I have two boys, Billy now 3 and Tom 7 months. Both had lovely gentle births at home and breastfed immediately. Everything was in place for successful feeding, in theory….
With Billy I struggled to get him latched on properly with his head-bobbing and hands in the way – I ended up with sore, cracked nipples and ultimately a few days of mastitis, thankfully just one side at a time. We saw it through and eventually seemed to be out the other side – no longer hurting and apparently ok, albeit very sleepy during our marathon feeds. With hindsight I now know that he wasn’t actually feeding very much, despite becoming increasingly dependent on sucking for comfort. After a couple of months I felt he wasn’t growing much, despite ok nappy counts, but was too reluctant to go to health visitor as I knew what her “advice” would be. Instead I asked around on-line and eventually got my midwife back out to help. Sadly it was too late, his “failure to thrive” became suddenly very scary as I could see his weight plummeting. We headed for hospital, drip, naso-gastric tube, formula and a week-long barrage of patronising and ignorant comments about breastfeeding from the paediatricians. Initially of course I was just so relieved to see him gaining weight again but I also was determined to get him off the formula. I was disappointed that, despite lots of LLL help to relactate, we never managed to return to exclusive breasfeeding but a month or two of baby-led weaning soon had his weight shooting up and off the bottles. He still “breastfeeds” to sleep each night but is always surprised and pleased if he gets any milk!
When Tom came along I knew things would be different. I knew so much more after all the LLL meetings. And there was no way I would let him sleep through feeds without me realising. He had other ideas. He seemed to feed well to start with but gradually became sleepier and I needed to do lots of switch-feeding to keep him going and pumping to boost my supply. I just thought I had “another lazy little boy who liked snuggling up to boobs”! Then we had a couple of months without weight gain followed by a drop 2 weeks later and were eventually sent back to the paeds “just to check”. More ignorant and patronising comments but we were sent home with 2 days’ grace to get some weight on him. By then I was so stressed and upset that my milk supply dropped even further. I got some formula, got the required weight gain and were discharged – hurrah. Back to the hateful pump and relactation *again* – I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t stimulate my supply for me, I was having to do all the work. More LLL help but nothing really changed, I still needed the formula to get him to gain weight. Eventually I made an appointment with a lactation consultant (if only she hadn’t been my last resort but my first…) who found a posterior tongue-tie (where midwife, 2 GPs and 2 paediatricians had tried and failed). She was off on holiday so couldn’t refer me to Kings for treatment but I managed to book myself onto the consultant’s next clinic, provided I could get a referral from the GP/paed who next saw us. Sounds easy but, since the paed wasn’t able to recognise the tongue-tie even now I’d told her it was there, she advised my GP not to refer us! Heated phone calls later we finally succeeded. It was such a relief to see the wonderful Mr Patel, if only to hear a doctor (and a male one at that) speak knowledgeably about breastfeeding and want to help find solutions to problems. So we had it snipped when Tom was 5 months. I knew it was unlikely to make a dramatic difference at that age, I wasn’t expecting miracles, but there were certainly improvements. He could get a wider latch and was less sleepy during his SNS formula feeds. But he still never really got the hang of triggering let-downs for himself and gradually we could only get the initial let-down each side. But we still do it numerous times a day, co-sleep to encourage feeding at night and we have now just got off the formula as Tom is also loving his solids.
I am soooo frustrated at our experience of paediatricians who paid nothing but lip-service to breastfeeding and were then obstructive when I had to find my own solutions. Tom also has very snuffly breathing and, having seen a cranial osteopath, we are convinced that this is due to all the restriction around his jaw and face. I am also now convinced that Billy’s feeding problems were also a well-hidden tongue-tie, everything from his feeding behaviour to the shape of his tongue tallies with Tom. If I could have persuaded him to let our lactation consultant check then I would know for sure but we were having a bad week – the emotional implications for the older brother of months of feeding problems and stress. Thank goodness we are all smiles again now.