March 05, 2004
permalink My experience with breasfeeding in hospital

I never got around to expressing colostrum before I had my baby. This was what I had planned to do to ensure my baby's first feeds would be breastmilk rather than formula, in the event that I wasn't able to feed her straight away.

However my obstetrician and my lactation consultant both thought it was better for me to rest due to my high blood pressure. In retrospect I think I could have expressed (even though I really felt a bit awkward about it back then, having never expressed or breastfed before). I will definitely try to do it if I have another baby :-)

As my baby was born three and a half weeks early I was told she might not yet have a suck reflex. She hadn't been interested in feeding during the early cuddle we'd had as I was wheeled back to my bed after the birth. This meant we would feed her my breastmilk by syringe to start off with and my husband was shown how to place his finger in her mouth at the same time as the syringe for her to begin sucking on to encourage her to associate sucking with the taste of milk. It was actually very cute and seemed to work as within a couple of days she was nuzzling and sucking away (albeit in a bit of a hit and miss fashion :-) at my breast.

My partner and the midwives on duty helped me to express by hand for these early feeds. I remember Michael running down to the Special Care nursery every three hours with a tiny syringe full of my precious colostrum for her!

I was VERY dissappointed to learn that my baby had been given a formula feed almost as soon as she had arrived in Special Care after the birth, even BEFORE her blood sugar was tested! In fact I was enraged!!!!!!!! I was so keen for her to have only breastmilk if at all possible, so keen to be consulted (as I was told I would be) before any feeding decision was made. And I was told that "top ups" of formula were only given if the baby's blood sugar levels were low. If they were I would have had no problem with her being given formula to bring her blood sugar levels up. But I had been up all night testing and keeping my bsls at 5.0 to try to prevent this happening.

I couldn't believe they had stuffed formula into her before even giving her my expressed breastmilk :-( They started her on quite large feeds too. And she was fed from a bottle. Something that can cause nipple confusion and lead to problems in establishing breastfeeding.

My paediatrician told me later that he had put my daughter on a protocol that involved early feeds with forumla as a study had shown that letting the blood sugars drop could lead to the sugars really crashing down later, meaning that my daughter would have had to stay in Special Care even longer to stabilise her which could have been more of an interference in breastfeeding. So he said he fed her forumla early on to prevent this. Hmmm I guess that all makes sense. It's hard to know what to believe. As with pregnancy and motherhood, there are so many conflicting opinions on this matter. But I so wish I had been able to meet with the paediatrician and discuss all this before the birth - I might have gone to a different paediatrician.

It is amazing how powerless you can feel lying there in your hospital bed after a caesarean unable to get to see your new baby, on the phone to some midwife in Special Care trying your best to be assertive at a point when you can barely think straight. There were a number of times in hospital that the way I was treated was way more upsetting than what was actually happening to me or my daughter.

Anyhow, I can't fault the staff at the hospital or the paediatrician aside from the fact that in this instance they did not consult me or tell me what they were doing in detail and why. They were great at helping me to express every 3 hours though and by the end of the first day the Special Care midwife was bringing my baby daughter to me in my hospital bed to suckle at the breast before being fed the forumula top up back in the nursery. It was always just sssooooooooooo lovely to see her. Eventually they started leaving us all alone together, my partner, me and my baby. Finally, alone, just to cuddle.......

The lactation consultant I had seen before my daughter was born, came to see me every day while I was in hospital to help me get things going. I had to do my early feeds lying down due to some problems with my caesarean scar which meant sitting up to feed was problematic, and the lactation consultant helped me to feed her lying down. She had to leave to go on vacation and left me with a prescription for Motilium, a drug that supposedly helps milk to 'come in'. She was fairly sure that my milk would not come in fast enough due to my diabetes and wanted to help things along. I was very keen NOT to take another drug (my body was full of pain medication, blood pressure medication and antibiotics).

Things were a bit of a blur for me during this time, particularly as I was experiencing some oedema-related post birth complications. I remember at one point realising that some of the midwives were concerned that my daughter had lost too much weight since birth (some weight loss is quite common) and might not be getting enough milk, although the paediatrician was not worried. Still, a couple of comments, including my obstetrician mentioning, "I think they are trying to work out what to do with your baby tonight", got me quite upset and indignant really. "Who the heck were 'they' to decide what was happening with my little baby daughter, without consulting me, and what was all this drama about? It seemed to me to come out of the blue.

Suddenly the issue of my baby getting enough milk had come up. This made me want to measure the amount I was giving her (impossible while breastfeeding). So I got the hospital electric breastpump and started using it to express for every feed, measuring my supply. After 24 hours of doing so I woke up one morning to find... BAZOOMBA - my milk was in. My god what an experience!!!!!!!!!!!! It was a great feeling knowing that everything was now going according to plan. There was plenty of milk for my baby and I didn't have to have yet another drug in my system. Somehow though I lost a bit of confidence with feeding from the breast through this period, and it was only my obstetrician and one of the midwives who encouraged me to feed from the breast again, even though it was difficult as I had to feed my tiny baby lying down.

My daughter stayed for over an hour at the breast sometimes after we got home from hospital, especially at night before going down to sleep. Probably just sucking for comfort, often falling aleep and then waking up again. I was happy to let her nurse away. It was just lovely to have her with me and to be able to comfort her in this way, especially after the early separation while she was in the Special Care Nursery and the early dramas in hospital.

As already mentioned, the mastopathy I had been so concerned about did not end up interfering at all with breastfeeding and I write this entry now as my baby lies upstairs sleeping contentedly, thriving, smiling and just oozing gorgeousness. She will be six months old on Monday. And I am in awe of the fact that she has grown into the little person she already is, solely on the nutrition provided by my breastmilk. I plan to breastfeed her until she is at least one year old, and it wouldn't surprise me if I keep up just a couple of feeds a day until she is at least two. Breastfeeding is such a wonderful thing to be able to do for her, with her, and I feel exceptionally lucky and grateful to have had the experience.

** While in hospital I breastfed my daughter at least every few hours and it was good to have the help and support of the midwives. Although staying in hospital for a week after the birth was not pleasant in many ways, it was good to have that much time to get breastfeeding established, especially as we had to help train her in a sense to feed from the breast. A couple of friends who'd had natural births in birth centres had gone back home before their milk had come in and way before they had felt comfortable breastfeeding, which they said was quite daunting.

Posted by M.A. at March 05, 2004 07:42 AM


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