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A Slow Start in Surrey

Sarah Sadler
Surrey England
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 5, September-October 2000, pp. 167-68

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time

I am a first time mother with a four-week-old baby daughter, Kirsty. The journey we have traveled to fulfill our desire to breastfeed has already been tremendous.

I wanted to give birth at home but after about 25 hours of labor, I was transferred to the hospital for an assisted delivery. During labor, I had two shots of pethidine, an analgesic. They were both many hours before delivery and I believe that they affected my baby.

Right from the birth I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I had believed my mother when she said it was "just natural" and I didn't need to learn anything about it beforehand. I really wish I had known the importance of breastfeeding in the early days before my milk supply increased and the fact that very "good" babies sometimes sleep too much for their own good. In retrospect, I wish I had sought help earlier instead of just letting my baby sleep.

Shortly after Kirsty's birth, my husband had to leave the hospital because it was late at night. So I was left in a room with her on my own for the first six hours of her life. I was scared and unsure and should have asked for more help than I did.

She slept all the next day and then we went home. I really didn't know that she should be woken and I should be trying to feed her. I started to get anxious the next day and so I called the midwife. By the time she arrived, Kirsty had taken absolutely nothing and was refusing to feed completely.

The midwife was very concerned that we couldn't get her to suck when she had latched on, and no amount of stroking her face or tickling her feet woke her. The midwife had me try all sorts of positions including lying down, but nothing would work, and we were forced to give her formula when she was around 40 hours old. This broke my heart and made me feel like a complete failure. My hormones were raging and I just didn't feel like I wanted modified cows' milk in my newborn. However, the midwife was concerned that Kirsty had lost too much energy and was on a downward spiral.

My husband had to go to the hospital to get ready-made formula in bottles. When he arrived home with it, she took 30 ml in a matter of minutes.

The teats (nipples) on the ready-made formula bottles had three large holes in them and my baby did not have to work at all to get the milk. I believe that this contributed to the nipple confusion problems we were now facing.

I was determined to get her off the formula, but my milk seemed to be taking forever to come in. On the morning of her fifth day, I was able to produce 2 ounces of bright yellow milk. I had to express my milk and give it to her in a bottle, as she refused to take the breast. Now that I was able to keep my half of the breastfeeding bargain, I was adamant that she was going to do her part, but she seemed addicted to artificial nipples.

I decided that maybe she would breastfeed using a nipple shield. That would cut down on the work involved in the expressing-sterilizing the equipment-feeding routine that we were now in, though my baby wouldn't be getting the artificial nipple she seemed to like so much! The only problem with this was that it took about a minute for my let down to work and she just wasn't prepared to work that hard without a reward. So then, we gave her one ounce of milk by bottle to give her more patience. Night feeds were a nightmare, and neither my husband nor I were getting more than three hours sleep per night. He felt like he had springs on his bottom as he kept having to go downstairs to get bottles and sterilize the breast pump. With pumping, I would always try to be at least one bottle ahead of her needs, so after feeding her I would need to express some more.

If I tried to cut back on some of this rather ornate ritual, my daughter would just end up screaming and I would be in tears with her. I think we were both very frustrated. By day eight I was not making too much sense anymore and dissolved into tears. Each day, I was seeing a different midwife from the team of four community midwives. Each one had different solutions, and one even suggested I settle for feeding Kirsty either formula or my expressed milk with a bottle, and quit trying to feed her at my breast. This made me angry and even more frustrated, but the next day the first midwife I saw returned and was able to give me practical advice on how to hold my baby and how to sit so that she would latch on properly. By now, my milk was plentiful and my letdowns came very quickly, so she suddenly went from needing the nipple shield and the bottles to needing neither in one afternoon. I have never felt so elated about anything. All the other accomplishments in my life just aren't as important to me as this! Since this time, we haven't looked back. My daughter is 100 percent breastfed and hasn't needed to take a bottle. I am so proud of her!

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