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Share your experience - Verity's story

This starts with the birth of my first daughter in 2006 following an induction that lasted 4 days with her finally being born by ventouse....
Lily was very difficult to feed as a newborn as she had jaundice that required bili-bed therapy. She was born at 00.05 on a Tuesday and fed fairly well the first 18 hours, but soon stopped being able to latch and instead took to screaming only being comforted by my walking her about (which was not allowed by the ward Midwives). By 10am on the Wednesday I was convinced I had no milk and Lily was starving so begged for help but got none. I then begged for formula (no one told me babies DO NOT starve in less than 48 hours especially with a few good feeds in them first) so we could be discharged (we were not allowed to go home until Lily fed but no help was given to breastfeed).
The community midwives advised 2oz of milk every two hours as soon as it was known she had jaundice (day 2). Lily was unable to latch on to feed from either breast or bottle by then as she was too sleepy to even open her mouth. My husband had to pry her jaws open so I could 'milk' the teat of a bottle to get her to swallow.
I was, by Thursday, pumping with a Medela Symphony (hired from NCT) every 2 hours and collecting the colostrum until I had 2oz worth as we were told not to mix formula and colostrum. My milk finally came in late on Saturday (day 5) but by then Lily was firmly on bottles and I was not allowed to breastfeed her as she was not allowed out from the bili-bed except for nappy changes. As I had an epileptic seizure in the hospital on Saturday night, due to lack of sleep and stress, I was then not allowed to even approach my daughter's bili-bed with out being shouted at by a Midwife until we were discharged on the Sunday afternoon.
I now know that such a prescriptive way of dealing with jaundice is not evidence based and that if I had been helped in hospital before discharge we might have avoided a lot of the problems we went on to have.
After 8 weeks of around the clock pumping, nipple shields, lots of fenugreek and an amazing amount of support from my husband, we weaned Lily off her bottles and she was exclusively breast fed even though I always felt I had a low supply after stopping the bottles especially around ovulation and the first few days of my period.
We then went on to our next stumbling block: reflux. Lily was sick a lot and was very unhappy and unsettled. I refused to go back to bottle feeding, so after trying Infant Gaviscon to no avail, she was prescribed Domperidone which meant she was sick less and gained some weight. She still fed a lot (anything up to 1 ¾ hour feeds every 2 hours) but was happier and there was a lot less screaming. I wore her in a ring sling a lot, which helped settle her.
Around this time I discovered child-led weaning and vowed to let Lily decide when she was ready to stop nursing. Unfortunately I mentioned this to a friend who thought that breastfeeding over 6 months old would damage the baby's immune system for ever. She then took to sending me scientific data which apparently 'proved' her point (most in fact didn't even mention breastfeeding!).
I ended up developing Post Natal Depression-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and refused to breastfeed my daughter for a day as latching her on made me be sick (I had thoughts of poisoned milk coming out of my breasts). My husband understood that I needed have the decision of whether to carry on breastfeeding taken out of my hands (as in my right mind I wouldn't have considered stopping) and persuaded me to start breastfeeding again.   I got help from my Health Visitor but the Psychologist I was referred to was very anti-medication for a breastfeeding mother and insisted I wean before she would give me anything. This meant I had to research for myself which drugs were suitable before a colleague of hers would prescribe it (Sertraline/Zoloft). A thank you goes to Dr. Thomas Hale and his Internet web forum, he quite literally saved my life.
I then got nipple and ductal thrush which meant I was in a lot of pain (cut glass and razor blades is the best description of it) during and between feeds. Luckily by this time a breastfeeding group had been set up in our town so got advice on what to ask for at the GP and antibiotics with daktarin/nystatin solved the problem. If I hadn't have had that advice I wouldn't have been treated as the GP didn't believe in thrush in nipples/breasts.
Lily started complementary solids at 25 weeks with mostly purées but some finger foods before moving on to table foods by about 10 months. Lily then carried on breastfeeding until she was 3 years and 6 months old when she self weaned.
I got pregnant with Ali when Lily was 11 months old. My milk 'dried up' when I was 14 weeks pregnant so I started supplementing with cows' milk. My milk came back in at week 24 and Lily was overjoyed her 'bah' had come back. I had very sensitive nipples for the first trimester but I found that limiting the duration of the feeds worked best for Lily and I (we read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' whilst she nursed) as it meant she got to feed as often as she liked but I didn't have 1 hour long feeds to cope with. We also worked on nursing manners – no 'mugging' of mummy, no biting/pinching/twiddling/saying please/thank you and if I said 'I'll nurse you after I've answered the phone' I meant it and would nurse after the phone call.
When Ali was born, there wasn't any NHS help offered to me as it was assumed I knew what I was doing when in fact I hadn't got a clue how to breastfeed a newborn (Lily being bottle feed apart from the first 18 hours on day 1). On day 3 my husband and I were up at 2am looking at Dr Jack Newman's website videos which meant I was able to latch Ali on without pain. Again my husband proved invaluable with his support and encouragement in helping me breast feed our baby.
I tandem fed Lily and Ali. Lily would hold Ali's hands and stroke her which really strengthen their bond. However, after about 10 weeks, I stopped nursing them together as the negative feelings got too intense and it literally made my flesh creep to feel both of them nursing at the same time. Rather than weaning Lily I decided to feed them separately which took a little while to work but we soon got used to taking turns.
At 8 weeks I had a Psychiatrist appointment with a new doctor I went alone (I would have usually taken my husband for moral support) as I was feeling really good and had no real PND-OCD signs. The doctor insisted that I leave the children (8 week old baby and 22 month old toddler) with the receptionists so I wouldn't be distracted. I tried keep them with me by explaining that the baby was breastfeeding but the doctor was adamant I couldn't breast feed taking Sertraline. I explained I was put on it because I was breastfeeding Lily at the time of prescribing and she was still nursing. The doctor was disgusted and horrified I was breastfeeding a 22 month old as I must be forcing her to nurse and that I was nursing for my own needs (he intimated I was getting sexual pleasure from it). I then left the meeting and was back to not being able to breast feed my baby. Yet again my husband had to encourage me to nurse in spite of my feelings.
I continued to feel very depressed to the point that a Health Visitor at the breastfeeding group insisted I go the walk-in centre and see the Psychiatric Crisis Team who were very supportive. When I mention what had caused the recent problems the doctor very gently suggested that at 22 months my daughter did need solids as well as my milk. He laughed when I said she'd been on solids since 6 months and he asked what was the doctor's problem then! I got extra help from then on and no one suggested that I needed to stop breastfeeding to get well. Which is what I am now.
Ali was very easy to breast feed and she started solids all by herself at 23 weeks after diving into her sister's yoghurt and eating it. She had been sitting up unaided by 20 weeks, had lost her tongue thrust reflex, had a pincer grip and knew what food was and what to do with it. I figured I would go with it and did mainly finger foods with the odd spoonful of porridge, etc so took it at her pace. She really enjoyed herself with solids and eats a good variety of foods now.
I got pregnant with Clara when Lily was 2 years 10 months and Ali was 14 months old. Things went the same way as Ali's pregnancy – painful feeding in first trimester and no milk from week 14 but between weeks 24 & 26 both Lily and Ali went on a nursing strike. They both started nursing again within hours of each other. My colostrum came back in within a few days of the strike ending which made for two very happy girls and a very happy mum (who was puzzled by the mustardy diarrhoea that both of them had until my husband pointed out my colostrum was back in and that is what it did to Lily's nappies last time!).
Lily self weaned when I was 36 weeks pregnant. She had had a poor latch for about two weeks before but I put the pain down to being pregnant (Ali's feeding didn't hurt though). One morning she tried to latch on but her tongue just didn't know what to do and she couldn't work out where to put it any more. I felt in her mouth and she had some big gaps at the back of her gums/jaw that hadn't been there about a month previously so we thought her jaw had started changing shape to allow for the next set of molars through. She has 2 of her first adult molars at 4.9y/o. Lily was quite pleased that she was a really big girl and I was asked to pump some milk for her when the baby was born for her to have in a cup (I did and she thought it was revolting!).
Clara took to nursing right from the start although she did make a clicking noise whilst feeding until about 5 months old. After eliminating the other possibilities (poor latch/tongue tie) and on consulting Dr Brian Palmer's website, it was decided she had a bubble palate (my other daughters and my husband have it on closer inspection). It presented no problems apart from the distracting noise!
Aside from the palate abnormality we had no difficulties until she was 8 weeks old and caught RSV which caused bronchiolitis which made her too weak to breastfeed effectively so I expressed and syringe/cup fed whilst she was having oxygen treatment. She was hospitalised for a few days and I stayed with her. I was under a fair bit of pressure to bottle feed her but as she had never had a bottle as I felt it would be too much stress to force her to have one whilst she was ill. A few weeks later she got bronchiolitis again and this time was much more poorly and had to be put on oxygen and have an NG tube. She developed bronchiolitis a further 2 times but managed to keep breast feeding. She went from the 91st percentile to the 2nd for weight due to her ill health and her growth stalled for a few months. I was encouraged to keep breastfeeding by her Paediatrician.
Clara was exclusively breast fed to 26 weeks and we started her on solids (BLW) the week before her last bout of bronchiolitis. The paediatrician told us to stop solids and concentrate on breastfeeding her until she recovered. The following week I collapsed with pancreatitis and was hospitalised for a week. Clara wasn't allowed to stay with me in the hospital and neither was I allowed to use the maternity units pumps more than twice a day (unless I walked to the other end of the hospital! Which I did and promptly collapsed in the pump room). So in the end we had to hire a NCT pump whilst still in the hospital so I could keep up my milk supply.
As I hadn't been expressing (I was too ill to hand express or use a manual pump) I got mastitis which meant I had IV antibiotics and Clara had to have formula to supplement what little I was expressing. A friend with a baby the same age even expressed a feed for Clara.
Clara was brought in to hospital to feed whenever possible but really wasn't enough to keep things going. I came home, and luckily, Clara still wanted to nurse and took back to breast feeding easily. I was in hospital for another week three months later whilst I had my gall bladder out. This time we took the NCT pump in with us but still my supply dropped to the low point of 5mls combined per session even with 12 pumping sessions, block pumping and hand expression following pumping. With a bit of work from Clara when I was home it soon picked up again.
Ali wouldn't nurse whilst I was in hospital but as soon as I was home would happily nurse again. They are both still nursing at 3 years and 1 month and 1 year and 3 months. I have no plans to wean them and am hoping that they will both find their own time to stop nursing. I use Nursing Manners to ensure everyone has a happy nursing experience for as long as they chose to nurse.  I am have been a peer supporter with the breastfeeding group that helped me so much for about 18 months now. I am also hoping to train to be a breastfeeding counsellor in the future.


  1. Verity, you are AMAZING, and your husband sounds pretty wonderful too. Since you have overcome so much to keep breastfeeding I think you'll make a fantastic breastfeeding counsellor. Your girls are very lucky!

  2. wow Verity, what an ordeal! I take my hat off to you for overcoming so many difficulties but it makes my blood boil to read how many of those difficulties were created by the people who were supposed to help you! I am glad to hear you are peer supporting, I'm sure you make a positive difference to all the families you support.

  3. What a battle, thanks for directing me here. Your insight will be invaluable to go on to become a breast feeding counsellor.

  4. Verity, your story had me in tears. You and your Husband's commitment your children simply can't be put into words. You are an inspiration and you should both be proud of your journey, so far.
    You will make an amazing BF counselor, that is certain.


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