Becoming a parent is an incredibly difficult task. In front of you lies a human who cannot fend for themselves, who cannot eat or move without your help, and are completely reliant on you to survive. It’s a big task, and not something that comes naturally to everyone straightaway.
There are myriad complications after the birth of your child too. Seeing as a newborn baby cannot speak, there may be something wrong with no possible way for them to communicate the problem. For a woman who has chosen to be known only as Mandy, her son couldn’t communicate the fact that he was starving, even though she was breastfeeding him constantly.
Understandably, Mandy was incredibly concerned. Why wasn’t her son putting on weight? Mandy was at a loss as to why he was starving. It eventually took multiple visits to doctors and paediatricians to diagnose the problem.
When Mandy’s son was born, he weighed 6lbs 5oz. From the start, breastfeeding was difficult. Part of the issue was she had flat nipples, meaning that her son couldn’t latch on properly. As a result, he was restless and unsettled. The hospital gave her a shield to aid her son’s latching, which helped for a short while.
One month in, and Mandy’s son hadn’t gained enough weight to be deemed healthy. In a blog post for charity Fed Is Best, she wrote: “At his 1 month appointment he only weighed 6 pounds 5.5 ounces. He had only gained ½ of an ounce and his paediatrician suggested I talk to the lactation consultant. I went the next day to a group class, but the class was so large that I felt very overwhelmed and left early. I decided to go to the class offered at the hospital where he was born, where two of the nurses we had met would be teaching the class. The first thing they had me do was weigh him, feed him, and then weigh him again. When we weighed him after his hour-long feeding, the lactation consultant told me he had only eaten 20ml!”
Mandy’s nurse suggested to incorporate formula when feeding her son, as well as a pumping schedule. To Mandy’s confusion, her son was still restless when given breast milk. Mandy wrote: “We continued the routine and he continued to grow and thrive, but my supply didn’t seem to be increasing, and he still seemed so restless while nursing. The restlessness turned into full on screaming after he nursed or drank a bottle of breast milk.” The nurse suggested that she should cut dairy out of her diet, in case her son was reacting to it.
Six weeks later, Mandy met with her own doctors for a postpartum checkup: “She had experienced the same thing, so she sat down with me and went over things I could and couldn’t eat and what to look for on food labels. I also had a friend who did the same thing, so I followed her food plan, but he still would get so upset when he had any breast milk.”
At her wits’ end, she called her mother: “I was on the verge of a mental break down when she said, ‘he needs you to be healthy and sane far more than he needs breast milk.’ It was in that moment that I felt a little bit of weight lift off my shoulders. […] I was having a really hard time accepting it and was worried that she might push me to keep breastfeeding. Her beautiful response: ‘You’ve tried harder than 99% of the moms I’ve worked with to make breast feeding work, and it’s totally OK if you stop and exclusively formula feed.’” Mandy moved to a formula for her son, and saw a dramatic change in her baby’s behaviour.
Mandy’s story isn’t rare, either. Many new mothers struggle with breastfeeding, especially when there is a stigma around not breastfeeding your child. Hopefully, Mandy’s story will allow a little respite for new mothers, and prove that the baby’s health is the most important thing to worry about.