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Breastfeeding a baby undergoing surgery – Sarah

In December 2014 I fell down a full flight of stairs with my then 7 week old baby. The ambulance crew took us both to Hospital W as we were both hurt. Beth had a pretty badly fractured femur. The staff (although they knew me) I couldn't fault their treatment, they told me that they fed every breastfeeding mother. The staff were supportive and they brought me water (and toast) throughout the day and night. They did this for the two other breastfeeding mothers who were also on the ward at the time.

The staff brought a steriliser for me as I was using nipple shields, and they brought me a pump to express if I needed it. I was so well looked after I was made to feel relaxed, and if ever my little one cried I was offered help.

On the Sunday we were transferred to Hospital A. When we got to the orthopaedic ward the staff nurses offered me a glass of water and they offered me a meal from the dinner trolley and told me that they feed all breastfeeding mothers.

My little girl was due to go to theatre at 09:00 the next morning. The ward sister told me not to feed Beth after midnight. I insisted on speaking with the doctors who agreed with me that I could feed up until 6am or 7am as breastmilk is digested far quicker than formula or water. The ward sister was not happy with this and made her feelings known.

I still remember her saying to me that 'If you made life easy and gave her formula then things would be much more simple!' I cried for the entire night.

Monday morning and I fed Beth at 6am and she vomited so I waited till 6:30am and fed her again.

Beth didn't go to theatre till maybe 10am or 11am by which time she was so upset and as she was demand feeding she was looking for food and she was crying with hunger. I was crying, and my husband was so upset. Nobody asked us if we were okay. Nobody cared that my baby was screaming. We were just left in a room until eventually a nurse came in and said, 'she's hungry isn't she?'

Anyway, Beth was in theatre for about an hour. The ward sister told me she was awake and she was crying – (I thought this would have been quite normal? 7-week- old to wake up from an anaesthetic to people who are unknown to her? She was going to be upset). But no, I was told the staff couldn't settle her because she wanted me to feed her. The staff didn't know what to do with her because she just wanted me. Basically this was my fault she wouldn't settle for anyone else. I wanted to cry.

When I went in to the recovery room the staff had given my little girl a dummy (this made me cry again). The ward sister said 'well they had to try something didn't they?'

So the staff avoided me like the plague because I was feeding constantly as my little one was so unsettled. I had to find a member of staff and practically beg them for paracetamol only to be told that they didn't want to come and offer anything as they didn't want to disturb me feeding!

We were moved from a side room to a ward bay...... 

My little one was 7 weeks old and I was so so scared and self-conscious about feeding in public. I pulled the curtain around. Instantly the ward sister opened the curtain and told me that they had to observe Beth and the curtain stayed open! I was mortified and so upset it was unreal.

As for meals.............. 
I wasn't even given a jug of water. Even though I had asked several times. 
I wasn't offered a meal. Even though I was told Hospital A fed breastfeeding mothers. 
I wasn't able to leave the ward to get a meal as my little girl was too unsettled. 
I wasn't allowed to take her with me.

When my husband came in that evening he was mortified and appalled. When he questioned the meals the ward sister said "We only feed breastfeeding mothers who are on benefits!" *

I asked if there was a breast pump I could use to express as Beth wasn't really feeding she just wanted the comfort and I was so full. The nurses said "we don't have one".

The nurse on the night shift saw my nipple shields and started gagging! And then refused to come near me! I had to beg again for pain relief for my child.

Beth screamed for the ENTIRE night. The nurses sat at the nurses' station and glared at me. One even told me that if I had formula fed then Beth would be settled by now and someone less sleep deprived could have stayed with Beth and given her a bottle..... I cannot tell you how awful this made me feel.

I was so upset with everything. I wrote this all down in a letter about 2 weeks later, but I didn't ever have the guts to send it. When I think back to the time we spent at Hospital A I'm so upset.

I am a paediatric nurse and I always make sure a breastfeeding mum is supported and given everything she needs. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did.

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