Saturday, July 24, 2010


I found myself in a strange debate with a first time mom who came to the clinic because her baby ‘refused to suck’.

At first I believed her but then I watched her baby suck on anything it could get near its mouth- hand, blanket, syringe.

She had delivered at home two or three days before and the baby hadn’t eaten once. She was severely dehydrated and slightly jaundiced. More importantly she was lethargic… but still sucking.

Asking a bit more about what happened she complained that her baby just “refused to eat”. Maggie sent her to express milk but she came back saying she could only get out a drop or two.

So they tried to get the baby to take 50% dextrose. She wanted to but most of it came right back up.

Then they tried to get an IV in this wee little one but without success. Her veins were too small.

What to do? What to do?

Then I told the mom I’d like to express milk for her. I noticed she was engorged perhaps it was her technique. When I expressed it for her she screamed in pain, fighting me. All the while repeating how she ‘doesn’t have milk’.

I was able to express easily 100 cc of milk (much more than the baby could take at a time) but the mother still argued with me. She complained that she couldn’t hand express and feed the baby with a syringe because that wasn’t ‘normal’ and she had inverted nipples so the baby had difficulty latching, etc. She said only cow are ‘milked’ is such a manner.

Meanwhile the baby lay too hungry to even cry inches away. All the mother kept doing was complaining about how her baby ‘refused’ to eat.

And all we kept telling her was she had to express her milk (which she refused because it was too painful) and give it to the baby. Or she had to work to get her nipples better so the baby could latch.

We argued incessantly. “Would you prefer your baby die?”, we asked. She never answered. She would only repeat ‘she refuses to eat’. I’d say it’s more like her mother refuses to feed her. In the end we could do nothing more than refer her to the hospital in Wau. 

Lord forgive me but I wanted to steal that baby away from her. Even now I’d love to take that baby and nurse her to health.

I really don’t think she’ll live.