The GP who “got” breastfeeding

I met a GP last week who “got” breastfeeding. Even if the guy hadn’t prescribed the Domperidone I needed to breastfeed my daughter without supplementing with formula, he was the first medical practitioner I’ve seen who has really understood the importance of breastfeeding on both a medical and emotional level.

I’d become disillusioned with medics over the last eight months. Most displayed a shocking lack of support in the face of our breastfeeding difficulty.

Maybe they too had begun to believe the NHS “Breast is best” hype which effectively translates: “Breast is ideal but bottle is the norm. Suggesting bottle feeding is easier than actually addressing your breastfeeding problems so just supplement already.”

Where there was empathy, the line was usually: “Let’s just wait and see.” It was well-meaning. It was intended to encourage me to keep breastfeeding. But for me, that would have amounted to: “Let’s just wait until your milk supply is so severely compromised, there is no chance of recovery.” Milk supply is time-sensitive. Real breastfeeding problems do not right themselves without adequate support.

Where there was trouble shooting, I was told to eat butter. Is that Yeo Valley’s secret? Do their cows subsist on animal fat? How is it that my placenta managed to feed my baby regardless of what I ate but my breasts required a certain (frankly, unhealthy) diet? Had my body somehow forgotten the art of nourishment at some point in labour?

None of it made sense, especially since Talitha had initially surpassed her birth weight quickly. Clearly, my breasts were somehow under-stimulated. When I suggested a tongue-tie, though, the doctor who checked her disregarded it without properly looking. No tie and that wouldn’t affect breastfeeding anyway.

Really? When I looked at the list of tongue-tie tell-tale signs the infant feeding midwife handed me two weeks later, I almost cried. I could tick each box: the misshapen nipples, the pain, the discomfort, the constant slipping off, infrequent swallows. As soon as the tie was snipped, the feeds became more effective.

But despite breast compressions, pumping and using an SNS, my milk supply could not fully recover. Those first weeks had proved so vital to us.

I internalised guilt. As mothers do. Especially new ones. How could I not have known if this is something that is meant to be so natural? But I could not have known and those who should have known did not pick up on it. They just kept telling me to keep trying and remember I could give a bottle if it didn’t work.

When it became apparent that Domperidone could help me produce enough milk to feed my baby, a difficult back and forth with another GP ensued. She didn’t know enough about it but would prescribe Metoclopramide. I wouldn’t take this drug because it crosses the blood-brain barrier, a bad idea for someone with a history of depression.

Finally, she agreed to speak with the infant feeding midwife who affirmed that I could take Domperidone. Unfortunately, rather than give the dose suggested for lactating mothers who need to increase their milk supply, the GP would only prescribe the dose advised for those taking the drug for its primary purpose of combating nausea: 30mg. This dose did nothing to help.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that since stopping it, Talitha had lost weight which could potentially be linked. My supply hadn’t completely tanked which I still put down to the powerful herbal supplement I was taking Motherlove’s More Milk Plus.

I made an appointment with yet another GP to chat again about Domperidone. That morning, I trudged up the road wondering why I was bothering. Others had been happy for me to formula feed my daughter when she was two months old. He was blatantly going to tell me: “Look, your child is seven months old. Increase solids and give her formula. You’ve breastfed her enough.” The dialogue in my head almost led me back home. I was tired of arguing.

To my surprise, the doctor LISTENED to me. He paused, he let me finish sentences, he showed real concern, real empathy. He agreed that my daughter should be breastfed to at least a year. He shared about his wife’s breastfeeding their children.

After all of that, even if he hadn’t prescribed the Domperidone, I would have walked away feeling positive about where I was in our breastfeeding journey.

He was happy, though, to put me on 60mg a day on repeat prescription for three months – enough to take us to the year if I eek it out as I should aim to reduce it gradually anyway.

And after that? Well, I already know that with pumping and possible herbal support, I can produce a significant amount of milk. So I feel pretty comfortable that I just may be able to make my initial aim of letting Talitha self-wean.

But I dare not make goals. I’m just grateful for some understanding from someone in the medical community. It’s encouraged me as we continue, one breastfeed at a time.

Image: bingbing