My son was born in a country town via emergency c-section on the 8/09/2016. I initially breastfed him in recovery, and at the time, and the next 4 days in hospital I was told my latch was fine. One midwife, in trying to help me feed, shoved my son on my left breast and he bit me in surprise, causing some lasting damage and a lot of pain. Despite my good latch, and being told I was “a natural” my son lost over 10% of his body weight in hospital, and I seemed to have very little milk available. I was given drugs to increase milk supply, but was not given a repeat prescription for when we got home, nor was I told that I shouldn’t come off it quickly, but instead would need to wean very gradually. The “lactation consultant” when examining us mentioned the possibility of a tongue tie, but she never actually checked for one. She put me on the pump for over an hour when I was exhausted, and I was barely able to pump 15ml from each breast! The next midwife who came on shift convinced me to feed him formula, then insisted I got some sleep (she could see I was exhausted). The formula was a bad idea, but the sleep was much needed and I woke up with full breasts! Things seemed to take a turn for the better, and my son gained enough weight for them to let us home.
The next few weeks were a blur. I would breastfeed and then express afterwards. I was expressing 30-40ml per breast after feeding, so I thought I had plenty of milk. I came off the drugs I had been given in hospital for milk supply. My son seemed to be doing the expected number of poos and wet nappies. But gradually over the course of a few weeks he began to cry more often, and his weight gain stalled. I will never forget the home visit from the midwives where we discovered that instead of gaining he had lost weight. I realised that the crying was because he was hungry, and I felt like the worst mother in the world for not knowing that my baby was starving. Breastfeeding was also becoming increasingly painful.
We went into emergency mode. I began googling ways to increase milk supply, incorrect latch, poor milk transfer, you name it! We began topping up with stored breast milk after feeds, but that supply quickly ran out and we were forced to get some formula. I began taking herbal supplements to increase supply and began breast feeding, pumping then bottle feeding what I had pumped every two to three hours. I was severely sleep deprived, mildly depressed and very emotional. I went to get some breastfeeding help from the local child health nurse, but the “lactation consultant” there was the same lady at the hospital and she had done very little to help me and I did not trust her. The other nurse there took a look at my son, told me I was starving him (yes she used those words) despite the fact he was now being topped up with formula! She also told me that some women just can’t breastfeed and that I should probably give up on the idea. I walked out of there crying and my MIL gave me a pep talk, telling me that what that lady had said was utter nonsense! Then I got mad. I never went back there.
With all my googling I began to suspect a tongue tie and my suspicions were confirmed by a mother at a playgroup whose son had also had one. She also thought he might have a lip tie, and gave me the name of a doctor who fixed these things for free, and the name of a lactation consultant in a nearby town who had really helped a friend of hers. We booked in to the doctor for two days later, and he confirmed that my son had both a tongue and lip tie. It was horrible putting him through the procedure to get the ties snipped, but I hoped it would improve things. My son was 8 weeks old by this stage and weight gain had begun to improve on formula top ups, but I knew the benefits of breastfeeding and the draw backs of formula, and I longed to be able to provide all my son’s needs.
As the tongue and lip cuts improved so too did my son’s feeding, but not enough to stop the formula top ups. We went to see the lactation consultant the next week. We saw her weekly for about a month. She told me that I had had very poor care in hospital. C-section babies are pumped full of fluid because of the drip leading up to birth, and so are likely to lose some water weight after birth. C-section mothers also need longer for their milk to come in, therefore formula should not have been pushed on my son. An hour pumping is stupid, especially when the mother is exhausted, because milk output after 15 minutes is minimal! I should have been given information on the drugs I was given for milk supply. She also helped me correct my latch (not as good as I was told) gave me confidence in my own body and helped me minimise formula top ups to increase my supply. She got me back on the drugs for supply on a double dose and told me how to wean off if and when I wanted to. (I used them for around 12 months and weaned off them very gradually). She diagnosed me with recurrent thrush and told me how to treat it. In treating it we went against doctor’s advice to take medication. They told me it would be passed through my breast milk, but the lactation consultant’s handbook on drugs told her it was safe. It was the drug that finally got the thrush under control, enabling me to breastfeed without excruciating pain!
At 10 weeks I was still bleeding postpartum and she suggested I have a scan to see if there was retained placenta. Even the tiniest amount of placenta left over can decrease milk supply. The scan showed that there was still “muck” in my uterus, but because I was not infected doctors thought it could not be placenta. About a week after the scan I passed a large clot and my bleeding stopped completely. Two days later I suddenly had more milk, and two days after that I was able to stop topping up with formula. I saw the consultant one more time, and with huge smiles she was able to discharge me from her care!
I went on to exclusively breastfeed my son until we introduced solids close to 6 months, and fed him for almost 14 months in total.
Long story short, I thank God that I was able to go to this wonderful lactation consultant who corrected all the misinformation I was given, gave me confidence in my body’s ability to feed my son, and allowed me to have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship with my baby. Breast feeding can be difficult for some, but with the right help and a lot of persistence it is possible for most women!
Posted by BekH, 19th May 2018