I’m a doctor in and I work in the Royal Hospital. I’ve learned a lot about how women are treated in the health service. My area of practices not really, not very, I don’t…sometimes give advice about drugs in pregnancy, but very rarely. And you know, that’s kind of that’s it really. So I wasn’t prepared for the whole experience of birth and trying to get help with breastfeeding when breastfeeding wasn’t working. And I’m now quite angry and appalled that women have to go through this kind of thing.
The thing that I found most shocking was the inconsistency in different people’s advice. The fact that advice available from an NHS provider was very difficult to come by. I ended up speaking to two lactation consultants privately. And also seeing another lactation consultant slash midwife about tongue tie privately.
So there was a so there’s this kind of cottage industry of support of all of these very well meaning women who are who’ve, you know, dedicated their professional lives to it, but they’re not paid for by the NHS, they’re paid for, by in private practice, because the NHS isn’t funding this area of need, and there’s clearly a massive need.
And, and because they are all in private practice, they’ve, although they’re regulated, they’ve got quite different approaches, you know, and, and I had quite conflicting advice from different people.
You know, we had some, we had it, I think fairly rough we had because I had an induced labour I was I developed preeclampsia right at right on my due date, basically. We had an epidural and lots of drugs. I couldn’t hold him after he was born because I was too sort of whacked out basically. So we didn’t get our kind of skin to skin straightaway. He was a bit dopey for the first 24 hours, 48 hours because of the medicated medications in labour. So we kind of started badly, we had a very, we had a really unhappy experience on the postnatal ward with lots of people pressuring me to give him formula.
And, you know, there were lots of very well meaning staff. But they were desperately understaffed. They didn’t have the support for me to be, you know, for people to sit with me and help me for more than a few minutes at a time. And there wasn’t, you know, whenever I asked for help, it was a different person who had two to five minutes to give me.
And a lot of pressure to get him feeding. And, you know, and I kept being told you can’t go home until he’s feeding until he’s until you’ve got a consistent, established feeding going on. We can’t let you go home.
And I was and you know, he was kind of latching but not really suckling. And then, you know, not really latching that well. And on the very first night, you know, I gave birth at about two in the afternoon on a Saturday, and by about nine o’clock that night, I was bounced into giving him some formula.
So, which I was too tired and too confused and too anxious to argue against really, I was kind of just Yes, that you know that you’re You seem very anxious. I’m very anxious. Let’s give him formula like it, you know, it.
We had two weeks of me desperately trying to breastfeed him at home. They recommended that what they gave me a breast pump in hospital and so I used a breast pump for the first time in hospital. And that caused more… that caused nipple damage, which then led to a really resistant strain of… case of thrush that was really like just desperately painful, and took a long time to work out what it was because people kept saying Oh, that’s just, you’ve just got pain because it’s you’re starting off.
And then so I had two weeks of just it. You know, whenever I tried to feed him, it was just so painful. And then by the end of that two weeks, he lost about seven and a half percent of his birth weight, which, which my midwife was kind of, she was like, No, that’s she was actually good. She was really reassuring. She was like, you know, I would have expected more, to be honest. And I think you’re doing well. But I was just psychologically broken.
By the end of that two weeks, I was just, you know, every time I fed him was just so painful. I just was crying every time I put him to my breast.
So she said, she sort of saw me on the end of that four weeks (two weeks) and just said, right, you need a break, you can’t carry on because you’re, I’m worried about you. And which was, which was good was the right thing at that point. And, and so I had kind of a couple of days where I just pumped and he had a bottle. And then we kind of tried again. And we just went through these cycles of sort of, of doing this getting a bit of more advice, I was kind of obsessively reading things on the internet,. It was felt like my every kind of waking moment was this sort of breastfeeding nightmare.
And I really, I think that I really just didn’t. I didn’t, I didn’t and couldn’t really bond with him at all. I felt really like it was a really strange kind of existential pain, actually, like that there was something really wrong. Like, no one, no one explains to you that it’s not the baby blues, it’s, it’s going Shit, I’m suddenly completely aware of my own mortality and the mortality of my infant and the heavy weight of, of, of being responsible, being intimately tied to this other human being in this way, and there being no way out of that. No rest from that. And then, you know, that’s what it is. It’s existential dread. And, and, and it kind of just goes, BOOM. It’s not like a flurry of hormones. You know, it’s not like PMS.
That’s what you sort of think it’s going to be because of the euphemistic language, it’s not that at all, it’s this, it’s this profound thing that happens, and I know, I now know that it’s, it’s not just me that had that happen, you know, but I had to, you know, I was sort of, I thought I was going really mad, but things like that where you know, what, we don’t even have a proper word for it,
that meets that sort of reflects what it is. Because we’re too busy minimising this whole journey that women go through, and making it about, you know, bows, and teddy bears, and I think, you know, the kind of the sterility of what happens when women can’t breastfeed now, which is that you’re told to go away, and and buy some formula, and, you know, that’s the end.
That’s..Or you know, even if you struggle slightly with breastfeeding, that is what you’re told to do, but just this like, level of anxiety around everything that that related to the baby. And, as you said before, like, very little regard for what might be going on for the mother. It is misogyny,
We would be doing better if this was a problem that men had. It would be, it would look a lot different. And we wouldn’t be kind of we wouldn’t be we wouldn’t be relying on you know, individual practitioners trying to work hard to do the best that they can, it would be a much more joined up approach to making things better. It’s not easy to talk about something that is so hidden all the time.
And if if it’s sort of there in the in the public consciousness in some way, you know, if it’s on a, on a billboard, or if it’s, you know, if you’re if you’re sort of going about your day and you and you sort of come across one of the spots on the audio tour or whatever, even if you don’t actually engage with it…If you’re Oh something about breastfeeding, just because, you know, the one of the other the isolating things about the whole experience is that you feel like you’re doing this, you’re going through this thing.
And everyone else, you know, you said the thing about the tardis and you know, waking up in a new universe where everything looks the same, but it’s all completely different. If you’re sort of in the parallel universe of breastfeeding and, and consumed by thoughts about what’s going on, and anxiety about what’s going on but then everyone else is disconnected from it.
So there’s something about building a bridge between the women who are in the struggle and other women who have a vested interest in our struggle