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  • Writer's picturehayleydunn

The importance of breastfeeding support- my guardian angel

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week I thought I would share my breastfeeding story. This is a picture of my tiny baby boy, just 7 days old. We had already been through so much together!

After my boy was born, I was already exhausted from my prolonged induction, so I was keen to leave the hospital to go home and finally get some sleep. I was struggling to get him to latch on, so a midwife had tried to 'help' him by roughly grabbing my boob and forcing it into his mouth. This was distressing for both of us and didn't work, it just made him scream and squirm, and caused me pain. He hadn't fed much, but I thought we would have a better chance of mastering breastfeeding whilst relaxing at home, away from the noise and bustle.

Unfortunately, at home things didn't improve. He seemed excessively drowsy and it was becoming increasingly difficult to get him to wake up to feed. The visiting midwife had said that he was jaundiced and that I needed to try and feed him at least every 3 hours to clear it. But he just wouldn't wake up enough to latch on. After a sleepless night of unsuccessfully trying to rouse him, I was pretty frantic. It was a relief to be readmitted to hospital, because it wasn't all on me to try and fix this. Also when he did feed, he would only do so from one side, so the other breast was rock hard, hot and really sore by this point. In the hospital they were deeply concerned about his jaundice and said he might need a blood transfusion if he didn't improve quickly. At this point I lost it, I dissolved into a blubbering mess. I’d only had my baby for a few days and I was already failing him. I hadn’t slept for a week by this point, which I’m sure wasn't helping my mental state. I remember the doctor looking at me in bemusement, as he reassured me that he wouldn’t actually need a blood transfusion if they got him fed and under the lights right away. They gave him formula, I had planned to exclusively breastfeed, but in that moment I didn’t care , I just wanted him to be okay. That night a wonderful night nurse who was trained in breastfeeding support came to see me. I wish I could remember her name, she was my angel! She came and helped me wake him every few hours through the night. She recommended that I pump my solid, sore boob to relieve the pressure and sourced an amazing industrial pump for me. She helped me with my latch, showed me different feeding positions. Most importantly she sat and listened to me talk as I tried to process everything that had happened over the last week.

He improved quickly with lights and drip with fluids, so never needed a transfusion. After a few days he was more alert, less orange and feeding well from both boobs.

This experience taught me the value of proper education and compassionate support around breastfeeding. I'd assumed it would come easy; it's natural, it would be instinctive! It turned out that it isn't always that straightforward. I'd had a lot of interventions, he was a tiny baby (5 and half pounds! Squeee!). I was exhausted, and anxious, he was jaundiced and tiny. All of these factors had got in the way of a straightforward initiation. Even before I became a doula, I would impress on any pregnant people I met to get all the help with breastfeeding that they could while they were still at the hospital.

Also, because of what I went through, I can never judge those that turn to formula. I remember all too clearly that fear and distress at not being able to feed my baby, and the crushing weight of responsibility. I just wanted him to be healthy and well.

I will also never forget my nurse, I'm not sure I would have continued to breastfeed without her. Because of her, he only needed a couple of formula feeds, which was fortunate because he turned out to be allergic to both soya and dairy. Her help and kindness in those crucial first few days meant that I went on to breastfeed my son for over 2 years.


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