I’m so very lucky to have this little gem to publish. It’s written by the fabulously entertaining Trae from Where’s My Glow and is a wonderful post about her experience of breastfeeding her baby after some pretty major surgery along with some good tips. The baby in this post (aka Tricky) is going to become a big brother any day now 🙂 Best wishes for the journey ahead and thanks for sharing your story.
Breastfeeding your baby after surgery By Trae Flett ( aka Glowless of wheresmyglow.com)
The very first time I held my son he was just seconds old, laying on my chest and hollering before rooting around for his first breastfeed. In bewildered awe I stared at his 3.8kg body and his whopping head and said a silent prayer for my future pelvic floor strength. I realized this not-so tiny human was mine and we were now a family. It was perfect… he was perfect.
Eleven weeks of long nights later, when we were finally getting in to the swing of breastfeeding, we discovered that actually, he wasn’t so perfect after all. He was diagnosed with sagittal craniosynostosis, a premature fusing of the plates of the skull, characterized by an elongated head, protruding forehead (known as scaphocephaly – literally translated to “boathead”) and closed fontanel. He had a pretty funky noggin to say the least and was starting to resemble a Sherrin football, albeit an incredibly cute one.
However the main issue with craniosynostosis isn’t aesthetic. The brain’s growth is impacted and in some cases, without surgical intervention, can lead to an increase in intracranial pressure which in turn can cause all sorts of problems including learning disabilities and vision problems.
Only three weeks later he had his first surgery and I discovered that breastfeeding a child after they’ve had surgery is a very steep learning curve and feels just like having a newborn again.
When he came out of surgery with his head bandaged and his eyes swollen half shut he looked like he’d just done ten rounds in the ring. He was connected to what seemed like half a dozen machines and crying like I’d never heard before, but he fed immediately and calmed down… until the anaesthetic started to wear off a few minutes later. My previously “good feeder” and renowned comfort sucker swung between being in intense pain and being completely drugged up both of which meant he was unable to feed.
Once his morphine levels were adjusted and he was in as little pain as possible but alert enough to latch on, our breastfeeding journey was able to continue, albeit still connected to machines that constantly beeped every time he fed (his oxygen levels would drop a little – I’m told that’s quite normal).
Figuring out how to hold him without touching his swollen head or feeling like I was about to pull out a cannula was difficult and required a lot of help from the nurses and family visitors. It was just like learning how to breastfeed all over again.
It was a traumatic time but now, at three years of age, two and a half years of breastfeeding, and with two successful surgeries under his belt, my son is a robust kid with a dare devil streak… and a lovely round head!
My top tips for breastfeeding after your child’s surgery:
- Ask someone to help you position the baby – with all those tubes, having a nurse or family member place the baby in to your arms after you’ve positioned yourself helps enormously and also reduces the fear of pulling out the wires.
- Take a breast pump & storage bags – if your baby is in pain, heavily medicated, or even being kept sedated in ICU, he may not be able to feed as regularly as usual and this can lead to discomfort and a supply drop in some cases. Label the milk with the date, your name and your child’s name and ask a nurse to put it in the fridge/freezer.
- Feed, feed, feed! – being nestled in close and breastfeeding is so comforting to a sick child, and it’s also comforting to mum, too, after such an emotional experience.
Trae is a slightly crunchy mama, a champion procrastinator, wannabe geek and sometime writer. She blogs about life, breastfeeding, recipes and much more at wheresmyglow.com with tongue very firmly in cheek.