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From Midwife to Mother of Three: Navigating the NICU and Breastfeeding

I get asked a lot about how it was having my own babies and being a midwife, and honestly most of the time I’m sure I feel like any other woman does. I entered into pregnancy and birth nervous, excited, optimistic and grateful – and even now 6 years and 3 children later I’m still winging it like everyone else! The one thing that I do think was different about my journey into motherhood was as a midwife; I had a very privileged insight into breastfeeding.

My breastfeeding journey, from professional to personal

When I think of my own social and personal life I realise that I had very little exposure to breastfeeding through friends or family and it wasn’t something I could recall I had seen or noticed when I was out in public. At work, however, breastfeeding is an imperative element of the role of a midwife and is an absolutely normal part of my day to day. I am there to support women in those crucial, vulnerable, and euphoric moments immediately after birth – assisting them to latch their baby onto the breast. I see women at home postnatally in the days and weeks following, to continue that support and discuss all things breastfeeding and baby related. I even deliver antenatal breastfeeding education to women and help them to prepare for what to expect when baby arrives. So naturally heading into motherhood myself, I felt confident and well equipped that I had the knowledge, perseverance, and experience to have a successful breastfeeding journey.

Madison breastfeeding her baby in a field full of flowers, enjoying the beauty of nature while nurturing her little one

Emergency C-sections, the NICU, and breastfeeding

I have been incredibly lucky to have 3 relatively uncomplicated pregnancies. Despite this my first birth resulted in an emergency caesarean section, and my daughter ended up needing to be taken straight to NICU. Following a birth that had been so far from what I had hoped for I was even more determined to ensure that we had a successful breastfeeding journey.  Being separated from your baby at birth is nothing short of traumatic for lots of reasons but it also makes for a very complicated start to breastfeeding. Following birth, I immediately asked the midwife for some oral syringes to begin collecting some precious colostrum for my baby. Thankfully hand expressing was something I had started from 37 weeks pregnant, and I would really encourage all women (unless advised not to) to discuss doing this with their midwife and to try and harvest some colostrum ahead of the birth.

Learn more: Breastfeeding after a C-section.

It was 3 days before my baby was well enough to be put to the breast and she was still having the majority of her feeds via a feeding tube in her nose. I was hand expressing around the clock to ensure she had enough and by day 3 I had moved on to using a breast pump. How I wish I had my Lola&Lykke pump then!! Expressing was absolutely crucial in establishing a milk supply whilst my baby was separated from me and I am absolutely certain without the sheer determination in those early days, that we would not have gone on to have a wonderful 3 years of breastfeeding that I am so so grateful for. When I returned to work as an NHS midwife after a year of maternity leave I pumped 1 or 2 times a shift to maintain my supply and sent my breast milk into the nursery for her. She made up for the lack of feeds on my working days when we were together!

Learn more: How to Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping.

Madison using the Lola&Lykke electric breast pump for pumping

My second and third breastfeeding journey

Unexpectedly my 2nd breastfeeding journey started very similarly! Sadly, my second daughter also needed to be taken to NICU at birth. This time, despite hoping it would have been a very different outcome, I was more prepared! I had a whole freezer bag full of expressed colostrum ready for her and I was thrown straight back into expressing and tube feeding! I found that my supply the second time around – having only finished feeding my eldest daughter a few months before was much quicker to establish and after a day or two I went straight on to using a breast pump. I continued to breastfeed throughout my next pregnancy with my 3rd daughter and my 3rd breastfeeding journey had the wonderful start I had always envisaged. My baby was placed onto my chest at birth and almost immediately latched onto the breast (just like the textbooks show). Her very first breastfeeding was in theatre whilst the surgeons were still working!

Madison breastfeeding her newborn baby first time in hospital bed

I tandem fed my two youngest children for 9 months and it was the most incredible experience! I’m not entirely sure if it was the combination of feeding 2 children or that it was my 3rd time breastfeeding, but my supply was over and above what was needed! I was pumping most days for my own comfort, which helped me build a bit of a freezer stash ready to return to work after 10 months of maternity leave.  I’m currently 14 months into my 3rd breastfeeding journey and I am forever grateful and proud of what I have achieved.

Separating facts from fiction

As a midwife and 3rd time breastfeeding Mummy, I feel so passionately about breastfeeding support and education. One of the biggest barriers I have noticed women facing currently is the perpetual spread of misinformation hugely on the internet and social media – often by well-meaning celebrities, social media influencers, but also by friends and family. The early postnatal period and trying to establish breastfeeding can be an incredibly lonely and vulnerable time for women.

My advice would be to seek out reputable sources of information and use trusted brands to support you during this time. For anyone about to embark on their own journey into motherhood, I would say that so much of pregnancy and birth is ultimately out of our control. What you can control is how you prepare yourself for your breastfeeding journey and that even despite the rockiest of starts you absolutely can go on to achieve it!

Shop Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump: "I have been loving the Lola & Lykke breastpump for a few years now! It has been super handy to take away with me and for pumping when I’ve returned to work. I find it so powerful compared to other wireless pumps I’ve tried previously. I wouldn’t be without it. A beautifully designed breastpump - thank you"

- Madison, midwife and mother of 3.