Dana’s story – baby not latching, SNS, formula – to breastfeeding triumph!

My start to breastfeeding was a rocky one. After my baby Liam was delivered the doctors informed me that he wasn’t able to maintain his sugar levels. To me this came as a surprise (and major scare), but the docs assured me that this was normal for a baby born to a gestational diabetic mother. Due to his low blood sugar levels, Liam was sent to the NICU for the complete length of my stay at Mount Sinai hospital in New York (where I was living at the time).

When I initially tried breastfeeding Liam, the drugs from my caesar surgery together with my high post surgery anxiety prevented me from persisting to latch him onto my breast. Having Liam sleep on a different floor to me in the NICU certainly didn’t help. The first day after surgery I was barely mobile and was in a lot of pain. Somehow though I managed to drag myself down in a wheelchair and try to breastfeed him. We had no luck. He wouldn’t latch, and I was not in a calm state to keep trying.

We resorted to formula. The baby needed to eat, and I could’t provide for him.

I tried my best to hand express anything I could. As my milk hadn’t yet come in this was very hard. Whatever I could get I would give to Liam through a feeding syringe.

In the meantime i ate and drank all the things that would help bring on my milk supply. I do remember drinking a lot of cranberry juice!

When my milk finally came in (around day 4-5), I was expressing every feed and topping up with formula where need be. Liam still would not latch. He was only interested in taking a bottle.


Once discharged from the hospital the first thing I did was call a lactation consultant. Day 1 back from hospital and the consultant was at my apartment helping me get Liam to latch and feed from my breast. By this stage Liam was used to a fast flow bottle, so he was absolutely not interested in being on my boob and working for his milk. my lactation consultant put me on a schedule of expressing for 20 minutes and using the SNS with Liam. It was gruelling to say the least. To be doing this every 2 hours was a killer. The whole process of pumping, trying to latch, using the SNS and then cleaning/steralising would take me over 1 hour. Then it would all begin again 1 hour later. I was exhausted. There were lots of tears shed (both Liam and I) out of frustration. Liam was frustrated because he wasn’t getting milk like he was used to (from a fast flow bottle), and I was frustrated by his frustration and my inability to get him to properly latch. I was convinced that he hated my boobs, and would get so down about his rejection of my breasts.

But I persisted. I was determined to get Liam breastfeeding. My husband was supportive of my breastfeeding but also saw the anxiety it was causing me. He would often suggest to use formula, but I was stubborn and would not listen. My consultant had referred me to La Leche League’s book ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ and to the website www.kellymom.com. For the first month of breastfeeding I devoured every bit of information from these resources. I was so determined and unwilling to give up, and these resources really gave me the support I needed.

While I was informed that most women give up using the SNS system, for me this was my lifesaver and the trigger needed to help Liam latch and move onto the breast. Within a week of using the SNS Liam was feeding from my breast alone. I was beyond ecstatic.

In the early days it is so important for the baby to put on weight, and because I had such trouble breastfeeding for the first month and was so reliant on a bottle and measuring, we were scared that I wasn’t producing enough and that Liam wouldn’t gain the required amount of weight. We hired a scale and would weigh Liam before and after every feed to see how much he was taking in. After a couple of weeks of working with the scale and breastfeeding full time, Liam was latching correctly, feeding without needing to be weighed, and was happy and thriving. I was relieved. Finally I could enjoy breastfeeding my baby without any gadgets or devices. Just him and I.
Breastfeeding has been the best decision I have made so far as a mother. In addition to being a source of food, it is great during times when Liam needed a bit of comfort and has truly helped us bond in a way that I never thought was imaginable.While the first month of breastfeeding was exhausting, difficult and frustrating, I am so happy that I persisted with what I knew would be best for my baby and I. I am beyond thankful to my lactation consultant for helping me get Liam on the breast, and for making my breastfeeding hopes come true.I finished breastfeeding at 14 months. when Liam weaned himself off my breast.

Dana Arviv is a Melbourne mother who gave birth to her son Liam in New York.

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