A parent contacted us through Facebook and asked us to share her recent, mixed experience of care around infant feeding. We are honoured to do so and thank this mother, whose identifying details we have anonymised here:
I would like to share some reflections on postnatal care, as well as on the so-called Baby Friendly Initiative (the WHO accreditation process that aims to support breastfeeding, which is controversial as it has led some hospitals to withdraw formula from mums and caused dangerous weight loss in babies). In short, I spent time at two separate Baby Friendly institutions, but my experience at each was very different.
I gave birth at the city’s main hospital last September. Care during birth was fine, but postnatal care was almost non-existent. I had a very long labour and a minor postpartum hemorrhage. I was not in danger, but I was completely exhausted. I realised soon that the hospital’s main concern was to send patients home to free up their ward. Breastfeeding was not working, my baby was refusing to latch and, as it became clearer in the following days, I had delayed milk onset – not surprising really, given how exhausted I was! So I was really worried about going home and being unable to feed her.
I heard that there was an option to be transferred to a birth centre, a stand-alone midwife-led facility 30 km away. So I went there and stayed there four nights. The ward was nice and homely and the staff were really kind and supportive. Even if the centre is committed to supporting breastfeeding and is Baby Friendly accredited, they were concerned about the wellbeing of my baby first and foremost. They encouraged me to give her formula to make sure she got enough food. This meant that she never lost much weight and went on to be a thriving baby.
They advised me to triple feed to keep the option of breastfeeding open. In retrospect, I would have liked them to tell me that triple feeding is not sustainable in the long term and that if after a few weeks my baby was still refusing to latch most of the time, I could switch to exclusive formula feeding. I would also have liked to have more guidance on formula preparation at home. But overall, I felt that me and my baby were properly taken care of.
I feel that current policies tie the hands of professionals to some extent, but still there can be a large difference in how they are implemented. Unfortunately in the UK, maternity services are being slashed (the birth centre I stayed at is at risk of closing), which in my view leads to a ‘tick-box’ approach to postnatal care. This does not help any mum, whether they want to breastfeed or not. Anyway, yesterday I finally went to visit the town where I stayed those four nights, which I had been unable to see when I was there as a patient, and I passed by the centre to give my new year greetings!