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Expressing – The next step in my breastfeeding journey

So today sees the next part in my breastfeeding journey. Expressing.

I can’t say this is something I want to do, and luckily with Sofia, I only had to do it at the beginning when we had some weight gain problems.

This time though, it’s different. This time, I am having to do it for my own health.

It has been an extremely difficult decision to make.

When I was 22, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and it has been an up and down journey for the last 17 years.

In December 2018, I started flaring again due to severe sleep deprivation. This was down to some sleep issues we were having with Sofia’s struggle to transition to a bed before she was ready to due to accidentally falling out of the cot. I thought I could get it back under control without medication once we sorted Sofia’s sleep out. It was a bit up and down so I thought I would eventually get there, but then I found out I was pregnant in July 2019. I then got much worse resulting in a hospital stay in the September.

Luckily, they were able to put me back on my old medication and it eventually brought it back under control. The plan was to go back on it a few weeks after having Alyssia, and under normal circumstances she would have come with me, so no problem.

Interestingly, I was due to write an article about breastfeeding and Infliximab as my Gastro consultant had previously said I couldn’t breastfeed on the medication. However, due to my perseverance, I helped him look into it further, and the rules have now changed at Manchester Hospital with regards to Infliximab and breastfeeding. He feels more confident that it is now safe, or at least as safe as anything that hasn’t been around for 60 years or trialled on babies can be. He was glad that as a patient I felt I could speak up as it opened his eyes to other avenues of research he hadn’t seen, and he feels that all patients should feel comfortable with their doctors to raise concerns, question or show new research and keep the lines of communication open in order to develop and move forward.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I wasn’t able to go back on my Infliximab (immunosuppressant). I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a newborn baby for 7-8 hours with my energetic 4 year old and my husband without there been anyone to help due to lockdown. This is no disrespect to my husband, I am sure he would have coped. It just felt wrong for me to be going to the hospital where there was a higher risk of me picking the virus up and taking it home to my family. I also didn’t want to take the risk that a new born baby might end up crying with hunger if she didn’t take to a bottle, all while Sofia wouldn’t have been getting the attention she was craving after having her life turned upside down.

I was coping OK so decided to hold off until I couldn’t wait for treatment any longer.

That time has come, and it has gotten to the point that if I don’t do something now, then I risk ending up in hospital for a much longer period that a matter of hours.

This is not a decision I have taken lightly. I don’t feel organised or prepared for expressing, nor do I feel ready to risk the tears from Alyssia just because my body is failing me, again.

I know if she was a little older and solids were more established then I would feel more confident as she could snack until I got home, however, we are literally days into our baby led weaning journey so we aren’t going to be at a point where she will be eating to fill a hunger hole in just 2 weeks.

I think this feeling is amplified by the fact that we have no social contact with other mums of babies due to COVID, and I haven’t seen a health visitor since her birth, so normal support functions are nonexistent.

Today I called the infant feeding team at my hospital for some advice, and the lady was really helpful. We ran through some options, such as the types of bottles to try if I can’t get her to drink from a cup. Alyssia hasn’t even mastered drinking water from a cup yet without using her tongue to get it, followed closely by sicking it back up, so I think cup feeding will be a very long process, but it’s worth a try.

She also suggested my husband tries to give her expressed milk twice a day in the run up to me been away for so many hours.

There was me thinking I would only need to express for the days it was needed for. The process has now become an even bigger deal and a much longer process than I thought it would be.

I know it’s probably not a bad thing to have these options, but it feels very frustrating that my failing body and this coronavirus has taken my choice away.

So today I dug out my old pump, got the cold water steriliser out and made a start. Luckily, I had everything prepared as a just in case after my experience with Sofia as a baby.

Tonight, I got to expressing. I got a whole 60 ml in 30 minutes. Now that’s depressing. I think one of the pumps needs looking at as at first, I thought my boob was broken, but then it worked on switching sides.

I now have 2 lots of 30 ml in the fridge, and tomorrow my husband has to start his own journey in trying to feed baby. I can’t say either of us are looking forward to it, but I will keep you updated.

I am writing this as I know there are so many families that will be in a similar position to me. Maybe not with their own personal health, but that will be needing to go back to work, or need to express for other reasons, and we have all had very limited or no support on the journey to get there. So, for this reason, I have decided to share my journey.

It may go smoothly, it may go horribly wrong, but you can count on me to be honest, and hopefully my journey will help others who need to go through a similar experience.

Wish us luck.x


  • Jessica
    September 17, 2020

    Good luck Nicola. Thanks for posting this, will follow you with interest as I am hoping to do the same with my daughter who is nearly 6 months. This is my choice luckily rather than your situation but know it will be difficult transitioning after so long only b/f. I wish we’d tried a bottle sooner but with lockdown and not being able to go anywhere/have a babysitter there didn’t seem to be much point! I hope your treatment goes well.


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