We talk to three mums about the prob­lems they faced dur­ing their breast­feed­ing jour­neys

Little Treasures - - CON­TENTS -

So you’ve man­aged to bring a lit­tle baby into the world. the hard part done, right? If only! You’re still re­cov­er­ing from the up­heaval of labour, and sud­denly there’s a whole new feat your body must ac­com­plish. It seems like it should be easy, but for some women breast­feed­ing can be a big­ger chal­lenge than the birth. Many mums strug­gle to get their baby to latch, suf­fer from cracked and bleed­ing nip­ples, get sick with mas­ti­tis or fear that they can’t sup­ply the baby with the amount of milk he needs. And they must get to grips with th­ese things un­der huge pres­sure from hun­gry ba­bies. “Breast­feed­ing is a learned skill,” ex­plains Auck­land lac­ta­tion con­sul­tant Tr­ish Warder, “and it cer­tainly takes two of you to tango. Some moth­ers and ba­bies do have a harder road than oth­ers and it doesn’t hap­pen eas­ily for ev­ery­one.” This is con­firmed by New Zealand’s breast­feed­ing sta­tis­tics, which tell us that most mums start off breast­feed­ing and yet the rate of ex­clu­sively breast­feed­ing moth­ers drops dra­mat­i­cally over the first weeks.” Warder says there are many fac­tors that play a part in breast­feed­ing suc­cess, such as luck, a mother’s prior knowl­edge about breast­feed­ing, the birth, af­ter-birth care, fam­ily sup­port, her ex­pec­ta­tions, her health and med­i­cal con­di­tions, if there have been prob­lems with feed­ing be­fore, ba­bies with spe­cial needs (e.g. twins or pre­ma­ture ba­bies), or moth­ers with spe­cial needs (e.g. breast con­cerns). She points out that new mums are swamped with in­for­ma­tion – not all of it cor­rect or help­ful – and many moth­ers feel con­fused by con­flict­ing ad­vice. It’s hard to know who to be­lieve. Warder ad­vises that good in­for­ma­tion will come from a va­ri­ety of sources such as moth­ers who have suc­cess­fully breast­fed, La Leche League and lac­ta­tion con­sul­tants. And if there’s a prob­lem, get­ting help quickly is cru­cial. “Breasts and nip­ples are ten­der in the first days but painful feeds are

not nor­mal,” says Warder. “If the mother is in pain then it can lead to feeds be­ing cut short which means the baby and the milk pro­duc­tion may not grow.” Just as the prob­lems vary be­tween each mother and her baby, so too do the so­lu­tions. “Some of the women I meet are just too emo­tion­ally drained by the time they come to me,” says Warder. “At that point, they haven’t got the en­ergy to keep go­ing, so they wean and plan to get help next time.” Ul­ti­mately, each mother must find the best course of ac­tion for her. The fol­low­ing three mums share some of their breast­feed­ing chal­lenges and the choices they made.

Olivia had latch­ing prob­lems and an in­ad­e­quate ex­press­ing regime led to re­cur­ring mas­ti­tis I was in hospi­tal be­cause I’d had a cae­sarean and the mid­wives told me my son wasn’t latch­ing prop­erly. He didn’t seem to be get­ting any milk and just kept fall­ing asleep. I was also told I had flat nip­ples, which would make it harder for him to latch. They were get­ting raw


and blood­ied. They said Max was los­ing too much weight and then they no­ticed he wasn’t ac­tu­ally swal­low­ing when he fed. This meant my milk wasn’t re­ally com­ing in so I had to start ex­press­ing. I took fenu­greek pills, ate LSA (ground lin­seed, sun­flower seeds and al­monds) and used the pump to boost my sup­ply. When I started ex­press­ing it all seemed to go well. He was tak­ing the bot­tle, my nip­ples were heal­ing and I knew he was get­ting my breast milk. When I tried to put him back on the breast, I wor­ried how much he was get­ting and as soon as my nip­ples started hurt­ing I got scared. I de­cided to keep pump­ing and I did that three times a day. I was get­ting lots of milk so I thought that was fine but then I got mas­ti­tis. I had a fever and at first I thought it was to do with my surgery but my mid­wife di­ag­nosed it and put me on an­tibi­otics. I was in bed for two days – it re­ally knocks you back. I got over that but I just kept do­ing three pumps a day but I now know it should have been six times a day to cor­re­spond with the feeds. Two weeks later, I got it in the other breast. I had to be hand ex­pressed by the lac­ta­tion con­sul­tant for about an hour and I was nearly in tears. She did it again the next day and my hus­band had to do it for me in be­tween times so he learned a new skill! With that round of mas­ti­tis I was in bed for nearly a week. My mum came over nearly ev­ery day to help out but I re­alised I couldn’t af­ford to get it again. I also felt I wasn’t able to en­joy my baby when I was feel­ing so low so I de­cided to wean. I was happy that he would get about three months’ worth of breast milk be­cause I had lots stored in the freezer. Next time I will get help from day one.

An­ge­line’s baby had a tongue-tie and lip-tie that needed treat­ing be­fore breast­feed­ing could be­gin The first night af­ter my son was born they ended up us­ing a sy­ringe to give him the colostrum be­cause he wasn’t able to feed. Ev­ery feed took three hours and he was strug­gling and get­ting tired and stressed. The mid­wives were able to get him on the breast for a lit­tle while but then he’d nod off again. It was a con­stant cy­cle like that for three days. Ev­ery feed­ing time I was sweat­ing and cry­ing and I thought, “It’s not meant to be this way!”

It’s not a very good start be­cause you’re not en­joy­ing the baby, you’re just man­ag­ing your own pain and wor­ry­ing about him be­ing up­set. Af­ter that I started us­ing the breast pump and feed­ing him by bot­tle just to get some milk into him. He was putting ef­fort into breast­feed­ing but just not get­ting any­thing out of it. He wasn’t found to be tongue-tied at that time but I got a se­cond opin­ion and it turns out he was both tongue-tied and lip-tied, so he couldn’t move his top lip to latch on prop­erly. We got the laser cut done on his tongue and lip on day five. It’s a lit­tle bit painful for them but it’s a five-minute pro­ce­dure. Af­ter that he latched on right away. Over the last few weeks, he’s def­i­nitely im­prov­ing. I still needed help with the right po­si­tion­ing and learn­ing tech­niques to get him to open his mouth. I’m feed­ing him com­pletely by breast now and I can see things are im­prov­ing. I can un­der­stand why some women switch to for­mula, though. In those first few days, I don’t think I’d ever been so stressed. I was wor­ried I was get­ting post­na­tal de­pres­sion.i need to start back at work later in the year so I hope to breast­feed till then but I’m also tak­ing it week by week.

Adele had health prob­lems that se­verely af­fected her milk sup­ply I’ve al­ways dreamed of hav­ing kids and like any mum I dreamed of a nat­u­ral birth and be­ing able to breast­feed, but I’ve al­ways been out­side that box. Firstly, my son was IVF so we’d al­ready been on a long jour­ney to get him. Then, dur­ing preg­nancy, I de­vel­oped ges­ta­tional di­a­betes and se­vere pre-eclamp­sia. Be­cause of all this, I went into hospi­tal a few weeks prior to my cae­sarean date and at that point got re­ally sick with pneu­mo­nia. I was 34 weeks by then so they pumped me full of an­tibi­otics and did the c-sec­tion two days later. When my son was born he also had pneu­mo­nia so he was taken to NICU straight away. Be­cause he was so lit­tle, I couldn’t breast­feed. Ev­ery­thing was go­ing through a gas­tric tube. The mid­wives im­me­di­ately want breast milk from you but I think be­cause he was prem, and with the c-sec­tion as well, the hor­mones just didn’t kick in. It’s like you’re try­ing to force your body to start lac­tat­ing when you’re not ready. Then you have strangers hand-ex­press­ing you. I’ve never been shy about my body but it was still quite mor­ti­fy­ing. Even­tu­ally they got me on to a breast pump and I was do­ing that ev­ery three hours. Once the baby is well enough and has reached a cer­tain weight they get them breast­feed­ing. My son was about two weeks old when this hap­pened but he just never latched very well. We had lac­ta­tion con­sul­tants and mid­wives try­ing but he was never re­ally awake. It was a race to try and ex­press enough breast milk for the next feed and there was stress among the mums on the ward about how much they could ex­press – 10ml was like a vic­tory. We took him home at about six weeks and I per­se­vered with the breast­feed­ing. He was latch­ing but I had to use nip­ple shields to make my nip­ples small enough to go into his mouth. Then one of my breasts started to dry up. My mid­wife told me to keep try­ing on the other side but she warned me that it seemed like my body was stop­ping. I was still quite sick and with poly­cys­tic ovaries, which I have, your milk can dry up. It wasn’t that I de­cided to give up but my body de­cided for me. The first time I bought for­mula he was eight weeks old and I got a rude com­ment from some­one in the su­per­mar­ket and I left in tears. I grieved for quite a long time that I couldn’t breast­feed. It was no one’s fault, just the na­ture of the sit­u­a­tion. 

World Breast­feed­ing Week will take place on Au­gust 1-7, 2017. For more in­for­ma­tion on breast­feed­ing, visit trea­ baby/feed­ing.

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