Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding a Baby with Facial Malformation

Medical staff have a trigger happy tendency to push formula upon babies at the best of times. However, when confronted with a baby that doesn't fit the textbook norm, the drive to push formula is even more relentless. Rather than research or seeking specialist knowledge, medical staff who find themselves in this scenario often give half-hearted assistance and blind guesses before resorting to bottle-pushing, as this mother found out.

I always knew I'd breastfeed, formula wasn’t even considered. I did plenty of research on latching, I felt so prepared! Even so, our problems began right at the start of our journey. 

Hostile Hospital Staff


When Evelynn was born I noticed she had a flattened nose, making it hard for her to breathe and suckle at the same time. Consequently she kept pulling off. I asked the hospital staff to watch me nurse and they said the latch was great and that my daughter needed to eat right away. They said I wasn’t giving her enough. I insisted I wanted to go home but they kept me in for two nights. They told me over and over that my baby needed more food but didn’t do anything productive to help me feed her.

After several more attempts I said I didn’t think she could breathe whilst she fed. They offered saline drops to clear her nose and told me to ring every time she wanted feeding. However as they were busy, every time Evie wanted feeding it meant I had to wait for them to arrive, then wait for them to go get the drops, then administer them, and in the meantime I had a screaming newborn! The drops didn’t even work though as her nose wasn’t ‘blocked’ - it was flat. 


I also suspect Evie had a light lip-tie. When she was latched on I felt strange sensations and spasms on my right side, possibly vasospasm. The staff also kept bringing me more pillows so I could have her higher on my lap, which just squished her face more into my breast. 

The next day they said they needed to see her feeding chart before they would let me go home. This was the first mention of a chart I heard! I hadn’t kept one. A nurse said that she would need to give formula if I didn’t feed her. So in the end I dripped the colostrum straight into her mouth.

To confuse matters further, when Evie was asleep I asked if I should feed her. The nurse replied, “She’s asleep! Yes feed her when she wants, but no don’t wake her!” She looked at me like I was nuts. 

The next night, a student nurse sat with me while Evie fed for an hour. She kept assuring me that although it didn’t seem like Evie was sucking or swallowing (I couldn’t see movement or feel/hear sucking) while she was latched “she must have had something”. It was that feed which allowed me to leave the next day after being asked if I was confident breastfeeding. I wasn’t but I said yes just so I could go home and see my local breastfeeding team.

Call in the Pros

When I arrived home the breastfeeding team came round and showed me how to do the underarm hold which I found much easier. It kept Evie's nose completely clear so she could feed and my milk came in. However Evie still wasn’t eating much and my breasts became painfully engorged.

I had to have the breastfeeding team round to my home a few times because Evie barely ate for 3 days. The health visitor was worried she'd loose too much weight and kept suggesting formula but the breastfeeding team encouraged me to keep at it.


One morning I phoned the team in tears. I was completely engorged after an awful night of being unable to latch Evie at all. They offered to come round right away asking me to hold on for an hour. I felt so relieved knowing I was getting help. This feeling is relief made me calm enough that just after the reassuring phone call I swaddled my screaming newborn and managed to latch her on! 

It still took some practise to get 'perfect' and after 2 years my toddler is a pro in all manner of positions!

My Opinion Of People Who Don’t Try Breastfeeding

People who don’t try breastfeeding fall into two groups.

The first group are truly ignorant to the fact that breastfeeding is so much better then formula as well as cheaper and easier then bottles. These people I feel sorry for; that advertising and lack of understanding has robbed their child of breastmilk.

The second group are the ones who know about breastfeeding benefits, have researched it or learned about it at parent classes or even know breastfeeders; yet for whatever reason (parental pressure, society, embarrassment, disgust, perceived inconvenience) don’t even try to line their babies tummy with that liquid gold. To them I try to be understanding but ultimately I think they’re selfish.




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