Hi, I’m Nisreen and this is Raphael. And this is our breastfeeding journey. It hasn’t been easy. I fell pregnant at 42 years old, two months after I came out of ICU for major surgery to remove a tumour. I had had several miscarriages prior to that, and failed IVF, and this little miracle happened naturally.
I was hospitalised for most of my pregnancy, and managed to keep him in until 36 weeks, but he was tiny weighing in at 1,9kg only.
He took to the breast, but with much difficulty, and because he was underweight they had already started supplemental formula feeding in the nursery and I was assured by the paediatrician that that was the norm! And who was I to object right?! ️
I mean here I was a first time mom, with so many different emotions and healing from a Caesarean section, and trying to adjust to this new existence, and already weak from my previous surgery and complicated pregnancy - I just wanted someone to tell me what to do! ( and I’m a doctor btw… and no one teaches you about breastfeeding or anything similar in medical school or elsewhere let me tell you) [“Most medical schools devote only a tiny proportion of the syllabus to breastfeeding, so unless a student has a particular interest in this topic and studies it further, s/he will graduate and practice as a doctor or even as a paediatrician knowing very little about breastfeeding.” (LLL comment)]
All I had dreamt of was exclusive breastfeeding and bonding with my little miracle baby after all these years of trying, but it didn’t play out that way.
At his four week check up he had lost so much weight, and wasn’t gaining, and he had symptoms of severe reflux to the point of requiring medication but the most painful part was the paediatrician telling me that he was allergic to my breast milk! I was mortified.
I mean is that even a thing?!
I was so exhausted from not sleeping and feeding every 1,5 hours to try to increase his weight, that I succumbed to the paediatricians request to put him onto a special amino acid formula, and to stop breastfeeding.
Honestly - it went against every fibre in my body - but surely the paed knew best?
Sadly I complied and he took to the bottle happily. I was heartbroken, but at least he was thriving.
I tried to express and pump and freeze whatever breast milk I could, but it was hard and my supply dried up by three months. I was in pain with severe carpal tunnel syndrome at the time, so expressing was a challenge, at times even holding Raphael was hard!
I kept dreaming of the day that he would be able to breastfeed again.
I discussed this with the paed and asked if we could reintroduce breast milk and see what happened.
I used some of the little frozen milk and Raphael seemed to tolerate it!
But now my supply was almost non-existent and what was worse is that he refused to suck at the breast!
I was devastated.
I searched for answers and then came across La Leche League via a lactation consultant’s recommendation. La Leche League Leader Shamim suggested that I get in touch with Dr Rahmat Bagus, who is a La Leche League Leader as well as a medical doctor.
I got in touch with Rahmat and she asked me to come in to see her. She was amazing.
She boosted my confidence and made me realise that I was not at fault, and to trust my instincts.
She prescribed Domperidone (VOMIDON) to increase my supply and it worked fantastically. I was a bit hesitant to try Eglonyl, which seemed to be the only drug that the gynae and paed wanted to recommend, but this did the trick.
[“Unless they have qualified as a medical doctor, as Dr Bagus has, neither La Leche League Leaders nor lactation consultants may prescribe medication to those who consult them.” (LLL comment)]
It took me an entire month of skin to skin with Raphael, all day on the bed and lying on the breast, in the bath, in the shower, every possible moment bringing him closer to the breast, when eventually he tried to suck again. Hurray
But it seemed he had gotten so used to the bottle teat, that he refused the nipple. So it was suggested that I try a nipple shield, and voila! It worked.
Two and half years later we are still happily breastfeeding (with a nipple shield).
I take it as a win!
Honestly speaking, I would make such different choices if I was offered a second chance. I feel so much more empowered now. What I’ve leant from this journey…trust your gut. A Mama does know best.
La Leche League is funded entirely from the sale of memberships, books such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and donations, so our members are very important to us. Memberships enable LLL South Africa to offer up-to-date breastfeeding information to those who seek it, and it’s the financial support of today’s moms which ensure that La Leche League will be here for the moms of tomorrow. If LLL South Africa has supported you on your breastfeeding journey, please support them in return. Purchase a membership or make a donation here.