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Hospital breastfeeding on an adult medical ward – Jennifer

Lucy was just shy of three weeks old when my vision suddenly went blurred. I was feeding her post-bath and hadn't got my glasses on so assumed that perhaps I'd stood up too quickly. As soon as she finished I grabbed my glasses and went downstairs assuming that after a sit down everything would return to normal. It didn't and I decided to call the maternity unit who after a discussion on symptoms suggested I try taking a couple of paracetamol and giving it half an hour then out of hours service if it hadn't returned to normal.

After waiting for things to improve (which they didn't) I rang 111 and was also asked if I'd experienced any weakness in any limbs. I recalled that the previous day I felt like I'd had a dead arm but that it seemed better and I assumed I must have slept on it or something like that. The advisor put me on hold and when she came back told me that I should go to A & E within the next hour and to call an ambulance if any other symptoms appeared. After arranging childcare for my sleeping toddler my husband and I went to Hospital D to a packed A & E waiting room.

We saw the triage nurse pretty quickly who after assessing me informed us that I was a low priority case. I didn't mind as to be honest, apart from the vision I felt absolutely fine but the anticipated wait was in excess of three hours as there were a few major incidences that evening. I told the nurse that I might just go home and return the next day as I felt physically fine and was concerned about my unvaccinated three week-old being in the waiting room for such a long time. The nurse explained that whilst it was my decision whether or not to discharge myself, would I mind just waiting for her to consult one of the doctors and offered us the use of the relatives’ room to avoid going back to the waiting room. After a short while she returned and informed us that one of the senior doctors advised that we did need to be seen that night, offered us use of the relatives’ room until we could be seen and added that she'd 'bumped' us up the list so that we would be seen sooner.

Being allowed to use the relatives room was a welcome gesture. Not only did it prevent my daughter from being exposed to potential infection, it also allowed me to get some rest (sleep when the baby sleeps eh?) and also breastfeed in private. As a seasoned breastfeeder I have no issues with breastfeeding in public but with a newborn still learning how to latch there wasn't much I could do about being discreet and as this was a Saturday night, I didn't relish having to feed in front of any drunk people who had ended up in A & E after a few too many.

After being seen by the doctor I was informed that they wanted to admit me for further tests and scans as I was also showing signs of subjective weakness in my left hand side. Those symptoms coupled with the blurred vision pointed to a possible blood clot on the brain.

Shortly after going back to the relatives’ room one of the senior nurses popped in and introduced herself. ‘I'm just trying to find you a bed...' she said. I was just about to pipe up that I needed my daughter with me and was ready to recite about hospital breastfeeding policy, why mother-baby contact was so important at the start of breastfeeding and therefore why pumping would be unacceptable when she finished her sentence. '...and it make take a little bit of time as obviously I need to find you a private room for you and little one and I need to source a cot from maternity or the Kingfisher ward'. Oh, she'd already thought of it. There was no need for me to have to state my case. Either the nurse was sufficiently knowledgeable about breastfeeding and the importance of keeping the mother and baby together or the hospital in general really were clued up on breastfeeding and their breastfeeding policy was being followed throughout. Either way it was nice to not have to argue my case as I know some women have had to do at other hospitals.

When I was in my own room the staff could not have been more helpful. When I was visited by one of the medical team at about 4am to perform more tests Lucy was feeding. I was just about to unlatch her when the doctor (who I'm sure was not exactly flush for time) said 'oh no, don't take her off, I'll come back in half an hour'. In the morning the nurses were happy to 'bend the rules' on visitors and let my husband stay all day to help look after my daughter. Their only stipulation was that they got to have a cuddle with Lucy.

After my CT scan it was confirmed that luckily there was no clot and that I could go home. The symptoms I was experiencing were the result of a silent migraine caused most likely by the changing hormones post pregnancy.

I've heard stories of women who are refused to bring their babies onto the ward and cases where use of electric pumps has been frowned on due to it disturbing other ward users. The fact that I didn't have to worry about these things meant that I could focus on being the patient. What I experienced should be common practice and I hope that other mums in such situations will be met by similarly helpful and supportive staff too.