How the NHS sabotaged my Breastfeeding Journey

Regular readers of my blog know that I tend to stick to humorous, light-hearted posts about parenting. However, I recently got a big dose of inspiration and courage from Jo over at Momma Boss.

Jo is the blogger I wish I had the guts to be. She doesn’t shy away from personal or controversial subjects which is why she is one of my favourite bloggers. I highly recommend having a look at her blog if you get the chance. Anyway, she made me realise that sometimes I need to have a voice and not just use humour as a defence mechanism (oh yes, I’m well aware I hide behind it). So I thought I’d share the story of my breastfeeding journey and how I feel the NHS not only sabotaged it but put my baby at serious risk with their pressure to only encourage breastfeeding.

 

Breastfeeding my first – she took to it easily

I have two daughters, The Toddler and The Baby. When The Toddler was born she took to breastfeeding like a duck to water. It was like she instantly knew what to do and I loved the bond we had. I may have even been a bit arrogant (“why do people struggle with this, it’s so easy?”) The Toddler self weaned at ten and a half months. I totally wasn’t ready but unbeknown to me (despite the fact we were trying), I was pregnant again and my milk changed flavour.

When The Baby was born I was all ready to breastfeed again but we struggled. She wouldn’t latch and I was really sore. It knocked my confidence badly. However, I’m a firm believer in breast is best so I carried on trying to feed. I had complications after The Baby’s birth so I was in the hospital for a week afterwards. Everytime I fed I asked a nurse to check the latch and everytime they told me it was perfect. However, after three days I was in hell. Baby was crying so much as she was hungry and I was so sore and knackered beyond belief. I felt like a complete failure as a mother. I thought I didn’t love The Baby enough as I was able to feed her older sister just fine. Most of the time I cried as The Baby fed, not from the pain (though that was intense) but because I was a terrible mum who couldn’t even feed her little girl. I felt so depressed and worthless.

 

The Baby in the hospital

After three days I asked if I should consider bottle feeding but the nurses all told me “breast is best”. One midwife even said, “well, if you’re not willing to try then you might as well” which was crushing. My Mum was the only voice saying bottles may be an idea but I’m stubborn and I didn’t listen.

After a week I was finally discharged and we went home. The Health Visitor came the next day to weigh The Baby. She had lost 10% of her birth weight and was severely jaundiced. She told me to go up to the hospital where they admitted The Baby (and me, her failing milk bar). They put a cannula into The Baby’s tiny hand and I sobbed so hard I couldn’t breathe. All I could think was I was failing her. She was better off without me. Once again the doctor’s told me breast was best. They put The Baby on a light box to get rid of her jaundice and we went home the following day.

 

The heartbreaking photo of The Baby with a cannula in her tiny hand

I carried on trying to breastfeed. I looked up videos on YouTube, I Googled breastfeeding and in the end I asked a Mum’s group on Facebook for advice. They gave me the number for our local breastfeeding supporter (not one person at the hospital had even told me she existed). She came out the same day and in two seconds she had found The Baby’s tongue tie. I was so relieved. Finally we knew what the issue was and we could get it resolved. Unfortunately, the next appointment was for three weeks time and in Canterbury (a hospital 16 miles away).  We don’t drive plus I had The Toddler and was recovering from a C Section. Getting the double buggy on the bus for the hour and a half bus journey to Canterbury with two under twos was a terrifying prospect (my husband was back at work). I was told I could have the procedure sooner AND they would come to the house but we couldn’t afford the £400 they quoted. I was told to continue breastfeeding until then.

I tried. God, I really did but at my next Health Visitor appointment The Baby’s weight had fallen again. The Health Visitor suggested half and half but I’d had enough. If I couldn’t feed her then I would bottlefeed. As much as people were telling me “breast is best”, it clearly wasn’t in this situation. I gave in, embraced my failure, switched to bottles and The Baby finally started thriving.

Three weeks later my brother took me to the hospital for the tongue tie. They told me as I wasn’t breast feeding anymore it wasn’t necessary to cut the tongue tie so I basically lied and said I had only given up a few days ago. They put me on an electric pump for an hour to get my flow back but all we got was blood. It was sooooo painful. They went ahead and cut the tie and the doctor told me we could re-establish breastfeeding. He promised to get me an electric breast pump on loan and that a breastfeeding supporter would come and see me. That was at the end of March. I haven’t heard from anyone regarding it since. I tried to breastfeeding that night but it wasn’t working so I switched to bottles permanently. The Baby is now seven months old and is in perfect health. Switching to formula was the best thing I could have done for her.

Stuck in the hospital with The Baby

Still, I feel angry. Why was I put through two weeks of hell when all it took was a two second check to diagnose the tongue tie? Why is this not checked routinely? (for once I was told what it was even I could have seen it!) Why did all of those doctors and nurses I got to check the latch in the hospital never think to check and why did I have to turn to bloody Facebook to get support?!

I feel like my breastfeeding journey was sabotaged. Why did it take three weeks before I could get an appointment? Surely a non feeding baby should be a priority? (Ah, but it is if we were able to pay for it!) I am certain if The Baby’s tongue tie had been noticed earlier we would still be feeding now. They stole that from us.

The Baby now – happy and healthy

Finally, why were the professionals STILL telling me “breast is best” when clearly I was struggling? I am really angry at the NHS for I feel they failed in their duty of care to both me and my baby. The Baby is my last child. I will never breastfeed again. My memories of her birth are filled with pain, depression, tears, guilt and anguish. I struggled to bond with The Baby and even now thinking back on that time makes me cry. I honestly believe that the pressure to breastfeed can be dangerous. Don’t judge other mothers for how they feed their child – you don’t know their story. Sometimes breast isn’t always best.

Do you think there is too much pressure on mothers to breastfeed? Maybe you think more women should try to breastfeed? Share your views in the comments.

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