If breast is best, why the lack of support?

Throughout my first pregnancy five years ago, I repeatedly read that breast-feeding is completely natural. So when my son was born following a Ventouse delivery, I wasn't prepared for the long line of staff members encouraging him to latch to no avail.

No one had time to persevere and all walked off baffled. My baby had been distressed during birth and a paediatrician noted he must feed quickly. As that couldn't be from me, I came back from the bathroom a few hours later to find a healthcare assistant administering a bottle. No one mentioned calming skin-to-skin contact.

When I finally saw another midwife the next morning she called a passing NCT mentor to help, who also left puzzled. And in the next bed there was a woman whose daughter latched immediately after a C-section to cries of, "wonderful Susan, well done." I wished I knew Susan's secret.

The Sister said it was a shame he wouldn't latch, as I had a lot of colostrum. She hand expressed a small cup from me and concluded that some babies are "lazy feeders."

While shuffling about due to an episiotomy, she asked if I was okay to leave. I looked at her in pure panic. But she urged me to go. Incredibly, she recorded in my notes that I was combination feeding. This would have contributed to the hospital's glowing breast-feeding statistics.

Exhausted at home, I tried to express with a pump in between bottle feeds with little success.

When I fell pregnant again I toured the maternity unit of a new hospital, who reassured me they would never expect me to leave until my baby had latched.

To my delight he fed immediately before I went straight to theatre for manual placenta removal. After a reaction to the epidural, a no-nonsense style nurse in the recovery ward had to monitor me. This meant I received a rare hour of one-to-one guidance.

Back on the postnatal ward I spent two privileged nights sat in a breast-feeding bubble. A kind nursery nurse insisted I grab a couple of hours sleep and she'd watch my son.

I loved the closeness and convenience of nursing, and the natural anaesthesia for my backache! My baby wasn't sick after every feed like my first son and I was lucky to nurse him exclusively for seven months.

Importantly, both my boys are thriving. I have equally strong bonds with each of them and they have followed almost identical growth patterns. My youngest, however, is being monitored annually for a heart murmur and the consultant's fervent reply when I was still breast-feeding at five months was, "fantastic."

The medical profession clearly regards breast milk as priceless in terms of disease prevention, but I had yearned for more support. It's madness that midwives are trained to bombard you with breast-feeding literature during pregnancy, but then denied the resources to offer adequate assistance.

A former senior editor on the Daily Express Saturday magazine, Denise now specialises in lifestyle and parenting.


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