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The Road to a Happy Baby

A mother recently shared her baby feeding story with us...

"My little boy was born two weeks early and we had a great labour and birth, done and dusted within 12 hours of my water breaking. He was however absolutely knackered on delivery. He had been stuck with just a wee bit of his head sticking out for over an hour. The monitor indicated he wasn't at all stressed so the midwife was reluctant to cut me any earlier. But once they did he was out in seconds.

I'm a first time Mum and didn't realise that skin to skin meant feeding...I thought it was just a cuddle to help bonding. No one told me differently in the delivery suite, infact the only comments made were about how exhausted the little guy was. We left the delivery suite with our papers saying "not fed". His first feed was 6 hours after delivery via syringe. The first night in hospital I fed my son by myself with no help as when I rang the buzzer no one came. So in hindsight this was probably pointless as I had no idea what I was doing and the poor little mite was still exhaused from the birth.

I am happy with the birth but my hospital stay is another story. I found establishing breast feeding extraordinarily hard due to the fact that I must have seen 20-30 different medical staff in my 6 day stay and rarely the same midwife or doctor twice. The advice I was given was inconsistent and a lot of the time a huge drama was created over everything. On day 3 it was announced he had jaundice and had lost over 10% of his body weight. Little did I know that it was normal for early babies to have jaundice and a lot of babies loose 10% of their birth weight. I swear the midwives who told us the news left the room waving their arms above their heads.

Anyway we were advised to top up with formula using a supply line for the next couple of days. My husband stayed from 8am to 11pm each day setting up the syringe and inserting the supply line and breastfeeding was too much for one person. It was hard enough for the two of us to administer but we had to, as often the midwife was unable to come.

I'm not angry at the midwives as it's not their fault that the wards are over worked and understaffed. If anything I empathise with them as they certainly couldn't feel any pride in their work seeing they were unable to help new mothers to the best of their ability.

It was a difficult process, feeding (as described above) then expressing, washing the equipment and finally an hour before the next feed I was encouraged to do an hour of skin to skin. In which I couldn't sleep because I was too nervous that the baby wouldn't be able to breathe.

Finally we were told that we would not be discharged from hospital until baby was weaned off formula and the supply line. The plan then changed and we continued with the feeding plan with expressed milk fed to baby with a cup. I swear the hospital staff would have brought out an elephant before they brought out a bottle. After 6 long days, the final two under the guidance of a lactation consultant we were released from hospital.

Once discharged, we continued with the cup and expressed milk and baby again lost weight.

Once home, my independent midwife said that baby needed 50ml top ups and we should introduce the bottle and reintroduce formula until my milk supply increased.

For the next month I expressed after every feed (even in the middle of the night) and under the midwifes' guidance got rid of the formula. By week 5 baby was purely breastfeed, as the midwife said he didn't need top ups any longer, he was gaining weight. But, he just did not poo. No one seemed concerned by this, until I mentioned it to my wonderful plunket nurse at the 6 week check. She suggested I go to my GP to check that baby wasn't constipated. The GP did a scan and there was no poo to be had, he diagnosed baby with a thing he termed 'hungry farts' and suggested I give the baby formula as my milk quality was poor. This was the first I'd heard of this. Anyway, after been brainwashed by Lactation Consultants and Midwifes that 'breast is best' there was no way I was going to give my baby formula. So I called my midwife in tears, she seemed to think it was a case of low milk supply (after 5 weeks of working so hard epressing, I'd done drugs, herbs, teas - you name it I tried it!) and suggested using the milk I had in the freezer and reintroducing the top ups at every feed. And guess what the very next morning baby pooed! Then my midwife said to top up after every second feed as she knew I didn't express enough milk to top up at every feed.

I became obsessed with expressing and can now see I was rationing baby as I knew how much milk was available and didn't want to run out. The midwife made me feel as if introducing formula would be the worst thing on earth. As did the Lactation Consultants, as I started visiting them each week to improve the situation too, thinking that perhaps baby had a poor latch.

At the 7 week mark, Plunket visited again and baby had slipped from 50th percentile at birth, to 15th at week 5 to the 3rd. He was gaining weight albeit very very slowly, still not pooing. Yet, his behaviour never indicated that he was underfed because throughout the whole process he was a placid little boy who did everything he was supposed to when he was supposed to. He just didn't poo!

I got really upset, and spoke to our neighbour who is training to be a ped. He was so fantastic and gently told me that baby needed formula. He then called his wife over who had been through exactly the same problem with their child 6 years earlier.

That day I bought some more formula and now top baby up at every feed. I manage about half the top ups with expressed milk and the rest with formula. I'm more relaxed now and only express 3 - 4 times a day. My husband does a dreamfeed with formula at 10pm each night. The best thing about being more relaxed means that I actually produce more milk. I'll keep going like this as long as I can. I take it month by month:)

Baby is 14 weeks tomorrow and my lovely plunket nurse is due this afternoon. I'm looking forward to seeing how much he weighs and don't feel bad for topping him up with formula and am very honest whenever anyone asks how baby is fed. I figure there are many more people who have struggled like I have and wish my friends who were mothers long before I was shared their stories earlier.

I love my baby more than I ever thought possible and at the end of the day does it really matter if a baby is breastfed, formula fed or both (like my little man)? All that matters is that he is happy and thriving - and man alive is he! It means the world to me that he wakes up after each sleep with a smile on his face, happy to see me and knowing that he is going to be well fed and have fun playing with his Mummy.

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