Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Triumphant Tuesday - Resisting That Formula Sample

While nearly all mothers start breastfeeding their newborns, around half will quit after just a few weeks (Pediatrics 2013). First time mothers are especially likely to quit. Formula companies know that the first few weeks of a baby’s life are crucial in terms of netting long-term consumers of their products. If they can seduce a mother during her vulnerable adjustment to new motherhood, it is likely they will have her custom for at least 12 months - and that’s a significant amount of wonga!

This mother's story illustrates the vulnerability of new motherhood and the illicit temptations that can lie in a formula can.

“I knew I was going to succeed at breastfeeding, simply because I had decided I would.

Placenta previa and premature labor 

I had a lot of problems in my pregnancy. I had very bad morning sickness, and then at 12 weeks, after a bleeding incident, I was diagnosed with placenta previa and put on pelvic rest. At 33 weeks I went into labor. I was one centimeter dilated with contractions two minutes apart.  I was put on a magnesium sulfide drip for 60 hours. It was torture, but worked to stop the contractions. I spent five nights in the hospital on complete bed rest, catheter and all.  I was released and put on the drug procardia, one pill exactly every eight hours. Procardia is a heart medicine, but it's off label use is to prevent contractions.

The next day, after four doses of procardia, my husband noticed that the name of the drug on the prescription bottle was not procardia, and the patient's name was not mine. I still can't tell you why I didn't notice this myself. So we rushed straight back to labor and delivery so they could get with the pharmacy and investigate what exactly I was taking and had it harmed the baby. It turns out the drugs were correct, the pharmacy had out the wrong label on the bottle, thank goodness. While I was in the hospital, it was discovered I had a urinary tract infection. So I was given an antibiotic along with my freshly labelled procardia, and was sent home. Not a good start to my relations with health professionals.

All that night and the next day I had terrible back pain and a fever. It was so bad I thought I was in labor. But that next afternoon I had a follow up appointment at my obgyn so I waited to see her. When I got there she discovered my uti had spread to my kidneys. She sent me straight to the hospital for IV antibiotics. It was my eighth consecutive day of spending sometime at the hospital.

I was ordered to be on strict bed rest and to keep taking the procardia.  I made it to 37 weeks! I got off bed rest and even went back to work for a week. By 38 weeks I was four centimeters dilated and my water broke while I was at work.

Drugged birth = dosy breastfeeding

After 12 hours of overnight labor I started to feel a little uncomfortable and the nurse offered me an epidural. I said the pain wasn't that bad yet. So they offered me some other drug. I don't know what it was but they said it would make me loopy and not care about the pain. And that's exactly what it did. I did not like the way it made me feel and I would not take it again.

Around 8am the real pain started. I thought I was dying. I wanted the epidural and I wanted it now! When I got it, it was immediate relief. My doctor did a check on me and I was 8cm. After the epidural I fell back asleep. I woke up to my doctor telling me I was 10cm and it was time to push. It was 10am. At 10:12 Anders was born. It was almost too easy.

Within minutes of my son's birth I said 'its time to breastfeed.' And he latched on and nursed. I thought, this is going to be easy!

But I was still numb everywhere from the drugs, and didn't realize he had a bad latch. A very bad latch.

When all the feeling returned to my body it was too late. One of my nipples was bleeding and scabbed up. The other was what can only be described as one giant bruise. I think initially he only had latched onto my nipple rather than the areola. It felt like he was sucking so hard. I dreaded feeding times. It was too painful to nurse. It was toe curling get-him-away-from-me pain.

Finger feeding

Luckily the nurse helped me through it. She literally milked me like a cow. She hand expressed the collastrum from my breast. I felt relief when I saw those little drops come out.  I then put those precious drops on my finger tip and fed them to my baby. I pumped every two hours to stimulate my supply. Whatever I pumped, I finger fed to my baby.


Two days later I went home. My nipples were still cracked and bruised. But I no longer had the hospital’s breast pump. I nursed and sobbed. I nursed and screamed. My husband was scared. When my milk came in - it really came in.  I had the biggest boobs in the history of boobs.  It made it even harder for my baby to latch on. I ran a fever. I’m not sure of this was because I had mastitis or just because I very badly engorged.

Formula sample

And then.... the formula sample mysteriously showed up in my mailbox. I don't know how the company found me. But they did.  A six pack of pre-mixed formula bottles. I didn't throw it out - I'll donate it, I told myself.

But every night at 4am when my engorged breasts were throbbing and bleeding and my newborn was screaming and hungry, I thought about that six pack. It was calling my name. "Your baby is starving," that six pack yelled at me! My husband, bleary eyed and desperate, even reminded me we had it in the house. I ended up receiving three in those first few weeks! If I had to guess, I would hypothesise that got my information from Target, where I was registered.

But I stayed strong. I rented a breast pump and almost exclusively pumped while my nipples healed.

Slowly I added nursing sessions back in my routine. By 10 weeks I was almost exclusively nursing straight from the breast.

I never touched that six pack. Breastfeeding has become that easy thing I thought it would be. I could not imagine quitting now, after all the hard work. My goal is to make it to his first birthday.

That six pack still lives in my house. Maybe someday I'll donate it. But for now I like to pass it, give it a smirk, and think about how I won.

I think it's terrible when mothers don’t try to breastfeed. The people that shock me most are the ones who had an easy time breastfeeding and quit after a few months. I want to scream at them, don't you know how lucky you are! Don't you know what some people had to go through to get to that point!”

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Alex Dixon said...

I just want to say well done :)

I love breastfeeding my 4.5 month old daughter. It's a privilege and a joy. I didn't have any of your problems so I really am impressed at how well you've done to keep going. My daughter was in special care for the first two days of her life, but the nurses still encouraged me to bf, which I am grateful for. x

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