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BF disaster - help me make sense of it all

(3 Posts)
MissHairspray Mon 08-Jun-09 08:31:45

Morning ladies
This is going to be a marathon post but need to get it off my chest more than anything.

DS is 19 weeks now and ff. I never had any issue with those who chose to ff their babies, but I wanted to breast feed and it never crossed my mind when I was pregnant that this might not work the way it was supposed to. I went to the classes, read everything about good latches etc.
DS was born in a MLU after a straightforward labour. Had skin-to-skin contact straight away and then spent every hour or so for the next 24 trying to get him to latch on, which he just wouldn't do. He would scream with what seemed like hunger and frustration but not even try to suckle. The midwifes reckoned that because my nipples were slightly flat and inverted at the ends they just weren't stimulating his sucking reflex, and the more upset he got the less likely he was to try. Eventually after 24hrs we gave him a tiny amount of formula to try and calm him down enough to have another go, plus used a breast pump on my nipples to try and draw them out to see if that helped. He did latch on eventually, suckled for 15 mins but when he came off my nipple was already very painful and with what looked like blood blisters at the end. The mw said the latch had looked fine but that because my nips were slightly inverted they probably weren't used to the exposure and were more sensitive than most.
The next couple of days I struggled to get him to consistently latch on at all. He would scream, refuse to suck and eventually the only thing that would calm him was a bottle. I tried expressing to keep my supply up so that when he wouldn't bf I could at least give him ebm most of the time, but every time I gave him formula I felt guilty that I was 'giving in' and wasn't doing it properly, but relieved that he was getting food and seemed happier. Most of the time when I did bf I had to use a pump first to draw the nipples out again before he would latch on. When he did it was very painful and one was definitely cracked. I tried expressing off that side for a couple of days, then when I finally thought I was getting somewhere I got mastitis, felt like absolute hell and he wouldn't feed any more. I expressed when I could and tried again once it had cleared up, but ds would feed constantly (obviously to try and get supply back up) and by now both nipples were so cracked and sore I just couldn't do it any more and gave up. This wasn't easy, I was pretty distraught and the whole experience really made the first few weeks feel quite traumatic. I know now that I should have just called a bf counsellor - I had all of the contact info - but because I had been told the latch was fine and I was probably just really sensitive I felt like I was really weak and unable to just grit my teeth and bare with the pain like other women on mn etc had said they had done. I hated it and didn't want to feel any more pressure to continue than I had done.
Looking back now with a bit of perspective I think that the latch probably wasn't right - my nipples did look quite pinched after ds had fed - and that because I kept using formula top-ups (because I felt it was the only way to make sure he got any food when he wouldn't latch), when he did feed my supply was low so had to bf every hour which only exacerbated the problem of cracked nipples.
Anyway, ds is thriving and it hasn't caused him any problems, but I feel like I need to make sense of it all and move on from the experience, plus I would like to try again if I have another dc in the future. So if anyone is still with me I do have some questions

1) Is it common for babies to not latch on and how long can they go without a formula top up? Are there any other ways to deal with the problem? Other mums i've spoken to expressed colostrum in hospital but that wasn't suggested to me - possibly because by that point ds was screaming for food
2) Is it likely that my nipples were just sensitive or had bad latch? It looked like he always had a good mouthful but they did look flattened on his 'tongue' side when he had stopped feeding. I did check to see if his tongue looked tied and couldn't see anything.

Thank you in advance smile

tiktok Mon 08-Jun-09 09:25:56

MissHairspray - it's a real shame you had such a painful struggle, and while it's great your ds is thriving, it's not surprising you need to make sense of what's happened.

You were let down by the people whose job it was to ensure you had a happy, pain-free bf experience. They convinced you that despite pain and damage to your nipples, your latch was fine and the problems you were having were due to your anatomy - this convincing was powerful enough for you to feel unable to seek help elsewhere, and even to feel 'weak' for not being able to bear the pain. I can assure you that breastfeeding counsellors do not (or should not) pressurise women - we take our lead from you.

I haven't seen your nipples, obviously, but they don't sound very different from most people's. Many people have a slight dimple at the end - which is what I am getting from your description. Babies cope just fine with them, on the whole.

Looking back, I think the scene was set of that first day. Left to themselves, tucked in together, without pressure to 'get the baby on' with the handling and messing about that often means, mothers and babies find their own way with minimal guidance.

A baby screaming on day 1 with hunger and frustration? No. That's a baby trying to get the messing about to stop - and instead the handling and pushing increases. Typically, babies then 'switch off' and fall asleep rather than feed.

Use of formula and a breastpump to draw out the nipples - poor care. I don't care how kind and well-meaning they were.

That stage need not have been reached, but given that it had, you could have hand expressed colostrum, and continued with skin to skin cuddling - I doubt very much you needed the paraphernalia of a pump to draw out your nipples.

Those first days set you on a course which set a pattern....and it was difficult to get out of.
To answer your Qs, your baby did not need formula (as far as I can tell), and while some babies do have a struggle to latch in the first days, it does not usually need more than simple measures to deal with. Yes, I think your latch was not quite right, but this often happens when the baby and the mother have been pressurised to clamp together any old how, rather than encouraging the baby to self-attach.

MissHairspray Mon 08-Jun-09 20:56:15

Thank you so much for replying tiktok, I wish at the time I had realised that when all the leaflets etc talk about the time it takes to 'establish breastfeeding' that this can actually mean struggling to get the baby to latch in the first place! Anyway, I can't change anything now but I feel much happier about it and better informed for the future, and if I have another dc i'm definitely going to call a bf councellor as soon as any problems arise.

Thanks again smile

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