I’m a paranoid working parent. One of the reasons for this was a very short, very sharp, shock to my confidence that was dealt on the 10th day of my new parenthood, by a very unlikely source.
Here is why, for me, breast wasn’t best.
The first few days I took in my stride as any strong, independent, career-woman would do. Things were fine, I was exhausted, I was anaemic and I was still finding my feet, but….. I was ok. Our little family was doing just dandy.
Then something happened.
On the 9th day I was particularly tired, we’d done a bit too much out and about and breastfeeding had been a chore in a couple of locations. The following day was a weigh-in visit.
The midwife who turned up was not my usual one, I’d never met her before and she didn’t know me from Adam. She weighed my little daughter (who at over 9lb at birth was no peanut), and announced that she had not put on much weight for the previous few days. At this point it is pertinent to share that at the previous visit, my daughter had put on 2-3oz and was deemed to be progressing well.
Apparently, this minimum weight-gain issue was concerning. Her face said it all. Cue feeding style evaluation where both of us were manipulated on the sofa into a ‘better’ feeding position.
Can you picture it? Arms adjusted, back hoiked up, breasts lifted and moved, cushion thrust somewhere between hip and breasts.
A few moments following said post-natal ‘support’, inevitably the floodgates opened. Tears flowed and my confidence flowed away with them. It was smashed, like a piece of fragile porcelain.
I was a bad parent.
I was useless.
I’d let my daughter down.
It’s taken me the best part of two and a half years to rebuild that confidence and I’m not even sure I’ve got it back completely now. Anyway, I digress.
You see, once my confidence vanished, so too did my milk.
I tried. Heaven knows I tried. Once I managed to express 0.5oz. The tissue of one nipple was red, raw and swollen from my efforts. It’s never really recovered.
I fed all the time, expressed in the shower to promote the production, did everything advised of me, but still my daughter’s weight gain was limited and she never ever gained more in a week than she had in those initial few days before that fateful Day 10.
We had doctors appointments, various medications for reflux – gaviscon, omeprazole, you name it. We got referred to a Consultant at the hospital and I persevered with exclusive breastfeeding for 4 months.
I hated giving my daughter medication to stop her sicking up what precious milk I was giving her. Especially as she never showed any pain. She was just sick with quite transparent vomit that never looked like it contained any great nourishment.
No professional we saw suggested or encouraged the use of formula, none of my antenatal friends were using formula, and in my head, going down the formula route was a sure sign of poor mothering.
At the Consultancy appointment a few months later, they suggested upping the meds and including a few new ones into the mix. It was then that I plucked up the courage to ask whether I could possibly try formula as a last resort before bombarding my child with yet more medicinal chemicals. Reluctantly, the Consultant gave me a week to try it and said if nothing happened, I must get the prescription straight away.
I bought some formula and gave it a go. It was pretty easy if I’m honest.
Then, 5 days later the health visitor came with the dreaded scales.
My daughter had put on 9oz!………………..9oz!…………..yes, that’s right…….9oz!, in 5 days!
It was a miracle, a fantastic, brilliant achievement. My daughter had put on proper weight! There was no need for the medication, I just did not have proper milk supplies.
That ship had sailed 4 months ago, but no one suggested it could be the cause and it wasn’t for me to trust my own judgement. Oh no, even though I had felt like I wasn’t producing enough, I couldn’t openly admit to this ‘failure’ especially as none of the experts (who knew far more than me), had even subtly pointed me in that direction of thought.
Had I not been made to feel like I was doing it wrong on that day, by a health professional who should have been helping me, I may well have been able to continue breastfeeding.
I’ll admit, I’m not a natural mother earth type, it did always feel a little awkward, but I would have been ok. I would have grown in confidence over the days and weeks and I expect my milk production would have built up even more.
C’est la vie.
My daughter, now 3, hovers around the 75-85% for weight and height. She is bright, bubbly, horrendously stubborn and gives the most amazing cuddles. There has been no lasting damage to her. Only to me.
To anyone struggling with their child’s weight gain, who are exclusively breastfeeding due to invisible peer-pressure, media-pressure or just your own strong desire to be in the breast-is-best crowd, please at least try formula, even just to supplement. If you’re anything like me, it could change your life.