Breast is Best or is it?
If you choose to feed your baby formula that is your decision and I respect it, I was bottle fed. If you intended to breastfeed and were let down by midwives or lactation specialists, that is a shame and this is what this article is about.
There is no doubt that breast feeding provides the baby with a great start to life from many perspectives. The fact that it does not work for every woman is not being contested. The truth is that it is not easy for most women and their babies. This is all the more reason that recent mothers should be given all the help, encouragement and support in helping them to gain confidence with nursing their newborn. Women need reassurance that their bodies can supply all the nutritional requirements (except Vitamin D) for their new born baby. Maternity Hospitals (in Ireland) claim to encourage breastfeeding but in reality I think it is a bit like the banks claim that “they are lending money”, true on paper!
Please excuse me writing on this subject as a man I am aware that some women may take offence. I am writing this as a result of my experience with my partner after the birth of our very gorgeous and precious little girl Keela. I hope that it will make other men aware of the challenges breastfeeding can present. Partners need to be prepared to speak up for their better halves when they are feeling vulnerable and at a low ebb, and made to feel inadequate by off the cuff remarks from Midwives such as “your nipples are inverted, you can’t breast feed”. I have spoken to many of my friends and acupuncture client’s on this topic and it is shocking, some of the negative stories. These difficult and often intimidating experiences have lead many mothers to (mistakenly) believe that they cannot breast feed and as result they give up and turn to the bottle (formula)! Remember Ladies, you are not alone lots of women feel isolated, inadequate at this crucial time, and this is the very time to get support from the professionals and your loved ones so that you can give breast feeding the best shot possible.
After the birth of our little daughter my partner Anna hemorrhaged and lost 800mls of blood, this was very scary for both of us and resulted in me having to bottle feed our baby at the behest of the Doctor who explained Anna could not feed as she was “too weak”. I totally appreciated this, and as I was aware that Keela had been breastfed shortly after her birth (4-5hours previously) I was reluctant to feed here a bottle as she was happily sleeping, oblivious to the drama that was unfolding as the Doctors tried to control the hemorrhaging and temperature spikes (a common side effect of the drugs given to cause contraction of the uterus to stop bleeding!). I asked the Doctor could we wait until the baby was looking for food before getting her to feed with formula. She was very persuasive and when she insisted that we would not lose the breast feeding window, and said that one bottle would be OK. Anna and I agreed that it would be ok to bottle feed Keela and that was fine and indeed was a privilege for me.
The next day, when Anna was back on the ward, a very large angry looking midwife informed me that Anna would not be capable of breastfeeding. As we are both acupuncturists I was doing acupuncture to nourish Anna and replenish the blood loss. Anna was determined to give breastfeeding her best efforts and she insisted on trying. I spoke with the big scary midwife and explained that we all wanted the same thing and that what we needed was her support and assistance to get breastfeeding established. She reluctantly agreed to help, as she grabbed Anna’s breast and tried to squeeze little Keela on to Anna’s breast she declared in her abrupt, angry and impatient manner that Anna’s nipples were inverted (not the case) and therefore she would not be able to breastfeed! We asked her politely to give us some time as even Keela was getting anxious with her abrupt manner.
The atmosphere was very tense for everyone and when the bearded dragon returned I took her aside and once again asked her to be positive and encouraging if she wanted to help. She insisted she would, once again she started to man handle Anna’s breast’s. She was more agitated and continuously looked at her watch and then claimed that time was running out and that Keela needed to feed or her blood : glucose levels could drop below 2.7 which would result in our baby “getting Brain Damage”. The guilt trip & Fear factor was her new ploy, this was her attempt at positivity, once again we asked her to “Step away from the Breast”.
All this pressure, guilt tripping and fear tactics and little Keela was only 15 hours old. Anna had endured a difficult 2 day chemical induction (which is another story), hemorrhaging and fever and the real fun of learning to breast feed was only beginning. More to follow soon!!
P.S. Keela is now almost five and Anna persevered using pumps, nipple shields (which were frowned upon by the lactation specialist) and pure determination and stubbornness, Anna refused to give up and in the end she successfully breastfed Keela until she was three years old.
Please feel free to share your stories with us. Please accept that this is my interpretation of our experience!!