Our Feed with Confidence awards 2018 received over 500 nominations, celebrating people and places across the UK who support breastfeeding mums. Sarah Watson, mum of 2, has kindly shared her unique breastfeeding story to support other mums in similar situations.
Sarah’s youngest child, Avalyn, was born with a serious heart condition and had to endure open-heart surgery 8 days after being born. Sarah originally from Herfordshire, but now lives in Wakefield, West Yorkshire with her husband, 2-and-a-half-year-old son Ethan, daughter Avalyn and boxer dog Poppy, tells her story.
“We went for an echo scan at 20 weeks with Avalyn as we had a small increased risk of cardiac issues, just the same as we had had with Ethan. We’d had the 20-week anomaly scan just days before so had gone to the scan feeling very confident about our baby’s health and development. We had even taken Ethan with us as we hadn’t been able to get childcare. Halfway through the scan it became clear that there were some concerns. We found out that Ava had a complex combination of heart problems. The left side of her heart was significantly smaller than the right. Her aorta was too narrow, and she had a large hole in her heart between the ventricles.
It was unclear until Ava was born how her heart would function so nobody was able to give us definitive answers as to whether she would be okay and what her future would hold. The only certainty was that she would need at least 2 lots of open-heart surgery, the first being within 7-10 days of life.
Ava’s cardiac condition meant that it wasn’t possible to give her that first feed when she was first born. Instead Ava was born to 3 doctors waiting to examine her, I was able to have a quick cuddle before she was taken with my husband to the neonatal ward to be looked after. I delivered the placenta and got cleaned up and joined them around 30 minutes later.
I was prepared not to be able to feed Ava until after she had had her first operation as often cardiac babies are too poorly to be able to digest milk properly and instead are put on a drip with electrolytes and fluids. Ava of course surprised everyone coming out pink and relatively well looking. She was immediately put on a drip to medicate her and amazingly after around 12 hours I was able to feed her!
Avalyn had her second lot of open-heart surgery in January and has recovered brilliantly. It was much trickery second time around with being that bit older, but we got through it and are so pleased with how well she’s doing. Ava loves her food but continues to breastfeed and we’ve got no plans to stop anytime soon!
I was incredibly emotional about being able to breastfeed. The doctors and nurses and the staff on ward 51 at the Leeds General Infirmary are all such special people. At every step of our journey so far with Ava we couldn’t have felt more supported. From the moment we found about her heart condition we have been so well looked after; from extra scans consultant appointments, specialise midwife care and counselling.
I am passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding and believe wherever possible it’s great to support and encourage mums to try but it isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. For those that want to continue I think the most important thing is to try to remember this phase in their life where they are fully dependent on you is so short and so small in the scheme of things.
The nights may feel endless to begin with, but they do end, and sleep does get better. I think having a good support network around you is also essential. I have been so lucky with family and friends. My mum breastfed me so was able to help but I also have an amazing friend, Nicole, who I believe to be a breastfeeding guru! When I found out I was pregnant with Ethan and decided I wanted to breastfeed she took the time to answer my billion questions and clue me up as to where to turn for support whenever I needed it. She checked in on me in the early days and even helped my husband understand the ways in which he could support me best. I also have a big group of ‘mummy friends’ I’ve made along the way and this network of experience and support has been invaluable!”
Thank you, Sarah Mellor, for sharing your amazing breastfeeding journey with us, we wish you all well. If you would like to share your breastfeeding story, tag us @lansinohfamily on Facebook or Instagram.