Chery’s breastfeeding story: watch the baby not the scales

This is the first of a series of personal breastfeeding stories. To celebrate Breastfeeding Awareness week each day there will be a new breastfeeding story on the Natural Nursery Blog and if you feel like a breastfeeding related treat you can pop over to the Natural Nursery Shop and buy a beautiful Bravado Bra with 20% off!

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Watch your baby, not the scaleI’ve got three gorgeous children, aged 8, 4 and 3-months, and I breastfed all of them – for 6 months, 9 months and, with my 3-month-old son Pierre, hopefully even longer. So I’m pretty much “an old hand” and I know what I’m doing. But even so, I almost cracked in the first few weeks with my new baby, due to the unrelenting pressure of the medical team. This is the bit I hate about breastfeeding.

Pierre lost more weight than ‘normal’ after birth. The midwives saying I wouldn’t be allowed to take him home from hospital if he didn’t gain weight – I basically forcefed him every 2 hours (he was sicking up little bits after every feed because he was too full) and he gained 60g in 24 hours. All the signs were good – he was drinking (though he kept falling asleep at the breast!), filling nappies and was content. I could hear my milk flowing and see him swallowing, I also leaked everywhere if I forgot the breast pads so I knew I had milk.

Then his weight stagnated at one month. The replacement doctor said he’d give me one week. Pierre would have to be given formula if his weight didn’t pick up. I obviously wanted what’s best for Pierre but I hate the way they always look at you as if you’re selfish for wanting to breastfeed (“obviously your milk isn’t rich enough or there isn’t enough of it”). I went home in tears feeling like a total failure and desperate to keep breastfeeding. I logged on to a chat forum I use a lot and had a rant, hoping for loads of moral support to pick me up.

The replies to this cry for help :

reply #1
Ditch the breastfeeding and put him onto formula.  You can see exactly how much he is taking each feed and hubby can feed him as well. Plus when people visit they can all feed him too while you make everyone a nice cup of tea. Pierre will happily be fussed by everyone and will love every second.

reply #2 :

I have no personal experience of this but a friend’s little girl had this issue too. She was a tiny pre term baby and wasn’t putting on weight with breast feeding and she swapped her to formula and continued to express breast milk too. Her little one is piling on weight now. I know you want to do best for Pierre but perhaps whats best for him is mixed feeding of some sort.

reply #3 :

Iv’e had 2 kids and never breastfed.

reply # 4 (at last, this finally came in and made me cry again, but for the right reasons this time !! )

This is no pressure to carry on or give up just my experience. No anti bottlefeeding from me. I breastfed twins and had enough milk for two and they both lost weight in first few weeks, boy was tube fed in hospital and then always wanted nipple shields as he couldn’t suckle so his weight fluctuated. I had a lot of advice from TAMBA. A friend who had breastfed her child continued to encourage me. It’s probably not true that your milk isn’t rich enough.

My husband had already said a couple of days before that maybe my milk wasn’t rich enough and I told him that, according to the books, breastmilk is always rich enough, it’s adapted to baby’s needs. So to have a doctor turn around and say the same thing just blew my reasoning out of the water. I eventually followed my instincts, ignored the scales and the pressure and just kept feeding. Within a couple of weeks, it had all sorted itself out and his weight was on the upward curve again. When I saw my doctor the following month, he said that I was right to follow my instincts.

So if your little one is slow to put on weight, don’t spoil the special cuddles and bonding sessions by worrying over the numbers on the scale. Go with your gut instinct – if all the signs are good and he appears happy and healthy, don’t let all the criticism undermine your confidence.

Thanks Cheryl for your story. Many nursing mothers find themselves dealing with unsollicited breastfeeding advice and when it comes from unsupportive health professionals it is very upsetting. As a new mum, you are genuinely worried to do the best for your baby. If you find that the breastfeeding advice you’re getting doesn’t help, keep searching. Contact the Leche League, the Breastfeeding Network, the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers your local breastfeeding support group, or find a lactation consultant. There you will find accurate breastfeeding advice from mothers who have been there done that and followed an extensive training. They will be able to advise if your baby is getting enough milk, or if you should be worried.