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WOMENS WORDS

Reflux Mum and the fetish feeder

There was a picture a few weeks ago of a man putting an hour old baby to his own chest to drink some chemical induced liquid. He has a simpering smile and talks about how validating the experience was, made him feel ‘more of a woman.’ The man was asked by medics not to try to feed his baby. God only knows how the mother felt, who had just given birth (I mean really felt deep down where she’s not walking on eggshells around this man).


And the baby.


The baby newly emerged into the world still full of her* mother’s nourishment after 9 months of careful development, familiar with the sanctuary of her mother’s heartbeat, her mother’s voice; her body ready for the gold top colostrum that her mother’s body has tailor made for her. Instead taken by someone who is using her as a prop to feed his own fetish, with little care for what his baby needs. I will be honest, it made me feel completely sick. I feared for this baby with an instinctive visceral reaction and an anger… an anger sharpened by having my own baby, Nathan**.


Nathan was my third baby and I was pretty convinced I had breastfeeding nailed. We had recently moved to a neighbouring town so I was a 15-minute drive from most of my ‘mum’ friends but we needed the extra space. The birth was a dream and for the first two weeks Nathan slept most of the time as I beavered around the new town, taking my eldest child to a new school and middle child to kindergarten.


But after two peaceful weeks Nathan began to wake up, and as he did, he began to scream. A lot. He screamed so much I thought he must be teething; it was definitely a cry of pain. The only time he was settled was in the sling on me. He began waking every 2 hours or so in the night to feed and became almost impossible to settle after a feed. He also did loads of dirty nappies.


It was constant and relentless.


I slept in a different room to my husband. Our deal was that my husband could get sleep for work and to look after the other two children and I recall vividly long lonely nights walking round that room with Nathan screaming inconsolably, and me feeling helpless, like a sleep-deprived zombie slowly going a little bit madder every day from the unrelenting nature of his screams, his pain.


It was hard to go anywhere. Instead of the car lulling Nathan to sleep, it made him worse. My other children would sit with their hands on their ears if we went on a short journey. I felt trapped. Trapped in a new town with few friends, trapped by having Nathan strapped to me at all times, trapped vicariously in my baby’s pain. I went to see a doctor as Nathan was developing eczema on his forehead. She gave me some cream and told me she could give me steroid cream if it didn’t get better. I asked her why my baby, barely one month-old, had eczema and she looked at me blankly.


Someone mentioned reflux to me so I went back to the doctors and another doctor told me that reflux was blamed for everything and sent me on my way with a patronising wave of his hand. My depression deepened.


Night times became more and more difficult, I was desperate for sleep.


Some nights I would prop myself up on pillows to 45 degrees so Nathan could be a bit more upright and we would both get some sleep with him on my chest. It was the only thing that seemed to work. Totally against the rules but it meant I could snatch a few hours’ sleep on a night, albeit light sleep plagued by worry.


After 6 weeks a health visitor mentioned that it may help to stop having dairy, as some babies could react to cow’s milk through their mother’s milk. This was my first clue. My first hope that there may be a solution. I told one friend, who put me in touch with another friend of hers who had given up dairy, Beth. Beth filled in lots of blanks, like a one-stop shop for what was going on. She told me it sounded like my baby had silent reflux.


Dairy was a common risk factor but to be sure it was best to go on a total elimination diet and reintroduce possible trigger foods slowly. She pointed me to message boards, full of women also going through this alongside mothers who had made it through and who stayed on the boards to offer their wisdom and support.


The message boards were full of heartbreak and sadness.


Stories of unsupportive families who told mums it was in their head or a little milk in their tea wouldn’t matter; mums feeling guilty they had put their baby on prescription ‘elemental formula’ as they just couldn’t cope anymore. Plus, so many pictures of eczema, sometimes covering baby’s little bodies and daily pictures of dirty nappies – green, blood streaked, the lot. But the boards also contained hope and insight such as recipe swaps and new food products we could eat. These boards were an invaluable resource of women supporting women through their shared experience; to think such spaces become colonised by men who want to make every experience about them and their constant need for validation is also sickening.


But back then, I knew nothing of this ideology, and these message boards helped save my sanity.


The journey was still tough, and Nathan and I had many setbacks, but Nathan’s eczema cleared up, he went from constant dirty nappies to not doing a poo for 10 days. The difference was that dramatic. I did take out more foods as dairy didn’t solve everything, I had spreadsheets and recipe books coming out of my ears, but I also had a way through, I had regained a degree of control.


I struggled to keep weight on or eat out, but I managed. Nathan was never happy in the car despite different car seats so we changed our life around and our world became smaller for a while. He still spent most of his first year in a sling and weaning at 6 months was fraught because suddenly it wasn’t just what I ate but what Nathan ate too.


Eventually I stopped feeding him after 2 and a half years, an epic journey which saw me return to work and have to hand express to relieve discomfort but we got through it. Some of the foods I gave up I can now no longer have. I can’t have dairy (digestive disaster) and I can’t have gluten (dermatitis herpetiformis), but I would do it all over again for Nathan who is such a happy child now.


So, whilst it was women in prisons that peaked me, watching a man thrust his pus-filled chest into a baby's mouth is the thing that has sickened me most viscerally, in a highly personalised way.


Mothers know breastfeeding our babies isn’t about us, it’s about our babies.


It’s about meeting their needs for nourishment, comfort and love; mums with reflux babies in particular sacrifice so much to produce milk for their sensitive, needy babies.


There are mothers currently struggling with their reflux babies now to make their milk as pure, as personalised for their baby as can be, and there are those of us who have been through that journey which didn’t just damage our physical and mental health, and often our relationships at the time, but sometimes came at a permanent cost to oursleves.


So to see organisations promote the feeding of babies by men who pretend to be women when there is zero understanding of the impact of this liquid on the baby is completely irresponsible and an anathema to me. It just shows how weak some of these organisations are. Domperidone for instance, which is used to induce lactation, carries a risk of cardiac problems in babies.


Potentially sacrificing the health of babies to the cult of trans ideology goes beyond institutional cowardice in my opinion.


When these men feed babies with a chemical laden liquid, it is child abuse. When they do it because it is a fetish it’s child sex abuse.


Leave the kids alone.


To all the reflux mums. Keep going. You’re doing an amazing job.


This too will pass xxx



* We don’t know the sex of this baby

** Names have been changed

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