10 Sep 2012
When breast is (apparently) not best
Oooh controversial. Before the comments begin, I should say that for women who want to do it (and most importantly can do it) breastfeeding is wonderful. I hardly need to go into detail about the health benefits or the amazing feeling of closeness, even the practicality of not having to sterilise bottles and having a potentially inexhaustible milk supply on hand at any one time.
And I do genuinely agree with it all, which is why I’ve been breastfeeding since day one – admittedly with mixed results. It’s taken a large amount of single-minded, blindly stubborn determination and several patient and helpful NCT breastfeeding counsellors to get me to this stage, and there have been plenty of tears and an impressive loss of perspective, sometimes several times a day.
But as I’ve been getting Minnie weighed every week, the scales have not been heading upwards as they should. Despite one formula top-up per day then two, all in a special Medela Calma bottle to avoid causing any further problems with breastfeeding, the number of ounces which have been going on mean she’s still been dropping down the centiles.
Health visitors and GPs reassured me that she seems happy and healthy but that we’d need to keep an eye on her weight, until finally with one referral to a paediatrician already working its way through the NHS’s system, I was told I had to stop breastfeeding and head to hospital for checks the same day. Not the kind of statement any health practitioner is going to make lightly, but we had to guarantee Minnie was getting at least 500mls of milk a day – and you can’t do that with breastfeeding (or with expressing in my case).
An afternoon with a string of specialists carrying out a barrage of tests confirmed there seems to be no underlying condition to blame, thankfully. Which means either she hasn’t been getting enough milk from me despite apparently having plenty to go around, or for some reason it isn’t giving her the calories she needs.
The official term is ‘failure to thrive’, which I have to remind myself doesn’t equate to ‘failure as a mother’. Most important is that she’s healthy and at least she’s had the benefit of nearly two months’ worth of breast milk.
But from now, it’s bottles all the way, plus some additional mini feeds and top-ups of expressed milk while I reduce production. And I start working out how to fit formula and sterilising into our travel plans.
Image: nerissa’s ring/Flickr