Breast is not always best.

, posted: 3-Jul-2009 08:31

Recently my wife and I had a little boy. Due on the 7th of May he came two days early by emergency caesarean. Because of the emergency c-section my wife didn't go through many of the traditional labour experiences (labour pains etc) some would say that's fortunate. What relevance that may have I'm not sure.

Anyway. Being a c-section birth means you stay in hospital longer while they make sure the major surgery the mother has been through heals properly. For this we were thankful.

The nurses and midwives at Lower Hutt hospital were excellent, from taking our unsettled baby in the middle of the night so my wife could sleep, to the burping tips and positions, to the countless pieces of advice on breast feeding. Which brings me to my point....

New Zealand and it seems Wellington in particular have very low breast feeding rates. So much so that the New Zealand government has a advertising campaign running at the moment (targeting Maori and Pacific Islanders it seems) to encourage breast feeding. Also the world health organisation is very pro breast feeding as well.

I Don't have a problem with this. If you can why not, it's free, nothing to sterilise, they're always with the mother in their handy and rather attractive containers.

But the problem comes if for whatever milk production is slow in coming. Remember how I said we didn't go through a lot of the normal labour process? Well this may have been a factor as the body releases hormones during birth to tell the body its having a baby.  Any way, short version after trying for the first three days to breast feed and struggling somewhat, the baby was weighed he had lost 10.6% of his birth weight. 10% is the magic number they want the baby to stay under, as pretty much all babies loose some weight at birth.

So after finding his weight had dropped a little too much the midwives wanted my wife to express to give the baby some extra after breast feeding. This all sounded logical. But what followed was 5 hours of 'stuff being done to my boobs'.

Expressing can take three forms, and from most effective to least effective is the baby suckling, a breast pump and hand expressing.  Over the course of the next 5 hours my wife had all three of these methods applied. There had been earlier attempts to hand express from some of the other midwives but the one that did it this day was particularly rough. Leaving my wife very sore. And so at the end of 5 hours when she offered to hand express again my wife said NO!

'We want to top him up with formula'.

You would have thought that we said we wanted to boil and eat the boy. After trying to talk us out of it and persist with the had expressing/breast pump, we were told 'there is a form to fill out'.  Ya what!?! You're kidding right??!?!? No.  Well bring it then and lets get going.

40mls he drank, the poor little guy was starving! 40 mls is a lot when your stomach is the size of a 20 cent coin (about 15mm).  So for the next 24 hours he was topped up after breast feeding, having 10 - 20mls at a time.  And when he was weighed 24 hours later he had put on weight.  Another 24 hours and another weight gain - time to leave the hospital.  Now he is breast fed exclusively, so even though we skirted the dark side by using formula we continue to breast feed the baby (I'm using the collective 'we' here btw!!).

The trouble is this isn't an isolated incident, why is it so difficult use formula, even to the point where it is detrimental to the baby.  I know of another story where twins has lost of 20% of their birth weight.  Still the hospital would not feed formula.  In this particular story, the parents checked out of hospital early and put the babies on formula, where they now thrive.

A third story I just heard where the baby was taken to special care with a rash, turns out the mother had no breast milk and the baby had not fed.  When the nurses came back into the mothers room she sat her down and said "your baby has not fed to 2 days", in shock the mother didn't reply, the nurse repeated, "your baby has not fed in 2 days", and just stood there, what is she to say, FEED HER THEN!!.  Thank you the nurse says, 'we cannot offer formula, but you can ask for it' - I mean WTF is up with that.  Here is a baby that is obviously sick, dehydrated, mother is in distress, and yet still she has to ask for.  This is what I don't agree with.

The ad campaign and posters that surround you are fine, antenatal classes also push breast feeding, so you hear it all through the pregnancy.  But to make any other option so difficult I find to be a very bad practice.  You are made to feel a failure (well not me, but the mother is), and this isn't good either, it's not always the mothers fault she cannot breast feed.

Anyway, rant over, our boy is a healthy breast fed baby, still growing, still putting on weight, and that's all that matters.





Other related posts:
Little Boys and their Sewing Machine Cars
The ongoing Epuni Train Station saga
I have a death wish - riding home from Wellington City




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davidcole Cole
Lower Hutt
New Zealand


Been thinking it would be nice to have a blog but not sure if I have enough to say.

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