Hannah Wheeler gave birth to her first baby 10 days into lockdown, and was determined to breastfeed. Alone at home, however, she found herself in excruciating pain during every feed.
“I didn’t have any breastfeeding support at all,” she says. “It was lonely. I think that’s the best way to describe it. My husband tried his best to support me but didn’t really understand how to help. I remember sitting in bed trying to feed Arthur and just crying and crying. Not just from the pain, but from the hopelessness.”
She spoke to her health visitor, who pointed her to the latching advice in the “red book” given to all new parents. She looked for support online, but only video chats were being offered. “I’m too anxious to video chat with my friends, let alone get my boobs out for a complete stranger online,” she says. “I just felt completely abandoned and forgotten about.”
After four months of near constant pain when feeding she called the health visitor again, who directed her to local telephone support. Finally, she reached out to a breastfeeding Facebook page and found someone prepared to sit in her garden if she paid her insurance and travel.
The woman gave some pointers and said Arthur may have tongue-tie. Wheeler went back to the health visitor again and managed to get his tongue-tie snipped. “Now here we are, five months after birth, and finally I am pain-free while feeding,” she says.
On many occasions Wheeler was overwhelmed with anxiety, and felt she had nowhere to turn. With no weighing-in clinics, she and her husband resorted to placing Arthur in a shopping bag and using luggage scales, worried he was dropping down the weight centiles. “I was so, so worried for those first few months about his weight. I had no way of knowing if he was looking how he should be.”
Arthur appears to be entirely unscathed, she says, but for her the ripples continue: “I’ve been struggling. There’s been good times and bad times since he was born.”
Encouraged by her mother, she has spoken to her GP and asked for support. She’s delighted with her baby and happy she persevered with breastfeeding, but still feels resentful. “This was not exactly the first baby experience I imagined,” she says.