I always thought I would breastfeed on demand once I became pregnant with my daughter (DD). I read information from the NHS and a few authors who suggested a routine approach will be more suitable if wanting to ensure baby could go longer between feeds.
Emergency C-Section & Breastfeeding
When I gave birth to DD the midwives informed me to breastfeed her 2 hourly, even waking her up as she is too small to go longer then this through the night. I had great difficulty in doing this, as I struggled for my daughter to get a good latch. I had labour induced hypertension and was given a hormone drip to help dilate in order to give birth. This was unsuccessful and resulted in a caesarean birth. I continued with oral medication for my blood pressure (BP) until 3 months after DD was born.
My labour was stressful due to an emergency caesarean and hypertension issues coupled with not dilating to give birth and having IV hormones. There were also issues with DD becoming breach and an urgency to deliver, she was 7 days overdue.
Needless to say, trying to breastfeed whilst been exhausted and having an elevated BP and been stressed, was having an effect on getting DD to latch on.
Breastfeeding Struggles at Home
After arriving home and expressing my concerns to the midwives about DD not latching I had to express with an electric breast pump every 2 hours. This was to sustain my milk supply as DD was still not latching on and would become increasingly stressed and inconsolable. I did this for three weeks until she finally latched. My feelings are that by this point, perhaps I had de-stressed a little and she could sense this and therefore wasn’t feeling the anxiety and was able to latch on. At this point I fed DD on demand, however this included waiting until she was ready to nurse and would often involve her not taking a good feed before bed and waking numerous times through the night.
My husband had by this time returned to work involving him working away, therefore I had no support at home. I developed postnatal depression (PND) and really struggled with a crying baby through the day and night because she was hungry. DD was also not settling well because she had not consumed her daily recommended requirements of milk to be able to settle and sleep well. This was having a detriment on my health and I spoke with my health visitor about this who explained that babies cry and that’s their way of communicating and that it was normal. I began looking at alternative ways to keep my baby content with feeding and not waiting until she cried for a feed, as this was causing me stress.
Success on a Routine
I knew I could not keep up in this situation and therefore started a feeding and sleeping routine. My routine involved ensuring my baby nursed for 20 minutes on one breast then 10 minutes on the other. This ensured a full feed, as breast milk can be viewed as three courses a starter, main meal and a dessert. My DD was probably only receiving the starter with perhaps occasional main course due to the length of time she nursed previously. She then became more content after feeds and in between. I also started expressing for the evening feed and adding previous expressed milk to the bottle to give a larger feed as by the evening my milk supply had reduce due to exhaustion. This is another indication of why my baby wasn’t getting a good feed before bed. DD started sleeping from 2230 – 7am from about nine weeks old. This was extremely beneficial to my mental health and my PND started to dissipate a little after DD was more content through the day. She began to cry less and eventually rarely cried once the routine was established.
Women need empowering
My health visitor at no point advised me to an alternative way to feed my daughter successfully. She persisted in informing me to feed on demand even knowing this wasn’t working for me. Out of desperation I had to research ways to keep my baby content. I feel this could of all been avoided if I was aware of the choices surrounding feeding on demand vs Routine feeding. There was no empowerment advocated to me and I believe added to my PND and anxiety. My husband continued to be away with work until my daughter was 4 months old. Therefore, ensuring I was managing at home alone should have been any health care workers priority, instead of following strict guidelines of no flexibility that was advocated to me.