Little Sunday story time by Lucie

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. Especially when I saw my consultant for my multiple sclerosis during pregnancy who said if I breastfed it would keep any new relapses at bay.

This made me even more determined to breastfeed but also gave me added pressure to be successful.

During labour things took a turn for the worse and I suffered from hyponatremia (low sodium levels from being too hydrated) that I ended up in the intensive care unit for 24 hours. I’d had forceps delivery and an episiotomy due to losing all sense of who I was and where I was. They could only operate 12 hours later once I was more compesmentus.

I don’t remember giving birth or my first cuddle with my baby girl.

For the first 24 hours of her life she was looked after by my amazing husband with close help from lovely midwives who cup fed her formula.

As soon as I was awake they brought her to me in intensive care for cuddles but not for long and I was unable to breastfeed due to medication and my impending trip to theatre.

Once I was back from theatre and feeling more human 24 hours later after giving birth they brought her to me and to my absolute delight she latched straight away and started to suck! Constantly at the back of my mind there was the worry that if I couldn’t breastfeed then this would effect my MS symptoms.

I continued to breastfeed but to begin with had to supplement my milk with formula. I had passed my low sodium levels onto my daughter and they needed her levels to go back up which meant ensuring she was getting plenty of milk.

I was in hospital 5 days and on our discharge I was just breastfeeding with no top ups required as her levels had returned to normal.

Then came the first visit from the midwife and she had dropped 14% of her initial weight. It was absolute panic from the midwife who was suggesting we may need to head back to hospital there and then. After a phone call to the paediatrician at the neonatal unit he advised that I needed to feed her, express more milk to give her and to top her up with formula too. I was heartbroken.

I started to pump (mainly just blood!) and my husband rushed out to buy formula. She was having none of it. My husband tried to cup feed her the formula as he had been shown in hospital but she was just spitting it out. She refused the top ups - she was full!

With help from my dear friend (who is a massive breastfeeding advocate) she suggested as she could see how stressed I was becoming was just to try and breastfeed her as much as possible. No pumping and no formula (she wouldn’t take it anyway). I don’t think I would have had the confidence to make this decision myself even though it was what my gut was telling me to do.

The midwife then came to visit 24 hours later to monitor our progress and she had gained 3x more weight than they would have expected! So I continued to just breastfeed her and the next 24 hours she gained loads more. The midwife was really impressed with what we had achieved especially when I admitted that I had ignored the original advice.

I am not suggesting for any moment that this would work for everyone but I strongly believe that you and your baby know best together. She refused the formula as she didn’t need it and for me to pump to just top her up seemed counterproductive so I went with my gut instinct and it worked!

Only recently have I learnt that the big drop from her birth weight was due to her low sodium levels and when she was born she had a lot of fluid which she needed to pass hence the big drop from birth weight. Which is why I think the neonatal unit weren’t as worried as the midwife as they were aware of mine and my daughters journey.

Due to the pumping and the constant feeding I suffered with extremely sore nipples and it was painful breastfeeding I would say for the first 4 weeks. I kept worrying it meant my latch was wrong and I tried different techniques for latching but none seemed to make a difference from the excruciating pain I felt. I also had a lactation expert come to see me who confirmed my latch looked good. I could have easily given up but constantly I kept reminding myself that I needed to keep my MS symptoms away. So I persevered and it certainly payed off!

We have been exclusively breastfeeding for 4 months now (excluding the early days in hospital) and when I think back to the start of our journey it is quite incredible that we managed breastfeeding. She is absolutely thriving and now following the 98th centile!

Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and have confidence in yourself and your baby. Mummy does know best and perseverance pays off!