Breastfeeding my baby

Hayley Balozi by Hayley Balozi Additional Needs

Hayley Balozi

Hayley Balozi

I'm Hayley, a Welsh mum living at the bottom of Mt Kilimanjaro with my Tanzanian husband. My two son's are the best of both! We own three African a...

Breastfeeding is tough, in fact it is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It’s beautiful and I’ve loved feeding my babies myself, but the early days are physically and mentally exhausting and strong support is essential.

There’s a lot of pressure on women to breastfeed in the UK now, but is there enough real support and education?

Not yet.I breastfed my first born son for over two years, and after some early struggles I grew to love it.

I somehow got through the demands he had for milk every 30 minutes for 12 weeks, the bleeding nipples and stomach cramps and it became like a second nature.

I just assumed that because it had been such a success, that when his baby brother came along it would be a breeze.

But it wasn’t easy at all.

River was born with Down syndrome, and although he wasn’t diagnosed for 6 months it made establishing breastfeeding extremely hard.

The muscles in his mouth were so weak that he couldn’t latch on, and he pretty much slept all of the time.

I just couldn’t keep him awake long enough to get enough milk into him.

It was such a stressful time and I was devastated that it wasn't as easy as I’d imagined.

It’s actually one of the reasons why I’m thankful that he wasn't diagnosed until later, because I’ve heard from many mums since then that the support for breast-feeding babies with Down syndrome isn’t great.

Many health professionals are of the the belief that it’s just too difficult, and that the best thing for both mother and baby is to use other methods of feeding.

And yes it is hard and in many cases not achievable, but not all.

Because I didn't know that my son was disabled and because I had some breastfeeding experience, we managed to push through it and achieve an exclusively breastfed relationship.

I always wonder what would have happened if I’d known he had Down syndrome and people had told me that it just was not possible to feed him.

Would I have been so determined?

Because it was possible, and 3 years on River is still breastfeeding.

The benefits have been extraordinary for him, to the point where I am even frightened to stop.

For a start, his immune system is so strong that I’ve never had to take him to a doctors once and he’s only ever had a handful of colds.

His mouth muscles have become really strong so his speech is developing well, along with his ability to eat all real foods and textures.

There is no denying that breastfeeding has been wonderful for him.

Not every women is going to be able to breastfeed her child with Down syndrome.

There are many obstacles and its really important to be prepared for the fact that it might not happen.

However, its also really important that medical professionals are adequately trained in breastfeeding babies with Down syndrome and that families are given the support they desperately need and deserve.


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