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Breastfeeding Magazine

Breastfeeding While Sick with Whooping Cough

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by Kirsty
(Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia)

Visitor Story: I breast fed my first child, a girl, for a year and a half with little to no trouble. Apart from the occasional bite!

When I gave birth to my second baby, a boy, he took to the breast fine, and it was so much easier than first time around. He would feed constantly.

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Until he started showing signs of being unwell. After being admitted to hospital he stopped feeding properly, it was causing him to have coughing episodes where he would stop breathing for up to a minute. The doctors inserted a feeding tube through his nose, which was just awful. I had never not fed my children myself and it was really painful to not have the closeness that breastfeeding allows.

I had also never expressed before. I had to start expressing so the doctors could gravity feed my two week old while he struggled to breathe. After 3 days in hospital the doctor deciding to stop feeding him as they suspected he had whooping cough. We had no idea what we were in for but all I knew about whooping cough was it was deadly for babies. They transferred him to a kids hospital where he went straight into intensive care.

The nurses said I would have to continue to express milk to give him once it was safe to feed him again. I could feel my supply starting to diminish, I guess from the stress, lack of sleep and proper eating patterns. I knew I had to start taking care of myself as my son had a nurse looking after him 24 hours a day.

Expressing every 2-3 hours to keep up the supply was so hard, I personally felt like the “let down” didn’t happen as much and it just generally was as if I was a cow!

I just wanted to hold my baby and feed him and look into his big blue eyes.

After 7 days in the ICU I was allowed to finally feed my son properly. After half an hour of trying he was just too tired, he would latch on and come off, so after the nurse would top him up with a tube feed of expressed milk. I continued to try, even though it was more upsetting that it wasn’t working. Then finally after 2 days he started latching on for 15 minutes.

He was moved to a ward, his feeding tube was removed. Breastfeeding was getting easier, although he was taking about half an hour to latch on properly. He was having trouble feeding with the oxygen tubes in at first and also seemed to only want to feed off one side, which was incredibly frustrating.

I ended up getting mastitis, which was really painful, it just felt like I was really engorged. So I just expressed a lot off that side until he started feeding off it.

Over the following week breastfeeding became easier and he was recovering really well. He was allowed to come home finally after 3 weeks in hospital.

Archie managed to surprise all the nurses, doctors and us by recovering quicker than anyone had guessed and by maintaining his weight and then gaining heaps!

It has been 6 weeks since Archie came home, he’s still coughing, but getting better and has no trouble feeding. At 3 months old he weighs in at a very healthy 7 kgs! And is a very happy, bright baby.

My son having such a terrible sickness so early in his life really scared me, one of the main things I was scared of was not being able to breast feed him because it was my most loved thing I ever did for my daughter. So sitting here now knowing I had the determination and love to feed through it makes it so special.


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