My name is Fatima Rodrigues. On the 14th of August 2023 I gave birth to my third born weighing 3,5kgs and struggled with latching him at the hospital as my nipples are on the bigger side after exclusively
breastfeeding my other two kids for two years. [LLLSA comment: There is no research-based evidence suggesting that nipple size changes after breastfeeding.]
I became so anxious and worried about his latch. I felt useless. This was something that was supposed to come easily to me given my previous experience. I was struggling and felt anxious and frustrated. This led to me deciding to quit and not breastfeed. On day two at the hospital, I was given two Dostinex tablets - which dries up and prevents milk production. My gynaecologist told me that once I take the
Dostinex there’s no turning back. So, in other words my production will be cut off and because I didn’t
manage to latch at all I didn’t get any milk.
My son was on formula from day one and I thought that was the end of my breastfeeding journey. Fast
forward to about six days later I still had milk. If I squeezed my nipple my milk would come through, but my breasts felt empty. Eventually I took it as a sign to breastfeed. I tried again and again to latch him, but he just refused to open his mouth wide enough to latch. He got used to having the formula and bottle as
there was less effort sucking from his side. He didn’t seem interested and refused to latch. He would
turn his head the other way forcefully. I started panicking thinking it’s because of the Dostinex that I’ve
taken and maybe he can sense it, so he didn’t want to drink or even attempt to latch. I decided to check
on the La Leche League Facebook page for some information, but I couldn’t find any information with the situation on hand. Afterwards I decided to reach out to Simone (one of the LLLSA Leaders) on Facebook Messenger for some assistance on different latch techniques and asked if I can successfully breastfeed after taking Dostinex.
She encouraged me to have patience and sent me tons of latch techniques. But every technique just
wouldn’t work. Simone gave me tons of information on different techniques and helped me throughout. But my baby would pinch on my nipple with a shallow latch, or he would take only half my nipple. It was
really difficult having to constantly unlatch him and try again and again. At the time he was drinking 90ml
of formula every 2-3 hours. I tried and tried every 2 hours to latch him before he got the chance to take
the next feed via the bottle. We did loads of skin-to-skin. I had him in a baby carrier with just a diaper and myself with just my pants and throw over. Eventually I opted for hand expressions because I didn’t have a breast pump on hand, I only had a silicone breast pump which doesn’t have enough stimulation. With the help of Simone’s encouragement, I didn’t give up. As a new mum for a newborn your brain tends to be in overdrive. I kept thinking just what exactly am I supposed to do to get him to latch. At one point I thought maybe if a let him starve he would eventually take to the breast, but he just couldn’t. I thought maybe it’s nipple confusion so I eventually started cup feeding both formula and hand expressed breastmilk. Eventually through enough persistence I managed to latch him using the football hold 13 days later. At his two week check-up he weighed 4kg and I got the nurse to try and help me with my latching with other techniques but he just wouldn’t open wide even. But I was happy just being able to latch him in at least one position.
But then I had other issues arising, my son had become constipated and had tons of cramps. Before
introducing breastmilk to him he would have a poop diaper with every nappy change. But now he was
going for three days without a poop diaper. When he pooped instead of it having a nice runny
consistency it became almost clay like and then eventually pebble like. He was even more uneasy and
fussy when drinking from my breast. I thought perhaps I messed up his gut because he was used to
formula compared to breastmilk. Simone was there to assist whenever I needed assistance. She would
ask me how many wet nappies he had, or how long since he had last pooped, how many bottles
did he drink in a day. She reminded me of the benefits of breastmilk. She supported me when I felt
lost. We communicated daily. From chats to voice notes and even calls. Slowly he started to poop
and slowly, one bottle at a time I replaced formula feeding with breastfeeding.
I got a breast pump and started to express to increase my milk supply slowly. From expressing 30ml or
nothing from each breast to eventually expressing 60ml in 2 days. I would breastfeed first until my breast felt completely empty and then top up with formula. Gradually he would drink only about 30ml of
formula after each feed. I’d make him stay on my breast for longer periods to increase my supply. Eventually I managed to completely replace all formula feed bottles with breastfeeding. This took me
quite a while because most of the times he would need formula top ups. When he was about 5 weeks old he was fully on breast with no more formula top ups. At our six week checkup he weighed 5,5 kg. Both his doctor and my gynaecologist was shocked that I managed to breastfeed after taking medication to stop milk production and I managed to successfully breastfeed and increase my milk supply. My latching now is like second nature. He can latch in almost all sorts of different positions.
But yet again new problems started to arise. I noticed my nipple turning white when he would cluster feed or when I expressed for more than 10 minutes. My nipple would start aching. Simone and I eventually came to the conclusion that this was vasospasms. I had to always make sure my nipples were warm. I would even rub them until the pain eventually went away. I still suffer from vasospasms every now and then but now I know how to deal with it.
The knowledge I’ve gained from Simone has helped me tremendously. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to never ever give up. It’s never too late to start. With enough knowledge, patience, understanding and support you can get through it. Just because you might have experience; not all babies are the same. Our bodies change and we need to adapt to the change.
My biggest advice is to always reach out for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone.
There are amazing people who are willing and passionate about assisting you in your journey.
I lost my mom a few years back and someone whom I took as a mom recently. They were always encouraging me to not give up on breastfeeding. They pushed me when I needed it. So this time I felt completely alone and didn’t feel support and encouragement. Simone became my support. She became my pillar of strength when I needed it the most. I am truly grateful and blessed to have met Simone. A friend who has truly made an impact on my life and my son’s.