Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding despite hospital interventions

Parents and physicians alike are torn on the issue of how, and indeed if, hospital interventions have a detrimental impact upon maternal and child welfare. Medical procedures, for instance, labor inductions, epidurals and circumcisions, as well as the introduction of man-made devices such as nipple shields and bottles of formula, have all been linked to breastfeeding failure. They certainly didn’t help this week’s mom, Rebecca, on her quest for success. Indeed, opposers of home births would be wise to read the following story. Whilst it certainly does not reflect all cases, Rebecca’s story illustrates how the hospital environment and its inhabitants, often work together to undermine a mother’s breastfeeding efforts.

“I'm lucky that in my circle of friends and acquaintances, there are dozens of mothers who have nursed their babies.  When I was pregnant, I'd see my friends nursing their babies, and I assumed that of course I would breastfeed, that's just what people do!  I was breastfed until I self-weaned, my husband and his siblings were all breastfed.  Because I saw it all around me, I assumed that it was simple and easy, and I blissfully ignored any suggestions that I needed to prepare to breastfeed.  I also blissfully sailed towards my due date with the assumption that I'd be able to have a natural childbirth without preparation because I had a positive attitude.  Please, have a good laugh on me! I've had two miscarriages that passed naturally, so in my mind I already knew what contractions would feel like, but of course contractions with an 8 and a half pound baby are a little different than a 10 week fetus.  Adding insult to injury, I voluntarily chose to be induced, not having any clue how that would affect the labor process or my baby.  So here's what happened...

Induction followed by epidural

My induction started off with pitocin - very medical, no stripping of membranes, just an IV of pitocin. Within a handful of hours I was on the full dose of pitocin without my body taking the hint to get into labor.  I was having contractions but they weren't productive. Within 12 hours, the nurse broke my water, and then the contractions became far more painful than I was prepared for (obviously, since I hadn't prepared).  I was also shocked at the quantity of amniotic fluid and the continuous gushing, so I didn't want to bounce on the birthing ball or walk around.  I opted for an epidural.  

For the next several hours I laid there, pitocin pumping through me, feeling very little pain, and not progressing.  About 12 hours after they had broken my water, I was only at 6 cm dilated.  I was told that if I didn't progress within a few more hours, I'd need a C-section.  I went for it.  (Side note--- next time I'm pregnant I am absolutely preparing, working with my doctor in advance, taking classes, and having a VBAC.  I could kick myself for how ignorant I was throughout this process)


During the C-section, because of some scar tissue in my uterus from a previous surgery (that corrected the problem that caused the miscarriages), my placenta was stuck and had to be hacked up to be removed.  I lost a lot of blood - apparently I was right on the threshold of receiving a transfusion, but thankfully didn't get one and recovered relatively quickly in that regard.  

Here I was, fresh out of major abdominal surgery, weak from having lost a lot of blood, and for 24 hours I'd been pumped full of pitocin, followed by an epidural and whatever pain control they used for the C-section. Of course my baby therefore had all of these drugs in his system as well.  

Unresponsive nipples, unresponsive baby

I had a friend with me who was in training to be a doula, and she tried to help latch the baby on since I could barely move.  But with all that medication in me, my nipples wouldn't harden at all, and the baby was too zoned to try anyway.  


We planned to have him circumcised at the hospital, which was done the next morning without pain relief. My son’s discomfort added to his lack of motivation to nurse. I was told he'd be extra sleepy as his body responded to the circumcision procedure. It was probably a good 48 hours before he realized he was hungry and could bring himself to eat.  Despite me placing him to the breast every few hours as instructed, he hadn't been interested for two days. 

I gave birth at a pro-breastfeeding hospital, so all the nurses are trained to encourage breastfeeding, and there are lactation consultants on rounds every day.  On my first day following his birth I actually turned the LC away, since my baby wasn't interested in nursing, I figured I didn't need her help!  I can be so dense!

Misinterpreting hunger cues

Throughout my 4 days at the hospital, I discovered that when he did become hungry, it appeared to happen very suddenly. He'd stick his tongue in and out, but I didn't know that was a hunger cue, so we'd be admiring this silly cute face he was making and then wham! - we were into purple face screaming hardcore crying.  By this point, he was so agitated that if I couldn't latch him in a few minutes he'd wear himself out screaming and fall asleep. 


To aggravate matters, there was a hospital policy which required parents to have the baby in the nursery overnight. Staff would bring the baby back to your room when the baby wakes to eat.  So again, by the time my son was returned to my room during the night, he'd be screaming hungry and unable to nurse.

Nipple shield

We had three more chances with the lactation consultant, and she spent an hour with us each day.  My nipples still wouldn't harden. Combine this with the fact that my nursing breasts are a G cup, and it was hard for my baby’s tiny newborn mouth to open wide enough. So the LC suggested that I started out using a nipple shield, which I promptly did.  

A few of the nurses at the hospital tried to be helpful but weren't - they'd give advice that contradicted the LC, or they'd just reach over and touch my boobs while I was trying to latch the baby, without asking if I wanted that kind of help.

Positioning juggling act

Also because of my C-section we were limited to the football hold.  I felt like I needed four arms to successfully nurse.  In order to get my son to latch, each time, we'd need one hand tweaking my nipples or holding on the shield, one hand bringing his head to my breast, one hand holding my breast (G cups) so it was flat enough for him to get his mouth around it, AND another hand dripping formula or expressed colostrum on his lips/my nipple to help him make the connection between nursing and food.  

Formula supplementation

Without the help of the lactation consultant, in our 4 day hospital stay, my son only successfully nursed once.  Due to ‘excessive’ weight loss, I OK'ed him getting formula twice in the hospital. My son was born at 8 lbs 8 oz, and was 7 lbs 11 oz after three days, but then didn't lose any weight from day 3 to day 4 in the hospital. It doesn't really sound excessive looking back.

Family and friends

I healed so quickly from my C-section that we were told we could leave a day early, but I was reluctant to do so because I felt unable to breastfeed. I felt unprepared and scared and even hopeless. Yet we were told to leave the following day. 

Once we got home, I was at the point of a mental breakdown.  I was utterly exhausted and scared and felt like a failure.  Thank goodness my mom was in town - she had been discouraged from breastfeeding with my oldest brother and gave in to current medical "wisdom" of the day (back in the early 70s), only to become a La Leche League leader later that decade, and fed me expressed breastmilk from a spoon when I wouldn't latch properly, vs giving me formula.  But I wasn't ready to listen to my mom, surprise surprise.  I started texting all of my mom friends with babies, saying how hard the breastfeeding was, and basically I was just waiting for ONE person to tell me I should give up and go with formula.  I just wanted one person to tell me that my situation sounded abnormally difficult, but none did (thank you, good friends!!!)  

In fact one mom, who herself had a 6 week old and 3 older kids, called me in response to my text.  She stayed on the phone with me while I sobbed, and told me how hard it was with her first, and how she fixed her attitude on breastfeeding success, and how she basically resolved to stay in bed with the baby all week while other people handled the house and food for her.  After that conversation, my mother insisted I have a drink (like, an alcoholic one, to CHILL THE HECK OUT), and insisted on giving the baby one more formula feeding so I could get enough sleep to recharge my batteries, and we'd start fresh the next day.

Honeymooning with baby

And we did.  I kept the baby in bed with me, and I rested, and I offered him the breast, and told him that was his only option for food.  Those first several days, there was a lot of screaming and difficulty latching, but each day he'd have a few successful feedings, enough that I knew he wouldn't starve. 

Between trying to latch him, and pumping after a failed attempt, I estimated that 12 hours of every 24 were spent on feeding-related activities.  I also developed a shockingly awful rash from the Boppy pillow.  This is actually embarrassing:  the Boppy was a hand me down from a family I know and trust.  It was the ONE hand me down I didn't remove the cover from and wash, I just got lazy.  I realized afterwards, it had been in storage in their attic.  I had been using the boppy while wearing nothing but underwear, and the rash began everywhere the boppy had been touching my skin.  I'd been laying a blanket over it where the baby was touching it, so thankfully he wasn't affected. The rash took a month to go away, and spread all over my stomach, lower back, butt, my entire legs, feet, etc.  So when I wasn't nursing or pumping, I was rubbing ice and creams all over myself, trying not to scratch.  Or, scratching anyway.  The doctor said that because I was recovering from surgery, my immune system was likely unable to fight off what otherwise might have been just a minor issue.

Thank goodness for my mom being in town, helping out.  She'd literally put food in my mouth while I was nursing so I could rest when the baby rested.  My nipples were, of course, really sore as I was adjusting to all this, and nursing was painful.  I assumed that was par for the course.  

Infected nipples

Finally at my 6 weeks postpartum checkup, the doctor said my nipples looked irritated (ya think?!) Turns out they were riddled with thrush and other infections. The doctor gave me a prescription for a topical cream which helped. I began taking probiotics and using the cream, and about a month later I no longer had pain nursing.

Within a few weeks of his birth, my baby was latching consistently without the nipple shield. He is now 11 months old, and we're still breastfeeding.  I originally hoped to manage even for just 6 months.  Then 6 months came and went and I said I'd breastfeed to a year.  Now that we're planning his first birthday party, I can't imagine why I'd stop breastfeeding as long as he's into it!!  

My husband had his doubts about whether we'd succeed at breastfeeding and was worried about the baby getting enough to eat initially. However he wisely kept his mouth shut and only admitted this weeks later when we were well-established. I even managed to donate several gallons of my pumped milk to a mother with an adopted infant, and a mother with twins who couldn't make enough milk.

When I find out that acquaintances are pregnant, in addition to congratulating them, I encourage them to seek out information BEFORE the baby is born, and to take classes on breastfeeding.  I wish when I was pregnant I'd seen as many messages about preparing to breastfeed as I saw formula advertisements.  The idea in society seems to be that feeding your baby should be easy. Nobody talks openly about it being difficult. This is particularly bad in light of the lack of common knowledge that formula is so inferior to breast milk.”

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Dear formula industry: an ultimatum

If I were given the opportunity to speak to formula industry representatives, this is what I would say...

It seems to me that your choices are clear, if not particularly palatable:

  • You could continue operating under your own special brand of denial, dragging your corporate feet for, at most, the next 15 to 20 years while doing your best to slow the slide in sales of your myriad infant-formula products, which are intended for routine nonemergency use, by seeking to subvert the switch to more and longer breastfeeding (indeed, given the principles traditionally governing profit-making, this is what you’d be expected to do); or you could defy tradition by preparing for changed consumer behavior resulting from increasing society-wide awareness of breastfeeding’s essential nurturing and nutritional role. Or...

  • You could demonstrate yet again that you’re really not interested in what breastfeeding proponents have to say, only in working as close as possible to the margins of enforced regulations; that you have no intention of accepting the prospect of less profit without a fight; and that, instead, you will continue pushing for as much profit as possible today and adapt only at the last moment to changes in market conditions tomorrow; or you could reconsider your position in the cold light of that fabled sine qua non of commercial acumen – a hard-nosed assessment based on enlightened self-interest. Or...

  • You could willfully stay behind the curve, continuing merrily doing whatever you manage to get away with in terms of what today’s market will bear, only having to scramble, in tomorrow’s, to cope with the inevitable shift in consumer demand resulting from a breastfeeding counterrevolution (due primarily to increased prevalence and duration of breastfeeding, but also including multiplication of non-profit human-milk banks in high-, middle- and low-income countries) to meet mushrooming special-needs demand, for example to feed preterm and low-birth-weight babies and those abandoned or orphaned due to HIV/AIDS); or you could opt to move ahead of the curve by preparing for tomorrow when at least a few of your products will still be needed, albeit in significantly reduced quantity and frequency. 

As there really is no place for routine non-emergency artificial feeding, any attempt to compete with Mother Nature by seeking to diminish her market share in favor of a synthetic substitute is intrinsically unethical.

Breastfeeding and breast milk are ideas whose time has returned. As an industry, you habitually pride yourselves as being at the vanguard in terms of anticipating and responding rapidly to consumer needs. Here’s your chance to prove it by jumping in today on the right side of history. How cool is that?

But I’m not exactly holding my breath. As I said earlier, given the principles traditionally governing profit-making, putting the interests of mothers and children first is not at all what you’d be expected to do spontaneously. Please note: Whatever you decide, you will henceforth no longer be able to say that you were never warned about the consequences if you don’t.

This century belongs to breastfeeding!

James Akre prepared this post for The Alpha Parent. It is adapted from his book "The problem with breastfeeding. A personal reflection" (Hale Publishing, 2006). As founder, chairman and CEO of the International Breastfeeding Support Collective, James focuses on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for feeding infants and young children, and on pathways for returning breastfeeding to the realm of the ho-hum ordinary everywhere. He is a member of the editorial board of the International Breastfeeding Journal and of the Scientific Advisory Committee of La Leche League France, and past member of the board of directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The royal baby is here! Trot out the bottles!

Oreo is known for hijacking the issue of infant feeding for marketing purposes (remember their breastfeeding ad?) So now that Kate has dispelled the new heir to the British throne, Oreo thought they'd have another bash at the topic. However, this time the assumption is that the new prince will be bottle-fed (a bizarre assumption considering the royal family's track record of breastfeeding).

Featuring a milk bottle and Oreo cookie atop a stately cushion, the timely campaign was tweeted out with the message 'Prepare the royal bottle service!' as soon as the news of the baby's birth broke.

Then there is this 'subtle' affair from tea company Twinings:

Notice it's a wee newborn-sized bottle! No shame. Perhaps they should have just gone the whole way and filled the ruddy thing with tea! It's a mere step from nutritionally-inferior powdered cow's milk.

The influx of royal baby bottle ads is a stark reminder (if we ever needed another one) that our culture is well and truly bottle-centric. Facepalm. Headdesk. Eyes to the ceiling.

Triumphant Tuesday: breastfeeding with just one breast

Most women notice a difference between their breasts when it comes to the flow of milk, volume of milk pumped and size. This is normal; no two sides of a person's body are exactly the same. However sometimes, a baby’s preference can lead to nursing from one side only, leaving the neglected breast to dry up and shrink in size.

Many factors can lead to baby making this decision: differences in nipple shape, breast surgery, even differences in the taste of breast milk. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be an issue with mom’s breasts. In the story you are about to read, baby experienced birth trauma which made it excruciately painful for her to nurse on one of her mother’s breasts. Yet, as her story illustrates, it is perfectly feasible to breastfeed from just one breast. Baby will still receive all the nourishment they need, although mom may need to deal with a few inconvenient anomalies, for instance, the illustrious ‘Crooked Chachas’.

“When I got pregnant with my daughter I knew I would be breastfeeding, nothing was going to stop me! I felt that as a mother my body was made to provide this gift to my daughter and not giving her that gift would be selfish and uncaring of me. 

C-section with botched pain relief

At 42 weeks on the day I was schedule to be induced, I went into labor. After 36hrs in the hospital I was only dilated to 7cm. I remember telling the nurse I could feel the baby way up in my ribs, which she dismissed. Also dismissed was the fact that my epidural was not working. I remember the sound of the baby’s heart monitor beeping and the nurses trying to flip me over because they had given me way to much of the epidural and pretty much paralyzed one side of my body while the other felt everything.  Nothing the doctors tried was bringing her heart rate back up. I was rushed in to the operating room for an emergency c-section.  To this day I still get chills talking about this, but I remember screaming in horror as they were cutting me open as I could feel it all. A mask went onto my face and that was that. I woke up in a room all alone, no baby, no family, nothing.

Baby harmed by medical staff

 As if this wasn't traumatising enough, when I finally got to see my baby they had cut her face. I remember her crying she was hungry so I asked the nurse to show me how to breastfeed. I was only 20 and had no clue what I was doing but wanted so very much to breastfeed. The nurse told me she would be back to show me, 20 minutes later my baby is still crying. So I decided I would just try, she latched on like a champ, as if she had been breastfeeding forever. She just knew what to do! 

However, when I switched her to the left side she would scream and scream. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. It was really frustrating. I didn’t understand why she could latch on and do so well on the right side and then scream bloody murder every time I tried to feed her on the left side. My mom told the nurses that something must be wrong with my baby, and they just dismissed it. They said they examined her previously and everything checked out fine. 

The next morning I was changing my daughter’s shirt and her right arm was black and blue. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Only now did the medical staff finally concede that something was wrong. They did an xray and the results showed that her humorous was broken, which happens to be the hardest bone in a baby’s body to break.  I asked the doctor what had happened, and she told me they had to get her out, it was a broken arm or a dead baby. I was still determined to breast feed no matter what.

No pacifiers!

One day I returned to my hospital room to find my baby with a pink pacifier in her mouth! I was so mad, I ripped that sucker right out of her mouth and she never had one again. I was pretty much the only person in my community who had a baby that was breastfed. Everyone else used formula. As much as I don’t like formula - I hate pacifiers even more. I think they are for lazy parents who don't want to soothe their crying baby. I’ve always been a very opinionated person and pretty much speak my mind. So all of my family and my friends knew that I would not be formula feeding or using pacifiers. My opinions really pissed off my friends, probably because I said they were lame and lazy for using them.

Finally, it was time to be discharged from the hospital. I was filling out the paper work when a duty nurse saw the state of my baby’s arm and asked me, "What happened, who did this to your baby?" I was so mad, she made me feel like because I was so young I must have snapped and hurt my baby! I lost it and yelled and her.

Deciding to use only one breast

Every time I tried to feed her on the left side she would just scream and scream. I felt so cruel, so I stopped feeding her on that side. I tried to pump to keep the milk supply but I couldn't get much out on that side so I gave up.  Instead I focused on the right breast, the one she preferred. I fed her whenever she wanted, and when she wasn't feeding I pumped. It was a lot easier to get milk out of that side then the left. 

Let me tell you, this sucked! My nipple would crack and bleed and crack and bleed. Then there was the lopsided factor, which made me feel a little insecure. It was a huge visual difference so I started stuffing the right side of my bra when I went out in public! I just folded up some ankle socks and stuck them in there. Worses still, the lopsidedness caused back pain. 

Also, the aftermath of my c-section was proving problematic for breastfeeding. I was literally opened from hip to hip during the operation. I could not believe how long of a cut they had to make to get my daughter out. This made it really hard for me to get up and down. But to me it was all worth it. I knew I was doing what was best for my daughter so that made all the pain and discomfort bearable.  

I fed my daughter on one breast exclusivity for 12 months until I introduced solid foods and then continued another 8 months during bed and nap times, or when she needed some mommy time. I got mastitis and thrush a few times, but there wasn't really any challenges that ever would have made me not want to breastfeed.

I truly believe that breast feeding can be done no matter what! It takes extreme dedication in some cases and that is too much for some mothers. I don't buy the whole 'I can't produce enough milk' bull-crap! My one breast produced enough milk to exclusively feed my daughter for 12 months! You can say I'm lucky I was able to do this, but it has nothing to do with luck. Only determination and the fact I refused to feed my daughter formula!” 

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Dear governments: stop procrastinating over breastfeeding

If I were in a position to speak to the world’s governments, this is what I would say:

As guarantors of the welfare of your citizens, you of course will want to move beyond reciting pious breast-is-best slogans and adopting, through your international organizations, still more resolutions, declarations, strategies and plans of action that essentially reiterate what has already been said over and over for the last 30 years. You of course will want to concentrate your energy and resources on implementing, systematically and fully, those remarkably sound and comprehensive consensus instruments that are already on the table (the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, for example). And as you know, the scientific and epidemiological evidence on which these instruments are so firmly based is both unassailable and expanding daily.

The welfare of your citizens is at this price, and the health of your economies depends on it much more than you probably know. Just ask your health economists to take a wide-ranging and comprehensive look at the question. Focusing narrowly for a moment to make the point: We’re not just talking about less diarrhea and respiratory tract infection here; we’re also looking at significantly higher scores for cognitive development. Brains are forever! Be honest now. What do you suppose is the cumulative worth, over a lifetime, of 5 to 10 points on an IQ scale for every child-citizen born within your national territory?

For governments of resource-poor countries in particular, I would like to recall why you began taking action in the 1980s to combat iodine deficiency, which is the world’s single most common cause of mental retardation and brain damage. It happened when you understood the size of this massive public health problem – with 2.2 billion people, or 38% of the world’s population, living in areas of iodine deficiency – and its implications for brain development, and therefore the educability and economic productivity of your citizens. Given the impact of faulty feeding practices on postpartum brain development, how could you possibly hesitate to take all-out action now in support of breastfeeding?

And let’s not forget breastfeeding’s role in lowering significantly the risk of morbidity and mortality among your children; and in protecting the health of your mothers, including by reducing the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging and anemia, increasing the time between pregnancies (thanks to lactational amenorrhea), reducing the overall number of pregnancies (due to a greater number of surviving children) and thereby enhancing the health and wellbeing of mothers and children alike.

By the way – and I’m addressing all governments here – have you given any thought to juxtaposing your national breastfeeding rate at six months, your infant mortality rate and your incarceration rate to see what correlations you might observe? Ironically, you may well find that, of the three datasets, breastfeeding rates at six months are the least easy to come by.

Thanks for listening.

This post was written for The Alpha Parent by James Akre. The work is adapted from his book "The problem with breastfeeding. A personal reflection" (Hale Publishing, 2006). As founder, chairman and CEO of the International Breastfeeding Support Collective, James focuses on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for feeding infants and young children, and on pathways for returning breastfeeding to the realm of the ho-hum ordinary everywhere. He is a member of the editorial board of the International Breastfeeding Journal and of the Scientific Advisory Committee of La Leche League France, and past member of the board of directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: curing oral aversion

A baby's refusal to breastfeed is an example of oral aversion. Distressing for mother and baby alike, La leche League describe an aversion as "a tendency to avoid a thing or situation and especially a usually pleasurable one because it is or has been associated with a noxious stimulation." In the breastfed baby, this behaviour can range from a mild disruption of normal feeding patterns, to complete refusal of the breast. Often it is caused by manhandling the newborn during those important moments and hours of life when they are trying to learn the art of nursing. This is exactly what happened with Cagney, who found herself mourning more than just the loss of her planned-for home birth. Cagney's breastfeeding relationship was mercilessly whipped from her by the unforgiving hands of a thoughtless lactation consultant and bureaucratic nicu staff. You are about to learn how she recovered her breast milk – and her dignity – whilst curing her daughter's oral aversion, all through the process of relactation.

Home birth disaster

I had planned for a natural non-medicated labor and birth at a nearby birth center. Everything went well until I started to push.  Salem, my little girl, did not take to that part well at all. After just a couple pushes I was told to get on my back so they could monitor the baby better. Her heart rate was going really low and not recovering well after each contraction. I remember pushing so hard and my husband desperately trying to get me to push just a little more.  Finally they realized it just wasn't going to happen, she was stuck and we needed help.  

Race to hospital

So in a snowstorm, off we went to the hospital at 5 or so in the morning.  The midwives had called for transport, but no one would answer the phone (nice, huh!), so my dad drove us.  Did I mention there was a snowstorm!!  My midwives informed me during the car ride over that this was almost certain to end in a c-section - something that I had not even considered as an option before this (BIG mistake on my part).  I tried to make peace with this fact in the car, but that peace was quickly shattered when I was wheeled in to the hospital only to have the staff argue with my midwife because they want to know who my doctor was.  I thought, for the love of God I don't have a doctor you stupid !@#@, I have a midwife.

Forceps failure
Finally they wheeled me into some room where I consented to forceps, trying to avoid the inevitable.  They offered me pain meds and I denied them, still determined to go natural. Forceps with no pain meds was not very fun and as it turns out did not do anything to help the situation. Salem made it to +3 station (whatever that means) but would not come out. They had to push her back inside me in order to do the emergency c-section. They had to knock me out completely since I did not have an epidural already placed, for which I was grateful at the time.

I finally meet my baby

Two hours later I woke up in a recover room and they wheeled a baby in.  Of course I couldn't move or sit up yet, but there was a mirror above my bed and I could see the baby through the mirror.  It was Salem. I had missed everything.  No vernix, no delayed cord clamping, no immediate skin to skin, nursing.  All gone.

Once I could move my arms, I held my baby, even though she didn't feel like mine.  I held her skin to skin and yelled at the nurse when she tried to cover us both for transfer to my room.  At that point I could have cared less who saw me naked, I didn't want a sheet over my baby!

Why it sucks to birth and breastfeed in hospital

The hospital was noisy. I was placed next to a broken machine that was beeping insanely every 5 minutes.  I was still wacked out on drugs and trying to breastfeed with no luck.  I asked for a lactation consultant several times before one finally arrived.  All she did was try to smash Salem into my breast, and barely spoke two words to me.  Not much help.  She gave me a syringe full of sugar water to "encourage the baby to suck" since Salem would latch fine, but would not nurse. Of course the nurses gave her a pacifier right off, even though it said on all our forms not to.  I had a nurse take her for "a quick test" that they said could not be performed in the room and I was physically unable to go with her.  Two hours and many phone calls later she finally returned her. 


Salem got jaundice and was put in the nicu (she was a very healthy 9 lbs).  My husband helped me get down there to feed her every 3 hours.  Breastfeeding was still not working, mostly because of the stressful environment.  I was desperate to get us out.  There was this number on a machine by her bed and I was basically told if she ate x number of ounces of formula they would lower the number.  Once the number was at zero she could leave the nicu.  The whole thing seems so ridiculous to me now, I don't know why I didn't just yell at them all and say give me my @#$! baby!
I tried to pump for her, but it's hard to pump colostrum.  The pump at the hospital was broken. It barely had any suction. I tried to get them to switch it out but was told there were no other pumps available.  So my husband purchased a double electric pump. That worked, but I wasn't prepared to pump and didn't really know what I was doing. The colostrum that I did manage to pump was literally the size of a dime.  I remember crying because I couldn't figure out how to get the colostrum from the pump into the approved container to go down to the nicu. I didn't know how long to pump for, how to get a good let down, how often to pump. I called the nurse in to help. I was in tears that I was wasting the precious colostrum I had managed to pump by trying to get it into a container. She did her best to help, but really, colostrum is all but impossible to transfer. 

I probably would have gotten my milk in a lot sooner if I had figured out how to pump more than I was.  I was hormonal and exhausted. Every two to three hours I went down to nicu to try and nurse.  The nurses always made such a fuss about drawing a curtain around me which made everything more awkward.  Who were they hiding me from?  It was just nurses and maybe one or two other parents down there.  It made me feel like I was the only one who had ever nursed in nicu, and they didn't want to see it happen. They also insisted Salem needed formula because ‘I wasn't producing anything’ and she wasn't nursing.  She would latch and just sit there.  

Home on formula

By the time we got out of the hospital, 3 days later, Salem was fully formula fed and I felt horrible.  I tried to nurse her at every feeding before the bottle, but nothing. This went on for two weeks, by which point my breasts had completely dried up.  I hated every second of formula feeding.  It was a slap in the face. I wanted so badly to breastfeed. The thought of formula just made me sick.  I hated mixing it.  It did not look like anything you would want to feed to your baby.  I felt defeated, but I was determined after everything else that had went wrong thus far that I was going to breastfeed.  We would make it work, we just had to.

Salvaging my breastfeeding relationship

I finally went to see a helpful lactation consultant. My nipples were a bit flat after birth, and I found out that it could have been from the emergency c-section and the drugs they gave me. The lactation consultant suggested that I try a nipple shield.  I bought one and she helped me use it there in her store.  It worked like a charm. I was so thrilled!  My doula warned me not to use it for too long or we'd never get rid of it.  As it turned out, I didn't need to be worried.  During the second day of use, my daughter knocked it out of my hand, latched and just started nursing like a pro!  

To get my milk back, the lactation consultant put me on a cluster schedule, so I would pump for 20 minutes, wait 15 min and pump again for 20 minutes.  Then go 3 hours and do it again.  She had me pump at least 8 to 10 times a day, plus a few at night.  I also fed on demand as much as Salem would nurse and co-slept so she could nurse through the night. It was gruelling, because I was not very mobile after my c-section.  I was trying to take care of my new baby.  I basically lived on the couch for several weeks with my pump at my side and baby on my lap.

Reducing the formula

It still took around 6-8 weeks before Salem was completely formula-free.  Some of that was due to my husband trying to help and give her bottles while I slept. However mostly it was down to my lack of confidence. I wasn't sure that I was really producing enough and wasn't confident that I could make it without the formula, however much I hated it.  We would go for a couple days without formula, and then Salem would act so hungry and my breasts felt empty (I didn't really realize they are never truly empty), that my fears would get the better of me and I would give in and supplement.

I tried to give Salem as much of the breast milk I pumped as possible, which wasn't much (2-3 ounces a day).  I would nurse her until it seemed like she was hungry and not getting enough from me.  She would cry and I would cave in and give her a bottle.  

My husband was very stressed that he couldn't "help" because he didn't have breasts. It took him a long time to be ok with the fact that she gets a lot of her comfort and food from me.  I think he still struggles with that sometimes.  While he meant all the best, he was a lot of my downfall as far as supplementation went.  On days he worked I would go all day with the breast maybe even multiple days, but when he was home and she got fussy (she wasn't a so-called ‘easy’ baby) he would offer to make a bottle, and my resolve was not always there.  I remember my husband saying things like: "you can't expect to only breastfeed her, she'll always need some formula."   He really was trying to make me feel better about having to supplement, but I think it was that moment when I finally got determined to stop supplementing - "Like hell she will!" One day I just decided Salem wasn't going to starve and I would just keep nursing her and get rid of the formula.  We never looked back.

Formula-free at last!

Salem is now 16 months and going strong. It’s still not always plain sailing. I've had mastitis a couple times, which was very painful: a very hard breast with a hot, shooting pain.  I pretty much tried all the home remedies - warm and cold compress, warm bath, pumping, breastfeeding on hands and knees.  Luckily both times, I was able to get it to go away without antibiotics.  It's not a pleasant experience, but knowing the symptoms and taking action ASAP is the best remedy. We also had a horrible episode of biting due to teething, but worked through that as well. 

I still feel racked with guilt that Salem started her life on formula.  I feel like I should have fought harder in the hospital to keep her off formula.  I wonder what effect it will have on her later in life. Yet, in the same breath, I can say that I'm so proud to have made it to this point. Moms, believe in yourself.  There are no measurements with breastfeeding, no way to say "she ate 3 ounces at 2 pm". You just have to trust that your body can do it.  Watch your baby, listen to their swallows, know that you are doing what is best for your baby. We should all have control over our own bodies. I understand that some women just do not want to, and I don't feel it is my job to pass judgement, as much as I would like to sometimes. Those formula feeders who feel like they have missed out on something, or were cheated out of breastfeeding, should relactate.  It's not an easy road, but it would be better to try then live a life of what ifs thinking about what you missed.

Thank you The Alpha Parent for inspiring women like me to continue breastfeeding even when it is not easy.”

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Dear health professional: a plea for breastfeeding

I have enormous respect for your knowledge, training and hard-won experience, but I have zero understanding or tolerance for any fence-sitting you may still be engaging in concerning breast milk and breastfeeding. If you have a cultural blind spot or two to overcome, that’s fine; go ahead and do it. After all, your health degree doesn’t make you any less a product of the larger society and culture in which you were born, came of age and were educated. But do you really think you have a valid excuse for not coming down routinely on Mother Nature’s side? If so, I wonder what it might be. It seems to me that the abundant, readily available, and overwhelmingly clear and convincing scientific and epidemiological evidence speaks for itself – and certainly a lot louder than I can.

As a group you are seen as authorities on every aspect of maternal and child care and nutrition; thus you are in a unique position to influence the organization and functioning of health services for mothers before, during and after pregnancy and delivery, which of course is what the successfully implemented Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative is all about. But health professionals who are knowledgeable about breastfeeding and motivated to promote it energetically don’t fall from the sky. Further upstream you and your professional associations and training institutions need to ensure that appropriate teaching curricula and policies are in place so that all members of all related professions are actively prepared to protect, promote and support breastfeeding as they should.

Yet, as a group or individually, you may still not be doing enough of the right things or you may even be actively doing too many of the wrong things. I’m struck by the disquieting tendency in some settings for health professionals to abstain from providing much advice, let alone a considered opinion, on feeding, as if a “whatever you think is best” approach were a satisfactory way to meet the needs of the mothers and babies you are privileged to serve. Is this linked to a misplaced desire not to offend or inflict guilt? (If so, don’t bother telling parents they shouldn’t smoke or that they should protect their children against the main childhood diseases, use an approved car-seat to transport them, and keep medicines and cleaning products out of their reach.) Or is it more an extension of the so-called politically correct or highly litigious society in which some of you find yourselves, where finally no one dares take a stand anymore on much of anything? I don’t know what the answer is or, more likely, what the answers are. But my sense is that it’s time for some plain thinking and plain talking here among health professionals – and for any stragglers to climb quickly down off the child-feeding fence directly on the side of history.

Lastly, as you strive to serve mothers and babies, perhaps you would like to reflect on the following: the possible relevance, for your attitude toward the original default food and feeding system, of what philosopher and social critic Ivan Illich had to say about experts and professionalization:

“The medical establishment has become a major threat to health. The case against expert systems like modern health care is that they can produce a damage which outweighs potential benefits; they obscure the political conditions that render society unhealthy; and they tend to expropriate the power of individuals to heal themselves and to shape their environments.”

And while I have your attention, I’d like to invite you to join me in declaring a moratorium on using the overworked, unhelpful and often misappropriated slogan “breast is best”; or perhaps we could even agree to banish it altogether from our collective vocabulary.

Thank you.

This post was written for The Alpha Parent by James Akre. The work is adapted from his book "The problem with breastfeeding. A personal reflection" (Hale Publishing, 2006). As founder, chairman and CEO of the International Breastfeeding Support Collective, James focuses on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for feeding infants and young children, and on pathways for returning breastfeeding to the realm of the ho-hum ordinary everywhere. He is a member of the editorial board of the International Breastfeeding Journal and of the Scientific Advisory Committee of La Leche League France, and past member of the board of directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding Under Medical Surveillance

In the UK there is a postpartum surveillance culture. Throughout their offspring’s early childhood, each mother (it is invariably mothers, fathers fall under the radar) is policed by a team of health professionals who are employed to monitor the adequacy of her parenting. The first year of parenthood is arguably the most scrutinised. An army of midwives and health visitors weigh and measure the child, carrying out various intellectual and physical tests and other ‘risk-assessment measures’. All of this is concealed under the guise of ‘supporting mothers’. However, as you are about to read, far from being supportive, the postpartum surveillance culture is hostile and mistrusting, particularly of breastfeeding. The following story perfectly illustrates the tragedy of this government-sanctioned invasion of privacy.

“In May 2010 my son was born, 3 weeks late due to incompetent staff at my NHS hospital. I informed them several times they had my dates wrong due to when I got my positive pregnancy test.

Disrespectful Birth

The birth was horrific and traumatic and I was treated with huge disrespect. I wasn’t allowed to position myself how I wanted and I wasn’t allowed to remain mobile. I was mistreated by the midwives who seemed to care more about birth figures and getting "it" out of me than my wellbeing and the wellbeing of my son. Because of the induction process and sheer lack of compassion, my son was very nearly killed by them. He was born, after 10 hours of bodged induction, white, freezing cold and with blue lips, blue extremities and was barely breathing. I actually thought, when an uncaring midwife 'plonked' my lifeless, barely breathing, freezing cold baby on my chest, he was dead! He didn't move, he didn't make a sound, he didn't even shiver. 

I asked a midwife if he was dead. She approached me, lifted him off my chest, still face down, listened a short while and said "Yeah, he's fine". No he bloody wasn't! Another midwife took him off me and put him under a heat lamp but she didn't tell me that and I didn't see where she put him. Talk of ICU was mentioned if he didn't 'pink up' within 20 minutes so he was placed back on me and we were covered and left alone.

At this point, my son was desperately trying to feed. I was aiding his latch with techniques I'd learnt with my 1st child who I'd breastfed for 12 months. It seemed to be working because he passed his meconium fairly quickly. For 5 or so hours he fed on and off but I felt something wasn't quite right and requested help. The response I got just angered me. I was already in a rather traumatised state but this nugget from the midwife just toppled me: "You've fed one baby" came the response and she left the room. We never saw that midwife again. My son didn't feed again for another 12 hours.

From then on, we were forgotten about. A cleaner came into to the room to clean it for the next labouring mum and was shocked to see us. We'd already been informed the hospital had no bed for me on the maternity ward and that they needed the labour suit so they were discharging me. I actually begged them not to. I knew something wasn't right and I wanted to stay close to any possible support. "No, we can't do that, we don't have a bed for you, we are over capacity". Why? Why did they induce me, put me through a traumatic birth if they were over their legal numbers? I just couldn't believe it! After being ignored for 9 hours (yes, that is 9 hours) we were finally discharged and sent on our 'merry' way. 

When we got home, all I could do was shake, cry, not eat and not sleep despite being exhausted. I was still trying to feed my boy who was now becoming quite lethargic and sleeping a lot. My instinct took over and I expressed some colostrum (which was bloody hard work) and syringed it to him. It was only a few ml but it was something and I felt I could at least try to sleep.

The First Home Visit

The next day my husband went to pick up our daughter and some food. As soon as he left, as I'd settled down to do a bit of baby-mooning I heard a loud knock at the door. Ignoring my better judgement, I answered the door. It was a community midwife who then launched into interrogation, demanding to know where my baby was. I'd left him in bed whilst I answered the door and it was where I wanted to be, not answering the door. She came in, weighed my son who thankfully hadn't lost any weight since the day before, quizzed me on my feeding and made me feel generally uncomfortable. She was insistent that I took myself to the breastfeeding support group at a children's centre at the other side of the city. I didn't feel like going after the birth I'd had and requested she send a support worker to me which she refused to do. She seemed annoyed at me for not wanting to get in my car, 2 days after giving birth and see a breastfeeding support group - a group I hasten to add, that employed mums who didn't breastfeed for longer than 6 weeks. I couldn't really see how they could help. Perhaps it appeared that the midwife was being supportive but to me it sounded like she wanted me to go so I could hear someone say "Oh you can't breastfeed but it's ok cause bottle feeding is just as good". It was certainly the tone I got from her.

By the point she left I was leaking so decided to feed my baby. There was still a problem with feeding but I didn't know what it was, I couldn't work it out. I wasn’t experiencing pain but he wasn't making the right noises. I expressed some more and syringe fed him again.

The Second Home Visit

My husband returned home and within minutes there was another knock at the door. It was another community midwife. My son had already been weighed and inspected so we didn't need to see this midwife. She wanted to come in but we insisted she left us alone. 

The whole day I was trying to feed my baby, he wasn't feeding properly still and now my husband was getting jittery as to how often I was feeding him. He said things like: "You're feeding him again?" "Does he really need to be fed again?" "I'm a little concerned at how often you are feeding him". I explained to him why but he didn't seem to understand, so I directed him to Kellymom.com to educate himself.

That night, I was restless. My baby was very sleepy, not really making any feeding queues, not producing enough wet nappies and generally not looking very well. I tried using a Supplemental Nursing System but it didn't work. My son would suck the tube but not my nipple. I phoned a breastfeeding helpline to explain this, and following their advice I used a smaller tube. He just did the same thing. We watched YouTube videos on how position the tubes, etc but to no avail. To make matters worse, I was violently allergic to the tape with left huge red blistered marks on my breasts.

The Third Home Visit

The next day the community midwife returned. Our boy had lost weight, not a lot, but enough to prompt the midwife to start pressuring us to give formula. She threatened that if I didn't do what she said, we'd end up in hospital. Basically, she wanted us to use formula so she could go to her next job and not have to worry about helping a mum breastfeed. Naturally, I refused, explained in depth why and asked her to leave. She left, unhappy with our choice and told us someone would be back the following day, the dreaded day 3! Day 3 in the UK is the day when they decide when to send to back into hospital for intervention! 

The Fourth Home Visit

Day 3 came, after a frantic night of trying to feed my boy, I was exhausted, I was emotional and my dreads were confirmed, my boy had lost 14% of his birth weight. I couldn't understand it. He was pretty much attached to me all day and all night for 2 days solid, how can he have lost 14%? The midwife examined me (my nipple was squeezed, with force, which hurt) to see if I had milk (RUDE!) I had plenty! She suggested we go to the medical center and have him weight on freshly calibrated scales. I agreed. What else could I do? 

By the time we'd got there, about an hour later and after what I thought was a decent feed (as he'd produced a good wet nappy) he'd lost another 3oz, according to the freshly calibrated scales! The call was made and we were re-admitted to hospital onto the children's ward. This is where my faith and trust in nurses and doctors dissipated completely. 

Back to Hospital

That evening we were admitted. It was suggested by the doctors that my son was ‘critical’ yet it took them 5 hours to admit us to the ward from triage! I was handed a hospital grade pump by an auxiliary nurse and was told "It's pretty much self explanatory". Was it hellers like! I didn't have a clue what the hell I was doing and because of that, I was getting zero milk out. The milk was there but the pump was too complicated to use without proper instruction. Because I wasn't getting any milk with the pump it was decided by the ignorant doctor that I wasn't producing any milk! I soon put a stop to that stupid assumption. I had had the forethought of bringing my own pump, hey presto, with my manual pump I got 20ml! We gave it to him and he seemed to rally. I continued to use my pump but after that boob busting 20ml I was only getting 10ml. Cue the nurse who bottle fed her son, didn't even bother to breastfeed (from her mouth!), coming out with this corker. "You aren't producing enough milk, he needs 3 ounce every 4 hours, by this stage you would be producing at least 5 ounce" What? Where the hell did she pluck that number! It instantly showed the level of understanding of human lactation, ZERO!!!! The doctors, the nurses and every other sodding person on that ward suddenly knew everything about lactation, when in reality, what they knew was hearsay, old wives tales, advert propaganda and lies. The little ‘information’ they knew they'd got from formula companies. 

By this point, I was pumping, with my pump 10ml every 2 hours. This was enough for my son but it wasn’t enough for the nurses and doctors. Without my consent, written, spoken or otherwise, they fed my son 3 ounce of formula. I explicitly requested they didn't! I threw all the research I could find at them as to why I would rather have donor milk if supplementation was necessary. I showed them that my milk was enough but they just did not listen at all. I have since been told by a trusted breastfeeding activist that them feeding my son formula against my wishes was actually assault. 

I continued to insistent on no bottles when feeding my expressed milk, so a midwife was sent for to show us how to cup feed. I already knew how this worked as I had been doing it at home but due to hospital protocol they had to have a midwife show us. She came, she saw, she left and she was beyond indifferent. I felt low, very, very low. I was being treated like some freak, like some nut-job, like an unstable neurotic woman. The doctors and the nurses treated me with contempt. 

Fortunately, my son gained weight so they sent us home. They didn't fix any feeding problems we had, just sent us home because he'd gained weight. So at home, I expressed a bit and cup fed and tried to feed him myself, which again, I thought was working. I didn't want to express too much because I didn't want to have an over-supply, as by this point, my milk was in with a vengeance!!! However, the boy lost weight again. He was a week old and we were being admitted back to hospital. 

Re-admitted to Hospital

Now everyone was telling me to give up and bottle feed, to just suck it up! How could they say that? Why were they saying that? I had milk and lots of it!!! If I'd have had more sense, I would have created a larger stash at home to call upon when re-admitted!

Back to hospital we went. In came pro-ff nurse (the one that told me I would be producing 5 ounce by 3 days). She had a look on her face of "I told you so" and it made me mad and even more determined. Formula again was suggested and I said, with gritted teeth and anger "Over my dead body". So they wheeled out the hospital grade pump again and left me with it! 

I ended up texting a friend and asking her for help, she lives in Essex, I live in Lincoln, that is a distance of 138 miles! I asked her how on earth this bloody pumped worked. She talked me through it, I wrote it down and then sat and began double pumping. I overflowed the bottle attached to my right breast and filled the bottle attached to my left. I went to find the smug nurse and gave it to her, then walked off! 

Every 2 hours I pumped but by 3am I was exhausted, I was trying to feed my son myself, my pumping seemed to be having the opposite effect to what we wanted and I'd gone from getting a few full bottles to not even breaching the 3 ounce mark. I felt destitute. Maybe they were right, maybe I was having lactation failure. The smug nurse came into my room because she saw my lamp on. I was sat hugging my sleeping boy and weeping. She could see I was at a low point and in a dark place, yet she decided to spew: "Come on now, this is foolish, you just need to give up this stupid quest and just bottle feed him!" There was aggression in her voice, there was condescension and an air of being fed up of this 'silly lactivist'. I put my boy down, I walked up to the nurse and I opened my mouth and began shouting at this woman! It made no odds at this point who she was because what she said was uncalled for! I shouted her out of my room and down the ward. 

The following morning, still feeling very depressed and desperate, a lactation consultant called Emily came to see me. Now I had asked, on being re-re-admitted to see an infant feeding expert/lactation consultant. They sent me the infant feeding coordinator at first, she was an idiot to put it bluntly and again had absolutely no understanding of human lactation; Emily on the other hand was my knight in shining armour. She was very well researched, very well trained and understood everything I was telling her. We established, together through feeding observation, that the problem was not me, not my milk supply, it was my boy. He couldn't coordinate his latch and suck. We decided expressing and cup feeding was the way forward and unlimited access to the breast. She spoke to the doctors and told them to back off and let me find my stride with my son. She noted that the intervention was doing more harm than good and requested I was sent home with daily monitoring. This was agreed. Hurrah! However I was discharged with 6 bottles of formula (why?). 

Once home, I pumped like mad but wasn't getting much from my manual pump. The LC rang me and suggested I hire a double pump. She ordered one to be held for me at the children's centre not too far from where I lived, it's the best £25 I’ve ever spent. 

Irritatingly, the hospital had failed to give me the excess milk I'd pumped whilst in their care so my husband had to return later that day to retrieve it. By this point, my stash at home was dwindling fast so I gave my son some of the formula I'd been given by the hospital. What a huge mistake. He grumbled and griped all night. I was in bits. I hooked myself up to the hospital grade pump and got 3oz both from both sides. It was more than what I was getting from my manual so I was pleased.

Less than 24 hours later I was pumping 8oz from the right, 7oz from the left, no way did he need all this milk so we started bagging and freezing it. When I wasn't pumping, I had him down my top kangaroo style, and to my breast. It seems all cheery now doesn't it? But it wasn't. I was still in a very dark place. I couldn't see an end to endless pumping, sterilizing, and nursing. The lack of sleep was getting to me, and I was ignoring my older child who was in fairness still a baby herself at 19.5 months. Every day I spent hours crying and wasn't eating properly. The daily hospital visits were torture. Finally, they discharged me and I was then put into the care of the local health visiting team. 

The Fifth Home Visit

This is a team I'd encountered problems with during my first child’s infancy. I was very, very reluctant to see them, but they showed up anyway and weighed my son. It wasn't even 24 hours since he'd last been weighed!

My husband had returned to work by this time as his paternity leave was over. Thankfully, my big sister was with me which was really helpful. The HV wanted to see my son feed but I insisted she just weigh him and bog off. Naturally, she wasn't happy but she weighed him and he'd gained. She hadn't been informed by the hospital of how we were feeding him so plotted him down in her notes as ‘fully formula fed’. As I was paying more attention to my baby, my sister spoke up and said "I don't think so luv!" and put her straight. 

Once the health visitor had finally left, I carried on my daily ritual of pumping, cup feeding, sterilizing, and unlimited access to the breast. We had visitors come and go and I would sit pumping in front of them because frankly, it was too much of a ball-ache to move the pump, so yes, I was sat topless, double pumping. 

The Sixth Home Visit

A few days later, the health visitor came back and weighed my son again. He'd gained weight, but the health visitor insisted I show her our feeding method. I wasn’t happy with this and tried to reject, but she was persistent. I felt stressed, I felt uncomfortable, I felt judged! Because I was tense, my son cried and it was just a disaster. I was angry. I wanted this judgemental cow out of my home. She said, "Over the weekend I want you to give him formula." I looked at her and replied "I have a freezer full of milk. I have 8 storage bottles of expressed milk in my fridge, a total of 36oz in my fridge. Why in God's name does he need formula when there is all that milk, MY milk?" She stuttered and spluttered..."Well, if he starts failing, give him formula" and again from me, more angry and annoyed now: "WHY? I have 36 ounces of MY milk, a far superior milk to formula! Why the F* would I give him Sh!t when He has the milk of God's on tap?" She looked at me blank with a shocked expression on her face. I told her to get out of my house and not to return unless she is going to support and encourage this breastfeeding relationship. I grabbed hold of her, baby in my other arm, and threw her out of my door, telling her not to come back ever again and slammed the door. I was livid! How dare she try and sabotage all my hard work? How dare she try and make me feel even more depressed than I already was!! How can these health professionals bash out the slogan 'breast is best' for 9 months during pregnancy and then switch to 'formula is just as good'?! I had spent the first 3 weeks of my son’s life crying for hours on end, crying in the shower with overwhelming despair than no mother should ever have to feel. Why it wasn't this working? Why wasn't my baby latching on and feeding like his sister did with gusto? For this health care ‘professional’ to come to my home and lie about being a breastfeeding supporter! What gave her the right?! 

The Seventh Home Visit

By week 3 of this hell, I was still pumping every 2 hours day and night. I even had avid supporters telling me it was a lost cause, suggesting that I'd done all I could, my baby just wasn't going to latch on and that I needed to switch him to formula. My heart sank, the tears streamed down my face, I sat cradling my little boy to my breast. The midwife and my sister sat entertaining my daughter when finally, after 3 long dark weeks of expressing, of tears and heartache, he latched and fed, taking his first gulp. 

I'd noticed the day before he'd been latching with his tongue to the roof of his mouth (we don't know why) so from then I'd been pressing his tongue down with my little finger on latching, it wasn't successful, or so I thought.

I turned to my sister and I said, "He's latched, he's latched and he's sucking!!! He's latched with that deep latch they're meant to have!!! HE'S LATCHED" I was overjoyed. The midwife was astounded. She had never seen a baby latch on for the first time 3 weeks post partum, mainly because no one had ever gone that far to breastfeed their baby in her midwifery career. My boy latched back on and finished his feed, rewarding us with a big burp and a full nappy. By that evening he refused his first cup feed and from that moment on, Sunday the 7th June 2010, my boy was a fully breastfed baby.

My son is now 3 and still nursing. 

I think it is a real shame that some mothers don't even bother trying to breastfeed. I don't think they realise just what they and their child are missing out on. It's not just about feeding, or bonding, it's the life-long benefits, the essential and vital nutrients that infants are missing out on that they need to thrive at an optimum level. For those mothers that quit early on, I feel sad that they didn't get the support they needed to carry on, that possible problems were ignored by HCP's, that they were possibly bullied into formula feeding without knowing the full facts. I feel angry and sad that HCP's just don't seem to care enough about breastfeeding. Giving babies formula means doctors don't have to address with feeding problems. They use it as a cure-all when it isn't, quite the contrary.

The saying goes "Not everyone wants to breastfeed" Well here's a news flash, not everyone wants to formula feed!”

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