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Interview 21

Age at interview: 39
Brief Outline: Breastfed 1st baby with ease. 2nd baby has Down's Syndrome, breastfed but it wasn't easy. Gives tips for breastfeeding a Down's Syndrome baby.
Background: This 39 year old, White British woman had a 4 year old daughter whom she had breastfed for 16 months. She also had a 7 year old son whom she had breastfed. An antenatal teacher/children's librarian, she was married to an IT specialist.

More about me...

This woman is a children's librarian who, after having her own children, trained to be a National Childbirth Trust antenatal teacher. She is pro-breastfeeding but says that her husband is even more so! She calls it the easy, lazy way to feed a baby. She breastfed her first child, a son, with ease and says that he loved breastfeeding and weaned naturally at 18 months of age. She never intended to breastfeed for that long. 'It was just kind of one of those things that I just carried on doing ' but I think when it's your child and they just grow up day by day you don't think 'oh they're a toddler and I'm still feeding him'', she said. It was a very satisfying experience which stood her in good stead for the difficulties that she faced with breastfeeding her daughter who has Down's Syndrome. Her daughter was born at home and so they 'managed to escape all that kind of hysteria at the beginning ' and keep away from too much interference' such as the insertion of a nasogastric tube that goes with an early diagnosis in hospital. This woman was confident in her ability to latch a baby onto the breast and to produce sufficient milk so, when breastfeeding wasn't going well, she knew that it was her daughter who was having difficulty. Had the children been born the other way around she might not have continued to breastfeed. Eventually she had what she described as a 'baby-moon' where she went to bed with the baby for a weekend with no other distractions at all and fed her every time she stirred in order to constantly reinforce the practice of sucking. This turned around the baby's weight gain problems and they went on to breastfeed for 16 months.

 

She found breastfeeding easy with her first child and talks about the benefits that it had for...

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Yes my son, who's my first child was really, really straightforward, really easy to breastfeed, just kind of one of these children that went on, you know, drank it, put on loads of weight, drank loads of milk, was really easy, had absolutely no problems at all with him and I fed him for a year and a half in fact he wouldn't, he'd never take a, he was one of those horrible children [laughs] that would never take a bottle 'cause you know even of expressed milk, he just wasn't interested but he, he was fed for a year and a half so he was really, really, really straightforward.

Did you feed him on demand or to a schedule or?

No just on demand I just fed him when he was hungry and he was great really because he fed quite, especially when he was little he fed a lot during the day so I'd kind of be feeding every hour or so during the day.

Was that a problem for you?

No, well it wasn't a problem for me because I didn't have bottles to make up, you know I didn't have to worry if I wanted to have a snooze I developed the skill of feeding lying down, so we could both kind of have a little sleep, it was very nice but he was really good at night as well, he fed, he went for sort of four or five hours, more or less from two, three weeks old in the night so, he was fabulous [laughs]. Really, really easy feeder and just you know gained weight and was a bit of a superstar really, and so I have to say I did I found it you know fairly easy.

Did you know much about breastfeeding before?

I did, and I suppose I felt quite strongly that I wanted to do it and I felt it was the best thing.

Because?

Because of the health benefits and because basically almost like a laziness thing of the fact that it's just, it is so much easier than making up bottles, sterilising and all the stuff that goes with it and basically you kind of, I know people say, 'Well then it's got to be you, it's got to be you', but I think as a mother if your baby wakes in the night, you're going to wake anyway, so, you know you kind of think, you might as well, you know, I think had I bottle fed I think I'd probably have been awake even if my husband was bottle feeding until he'd gone back to sleep. The other thing I think that was fantastic for me about breastfeeding was this sort of the comfort side of things, which you don't get with a bottle and the fact that if your baby is ill, even if they have got gastric illness you can still breastfeed them whereas obviously you can't do that with bottle and it's such a comfort and it's useful if they are grisly or if they're tired or if they hurt themselves, just stick 'em under your jumper and plug 'em in and it's like magic really, just like magic and that's I don't think when I started I thought to myself, 'Oh I'm going to feed for you know for a year and a half', but it was just kind of one of those things that I just carried on doing, and it was interesting because one or two of my friends I thought, once my son was walking were a bit like, 'Oh, are you still feeding' you know found it a little bit uncomfortable, but I think when it's your child and they just grow up day by day, you don't think, 'Oh they're a toddler and I'm still feeding him', so, yeah, I found the whole thing just really easy and by the time I kind of wanted to move on and maybe leave him for a little while at sort of you know five, six months, obviously he was starting to wean onto foods then anyway so you could do that but also he wouldn't take a bottle so he went sort of straight to a cup, an open cup and that was and that worked really well so it didn't mean that I was you know tied to him
 

She knew that it was not her but her baby who was having trouble with breastfeeding. She found...

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Ah! Yes my daughter, my daughter has Down's Syndrome and so when she was born, we kind of got the diagnosis a couple of weeks after she was born but she was a nightmare to feed [laughs] an absolute nightmare and I was almost, when we had the diagnosis I was almost relieved because I thought, 'Right, okay, this is why she's not feeding very well', it was tough and I have to say I am so pleased that I'd fed my son first because I think I would have, I think I would have given up and I, because what I had going for me was I had the belief, I can, I know I can do it, you know, it's her not me, I know I can make enough milk, I know what I'm doing, I feel very confident in myself and I think it must be really hard if you have a child like that as your first child because it's horrible. She was very floppy, she had really poor muscle tone in her mouth and so she just didn't have the coordination to suck, she just couldn't do it so I remember the midwife coming round and I was trying to feed her and I said, 'She's just chewing, she's just chewing, she's not sucking properly' and the midwife said, 'Oh, you haven't got her on right you know, blah, blah, blah, oh it's yeah you're not holding, you're holding her head that's why she doesn't like it.' And I just said, 'No there's something wrong, it's her, not me' you know, I knew there was a problem and she, then we, you kind of get into this cycle of they don't feed and then children with, babies with Down's Syndrome as well are very sleepy, they sleep a lot and so of course they don't feed very much and then they sleep for long periods and then they try and get a little bit of food into them and then they sleep and then they lose weight and of course then you have the weight police coming round weighing your baby saying, 'Well you know this baby needs a bottle', but I was just, I mean you could say bloody minded and I do remember one really traumatic afternoon when the health visitor had come round and weighed her and she'd lost weight again, I mean she took six weeks to reach her birth weight so, which is not unusual in a baby with Down's Syndrome, a breastfed baby with Down's Syndrome, but because they are few and far between the statistics aren't really available but it's not that uncommon when you speak to people. I can remember my father was here and she weighed her and I can remember him saying to me, 'Why don't you give her a bottle, do you want her to die?' And he is such a sweet man, he was just so worried about her because she wasn't, you know she didn't, she was a bit sickly and I said, 'No, don't worry dad, if it gets that bad they'll section me and take her off me.' So but, I have to say, my health visitor was fabulous because she was really supportive the whole time you know, 'You're doing the right thing, if that's what you want to do you carry on doing it', sort of thing which is not necessarily everybody's experience, but she was fab so what I did was and it was, it doesn't sound like much now but you know at the time it was oh it was such a trial, I tried to feed her, I kept putting her on and kept putting her on but then I expressed, and I used like a little, I couldn't get her to take out of a cup it just went everywhere, I used like a little medicine syringe and I filled it up with milk and then I'd, and it just took forever, it was so tedious and I can just remember at night time, she didn't wake at night so I had to wake her so I had to set an alarm clock, then I had to wake her up which is a feat in itself, you know, cold water and ice on her back and things just to try and keep her awake. So get her awake and of course it's easy to wake for a baby but it's horrible to wake for an alarm clock, it just doesn't seem right and then I put her on and she'd, 'nm ar ar' [slurping noise] go back to sleep again and I can just remember sitting there sobbing you know because I just couldn't get, and at night I think it' everything seems worse, doe
 

She stopped breastfeeding when she left her toddler and her husband with expressed breast milk...

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What about weaning him?

What at the end of the year and a half? That was kind of, that kind of happened just sort of naturally really, he in fact what happened was, I think I was going to go away for a weekend and he was a year and a half old and I just thought well let's just see what happens, I won't, you know there was still a little bit of expressed milk left that I think my husband was going to use up and I left it and then when I came back after I had been away for a couple of days I thought actually that's it you know, I think we'll leave it now, because it was easier then to kind of stop because I'd sort of been away for a couple of days and yeah so we just kind of just, I just stopped.

How often was he feeding at that stage do you think?

At that stage he was feeding first thing, he was feeding last thing and then probably, oh I don't know he was maybe only having another couple of feeds during the day because he was you know, he was eating a toddler diet basically so he fed more if he was ill or you know grumpy or whatever, but probably not that much so he was kind of self weaning himself anyway, kind of you know wasn't terribly bothered about it, so it just seemed the most natural thing just to stop.

Did he ask for it when you got home?

No, no.

Ah, so he'd had enough anyway?

Yeah so I think he was probably you know ready to.

You had no problems with milk building up or anything like that?

No, I didn't, I didn't at all I just, I just dried up and I think because he hadn't been taking, he probably hadn't been taking a great deal I think it had dropped off anyway so yeah I didn't even have to express a little bit, just so it was fine, really fine.

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