Thursday, 26 July 2012

How many women does it take to feed a baby?

That’s not the start of a bad joke, it’s a serious question; the answer to which is 5.

After I gave birth to Esme and went into heart failure I was of course consigned to bed and put on some pretty hardcore diuretics. The purpose of these was to relieve me of my chest puddle but because cardiologists don't deal with breastfeeding and midwives don't deal with hearts, it didn't occur to anyone that those same drugs would also dry up my milk supply.

When I transferred into hospital I had brought with me a freezer stash of expressed colostrum so I had a little grace, but I soon realised that more was going to be needed or else we were going to have use formula.

It was the only time through that whole month I felt desperate. I had wanted so badly to feed Esme, and tried so hard to surround myself with people who support me and now there was something I couldn't control threatening to stop us before we’d started.

I resorted to a very modern solution and went on Facebook to ask for help

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I was overwhelmed by the response. Several of my friends came to our rescue and a local lady who I had never met offered me a whole freezer stash she was about to send to a milk bank. There was enough to tide us over until I was on the mend.

Keith took on the unenviable role of milkman and ran out twice a day to collect all the generous donations, baby and toddler in tow. The kindness of these women clearly had as much of an impact on him as it did on me.
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He was right, there is something about breastfeeding that seems to motivate women: I don’t know of any other element of birthing that can inspire women to go that extra mile for strangers.

I happened across a situation myself recently when a complete stranger I spoke to on Freecycle told me she had been receiving some pretty shoddy care at the hands of the local professionals which was depriving her of a chance to feed her baby.

To quote one of my favourite bloggers “my feminist lioness was like “Awww HAAAAYL NOH! It’s ON! It’s on like DONKEY KONG!”” 

And so I went on what could charitably be called a phone and mail rampage to pretty much every person who was going to have no choice but to be interested in order to try and get her the help she needed.

The questions remains, why did I bother? Her baby won’t die if she has formula instead of breast milk. She’s not a beloved lifelong friend. Nobody is paying me to care.

But I do.

For anyone thinking I am going to come to some deep conclusions, I’m sorry but you've come to the wrong post. I don’t have the answers to what inspires lactivism, I just know that I feel privileged to be able to pay forward the love and kindness shown to us in our hour of need.

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