Breastfeeding Stories - Breastmilk or Formula? A Mum's Dilemma
My son is now nearly 5 months old and I have been desperately trying to continue to breastfeed him for the past 4 weeks.
I had said throughout my pregnancy that I would "let the baby decide" how he wanted to feed when he was born. Part of the reason for this is that I'm actually a midwife and had been working on a postnatal ward. I knew that breastmilk was the best milk I could give, but I had seen so many problems and tired mums that I wasn't sure I could do it! Having said that I hadn't prepared at all for bottle feeding so I guess deep down I knew what I really wanted to do.
My son was born by emergency caesarean section (so much for the home birth I had planned!) 10 days after his due date. He latched on straight away in the recovery room and just fed and fed and fed! I was really delighted and couldn't believe that I was actually able to breastfeed my own baby. I never had any problems with cracked or sore nipples (I'm fair skinned with red hair!) so I felt he was latched on well. He did feed for long periods and very frequently, but he did often fall asleep during a feed and looking back this may have been the problem.
He was slow to put on weight, he was 9lbs 9.5oz when he was born and at 6 weeks he was 10lbs 15oz. I didn't think this was a problem at the time as he was having loads of wet nappies and had bags of energy! He didn't sleep much at all, sometimes totalling only 7 hours in a 24 hour period and as he was feeding so often (sometimes hourly) I was getting pretty exhausted.
At 6 weeks he had a few specks of blood in his poo and I panicked (probably as I was so tired!) and took him to the hospital. They said he probably had gastroenteritis and that I shouldn't worry; they weighed him and gave him a thorough check. 5 days later he had green poo for 10 days but I was told by my Health Visitor not to worry as she saw this all the time. 5 days after the start of the green poo I took him to the clinic and when he was weighed there he'd (apparently)lost 7 oz in 10 days! I was devastated and burst into tears. My Health Visitor said, "I'm not worried about his weight, what would you like to do, do you want to give him a bottle?". I didn't want to do this so she said to bring him back in a week to be weighed again.
Breastfeeding continued as usual and the next week he weighed exactly the same. My Health Visitor again said she wasn't worried about his weight and to bring him back in 2 weeks. I did this and he'd put on 3 oz. Again the Health Visitor said she wasn't worried and to bring him back in another 2 weeks.
In the meantime, I was getting really exhausted and was feeling under pressure from my in-laws who although not directly, hinted that my son was underweight and should be having bottles. 2 weeks later my son had put on 12oz, the following 2 weeks 14oz. I was beginning to feel that finally things were improving. My son still didn't sleep very much and I was finding this really hard as I wasn't getting any rest during the day and averaging about 4/5 hours sleep every night. Then we went to visit the in-laws and the following day they rang and we had an hour long conversation about how my mother-in-law was so worried about my son as he hadn't put on much weight, she was so worried in fact that she'd "spoken to a doctor about him", she "couldn't sleep for worrying about him", "where is he on the centile charts?" etc. etc!
I was extremely upset by this and every time I breastfed my son I just kept thinking about what she had said to me. The next day my period arrived and 2 days later my son decided to go on a "nursing strike". My husband went out and bought some formula and bottles and we reluctantly ended up having to give a bottle feed as I hadn't been expressing. My son had one bottle of formula for the next 3 nights then things seemed to improve slightly, but I was really struggling to get him to latch on properly and feed on my right side. I took him to the clinc a week later and he'd only put on 1oz! My Health Visitor now said, "Enough is enough, I think you should top him up with 5oz of formula after every feed for the next 48 hours and we'll weigh him again."
I knew that introducing formula wouldn't help with breastfeeding, but my son was now just below the 9th centile and my husband and I were worried. Surprise, surprise, in 3 days he'd put on 1lb (on different scales I might add!). So the spiral downwards had started and I'm now practically fully bottle feeding.
I spoke with a lactation consultant who advised me to hire a double pump, to take fenugreek capsules 3 times a day and to bath with my baby.
I've been doing this for just over a week now. I'm only managing to get between 30 and 80mls of milk when expressing so I've got 1 sometimes 2 bottles of EBM per day. My son will sometimes breastfeed during the night (at around 01:00) but I can't get him to latch on for more than 2 minutes during the day. I'm still persevering but I feel almost at the point of giving up.
My husband has been so incredibly supportive throughout and if it hadn't been for him I would have given up weeks ago.
If anyone is reading this, I wish you very good luck with your breastfeeding experiences.
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