I didn’t want to breastfeed my son. Well not entirely at least. Let me contradict myself by firstly explaining that I am an advocate of breastfeeding. I did the peer supporter course, and I breastfed my daughter until age 2 and a half. However, when I was pregnant with my son, before I was even pregnant actually, I was adamant I was going to combination feed him pretty much from the get-go.
The reason for that was because I found it tricky to wean my little girl. At 2.5yrs old she understandably was very attached to breastfeeding; it was all she’d ever known and suddenly mum wanted to cancel it forever. It was a difficult time, but I had been ready to wean her for a good year or so and even though I did it really gradually, it was still a very difficult transition for her which I felt awful about. And so, when planning another baby this experience definitely factored in to the whole ‘I’m going to plan everything so it all goes much more smoothly on my second baby’. The plan was to breastfeed for the first few months gradually introducing a bottle of formula which would decrease my supply of milk incrementally then fully weaning him off the breast by about 10 months, 1 year at the maximum. How come I’m still feeding him at 2 then?
Breastfeeding in the NICU
Well, first of all his birth didn’t go to plan. I mean catastrophically didn’t go to plan. Cue me delivering a breech baby on my bathroom floor with no pain relief. He was born not breathing and needed CPR twice in the ambulance on the way to hospital. He was admitted to NICU and received a lot of care and treatment during the first 2 weeks of his life. I knew the best thing I could do for him within my power was to give him breastmilk, so that’s what I did. I set my alarm for 4am to get up to pump to encourage my supply and every night thereafter. Sure enough my body knew what to do and by the time he got home, having not had chance to sync with each other due to separation, I actually had an issue with over-supply (which is not nearly as great as it sounds at all.) The first time I fed him was at the hospital when he was 8 days old. Rich and I were over the moon when he first latched on. Because of the possible effects of lack of oxygen at birth, the fact that he was able to breastfeed was a really good sign. (He is now fine by the way, a very happy and healthy 2-year-old).
Already there had been a fight to provide my precious son with my own milk. Pumping on a regular schedule, storing the milk properly then transporting it in cooler bags to the hospital to be stored there for him.
Pain of Silent Reflux
His first night home was the most relaxed, blissful night, it was wonderful and we all slept well. Soon after, however, he began crying a lot. Which soon turned into screaming with pain. He would crunch up seemingly with stomach pain, his nappies were stinky beyond stinky and full of green mucous, and all this resulted in nursing aversion where he wouldn’t feed. He would cry for a feed, latch on and then pull his head back screaming in pain. Although he was so obviously hungry, he could not feed. I can’t quite describe how scary it is to have a weeks old baby who won’t feed. My husband and I were absolutely stumped. We didn’t know what to do to help him. It was really horrible and terrifying. I got some help from the GP thankfully and he was diagnosed with silent reflux and cow’s milk protein allergy. It certainly wasn’t smooth running from then by any means but the support from the GP was invaluable. Pop went my fabulous idea of introducing formula as the majority of them available in the supermarkets are made from cow’s milk.
I was still adamant I didn’t want to feed him into toddlerhood as I had done with my daughter, especially now it meant I would need to completely eradicate all dairy from my diet which I had obviously done immediately and was not particularly enjoying! Upon researching silent reflux and CMPA I found there were some formula milks he could have (of course there were!) but they were very expensive and health professionals were quite stringent with them and they had to be prescribed. My next meeting with the health visitor was the next day and she said she was unable to prescribe the milk and I’d have to see a doctor.
We had a follow up appointment with his consultant at the hospital the following week, so I continued to exclusively breastfeed and was still completely dairy free telling myself it was only temporary. At the appointment I explained all what had been going on and the consultant just basically said that if I could breastfeed him then that was the best thing for him. And that pretty much, was that. I had seen this man on the wards looking after my baby making decisions about his care I couldn’t begin to fathom myself, and I had so much respect for his knowledge and expertise, coupled with the fact he was telling what I already knew; that was that.
Although being the rebellious natured person that I am, I did order a tub of some weird smelling non dairy formula from some obscure pharmacy site in the US which cost about £27 in the end for one tub just to try. He had one bottle and had the biggest poo-splosion ever. It very obviously did not agree with him at all. So that was me dairy free for the next approximately 18 months and that is a whole other story.
There are lots of benefits of breastfeeding past infancy. I particularly love the Kellymom website for info on all things breastfeeding. Here’s a link for more info about breastfeeding your toddler: