In the age of information (internet, libraries, helplines, other media) ignorance is a choice and should never form a roadblock to breastfeeding. However after I declare this, a common retort is: “But there’s a lot of faulty information out there”. This is true. However when a mother utilizes two of her inner resources, she can overcome incorrect advice. What are these resources? They’re free, they don’t require a PhD or a trek around the earth. The resources are: common sense and parental instinct. Take this story as a perfect example:
“I gave birth via an emergency c section to a beautiful baby boy. I struggled with breastfeeding from day 1.
Faulty information #1: Forced separation
I was in a lot of pain due to the c section. When my son was 10 days old, my wound started bleeding. I had to undergo another operation because it turns out I had a serious infection. This required me to be in hospital for 3 days. During this time, I didn’t have access to my baby. I begged my gynae for my son to come to hospital with me. However he told me that hospital policy doesn’t allow that because I will not be at the maternity ward but I will be admitted at a general ward. He also advised that my baby shouldn’t come to visit as he might pick up infections. I quickly rushed to buy a breast pump and started pumping.
Faulty information #2: Breastfeeding and medication
During my first night in hospital the nurse told me that I could pump but I shouldn’t give the milk to my baby as it was not safe because I was on medication. I was troubled by this so the first thing I did when I saw my doctor the next day was ask about it. He reassured me that it was fine to feed my son the pumped breast milk.
Pumping was hard work; I was heavily drugged and half asleep most of the time. I remember times where nothing would come out. This made me unbearably sad and I felt helpless. I couldn’t even sleep because all I thought about was my baby. I didn’t even know how to use a pump at the time. I would pump for an hour, sometimes 2 hours, and couldn’t even get 100ml. Thankfully my boy never drank formula because what I expressed was enough (thank goodness for small tummies).
On my third day in hospital I begged my doctor to let me go home to my baby. He finally discharged me, however at that point I realized someone had stolen my wedding ring! My husband and I looked for it for about 2 hours. My husband wanted to fight with hospital staff but I told him to let it go. All I wanted to do was go home to be with my baby and breastfeed him. When I got home my mum was about to boil water to prepare some formula. I was so relieved that I got home just in time.
Faulty information #3: Intense pain is normal
When I was finally back home, the fun and games really began. I started having excruciating stabbing pains in my right breast. It felt like someone was pulling my breast from the inside. There were times when it was so bad that I would cry whilst nursing. I had no idea what was happening and was convinced it was something they gave me whilst at hospital. I called the clinic for advice and they told me to go and see my gynae, but he couldn’t see me till the 6 weeks checkup. I then tried to call several gynaes for an appointment but was told they could only see me after a month.
I waited and waited, and when I did eventually see him he told me breastfeeding was painful and there was nothing wrong with my breasts. I was so angry. I wanted to ask him how he knew as he’s never breastfed a baby before.
Faulty information #4: Three hourly feeds
I then took my baby to a paeditrician for a check up. He weighed my baby and plotted his weight on the growth chart. I was told he was 500grams below what he should be weighing.
The paedictrician then told me to feed my baby every 3 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night. I asked him what should I do if he cries in between feeds, and he told me to let him cry and not give him the breast.
On our way home my husband and I were confused and our instincts told us that the doctor was wrong. How could we let our baby cry?
Faulty information #5: Top up with formula and introduce solids early
I had to return to my paediatrician for regular check-ups and each time I was told that my baby was still not gaining enough and I should top up with formula. My pediatrician also told me that I should start solids at 4 months. He even set up an appointment at 4 months to discuss how to wean. After doing research about when to start solids I cancelled the appointment.
Despite all the pain and bad advice I received from so-called experts I persevered. Although the tide of ‘professionals’ were against me, I had a very strong drive to breastfeed my son. I was determined to make it work. I went to a GP who told me to continue putting my baby to breast no matter how painful it was. She also diagnosed me with thrush (finally!) and prescribed the appropriate medication. After 3 days I was pain free.
Faulty information #6: Can’t breastfeed with psoriasis
But the fun didn’t stop there. I also developed psoriasis on my areola. I was very worried and was not sure if I could breastfeed with psoriasis as some online sources say that psoriasis medication can be dangerous to a baby. However more research, and a little common sense, led me to apply ointment onto my areola morning and night, then wipe it off before each feed.
I returned to work at 4 months (I’m in South Africa and we only get 4 months maternity leave here), but that didn’t stop me breastfeeding. I pumped for my son and also went home during lunch to breastfeed.
I’m glad I never gave up at the first challenge. I guess where there’s a will there’s a way.”
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