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

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  • I am so pleased that you finally have found a medical professional who gets it – I had a similar moment with Littler when I got thrush, I went to the GP totally expecting I would need to pay for a private GP (which I had to do with Bigger when the NHS utterly failed us and told me the pain was part of being a mother and I should just give a bottle) and instead met the duty doctor who was supportive, empathised with the pain, congratulated me on carrying on and gave me the right drugs

    Such a little thing but made a HUGE difference
    I’m so glad you have the domperidone, you have support and you have the choices now about when to / how to carry on
    Well done you

    • This comment makes me want to do some digging on your blog because I have so many questions – did you end up having to bottle feed Bigger? Was it the same problem that you had with Littler. I’m glad you saw someone helpful in the end and that he congratulated you! Some of the doctors I’ve seen have definitely forgot that it was a difficult thing we were trying to do!

  • Everytime I convince myself I am going to stop breastfeeding because it’s too much faffing about and I get bored being a human comforter half the night and I want to wear a bra with underwiring – I read you, and you make me see how lucky I am to be able to exclusively breastfeed my baby with no supplements, no stress and no cost… 
    I feel ungrateful and shallow and weak for thinking of stopping. It might be my nipple, but it’s not about me. So here is my pledge to you Circus Queen, we shall continue breastfeeding, one feed at a time together. *sighs and pulls up t-shirt*

    • I don’t know that you should feel ungrateful or shallow or weak at the thought of stopping. It IS hard work, even when all is going well. I think, though, that you should feel proud. You are doing so well. I totally read the last bit as “we should put that on a t-shirt’. Really, I think we should! “One feed at a time”

  • I’m so glad you have finally found a GP who cares enough to actually listen and who wants to help. I don’t understand why so many people find it’s acceptable to say “Well, just bottle feed” instead of providing the help they should…

    • This is the thing – when the media talks about the UK’s shockingly low figures for breastfeeding, they make it sound as if women simply don’t want to. The NHS line is generally in support of breastfeeding and yet there are so many health practitioners who seem to only pay this lip service when you come down to it. Of course, there are people who genuinely want to help mothers breastfeed too – like this doctor and the midwife who snipped Talitha’s tongue-tie.

  • […] more from the original source: The GP who "got" breastfeeding | Circus Queen Tags: baby, breastfeeding, breastfeeding-story, child, children, daughter, facebook, milk, night […]

  • Urgh! As a doctor and mother I shudder when I think of how many breastfeeding relationships are sabotaged by poor medical advice and support. Doctors aren’t taught about breastfeeding at medical school – I suppose because it’s seen as a topic best tackled by nurses and health visitors. It’s clear however that it’s too important a subject for us to keep passing the buck. I couldn’t believe the stats from the infant feeding survey – ”
    only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months”.

    The medical profession is clearly failing mums and babies on this. Bf issues need to be taught at medical school. For my part, I’ll keep breastfeeding in public and discussing it with colleagues and hopefully the message will spread for a few! Sorry you and Talitha had such a hard time of it – well done for persevering.

    • It’s unfortunate that doctors aren’t taught about it, actually, especially since all of the doctors I saw spoke authoritatively on the subject whether they were saying “You may not have *any* milk” (looking at my obviously not dehydrated baby) or “If it hasn’t been three hours since the last feed, you should NOT feed your baby again”. In this case, I really did need a doctor, though, as I needed a prescription. It’s a tricky one. Do you think there’s a way of pushing for breastfeeding to be a part of the medical curriculum? Well done you too, lactating mama!

  • I can’t believe how un-supportive some GP’s are about breastfeeding. I went to see mine a while ago and he told me that I was run down and that the answer was to just stop breastfeeding as now she was one she didn’t need it any more. Well I didn’t and bought some vitamins instead but I just think so much more needs to be done to promote breastfeeding and to make women aware that it is advised that you can breastfeed up until they are two. Anyone who knows that I’m still breastfeeding is starting to make comments about it, to them it is abnormal but Iyla is only 15 months and although it bothered me at first, now I am proud of the fact that I’m still doing it. I’m so glad that you have managed to get someone to give you the dose so you can carry on for a bit longer 🙂 x

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