in the world. My heart was breaking. It was then I decided to give my daughter some formula. At last she was content. Day five, we were finally discharged and Katy was exclusively bottle-fed. I was still trying to hand express but struggled to get even a drop.
Home life with a newborn was surreal but I muddled on, bottle-feeding on demand. Hand expressing whenever I found the time. That’s when I was visited by the breastfeeding support team. Finally someone could tell me why my baby girl couldn’t do the most natural thing: she was quite bruised after her forceps delivery and had a posterior tongue-tie. They recommended nipple shields to help Katy latch. I had lost a lot of blood during labor and had a transfusion while in hospital, which they thought had affected my milk coming in. I began a new routine of expressing every two hours (day and night), eating lots of oats, and offering my breast as often as possible.
By week two we had gone from exclusively bottle-feeding to exclusively breastfeeding. Katy and I could take on the world it felt. We had to use shields for every feed and, actually, she still had the odd bottle of formula, but I felt we had finally cracked breastfeeding.
At six weeks Katy was diagnosed with cows’ milk protein allergy. At 12 weeks her tongue-tie was divided. It reattached within the week, but as she had gained tongue movement, I decided not to have it resnipped and carried on using shields. At seven months Katy had her first adjustment at the chiropractor, her second adjustment a few weeks later, and then she dropped the shields and we never used them again! When Katy was nine months I found a lump in my breast that an ultrasound revealed was a cyst which was then drained. Now, at 13 months, Katy is still breastfeeding and I think she has no intention to stop anytime soon and neither do I. I can honestly say that I love breastfeeding … most of the time!
So, where does La Leche League come into our story?
I found out about LLL when Katy was four weeks, possibly earlier. The Leaders and mothers of LLL have been such a great support for me from the moment I joined. Whether you just scroll through LLL posts on Facebook, post a question, join in a discussion online or talk to a Leader, there is always someone with good information, personal experience, or a sympathetic ear. Sometimes you want to share joy, sadness, confusion, a whole spectrum of emotions, and it’s so reassuring to know there is a safe place to do this that’s full of supportive ladies who more than likely have or do feel exactly the same.
And then there are the LLL meetings, a place to go and meet other breastfeeding mums face to face. So many babies of different ages, some at the beginning of their journey and others seasoned pros. Sometimes some lovely mums bring delicious treats for everyone to share. Meetings are a fabulous way to meet your local LLL Leaders in real life and have a one-to-one discussion with them. Find local LLL support here.
Why I cut my hair for LLL
So why did I cut my hair off for La Leche League? Well, it’s because I know how it is to feel lost, lonely and a little bit helpless. I know how lonely being a new mum can be especially a new mum who chooses to breastfeed and knows no one else who has successfully breastfed. And I know how vital someone with such knowledge and experience of breastfeeding can be to a struggling new mum.
I donated my hair, all 12 inches of it, to make wigs for children with cancer. And the money I raised for LLL through sponsorship to cut my hair will go towards helping other new mums through the same problems I encountered and many more! Really, I just wanted to help spread the LLLove.