During my pregnancy reading I came across a number of comments from other new parents which spoke of their post natal experiences and how it was often the case that post natal care wasn’t as consistent or helpful as that experienced during pregnancy.
I’d very much assumed that we would only be in hospital a couple of days at most and naively didn’t consider having to learn how to do things in a strange hospital environment where there would be limited opportunity to received support from family and friends.
We found ourselves in hospital for just under a week as Mini had jaundice and he needed phototherapy treatment. His treatment took a considerable amount of time owing to the fact he is breastfed and this made it difficult to keep him under the heat lamp as he was often in my arms to feed.
The nature of our chosen method of feeding also meant that it took a bit of time for us both to know what to do and he was unable to fight the jaundice additionally through feeding. However, on day three, with very poor communication from the lead day midwife we had to give him formula top ups of 30ml after every feed.
The way the top ups were communicated to us was particularly difficult for me. Firstly, we were told I had to express an extra 30ml per feed when Mini was feeding every 1-2 hours after he’d learnt to latch. A large breast pump was wheeled in, a midwife quickly ran through putting it together and left us with it. At this point my milk hadn’t come in and though this is common, there was no reassurance or reasoning given as to why the expressing and top ups was required.
Day three is also baby blues day so as I sat trying to figure out if I was using the pump correctly as there were just a few drops going into the bottle, I was broken. We’d been moved into a side room in the night owing to another mum on the ward being verbally abusive regarding Mini’s distress at being under the lamp (he had to have his eyes covered to protect him and really didn’t like being put down in the cot) and frankly, I’d probably had a maximum of 2-3 hours sleep over the previous 4 nights.
When the midwife took one look at what I’d managed to express we were given a bottle of premade formula and told to use that instead but to try to express to encourage my milk to come in sooner. With the formula we weren’t given any information or support regarding sterilisation. This came a couple of hours later.
It was quite baffling to have the information drip fed in such a way and it became clear that the resources just weren’t there. We’d previously been left to independently care for ourselves after I’d been helped with getting him to latch. The midwives had mainly popped their heads in to check when the last feed was, how long it had been and how many nappy changes there had been with no concerns mentioned until the formula top ups were thrust upon us.
As our stay lengthened I felt forgotten, especially when it took over 9 hours of speaking to multiple midwives regarding pain to be assessed and given antibiotics for an infection in my stitches. It was clear that there wasn’t enough people to go around everyone on the ward and this was further put into perspective when we were told that there were just 3 midwives for the 29 beds.
The midwives were supported with student midwives and other support staff, but all the same, it didn’t seem like a lot of people to provide care for women and babies with varying needs. Thankfully the nature of the side room and recent changes to NHS guidelines meant that Chris was able to stay overnight to support me with feeds. This meant that he could give Mini his top ups to give me the opportunity to do basic tasks like go to the bathroom, get some water and try to nap.
Once we were home, issues with communication continued with Chris being ignored and dismissed by the midwife who came for our first home visit and contradictions in regards to advice with breastfeeding. I was frequently told our latch was perfect to then find myself in pain during the evening and feeling as though Mini wasn’t getting what he needed.
While breastfeeding is a ‘natural’ way of feeding a child, it isn’t easy and it takes some learning to get it right. During this time there can be slow weight gain (which we also experienced) and it became increasingly confusing and frustrating when we were told conflicting information at each appointment when there is a great deal of rhetoric around at the moment telling mums that breast is best and it should be our chosen method of feeding.
Following our experience I can see why some post natal staff are cherished so much – we would be in a much worse situation and it would have had a greater effect on my mental health if we hadn’t had the support of the night shift staff in hospital and our community midwife, and why the likes of mumsnet see that there is potentially a need for a campaign to highlight that better, more consistent post natal care is required.
I’ve shared more about our breastfeeding journey so far in another post which you can read here.