Breast Feeding and Baby Wearing

This is the true story of one breastfeeding mum, who would prefer to remain anonymous. As you read this, please bear in mind that breastfeeding is not always as difficult as is presented here, but that if you are having any concerns about breastfeeding you should contact the people who know – breastfeeding counselors – as soon as possible. From my experience, and the experience of my friends, there is no question too silly or problem too big for them to listen to and talk through with you.

Having read about the benefits of breastfeeding, I decided, before my son was born, that I wanted to breastfeeding. After a difficult labor, ending in an emergency cesarean with complications for my baby I was determined to breastfeeding; feeling I had failed at childbirth, I was going to give my son the best start possible.

Although Samuel had his first feed on the trolley as we went from the recovery room to the observation ward, breastfeeding did not start well for us. I was more miserable than I had ever been before, abandoned in the dark as my partner was sent home (My cesarean was in the middle of the night), unable to move because I was terrified of disturbing the catheter or the drip, unable to see Samuel, although he was next to me, and, because I was in the observation ward, trying not to disturb the other mums. Samuel was sleepy through the first day because he had been given a painkiller; and when we were moved to another more empty ward, the temperature was far too high, making him even sleepier (I was only told that the room was too hot and that he would feed better if the window was opened and he was stripped down to her nappy a day later).

When Samuel hadn’t fed much during the first day, the nurses said that he would have to have a formula. I was told that if he didn’t feed he would get jaundice and be taken to the special care baby unit. I asked if I could express some milk, and said that I didn’t want Samuel fed by the bottle because of the risk of nipple confusion. This is when my maternity book had the entry ‘mother adamant she wants to breastfeed’ written in it.

It made me feel as though I was being difficult. The nurse who came to help me express seemed embarrassed by my breasts – I wasn’t, but then after labor and the internal examinations, having my boobs out really wasn’t a big deal. She seemed eager to get it over and done with, and after I had expressed 7 MLS (from one breast) she said that that was all we would get – even though I was willing to carry on trying. To my shame, the nurse said that, because according to her chart Samuel needed 20 MLS of milk, he would have to have the rest as a formula. I now know that colostrums is much more calorie-laden than formula, and so the amount quoted really wasn’t relevant.

Things got a bit better after that, especially as I kept putting Samuel to the breast at almost every opportunity.
When I came out of hospital, we started having problems again. I hadn’t been aware of how frequently Samuel was asking for a feed in the hospital, but at home my mother in law, who was helping me because of the cesarean) made sure that I knew how often he was feeding; normally with the really helpful comment of ‘it can’t be normal to want to feed that often’.

In the middle of the night, I would get desperate to satisfy my baby, and didn’t know-how. He dropped 10% of his birth weight before starting to put on again, which is actually fairly normal, but I didn’t know that at the time. Because Samuel was born early he didn’t have very much fat to start with, and relative and friends kept commenting on how thin his arms and legs were.

A friend took me to the Breastfeeding drop-in session at the local doctor’s surgery, and I got advice on how Samuel was latching on / how to make it more effective, but being a self-reliant person, I couldn’t admit how I was feeling and all my worries.

When Samuel was a month old, my partner had to move away with his job, leaving alone from Monday to Friday. My only social contact was a friend with 3 young children – Thank goodness she was supportive and had breastfed all her children some successfully some not so good so she understood how I was feeling Without her support I think I might have gone mad under the pressure to increase Samuel weight – Mostly from my mother in law, who meant well, but thought that 3 or 4 ounces a week just wasn’t enough. I tried leaving Samuel with my mother in law while I went to some shopping; having fed her first and only being gone for 45 minutes. While I was gone, she was given a bottle of the formula. I couldn’t trust anyone to look after Samuel, so I didn’t have any time to myself.

The Breastfeeding advisors suggested expressing after every feed and giving the expressed milk to Samuel after the next feed – we tried this for a month, but he didn’t gain weight any faster. Every weighs in would end with me being phoned by my mother and sister in law to see what the gain was, and to add their 2 cents worth as to what I should do. My sister in law had relented to the pressure my mother in law put on her and mixed breast and formula feeding for her son, and didn’t understand why I didn’t want to do the same.

I tried leaving Samuel with my mum while some other relatives were visiting, but the bottle of formula was being stuffed in his mouth as I walked back down the drive – They hadn’t wanted me to be upset by hearing him cry! By now I almost certainly had undiagnosed postnatal depression; bought on by being so isolated and by the constant pressure to give Samuel formula milk and being told all the time I was a bad and uncaring mother for continuing to breastfeeding. I tried everything to increase his weight gain – Skin to skin contact, milk supply boosters, extra expressing sessions, but Samuel’s weight gain stayed at the same, fairly constant, rate.

Samuel had fallen below the chart, and I was referred to the doctor; the Health Visitors weren’t particularly worried as he was far too active and alert to be a failure to thrive baby, but because the guidelines said that really we should have been referred to the pediatrician, they wanted the doctor to check Samuel’s progress.

Samuel performed well in all the reflex tests and other checks that the doctor did,and the doctor said something that I should have realized before. Samuel’s dad is a small chap, and always has been, and he was just following in daddy’s footsteps! I am very grateful to the doctor for pointing that out, and for looking at Samuel as a whole baby, not just a weight measurement.

At just over 6 months, Samuel was showing signs of being ready to try solids, so I gave him some baby rice with expressed milk, and he loved it! I was so pleased that my baby was growing up that I rang my mother and mother in law to tell them. This was a big mistake. The replies were that it was nice that he was taking the baby rice, but he needed something more than that, and that because I was insisting on breastfeeding he was malnourished!
My mother in law was accusing me of deliberately harming my own child, just because I was – I don’t know, being selfish?

Our relationship has never been the same since. Samuel’s weight gain increased to about 5 ozs a week after I introduced solids, with some weeks recording record gains of 11 oz, others (when he had a cold for example) only gaining an ounce or two.

However, a couple of non-baby related things happened, and I got worse, and finally admitted that I had postnatal depression and contacted the GP about it.