'Wouldn't wake up': Mums pressure to breastfeed
SARAH Poole is one of many Mackay mothers speaking out against a perceived pressure to breastfeed even when it's affecting a child's health.
She was encouraged, as most are, to exclusively breastfeed her newborn son Hayden, now 3, but after three days in hospital Ms Poole became concerned.
"Hayden was taking a nap but after about six or seven hours he just wouldn't wake up," she said.
"The midwife said take his shirt off, make him uncomfortable, he'll wake up when he's hungry but he just didn't."
Ms Poole said she did everything she was instructed to but unfortunately her son never woke, soon after he began to have a seizure and was taken into ICU.
According to Ms Poole, she and her husband were advised Hayden's blood sugar levels were dangerously low and to continue breastfeeding in the hope they would begin to stabilise, but after a week his weight was dropping and they were losing hope.
"I said to my husband that we needed to try something else because I couldn't keep waiting and hoping that he'd pick up.
"A friend of mine then asked me whether anyone had suggested trying him on formula outright to see if it helped.
"We decided, despite being told to just keep breastfeeding him, that we'd try it and after his very first bottle he immediately improved and his sugar levels increased."
Ms Poole said the experience was nothing short of traumatic and she feels she should have been given more of a choice.
"It doesn't work for everyone and it's certainly not worth putting a baby through such an ordeal just to ensure they're only getting breastfed. Other options should be tried, mentioned and encouraged."
Several years later Ms Poole was back in hospital again, ready to give birth to a second child. She decided this time she would use formula as well as breastfeeding.
"After my experience I was really scared of just solely breastfeeding and started to have some anxiety thinking maybe she's not getting enough so I'll top her up with formula to be sure," she said.
She says she was given the same advice as with her first child.
Social media comments indicate Ms Poole's experience is one of many that reflect the immense pressure some women are put under to breastfeed.
She asks, at what price?
What do the experts say?
An Australian Breastfeeding Association spokeswoman said while studies demonstrate the benefits and reduced risks that come with breastfeeding newborns, all mothers should have a choice.
"Breastfeeding, although natural, is also a learned skill and can take some time to get the hang of. Hence, mothers need knowledgeable support," she said.
"No mother fails at breastfeeding and ABA supports all mothers no matter how their child is fed.
"Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed; however, sometimes individual circumstances mean that not breastfeeding is what is best for some individual families.
"Every mother deserves to feel supported, women deserve the support of our society."
Push to breastfeed
Mackay parent Kellie Bryan said her daughter became dangerously underweight and dehydrated from a lack of breast milk being consumed but she was "guilt tripped" into continuing the practice.
"There was just this push to breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed and I was made to feel so guilty for even wanting to put her on formula," she said.
"(The baby) was crying all the time, non-stop for 48 hours. Something just didn't feel right and she was absolutely tiny... I was so stressed, she wasn't attaching well, it was a really traumatic time for me."
"She was so looking so unwell and I said to my husband 'go and get formula', and we never looked back from there."
Both women's experiences were several years ago, at different health care providers but feel it's an important conversation to have around the amount of information provided to new mums.
"Most mothers are completely inexperienced baby-wise and are trying to do everything right by society's rules and people that work with newborns every day," she said.
"It's just not okay for people to put that pressure on parents in their position and I know not all do, but many do.
"Mums need to be given all the information that's out there and supported if they choose to then use other alternatives... I also encourage parents to seek solutions if something doesn't seem right."
The conversation was prompted by the devastating story from southern California of American Jillian Johnson whose newborn son Landon was accidentally starved to death after breastfeeding failed to feed him.
So what advice are new mums given?
Mackay Base Hospital Women's Health Unit manager Seana Clark explained women who gave birth at Mackay and Proserpine hospitals were encouraged to breastfeed, "as this is the best way to provide babies with the nutrients required for growth and development".
"Numerous studies have demonstrated the health and economic importance of breastfeeding for the mother, her baby and for society in general," she said.
"We have lactation consultants who can work with women to support breastfeeding.
"However, when a woman makes an informed decision not to breastfeed staff respect her decision and provide information on safe and appropriate use of infant formula," she said.
Mackay and Proserpine hospitals are accredited by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.
Ms Clark explained as part of this accreditation the hospitals are committed to upholding the "ten steps to successful breastfeeding".
1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff
2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy
3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding
4. Place babies in skin to skin contact with their mother immediately following birth for at least an hour and encourage mother to recognise when their baby is ready to breastfeed, offering help if needed.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants
6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated
7. Practice rooming in - allow mothers and infants to stay together 24 hours per day
8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand
9. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies and soothers) to breastfeeding infants
10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from hospital or clinic
What to look out for
According to Ms Clark, mums are reassured that it is normal for breastfed babies to demand feed at least eight to 12 times in a 24 hour period. Mothers are asked to watch for frequent swallowing and count the number of nappies per 24 hours.
Babies should have bright eyes, a moist mouth and good colour and should be mostly contended after feeding.
It can be normal for the baby to lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first few days of life, however they should regain the birth weight by two to three weeks.
If there are clinical signs of jaundice or dehydration there are set protocols to follow. These babies require a feeding plan, which can involve supplementing the baby with expressed breast milk or formula. Sometimes these babies are readmitted to hospital for further treatment.
Signs a baby may be dehydrated are:
. dry skin or lips
. a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of your baby's head)
. fewer wet nappies than usual
. sunken eyes
. tearless crying
. dark yellow urine
. lethargy and drowsiness
. rapid breathing
. cold and blotchy-looking hands and feet
If you think your baby is dehydrated mums are encouraged to speak to their GP urgently or talk to their midwife if you are still receiving home visits. Advice is also available through Carlyle Community Health Centre.
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