Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding with Flat Nipples

Women’s nipples come in many shapes and sizes. But can a woman ever have the 'wrong sort' of nipples for breastfeeding?

Whilst it is true that babies breastfeed rather than "nipple-feed", sometimes the shape of a woman's nipples can make it more difficult for her baby to nurse. In order for him to feed effectively, the baby must be able to grasp the nipple and stretch it forward and upward against the roof of his mouth. If he is unable to do this effectively, perhaps because the mother has flat or inverted nipples, the consequence can be prejudicial to both mom and baby, as this mom discovered the hard way...

You are about to read the story of a new mother whom, unbeknown to her, had severely flattened nipples. It took a catalogue of medical malpractice, a battle with self-centered relatives, and a speedy trip to ER before she discovered the root cause of all her problems.


Growing up I'd never seen breastfeeding. The first time I saw a human breastfeed I was about 16 years old. When I found I was pregnant, breastfeeding didn't really cross my mind. Not until I googled "what formula is best for my baby?" and was hit with a huge "DUH." 

I thought to myself, “I've been carrying around these breasts for SO long it would just be stupid not to use them when they finally have a function”. So I started reading. I "liked" tons of pages on facebook. I read about booby traps here and there. I watched youtube videos of women nursing. But really in my head I never thought I would have any trouble. I thought Baby + Boob = Job Done!

Prenatal Depression

My pregnancy was difficult. I had hyperemesis. I went 28 weeks without being able to eat anything, even ice. I had an infected PICC line, allergic reactions to medications. I was told that because I did not eat enough, I should expect a small baby. The ultrasound guessed 5lbs.  As a result from all of these complications I was also seriously depressed. 

Skin to Skin Prevented 

Fast forward to the day of my son's birth. After a quick delivery the doctor refused to allow me to hold my son until the cord was cut. I sat and stared at my baby for 15 minutes waiting to hold him. But after the cord was cut she still did not hand him to me. Despite my written request for skin to skin right after birth she handed my newborn to my husband. 

My husband was in awe and I sat quietly and watched them bond. About 5 minutes in I asked to hold him. He had been out my body for 20 minutes and I'd yet to hold him. I finally got my hands on him and put him to the breast. He was rooting but not latching. It wasn’t at all like the breast crawl video I'd watched 100 times before. 


After a few moments of struggling I finally was able to get the first latch. I was ecstatic but my nurse didn’t seem to care. She picked him up off my chest and broke the latch I worked so hard to get. She said my baby would be back in 15 minutes but instead he was gone for over 2 hours. Despite my demands and threats they only brought him back when they were ready. 

When I finally got my newborn back I was bombarded by visitors all wanting to hold and awe over their new grandchild and nephew. He didn’t cry much and I thought that he would cry when he was hungry. I tried nursing but he just did not latch. 

By that night he was screaming. He was so hungry. He hadn't latched but one time all day. My husband ran out and bought me a hand held pump. That night I fed my baby with a medicine cup. I was too afraid to use a bottle. 

The next day, still in the hospital, family came again and rushed each nursing session. I thought he was nursing but he really wasn’t getting anything. He wasn’t latched properly.

Again that night I fed him with a cup. I paged the nurses and asked them for a lactation consultant. But I never saw one. The nurses told me to only feed him on schedule and not to hold him too much. I received so much bad information it was unreal. 

Bottle-Pushing Family


When I was home my guests begged me to give him a bottle. They wanted to feed him. They teased me for being over protective because I refused. They didn’t understand the concept of nipple confusion. There were comments like "does it hurt yet?" and "give him a pacifier so he will lean to suck". 

At night time I was feeding my baby with a syringe. My son was born at 7lbs, and now, 2 days later, he weighed only 6lbs 1oz. By this point, he had high jaundice levels and it wasn’t just about food but also about getting rid of his jaundice. 

Bottle-Pushing Health Professionals

I drove to the hospital every day so they could prick my newborn and check his levels. Every day they pressured me into formula. And every day I said no. They didn't even give light therapy as an option. It was always “you are not feeding him enough, he will probably need formula, and if It's not better tomorrow we will admit him to the nicu.” 


"Nursing with the shield".
It was hard. I second guessed myself, my body, and my milk. I cried as I nursed him then topped him off with a syringe. I had this huge fear that I would fail him. Then finally someone on the internet told me about flat nipples. That was it! That was my problem. I tried a nipple shield at it worked wonders.

Mysterious Pain

Then, just when I thought my breastfeeding troubles were over I woke up in terrible pain. I went to the ER in fear that something was wrong with my gallbladder. Instead the doctor just decided I had a pulmonary embolism. He said I needed an MRI to make sure that wasn’t the case. But I wouldn’t be able to nurse for 2 days. I signed out against medical advice thinking I would pump enough for 2 days and go back. The doctor was very irritated with me for not "just using formula." 


When I got home I laid in bed sweating. I was covered in sweat and freezing cold. I couldn’t get out of bed I felt so bad. I'd never heard of mastitis before. I didn't know what was wrong with me. An online friend ended up telling me that she thought I had mastitis. 

I went back into the hospital ER that night with a high fever and told them exactly what she told me. By then my breast was bright red and hot to the touch. It made sense now! Until I figured out I had flat nipples, my breasts had got over-engorged because my baby was unable to extract the milk efficiently, which led to the mastitis. The ER doctor on duty told me it was a good thing I didn't have the MRI because the best treatment for mastitis is nursing. I went home and my husband brought my little boy to me every hour so I could nurse him. By the end of the weekend I was better. 


If it weren't for online support, I would not be the accomplished breastfeeder I am today. It educated me enough to get through all of the difficulties. With the exception of very few women, breastfeeding is totally possible. I decided to breastfeed and I did everything in my power to breastfeed. I knew that my baby needed breastmilk. Not powder from a can or cows milk, but real live human milk. He has never had a drop of formula, and I’m mighty proud of that. I am also donating my breastmilk to a friend/neighbor who is an adoptive mother. 

I find the action of women who never even try very selfish. I cannot understand how we as a society have become so self-centered that we will give our babies far less than they deserve.”


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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Relactation

Guilt, resentment, regret – all common millstones of the formula feeding mother. These emotions can be so chronic, that mothers carry them around for years, often becoming bitter and envious in the process. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a ‘get out of jail card’ for formula feeding mothers. There is salvation.

This is the story of one mother, whose attempt to breastfeed was sabotaged by medical professionals, family members and her own naivety. Consequently, she became a fully fledged formula feeder. But there's a twist. She discovered relactation – a way to reverse the cycle of sabotage and win back her maternal dignity.


“I had my mind set on breastfeeding. While pregnant I attending breastfeeding workshops and read book after book.  I was induced on my due date, due to Obstetric Cholestasis of Pregnancy.  Labor was a long process, induced on a Tuesday and finally born on the Friday morning. The birth itself wasn’t exactly the miraculous experience I had dreamed of - forceps with rotation and a 3rd degree tear. It was my first baby and I was thoroughly exhausted and overwhelmed by the whole ‘event’.

While I was recovering, I was told by one midwife that my nipples were perhaps too large for breastfeeding, so I should ‘watch that’ as it may cause ‘problems’. What a great start!

Jaundice

On Saturday I was allowed to go home, but it was short lived. I was readmitted on Sunday because my baby had severe jaundice, requiring phototherapy. We spent 5 more days in hospital, and during this time I was advised that my baby ‘must’ be given formula top ups to flush the jaundice out of her system.




Meddling in-laws

Thankfully after arriving home, I was permitted to return to exclusive breast feeding, which I duly did, much to the disapproval of my in-laws. I felt my in laws were never supportive of my choice to breastfeed. Perhaps it was genuine ignorance as my mother in law told me that she could never feed any of her 7 children as she never produced any milk, and my father in law told me over the phone that perhaps ‘the baby wasn’t getting enough’ – when he breastfed, I’m not sure?? It was sadly the cause of a permanent shift in our relationship, as for me, they didn’t support me at a time when I was possibly the most vulnerable I had ever been in my adult life: I was a new mum, had a rough delivery, and was still unwell (the OC of pregnancy made me very unwell).  I needed support and encouragement rather than negative comments.

Weight issues


After 2 weeks of exclusive breastfeeding my baby was gaining weight, however apparently she was not gaining ‘sufficiently’ so the midwife instructed that I stop feeding on demand and ‘force’ my baby to go 3 hourly between feeds. To be honest, I felt exasperated. Her advice seemed to go against everything that I had read. Yet she wasn’t the sort of midwife that you would argue with (especially when it was your first child). I just wanted someone to help me and my baby and she was very clear that she was the professional and that it was advisable to follow her guidance.

So I followed her instructions and what do you know - my baby continued to fail to gain weight at the desired rate. At 4 weeks old my baby was admitted to hospital. Her eventual diagnosis was Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease.

The switch to formula

By this time, quite frankly, I was done in. Concerned about my baby, confused by the conflicting advice offered by so many people (one paediatric nurse told me ‘a mars bar is a good way to boost your milk supply’ without even finding out whether I had a problem with my milk supply – I knew I didn’t as I could pump 3-4 ozs after a feed, if anything it could have been a latching issue).  I was still trying to recover my own health and at this point I decided to take their ‘advice’ and formula feed, feeling that this would solve all our ‘issues’.

Recognising my mistake

As I began to feel healthier and stronger, I came to resent the fact that I had stopped breastfeeding. Feeding my baby naturally was something I had badly wanted to do and I was disappointed that I had stopped so soon.


"I would never be photographed with a bottle".
I felt embarrassed that I was using formula.  There is so much information about the benefits of breastfeeding. I never EVER let anyone give my baby a bottle, not even my husband.  If I wasn’t breastfeeding her, I still wanted to be the sole source of nourishment in her eyes.  I followed all the steps you would when breastfeeding, eye contact, talking etc.  We would never have a bottle ‘on the go’, it was always as intimate an experience as possible.  These small steps helped me to feel a tiny bit better.

When my daughter was 10 weeks old I spoke to my mum about how deeply disappointed I was at abandoning my breastfeeding goals, and she simply replied ‘start again then’. Quite confused by this I asked her what she meant and she said, ‘well I never really thought of it as supply and demand, more of a demand and supply’ the more you put baby to breast the more milk you will get, you could breastfeed an adopted baby if you really wanted to’.

With this in mind I began to research relactation. I ordered the WHO guide to Relactation, rented a dual breast pump from the NCT, took all pacifiers away and dug my heels in.

The relactation journey

I made an appointment to see my local doctor to discuss the possibility of using Domperidone to help kickstart the relactation process. The doctor however, basically told me not to bother as it would be far too much effort. In all honesty, this only made me more determined.

I used the breast pump every 3 hours day and night, without fail for the next  8 weeks or so, in between this I put baby to breast. My mother was totally supportive. Motivational texts would come through in the small hours of the night and she’d come and do all the ‘boring’ jobs rather than asking to cuddle the baby – giving us time to bond and feed.


Other allies in my relactation mission were – books! I found the WHO guide fantastic for gaining a full understanding of how my body was working, and ‘The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk’ was invaluable for my positioning, attachment and generally spurious queries that arose on an almost daily basis – that said, it was nothing different to the answers my mother would always give me, but I did have it to hand at 3am!

Pumping every 3 hours around the clock was hard, thankless work, however I think my determination to succeed carried me through. Once my milk was fully re-established I could leave it longer (5-6 hours) on occasion. Perhaps the hardest challenge of relactation was trying to figure out how to entertain the baby throughout my busy pumping schedule.  We’d move from room to room, sometimes in a cradle, sometimes on a play mat, always with my hanging over her chatting, pumps doing their thing.  One day, I was pumping sat in my sister’s kitchen, when a wasp started to dive bomb me, that was pretty challenging! lol.

What relactation meant to me

For me, relactation was essential to my self esteem. I went on to successfully breastfeed our daughter till she was 14 months old.


"Baby #2"
When our 2nd was born in March last year, I hooked out my 'Making More Milk' book again (for middle of the night referencing) but more importantly, I trusted myself.  We’re still breastfeeding (albeit it only once a day) now. He is 19 months old.

The relactation experience gave me such an understanding of breastfeeding that I encountered no problems with feeding my son – this time I finally had the experience I had anticipated (but not had) with my first child. The whole journey was a very emotional time for me and it made me very determined to become a breastfeeding counsellor once both my children are at school, so I can devote some time to providing others with the knowledge and support that I feel I didn’t get.

People who sabotage

Writing this story has encouraged me to reflect upon my experience, and in particular, the people I encountered (midwives, inlaws, doctors) who sabotaged my breastfeeding efforts. I’ve come to think that some people feel disappointed by their own breastfeeding experiences and perhaps don’t want to see others succeed at something they feel they didn’t succeed at/ missed out on. I felt such disappointment, but I didn’t turn this powerful emotion onto other people. Instead, I used it for positive means - to drive my relactation mission.

Message to formula feeding mothers

My message to formula feeding mums that are unhappy is – you can change, if you want to! I didn’t even know about relactation until my mother mentioned it. On balance, it was surprisingly easy, just time and commitment.  I think it’s important to look closely at the reasons why you are unhappy formula feeding.  I knew that if I didn’t do something about it, it would ‘stay’ with me for the rest of my life. In fact, I did hypnobirthing for my 2nd baby and breastfeeding was one of the points I took hypnosis for, recounting my experience first time round still reduced me to tears 3 years on. It meant that much to me.”


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Finally, An Effective Gadget to Measure Breast Milk Supply


Many mothers the world over are concerned that their breast milk supply is inadequate. This anxiety leads to most of them abandoning breastfeeding earlier than they had planned. There is thus a large gap in the market for a gadget which can effectively and reliably measure breast milk production. I am pleased to reveal that I have discovered a device that meets these specifications, and has additional advantages!

The device is quite small, and thus portable. It can be strapped to the mother for hands-free usage or placed on the mother’s lap. While switched on, the device emits audio cues which indicate that milk is due to be tested. The device then follows a simple user-friendly test procedure: the unit attaches directly to the mothers breast producing a vacuum effect. This has been scientifically proven to extract milk more efficiently to a higher quantity than any other product to date, even surpassing hospital-grade breast pumps.  There is no need to use any additional attachments or aids such as rubber shields, flanges, shells or teats. The device can even be programmed to test larger quantities of milk over a period of time. One of the unique selling points of this product is that it has pre-installed motor and sensory applications including visual sensors, auditory sensors and olfactory sensors which provide a multi-faceted user experience. When not in use, the device has a sleep mode (however admittedly, in new devices this can be temperamental). Importantly, the device features a discrete feedback port which produces an accurate and user-friendly reading of milk production. The device is environmentally friendly and, with gentle maintenance, will provide the user with years of satisfaction. For illustrative purposes, here is a prototype diagram:

Click image for a larger view

A New Gadget to Undermine Breastfeeding

A man called Pete Hunt has created a 'Breastfeeding Volume Monitor' which he is showcasing at a forthcoming design convention. The gadget is a...

"new and exciting product, which measures how much milk a baby is consuming during breastfeeding to give the mother peace of mind and ensure that they have a healthy feeding baby. The device gives real time feedback of how much a baby is consuming without interfering with the breastfeeding, so therefore action can be taken before the baby becomes ill, saving the baby’s health, medical costs and easing the parents’ anxieties" (Press release).

The device has a rubber panel that attaches to the mother's breast. This is then attached to a circuit board with a digital display.

More images here.

My thoughts on this contraption? You don't need to be hooked up like C-3PO to know how much your baby is consuming. Diaper output and infant alertness are adequate gauges. I fear this device, whilst arguably well-intentioned, will provide more interference than it does assistance. It creates a barrier in the same way that a nipple shield does and so will restrict the flow of milk, causing baby to consume less than they would otherwise. Yet no doubt it will be spouted as ‘essential kit for breastfeeding mothers’ and purchased by preggos in their droves.

Furthermore, being a man-made device, it will be prone to malfunctioning, which will create false panic in mothers triggering them to abandon breastfeeding much earlier than they would have otherwise. Not to mention the fact that babies naturally consume different amounts at each feeding. Yet if the device is well received by medical professionals, it could become a diagnostic device pushed onto mothers during home visits and clinics.

The device reminds me of SIDS breathing monitors, which I examined here. These have a sensor pad that sits under the mattress of a baby’s crib to detect movement when the baby breathes, akin to the rubber sensor pad on this breastfeeding monitor. There is no evidence to show that such devices offer reassurance. In fact, they may only serve to increase parents’ worries because of the many inevitable false alarms. Bear in mind that breathing monitors do not prevent SIDS. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths says that it is far better to know and practice preventative methods for dealing with SIDS than to rely on electronic monitors. Likewise, this ‘breastfeeding volume monitor’ will not correct any problems, latching or otherwise. Ironically, it is likely to create them.

My final conclusion:

This gadget contributes to the unfortunate modern obsession with intervention and measurement exacerbating the myth that women’s bodies are prone to fail. It is an attempt to cash in on mothers’ good intentions and insecurities. It turns what should be a relaxing, sensual and intimate interaction between mother and baby into a clinical test.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding After Breast Trauma

Many women’s breasts have endured a battle or two, whether as the recipient of an excited baby’s kick, manhandling by midwifes, over-enthusiastic ‘admiration’ by menfolk, or even a stubborn handbag strap. Most of the time, these everyday jolts have zero impact on the breast’s ability to lactate. However, occasionally trauma to the breast can injure tissue, potentially interfering with milk drainage and even production.

You are about to read the story of one new mother that experienced injury to her breasts well before her baby was born. Little did she know that this accident would come back to haunt her. By reading her story, you will gain valuable insight into the warning-signs indicating that previous breast trauma may have future consequences.


“We planned to have a natural childbirth and breastfeed. However planning and doing are not always the same thing, as I came to find out.

At the start of my pregnancy I was in a car accident. A woman was on her phone while speeding and had hit me head on. The seatbelt was so tight that it created huge bruised sections of my breasts. I was unaware at the time what a huge impact this relatively minor accident would come to have.

Distressing Birth

We opted to induce labor because my son’s positioning was cutting off circulation to my legs and they were turning blue regularly. At almost two weeks past due he was making no plans to come out on his own. I wanted a natural birth and figured I could accomplish that at least partly with an induction.

All I can remember about the second half of labor was passing out after every contraction and waking up only to scream in pain. It was horrible. My poor husband was nearly in tears and my mother was nervously watching the monitors as I became tachycardic.

When I was told to push I was giving it everything I had but it wasn't good enough. I pushed for almost four hours straight. The final few minutes were so scary. The doctors and nurses got suddenly very scary looks on their faces. One nurse started pushing on my stomach, nearly standing on me. Another took my right leg and laid it flat back while one more did the same on my left. I heard the doctor yelling "call the NICU!" repeatedly. My mother moved back as they kept yelling for me to "push with everything you have".

Finally, our son was born, measuring 23” long and weighing a massive 10lb 8 oz. He was so large that he got stuck (Shoulder Dystocia) and broke his collarbone on his way out. Our plan of having him laid on my chest and being able to breastfeed him right away was stalled by tests. He was taken by the infant care unit and they placed a line in his arm for an IV and he was given a long list of tests to make sure he hadn't been injured further. He was beautiful and I was barely conscious. I couldn't even swallow sips of water without choking because I was so exhausted.

I was given antibiotics because I was group B strep positive. I wish the nurses had not done this, for reasons that will become apparent, but it was considered mandatory routine. All pregnant women at our hospital are tested for Group B strep at 38 weeks. A positive result, which is according to them one in three women, are given a mandatory IV of antibiotics. I did not want it and protested but was told it was mandatory.

With time I regained some strength and was excited to finally have my son with me and thought that we would just breastfeed naturally. After all, I was built to do this so how hard could it be? Well, as they say, nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Coerced Supplementation


As my son was so large and I was so weak I was told that I needed to supplement. I fought it but the lactation consultant was not in that day and I had to go off the advice of the nurse who was all too happy to give my son the free formula. I cried when they told me to supplement. I had come prepared with nursing tops, breast pads, and the attitude that my child would keep his 'virgin gut' and get nothing but the best. The nurses said they understood my worries but that because my son was so big I wouldn't be able to feed him exclusively. I knew he was large but did he really need 3 ounce formula servings? According to the nurse he did. So, we supplemented. The nurse brought me a pump to try to stimulate my milk coming in but we didn't make nearly as much as he was drinking. It was depressing. I spiralled into the baby blues quickly. I felt inadequate and underprepared for motherhood. After we were discharged I wanted so desperately to never see a bottle again but he was so hungry and the milk wasn't coming in fast enough. Had I known to just put him to the breast so I could build my supply we might have had more success sooner.

Feeding my son formula was a disaster. The milk gave him gas and bloated him. He was extra irritable. Not knowing any better, we just assumed this was normal. It wasn't...

Latching Issues

Latching difficulties began early on. My son was so eager for food that he latched hard and it was extremely painful. I kept seeing the consultant and it wasn't until my mother-in-law commented on my husband being a tongue tied baby that I realized our baby had the same problem. From there we had to find a doctor to clip it for us. When he opened his mouth it was so very obvious. The very tip of his tongue was attached and when he cried out it curled up on both sides making a V.

Since breastfeeding is not the norm in America, the doctors are no longer looking for tongue tied infants so he was overlooked. We spent 3 weeks trying to get it fixed. For something so simple, it was extremely complicated. We went to our doctor first who then called the lactation consultant. Our consultant verified it and then we had to search for a doctor in our practice that had clipped a tie previously. None had. Not a single one. It was a total shock. My husband had been tongue tied and his mother had taken him to the doctor where they clipped it immediately, not an issue. We were eventually sent to the maxillofacial surgery section of our hospital where they had to find someone who could do it. By the rules of the hospital, the doctor had to sedate our son to do it but because of his age, we had to have him monitored for 24 hours before and after sedation for safety. So, to clip his tongue we needed to spend 48 hours in the hospital for a 10 second snip. Absurd. We argued that this was irrational and the doctor agreed. He said that he would ask around and came back with the solution that he would consider it a "pathology sample" and a teaching tool to get around the red tape. So we came back and there was a room full of doctors and nurses who watched and took notes on how to clip the frenulum. If it wasn't such a pathetic statement about modern medicine it would have been comical. I once again felt helpless and defeated.

To complicate matters, feeding was so difficult that he was being bottle fed more than breast fed so my supply wasn't where it should have been. It took weeks to make up for lost time.

Burning Thrush


To add to the list of 'what else can possibly go wrong now', I got thrush. Bad thrush. I had to diagnose it myself and fight for it to be taken seriously. I had cracks on my nipples that were painful, deep and everywhere. Half of the latches would result in my baby having a mouthful of blood. The other half I just closed my eyes and prayed for the feeding to be over. I felt like I lived in fear of feeding my son. I was taking Percocet to deal with the pain because it was so bad. We had been given antibiotics in the hospital when he was born and that had depleted our systems, causing the thrush.

To treat the thrush, they gave me more antibiotics, creams and drops for his mouth. 3 weeks consisting of 2 rounds of the treatment and no change. It was excruciating. I didn't want to shower because the water stabbed my chest, I wanted nothing to touch me. I was also feeling deep pains in my breasts once he started feeding and these lasted until up to two hours after feeding. Since my son feeds often and for long periods, the pain became a round the clock event. I became deeply depressed. That is when I decided that if I could just make it to 6 months, I could stop there. I was determined not to quit. My husband's mother breastfed him until 3 1/2 so I had a good role model and she had sent me a copy of "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" which I read cover to cover three times during all of this. I still use it as a reference guide.

I did hours of research online regarding thrush and found that a simple over the counter dye could treat it. Why had I not heard of this? Why had my doctors and lactation consultant not heard of this? The answer was very simple. There is no money to be had by drug companies when people can fix their own problems. I bought a bottle of Gentian Violet online and used it. Within 24 hours, the latch pain was over. The burning was over. The only thing left was deep throbbing pain.

My lactation consultant, who I was seeing every single week and calling constantly was a gem. She was determined to help me through it all. She had asked me how committed I was and wouldn't quit looking for answers to my questions. At this point, we pretty much already had a Bingo. I had survived:


  • supplementation by the hospital staff,
  • bad latches,
  • thrush,
  • mastitis,
  • a plugged duct (from my baby being so large that the chest carrier was pushing down and plugging things),
  • peer pressure from unhelpful friends and family who said it wasn't worth all the hassle and another who said that breastfeeding "wasn't normal. That is why we have formula so we don't have to be so stuck in old ways.
  • one inverted nipple (ouch!)
  • difficult birth and large size
  • tongue tie and incompetent medical staff
  • and an unknown deep throbbing persistent pain


Public Breastfeeding Raised Eyebrows


Because we live in the South some people on the streets are very against feeding in public. I sat in my car once with a cover over my son and had to hear women outside my car saying that it wasn't descent. I was horrified. It was my first time feeding him outside the comfort of our own home. To add to the mental pain, I was still dealing with the physical so it was what almost ended it. That was the day that I found The Alpha Parent and I decided to keep up with it and surround myself with positive role models and support.

When the pain wouldn't leave, my lactation consultant started asking to do a series of tests. I was supposed to look at the nipple and watch for color changes. I had to try feeding after warming my breasts and after cooling them off. She then asked if I had ever had trauma to the breasts. I told her about the car accident. She had figured out the last barrier....Raynaud's.

Raynaud's Phenomenon


What in the heck is Raynaud's Phenomenon? My doctor asked the same thing. Not a single doctor at my hospital had heard of it for breastfeeding. The lactation consultant we had been seeing said that she had only ever heard of one case of it before and had to print journal studies out for our medical staff to read through. The car accident severely damaged the breast tissue and I was to need blood pressure medicine to act as a vasodilator to stop the pain. Whenever it gets even a bit chilly the whole area shuts down and the pain starts. To counter this, the vasodilator keeps the veins open and the pain stays away. I was put on the smallest dose and eventually worked up to the maximum dosage 4 times a day. Additionally I have to keep warm. Anytime it gets cold the pain comes back, the nipple goes bright white and the breast starts to turn blue and white. With the warm weather it is not so bad but once the cold air hits it is a downhill slide. I took to heating rice filled bags to lay over myself during feedings to ensure warmth.

So, it ends there right? I fixed the thrush, the Raynaud's and all the other supply and pain issues. It can't get any worse from there.
Wrong. What is life without a little adventure?

Allergy


Through an elimination diet and the guidance of our doctors, we have discovered that my son has multiple protein intolerance (The official diagnosed is FPIES ‘Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome’). For me that means that I literally cannot bottle feed him. There is even a lab created formula that is supposed to be free of milk proteins but it is still made from cow's milk. Since he does not have the enzymes to digest animal proteins, casein, dairy and soy in all forms I am his only way to get nutrition for a long time. We had to remove almost all food from our home and start from scratch. On the list of offending foods is turkey, chicken, eggs, beef, all dairy products, all soy products, pea products, and peanuts.

My son was born a vegetarian which would not be a problem since I am an avid gardener but as I’m his food supply I have to follow his diet. So for now I have a strict diet of no processed food whatsoever.  No dairy, no meat, no vegetable oil (soybean derived), no beans, no peanuts (soy family), and no eating out at all. My diet is a complete 180 from what it used to be. Imagine going to the grocery store. Before I would walk the aisles and pick out groceries and snacks. Now, I read every label looking for hidden dangers. Food, once my friend, is now my son's enemy. I have reduced the grocery store to one section: the fresh veg. Even the bread aisle is off limits because soy flour sneaks into everything. Soy hides everywhere. Milk hides everywhere. I can no longer eat out. If I can't read the label or trust that vegetable oil isn't being used to grease the pan, I can't eat it. I end up with a plain chopped salad, no dressing and veg on top. That gets old quick. If I cheat on my strict diet, my son pays for it in horrible gas, bloating, bleeding intestines, irritability and weeks of diarrhoea. I just cannot do that to my sweet child just because I want a cheeseburger.

The pediatric allergist said one of the two factors contributing to this (luck of the genes being the first) was the antibiotics at birth and again to treat the thrush. Had we not been forced to have the antibiotics this might not have happened. I wish I could go back and talk to the nurses that forced an IV on our precious newborn baby. She thought she was doing best but really she set him up for failure, and our family will be fighting through this until he is 5 or 6.

Solid food introduction was put off until he turned 1 to help him from going into shock if an offending food enters his system. This meant that I exclusively breastfed him for 12 months. I am grateful that I didn't quit breastfeeding because clearly my son needs what only my milk can provide.

Is it worth it?


Absolutely. I have zero reservations about making a sacrifice for my son that will ultimately lead to a longer life for the whole family. For me, breastfeeding is important because it is a gift for both of us. Not only is it the best health for him, but it is also great for me. I enjoy how it has made my body bounce back quicker, how it gives me a closer bond with my son and how it nourishes both of our souls. It is something that can not be bottled, replicated or sold by anyone. For me, there is no other way to raise a child. It is not easy, it can be downright painful and hard at times but it is worth every milk blister, crack, swollen and tender breast and hiccup along the way.

Do I miss ice cream, the option of free time and nights out with a babysitter feeding my little guy....not as much as I value the gift I am giving to him. I know, without a doubt, that I am doing the best possible thing that I can possibly do for my child. I am giving him the gift of a future that is limitless because he has a start that can't be bottled.

Mothers Who Don’t Breastfeed...

I feel bad for mothers who don't make an attempt to breastfeed. They miss out on the bond, the health benefits and the freedom it offers. I don't have the stress of walking around with coolers or timing when the milk will be too contaminated to keep using. I have the freedom to just be a mother to my child and have food on demand. I met a woman who was changing her little one in a room with a few women breastfeeding. She was clearly feeling guilt about propping the bottle up into the face of her baby girl so she stated "I tried breastfeeding but I didn't make enough milk." I wanted to laugh because she had just told me her girl was only 3 weeks old. At that moment I realized that she simply didn't want to breastfeed. I thought about telling her all about how she could easily re-lactate at this point but I realized it would be falling on deaf ears.”


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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Emperor Moth’s Secret: What It Can Teach Us about Childbirth and Breastfeeding



I want to share with you a fascinating and empowering story of nature. You are about to discover the emperor moth’s secret...


One day a biologist found the cocoon of an emperor moth and took it into his lab for study. It sat on his lab table for quite a while. Finally the cocoon began to tremble as the moth made its efforts to get out into the world.


The scientist noticed that the cocoon was shaped like a bottle, wide at the bottom but very narrow at the top. The top was made of a concrete-like substance. The scientist thought, ‘There's no way the moth will make it through that hard material’. He watched anxiously as the tiny head chewed its way into the light of the laboratory. The moth struggled and struggled, seemingly getting nowhere. Its body was simply too large to fit through the tiny hole in the cocoon. The moth looked tired and laid its head to rest on the shell of the cocoon. The scientist decided to help the moth out. So he took a tiny pair of scissors and carefully cut through the hard concrete-like material, opening the cocoon at the top.

Soon, the moth popped out effortlessly. The scientist waited for the moth to spread its beautiful wings and show its charming colors. But nothing happened. The moth fell from the cocoon badly deformed, with a huge body and very tiny wings. It soon died, unable to lift itself off the ground.

The scientist began to read about the emperor moth, trying to figure out what had happened. And then he discovered the answer. It seems there is a purpose for the moth's cocoon being shaped the way it is. In order for the moth to fit itself through the narrow neck of the cocoon, it must streamline its body. The fluids in its body are squeezed into the wings, which make them large and the body small. When it finally emerges into the world, the emperor moth is a creature unsurpassed in beauty.

The scientist realized that by trying to spare the moth what he considered unnecessary hardship, he had actually done it a disservice.


There are a couple of lessons to be learnt here. Sometimes what seems like a struggle is indeed creating improvement, and sometimes what might appear as a helpful intervention is only making matters worse. These lessons can be applied to maternity. A mother's contact with a physician often causes more harm than good, which in turn means, paradoxically, that the mother needs the physician more.

In a medical system that claims authority over women’s bodies, the fact that a woman has the capacity to grow and birth and nourish a child without intervention is the preverbal elephant in the (delivery) room. The profession of obstetrics and gynecology, particularly in fully developed countries, is based on the notion that reproductive health is very fragile, with the need to intervene frequently. The fact that pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are normal, healthy processes is rarely acknowledged.

Inductions, assisted deliveries, elective c-sections, test weighing, growth charts  - all of these feed the interventionist paradigm. They work against the concept that women’s bodies generally work very well, and instead feed into the notion that we must develop interventions to prevent disasters.

The moral of the story? Have confidence and faith in your amazing body, follow your instincts in pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. Allow your body and your baby to do exactly what they know to do.


Let Go and Let Nature!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding with Large Nipples

When a mother is blessed with nipples the size of dinner plates, can this interfere with her baby's dining experience? Indeed it can. Very large nipples can make it hard for the baby to get enough of the areola into his mouth to compress the milk ducts and get enough milk. Fortunately, the latch for babies of mothers with very large nipples will improve with time as the baby grows. However it can take several weeks to get the baby to latch well. In the meantime, if your baby is losing weight and you're being bullied by relatives and health professionals, how's a mom to preserve her sanity as well as her breastfeeding relationship? This is the story of one anxious new mother. Her breastfeeding journey was so stressful that she ended up collapsing and being sent to hospital. If this story had a soundtrack it would surely be the Queen song 'Under Pressure', thankfully followed by their other great hit 'Don't Stop Me Now'.


“From the start, my parents didn't support my breastfeeding efforts. My mother had breastfed me for 11 weeks and then she thought her milk had dried up. I had started losing weight at that age, so she stopped abruptly. At that point her milk came in abundance, but she didn't try to breastfeed me again, for she liked the fact that she could now see how much cc I was getting . When I was pregnant she had very old fashioned ideas about breastfeeding, as well as my father. They wanted me to harden my nipples with hard towels and icecubes. I did try the icecubes, but only a couple of times before I found out it was bad for your nippels and ultimately bad for your breastfeeding success. 

I tried to counter-act my parents negative influence by gaining as much knowledge as I possibly could. I attended prenatal courses, I went to breastfeeding classes and I read numerous books on the subject. My husband advised against searching on internet, for there would be lots of contradicting information, so I didn’t use that medium unfortunately. With the information I did have I wrote a detailed birth-plan, which I gave to the doctors at hospital. I had lots of complications during pregnancy, so I had to deliver my baby in hospital (which isn’t standard here in the Netherlands). 

My birth-plan was mainly around breastfeeding. For example I didn’t want any drugs or pain relief, I wanted my baby on my stomach for at least an hour after birth and I didn’t want the staff to give formula. These requests were uncommon, for I had pregnancy diabetes. But I knew my baby was fine, because I discovered it when I was 24 weeks along (considered early). Since that time I stopped eating sugar and lower my carbs, so the sugar level of my blood was always within limits. Furthermore every other week during my check-ups I received an ultrasound and my baby was always of average size. He never did get an explosive growth, common for babies with mothers with diabetes. So I wasn’t afraid of a hypo. The gynecologist agreed, so I felt good about the forthcoming delivery. 

Delivery day


The day came and we drove to hospital. But when we arrived it was really hard to convince the staff that my baby didn’t need a check-up from the pediatrician right after birth, although our gynecologist didn’t only agree, he had looked it up and discussed it with my diabetes doctor and was convinced it was best for my baby to be with me right after birth. But the hospital staff needed to consult it with him, even though he had written a consent form. Arguing my case whilst in labor was very stressful. In the end they agreed to let the baby stay with me for an hour, but no longer than that. Then my husband could hold him and dress him and bring him to the pediatrician for a check-up. 

Within 4 hours of arriving at hospital and being in labour for only 6 hours, it was time to push. My contractions and my pushes were so violent that our little guy’s heartbeat dropped to an alarming level. The gynecologist came in and said he had to help the delivery by using a pump. So my little one came to this world with a headache. For all the information I had consumed, I’d never read anything about that being a hurdle to breastfeeding. However the reality is that it would take an average of 2 days longer for my milk to come in. As it turned out later, the books I’d read, advised to me by my breastfeeding class-instructor were seriously out of date and at least 20 years old, riddled with false assumptions. 

Should it hurt?

As I lay with my baby, the nurse told me that he seemed to be latched on. I asked her if it was supposed to hurt. She said that it almost always hurt in the beginning. The next ‘feeds’ hurt even more and I didn’t think my baby was latched on properly or getting anything. I didn’t see or hear him swallow; it looked more like a nibble to me. But what did I know? He was so tired after the traumatic delivery that he slept a lot, so the nurse said that he must be getting something or else he wouldn’t be this satisfied. 

Meanwhile the staff tried to convince me to give him formula because of the diabetes. I refused, and consequently I had to stay in hospital for another 24 hours so that my baby’s sugar level could be checked every 3 hours. All the results came back perfect. Phew.

Latch issues

That night another nurse reluctantly stayed with me when I tried out different positions to nurse. She didn’t watch me feed and her advice was beyond questionable. She said that if you feed in a laying down position where you and your baby both lay on your side, your baby was supposed to suck on the upper breast so to speak. This didn't work at all and for a long time I believed I could only feed sitting up as these were the only 2 positions she discussed with me. 


Luckily there was a better nurse in the morning shift. She saw that my baby actually hadn’t latched on properly yet, just as I had thought. He didn’t have the right technique - he tried to push his tongue over my nipple, slipped off a lot and just found a place to suck, just right of my nipple, where there was now a big blister. Ouch! With her help my baby finally latched on and I immediately felt the difference. But latching on was difficult. It took me 20 minutes to get him properly latched on. By that time he was so tired, he didn’t drink very long before he let go again. We both didn’t have the right technique figured out yet, but despite this we were told was time to go home after just 24 hours in hospital. 

Harrowing home visits

We phoned maternity care and they promised to have someone at our house before we would arrive there, as is normal in the Netherlands. Every woman has the right to a nurse a couple of hours per day for the first 8 days after birth to help learn how to take care of the baby or help out around the house. She arrived 4 hours late and was not in a good mood. She was supposed to help me through the weekend with my breastfeeding problems and even though it was her job, she was upset to have been called and have her plans disrupted. She noticed our poor latching technique and my now split nipples, but couldn’t help. I told her that my nipples were flat and asked if it mattered. She said it shouldn’t. My baby was so hungry that he slept for 20 minutes, took 20 minutes to finally latch on, tried to nurse for 20 minutes, was too tired and then sleep for another 20 minutes. And this went on day and night. By the time I laid him down and had fallen asleep, he was up and ready again. 

The maternity care nurse told me my breasts must be empty and I shouldn’t feed my baby so often because my breasts needed rest, time to heal and time to fill up again for a couple of hours. My commitment to feeding on demand was ignored. By this point I was so insecure as a mother that I believed her! I didn’t know that breasts are constantly making milk. In retrospect, I realize this was really bad advice in general, but especially for a mother like me, who had large flat nipples. By the time I was ‘allowed’ to feed, my breasts looked like balloons, completely round, and my baby had an even harder time latching on to them! The nurse also told me to start using nipple shields, but I duly did. However my large nipples kept scraping up and down the shield. Consequently my pain increased tenfold. I promptly stopped using them, against her advice.  

I must admit that I thought about quitting many times. Especially after 'professionals' told me that I would fail. They were supposed to know and had lots of experience. One reason I didn't stop was that I was terrified of SIDS and I knew one could reduce the chances by breastfeeding. And that's the only thing that kept me going in the beginning. I knew that if I would quit I could never forgive myself if something would happen to our baby. I asked the nurse how much chance there was for babies to die of SIDS. She said that it didn't matter.

It was now Saturday night and my poor little baby kept crying. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to feed him, but nothing seemed to work. Worst of all I heard his stomach grumbling. I felt like a failure of a mum and cried along with him. Because the nurse had told me to leave my breasts alone for a couple of hours after every feed, I thought that my breasts were empty and didn’t know what to do but hold my crying hungry baby. Thinking about that night still makes me cry even now, and feel like the worst mother in the world.


The nurse came back in the morning and in tears I told her about my baby’s hunger. She criticised me for not having formula as a backup. She also told me of her worries about my baby’s weight. At this point he’d lost almost 20% of his birthweight! Yet this was the first time she had mentioned it. She’d never shared her worries before, so this was the first I’d heard about it. I felt terribly guilty. Why had I been so obsessed with breastfeeding? I had let my baby starve! 

The nurse also told me that the baby had lost so much weight because of all the visitors we’d had. So we were not allowed to have any visitors for at least week, to give my baby a rest. My husband and I were in shock. What had we done to our child? Looking back this comment was appalling, for only our parents, my brother and my husband’s sister had seen our baby at this point, and not even all at once.

A midwife came to perform a check up. She was concerned as well, but much sweeter about it. She saw my breasts and they were a mess: bloody, split, awful. The nurse told her and me that she thought breastfeeding wasn’t an option for me, that I should start to formula feed. The midwife, after seeing my nipples (they were the worst she had ever seen apparently) and seeing the weight of my son, agreed. I told them that I really wanted to breastfeed and asked if there wasn’t another option for me. The midwife said that I could try pumping my milk after every feed and to top up with formula. They provided a handpump for me and told me to only feed or pump during day hours, “so I could give my breasts a rest at night”. They also provided formula, which they gave to my husband to feed. In my weak state I still asked if this could cause nipple confusion and diminish my chances of getting to breastfeed my baby. They both told me that “nipple confusion is a myth” and the nurse repeatedly said she believed I should give up on the breastfeeding thing altogether as clearly I would fail anyway.

Bullying grandparents

My parents instructed me to feed on schedule as my mother had done. Every 3 to 4 hours. I told them that it was better to feed on demand, but they didn't listen. They would ask how many times I was feeding and told me it wasn't normal and that this was the reason I had slipped into a dark state, why my baby didn't sleep through the night, why I was tired, and so on. 


Meanwhile I felt terrible about the formula. I cried whenever my husband fed our baby. That should have been me, with my breasts! I cried even more whenever I got downstairs to nurse my child and discovered that the nurse had beaten me to it. There was a stranger feeding my child. I started pumping and I could only pump 3 cc left and 6 cc right. My nurse told me it should have been 40cc by now, because it was the fourth day. So I felt even more guilty. My breasts must have been empty, my poor baby! I was so stressed that sometimes I couldn’t pump anything at all. Not knowing that pumping is a really bad indicator of how much milk your baby gets straight from the breast.

On Monday another nurse came to visit. Because of our poor technique the tops of my nipples now had literally come off. So the new nurse told me that I shouldn’t even try to put my baby to the breast anymore. I asked them about my production. If I didn’t put baby to the breast, how was I supposed to get my milk started? The doctor prescribed oxytocin. I was to use it every time right before pumping to make letdown easier. The nurse advised that I buy an electric double pump.

I started to pump day as well as night, against their advice. Here I had the same problem as with the nipple shields. My nipples were too big even for the largest flange, so it hurt, but I was determined to breastfeed. Afraid they might forbid me to pump and that they would force to completely formula feed, I didn’t mention the pain to anyone.

The new nurse gave my child the bottle as well. I told her that I didn’t like it, that I wanted to be the one to feed my baby, even though I couldn’t give my own milk all the time, and that I especially wanted to be the one to give my son my pumped milk. I wanted him to know that that taste and smell belonged to me, his mother. She told me that giving a bottle was the highlight of her work and that I shouldn’t be so emotional about it. She said I was being ridiculous, and asked how I thought children got fed in daycare. I told her that I was to be a stay at home mum. But this didn’t get through to her. 

I missed nursing my child so much. I cried every day, every hour, every feeding time. And felt like a terrible mum. I thought my baby must be so confused, maybe he didn’t even realize that I was his mother with this nurse feeding him all the time. I certainly didn’t feel like much of a mum. After 5 days I begged in tears to please let me put my baby to the breast again. Imagine how low my self-esteem as a mother was at this point, to think it necessary to have approval from a maternity care nurse, before making a decision which benefited my child. The first time that little body was on top of mine again, searching for my breast and successfully doing as nature intended I sobbed. I hadn’t felt this happy and emotional in a good way since the birth.

Sent back to hospital

Having a baby is the best thing that happened to me and made me realize how fragile life is. At night I kept checking that he was still breathing. When he was quiet I was scared, but even when he made a sound I was scared as well. I hadn’t slept at all since the birth. Meanwhile my baby kept losing weight, even though he was topped off with formula. I was absolutely exhausted, sad and frightened, and I couldn’t think straight anymore. I even fainted. At that point my doctor sent my baby and me back to hospital. He was worried about us both. He advised me to think about stopping breastfeeding, for it was such an ordeal for me. But breastfeeding was the only thing at this point that I felt remotely good about. I really believe it saved me from even deeper postnatal depression. 

In hospital I finally got a nurse who had breastfed herself! And she was able to help my baby to use a better technique and teach me how I could tell when my son had a poor latch. She also spotted the beginning of mastitis and helped me get rid of it before it got worse. 

Unfortunately she wasn’t there all of the time. There was one nurse who said I was to feed my baby for 30 minutes every 3 hours. When I mentioned that I was feeding on demand, she simply asserted that baby’s need structure. At this point it still took 10 minutes to get him to latch on, so he’d have only 20 minutes to feed according to the hospital rules. At home he easily took an hour, sometimes an hour and a half each feed. I also had found out that if I changed my son’s diaper after one breast, he was awake enough to be able drink the other as well. But here I was not allowed to do that. My baby was being weighed before and after every feed to find out how much he’d gotten and how much formula he ‘needed’. This nurse came in exactly 30 minutes later, took my child away from me and left me to pump alone. But I couldn’t pump without my baby. I was down to 3cc and 6cc again or even nothing, if I couldn’t see, hear, smell or feel my baby. If he was with me I could pump 50cc in total after every feed. I told the nurse that this wasn’t working for me or my baby, but she wouldn’t listen. My baby was still topped up with formula if he didn’t weigh enough or couldn’t get enough pumped milk to top up with. And because he didn’t drink long enough, he wasn’t gaining enough and because the nurse took him with her and left me to pump by myself, I wasn’t able to pump enough, so he started to get more and more formula. 

In tears I told my husband the next day that this particular nurse wouldn’t listen to me and was standing in the way of our recovery. Fortunately my husband got angry and spoke to her. She told him I was to recover as well as our baby, so I needed my sleep (which indeed I desperately needed, but I needed my baby even more) and she didn’t have the time to weigh our son before and after a diaper change in addition to weighing him before and after a feed. My husband arranged that he was to take over a part of the night-shift, so he could weigh our son 4 times each feed; he’d change the diaper in between breasts and he gave the bottle of pumped milk to our son in my room, so I was able to see, hear and smell our boy while I pumped. Fortunately in a couple of days my son was only getting my milk and formula was no longer necessary!

However he was still being taken away from me at nighttime and I wasn’t allowed to cuddle him much during the day either. It broke my heart. I wanted my baby near me and I still felt he couldn’t possibly know who his mother was, for other woman held him more than I was allowed to. I’d asked several nurses to bring my baby to me. As I had a very low hb level, for I still was losing a lot of blood, I wasn’t able to walk, let alone carry my baby myself. At last I found a nurse who saw that a mother should be with her child and she brought him to me every day. 

It wasn’t until this point that my production finally kicked in and soon there was no need for bottles any more. I was over the moon. As my hb levels were reaching the norm as well, we were finally released and ready to go home. Funny enough, my boy never again so much as touched a bottle or pacifier again! I believe he just naturally knew what was best for him and never wanted anything else again.

At last I was able to breastfeed my baby, but it was far from ideal. It still hurt at lot, so much that I dreaded the moment my son would wake up and need another feed. I used to have tears in my eyes all the time and sometimes I wasn’t able to withhold a yelp of pain. But I was too afraid to ask for help at this point. Afraid someone might say I needed to stop breastfeeding all together. So I bit my lip and kept going. 

Lactation consultant with a hidden agenda

After 6 weeks my husband called a lactation consultant. We drove to see her, so she could check if my son was properly latched on. She said he did have a funny way, but she couldn’t find anything particularly wrong with his latch. Since his lower lip was curled around my breast, it was just 'his style' and that there was nothing she or anyone else could or should do about it. He didn’t have a tongue-tie and milk was coming, so that was that. She said she was an expert on breastfeeding and had helped lots of new mothers in her years as a nurse. She'd never mentioned that she herself never successfully breastfed her own children and that she never even took a breastfeeding course as a nurse.  To her credit though, she recognized that my nipples were in such a state, so bad as she had never witnessed before, what with the tops being sucked off altogether and the wounds constantly reopening every feed and bleeding. She advised me to use ‘Mother Mates’, to heal the wounds on my nipples. Mother Mates are silicone gel pads, with a substance in them. This substance is also used in hospitals, it is designed to make wounds heal faster. You use them in between feeds and you have to wash your breasts before each feed with warm water.

The mothermates helped, I must admit. My nipples did heal with them and it did relieve some of my pain. But it took another 10 weeks before breastfeeding was pain free and another 3 months after that before it became easy and enjoyable. Then when my son got his upper front teeth it started to hurt again! As I later found out, my son might not have had a tongue-tie, but he did have a severe lip-tie. This prevented him from properly curling his upper lip around my large nipple. He sucks a part inwards, so to speak. Why hadn’t the lactation consultant looked into that? She must have had the knowledge? And with hindsight it was quite easy to detect. This probably caused his latching problems in the beginning and my production problems too! On the upside: now I know what to look for if we are blessed enough to have more children.

Family dismay at extended breastfeeding

Even though at 6 months there were no longer any technical problems with breastfeeding, the hurdles were far from over. At this point my family and friends started to question why I wasn’t stopping and just giving ‘normal’ milk. I thought they must have lost their minds! After all the trouble I had been through it was finally easy to feed and these people wanted me to stop?! There was not a hair on my head thinking about that. When I started, I never imagined to feed past 8 months, for that was the longest anyone in my family had given bf. I just didn’t have the experience that one could feed after that. When the time came though, I was determined to carry on. My in-laws found me very selfish. How were they able to babysit for a full day, if my son was on the breast? How was he to sleep over? 

Tricked into early solids


In the Netherlands there is an organization called the Consultation Bureau. This bureau keeps an eye on the development of your child until the age of 4. You see the nurses and doctors who work there frequently and they weigh and measure your child and ask questions, give simple tasks to your child, etc. What I am about to say still makes me feel utterly ashamed of myself. The CB nurse told me that my baby needed to be fed fruit or porridge from the age of 4 months onwards. Even though I never heard of the virgin gut at this point, I didn’t feel right about it and so didn’t start to give the prescribed porridge until my son was 5 months old. I still feel so guilty about giving him solids before 6 months. 

At 6 months old my boy had had an explosive growth in weight. The nurses asked me how many feeds I was still giving him. I told them truthfully I was at about 7 feeds a day. They told me that this was abnormal and was the reason for his weight gain. They instructed that I should reduce the feeds to 3 or a maximum of 4 a day or my son would become too heavy. Naturally I wanted what was best for my baby and since I had nobody to compare this information with, as everyone I knew just gave formula, I thought this must be normal and I started to reduce the feeds. How foolish I had been! I should have been more observant, mindful and responsible. Even more so when I found out, when my boy was 8 months old that the baby porridge prescribed contains formula! When I found out I was horrified and stopped immediately. I had been very clear to the bureau that I didn’t want my baby to have another drop of formula after our rough beginning and I had trusted these professionals. I felt betrayed and like a terrible mother. How could I have been so naive! From this moment onwards I started to read as much information I could find on the subject of breastfeeding - on the internet. I found out that it is not normal to reduce feeds, that a baby is very capable of deciding for himself when to reduce feeds. I started to feed on demand again and was able to increase my production. 

Interestingly from the minute my son ate the porridge containing formula he gained a lot of weight very quickly. At 8 months he was really chubby. When I stopped the porridge, but increased the feeds again, his weight centile slowly dropped to match his length again. Personally I feel that this cannot be a coincidence no matter what my doctor says about it. Now I was finally feeding my son as intended by mother nature. We both enjoyed it at last. Whenever I did have questions I was now a member of a breastfeeding forum online, which was a relief. I should have sought out more help a lot sooner, but unfortunately I can’t go back. 

Incest jibes

When my son reached the age of 1 there was a renewed flow of critique that I was still breastfeeding him. My parents couldn’t believe I was still feeding my son more times per day than my mum ever did with me. As he was “no longer a baby” a lot of people found it strange to keep nursing him. Even the ‘professionals’ at the bureau were no longer pro-bf. There was one nurse with the nerve to tell me that I really should start reducing my feeds, for when my boy turned 1 she thought breastfeeding was turning into incest!! But at this point I had learned that none of the so-called experts there had successfully breastfed their children, so I just discarded this advice and keep breastfeeding as I felt was right, natural and logical. 

Today, despite my problems, or perhaps because of them, I am determined and extremely motivated to continue breastfeeding. My parents advise me to stop every month or so. My mother is envious that I still feed my son when she 'couldn't' bf me. Yet nothing will keep me from reaching the WHO goal of 2 years. Nothing except my son that is, who is the one to choose when our breastfeeding-period will end. He is 17 months old and still wants at least 7 feeds a day, so luckily I don’t see that day coming any time soon. Secretly I hope it will take at least another year or more. And if I’ll ever have another baby, I now know what to do, what to look for and first and foremost what not to do!

I really feel sorry for the mums who have never breastfed their babies. It is such a unique experience, it gives such joy and is such an act of love, I wish every woman could experience that! And I feel sorry for the babies as well.”



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