My Breastfeeding Journey
Breastfeeding is different for everyone. Just as no one person’s journey through parenthood is the same, the breastfeeding journey comes with its own set of highs and lows. To be honest, I never really gave breastfeeding much thought until I became pregnant with Daniel. I’d seen all these stories in the news about women being shamed when breastfeeding in public or I’d hear of mums arguing with other mums about whether formula or breast milk was best. In my head I just thought, I’m sure they know what they’re doing, let them make their own decisions and let them be. Then as soon as we found out that we were going to be blessed with a little baby, I started paying more attention.
The Lead Up – When I found out that I was going to be a mama to a vulnerable but powerful little human being, something changed. In an instant it wasn’t just about me anymore. A tiny little person was in the making, and would be dependent on me for everything. Inside my belly he was growing…his little fingers and toes, his brain everything! All of a sudden, every decision I was making I was making for the both of us and I wanted was give him the best. So I spoke to friends, spoke to mum, read books like What to Expect When Expecting, resarched online, watched videos and research and, decided I wanted to try breastfeeding when Baby was born.
I stopped drinking and tried to get rest. I drank lots of water and followed suggestions from by OB about what things to eat. Being my first pregnancy I was so pedantic about checking everything I was eating to make sure it was fully cooked, thoroughly washed etc etc. When I was a baby Mum said that she had no milk and so I was put straight on formula while we were still in the hospital. I was hoping it would be different when it was my turn! Unlike some of my friends who were pregnant at the same time as me and whose bra sizes had increased significantly, my boobs stayed the same throughout my pregnancies. I was really hoping they’d get bigger! Why were they still small? I thought I was going to have no milk like Mum but that all changed as soon as Baby arrived.
The Arrival: My boobs started to become a little fuller in the very last couple of weeks of pregnancy. I got excited that I could finally use my new maternity bras (nowadays I’m more looking forward to the day I can wear those sexy lacy bras again!). I was fortunate to have an extremely quick, albeit dramatic, labour (I gave birth to my son in the passenger seat of our car as my husband sped over the Westgate. Second time around I made it to the hospital in time for Hannah!). As soon as we got to the hospital and the OB and midwives checked that me and Baby Daniel were okay, Daniel was put on my chest where he seemed to just magically work his way up to start feeding…it was the most amazing thing to see. Hannah was exactly the same. As soon as she was born she was placed on my chest, and even without opening her eyes she just wriggled her way up towards my boobs and started feeding. I was enthralled.This is what an exhausted mama and daughter looks like one day post partum
The midwives taught me how to hold Baby in the optimal position for feeding and then away he went. Being tired from giving birth I don’t remember it hurting right at the start but what I do remember were the contraction type pains in my tummy as my uterus slowly shrunk back in to place with each feed. There was no milk yet, but there was the “liquid gold” – colostrum that was rich in nutrients that Baby needed. The nurses were very encouraging and I knew that I just had to keep Baby feeding in order for the milk to come through. That’s where it was different for my Mum. From the stories I hear about back in the day it didn’t sound like they were as encouraging about breastfeeding as they are now because Mum said they just put me on formula straight away. These days they are very aware that the milk can take anywhere from a few days to weeks to come through so they were very encouraging of my decision to decide to try breastfeeding. It helps to have supportive midwives and I loved that the hospital had a breastfeeding room and dedicated lactation consultant available for us whenever we needed. I think it really helped that I was made to feel at ease and relaxed. Stressing out doesn’t help and I think a baby is so in tune with its mama that he/she can sense what you’re going through and stressing out will stress them out.
Those first few days: When Daniel latched on immediately after being born I thought, wow this is so easy I wonder what everyone is complaining about? But then the next day my nipples were so sore and it felt like I was doing it wrong. Was I holding him in the wrong position? Is he not latching on properly? The midwives came and showed me that he really had to get the whole nipple in his mouth and it seemed like they just shoved it in his face LOL! I was thinking oh my goodness how can he breathe if it’s that far in? But the midwives showed me and assured me that he was just fine. As soon as they did that, I could see the difference and Daniel was latched on much better. However my nipples felt so sore and raw. Luckily for my baby shower I was given Lasinoh which I had packed in my hospital bag and it helped a lot to ease the pain. I remember Daniel preferring the right boob over the left and I would dread every session when it was time to alternate him to the left one. It hurt so much because it felt so raw but I kept thinking, it’ll be ok, just keep going and it will get better. And it did.
My mum took time off work for both of my pregnancies so that she could be there for me after giving birth. With Daniel, Mum and Papa cooked lots of soupy Filipino dishes like Nilaga and Tinola which contained a lot of water and helped me keep hydrated whilst breastfeeding – it’s surprising just how thirsty you get when you breastfeed. I always kept a water bottle with me when Daniel was a baby. When I came home from the hospital with Hannah, it was my cousins who prepared an amazing feast for me with lots of veggies and a Filipino dish called Bulalo. I was so happy to have everyone around. That’s one thing that a new mama needs – food! So if you’ve got a friend that pregnant or new to the parenting world, a simple drop off of a tasty home cooked meal is a small but super helpful gesture that does wonders.
I remember Mum would also just pop over in the evenings after she finished work and clean. She cleaned the kitchen and benchtops up so that all the dishes were clean and the clutter gone. Again it may seem small but it makes the biggest different waking up to a clean house instead of a messy, cluttered one. Thank you Mum…you’re the best.
The first couple of weeks: I left the hospital feeling well equipped with what I needed to be able to continue breastfeeding at home without the help of the nurses. A close workmate gifted me with a breastfeeding pillow which I found really handy especially with Baby being so small. Just as I thought everything was going well, the first night home after all our visitors had left, I suddenly felt extremely dizzy, feverish and sick as I climbed upstairs to go to bed. I was so weak that the hubby had to practically carry me into bed. My boobs were killing me and they were so hard…like rocks. Hubby was so worried he called the 24hour doctor and explained my symptoms. He was told that I needed to feed the baby and that would ease the pain. I couldn’t even hold Daniel or move at all, that’s how sick I was feeling, so the hubby lay me on my side and positioned Daniel so that he could feed. It was probably only about fifteen minutes in total that I all of a sudden felt so sick but as soon as Daniel started feeding, I felt a hundred times better and my boobs softened and stopped hurting. I must’ve not alternated my feeds evenly between my left and right boob. I was using a hair tie to try and remember which side Baby fed from last but I must’ve forgot to change wrists! So many things to remember! – it makes it hard when you’re running on minimal hours of sleep and navigating your way through those first few weeks of becoming a new mama and a tired wife.
One thing I continued to do from the hospital is track my feeding times. I used my “notepad” on my iPhone but now Medela have this super handy app (MyMedela app) where you can not only track feeding times but where they have a whole bunch of useful information all in the once place. Best thing ever. The app includes a problem solving centre with commonly asked questions, information on your baby’s progress and so much more. It means you can have just one thing open on your phone and spend more time closely bonding with Baby…especially helpful during those midnight and 3am feeds.
During those first couple of months when Baby was still finding a routine and I was up at all hours of the evening morning, I spent most of my time on our Snuggle couch. It is the most comfiest corner of our house and I ended up watching Larry Emdur on the morning show, I thought he was so funny lol! With Hannah I watched the whole Glee series in those first couple of months when she was awake around the clock. Even though it was exhausting being up all the time and not getting enough sleep I miss those times. Those peaceful times when it would just be Daniel/Hannah and I awake while it was still dark. So much closeness. It was these precious times on our own in the stillness of the night that were some of the most moving moments of motherhood in the early days.
Out and about: I am so grateful that Daniel and I worked well together. He was a good eater…still is. Hannah was exactly the same, thank goodness, and so it was even easier with her because I had done it all before. One thing I had learnt to do with Daniel was the art of feeding in public without looking too obvious. I used to be the most shy person who ever lived on this earth and even though I am a lot more outgoing now, I am still a little reserved depending on the situation. On my first trip to a shopping centre one month after Daniel was born, he started crying and being a first-time parent I freaked out that he was crying and being so noisy so I didn’t make it to the parents room – I just wanted to feed him straight away to stop him from crying in front of everyone (so different the second time around haha!) I had a light weight scarf with me and dressed in a tshirt with a singlet underneath. So instead of just pulling my top’s neckline down and feeding that way with my chest exposed, I did it the other way. I pulled up my tshirt from the bottom, and fed Daniel as discreetly as I could (I have eczema and have had it since birth so I still get a bit conscious about that every now and then). Even my friends commented that it just looked like I was holding Daniel while he slept. With Hannah, I found these amazing Nursing Mama singlets that are made specifically for breastfeeding with a slit in the middle for quick and easy access. I wish I had these when Daniel was a baby…I now have one in every colour and wear them even when I don’t have the kids with me as they are the softest piece of clothing and doesn’t make me feel itchy.
Pumping and Going Out – Along with What to Expect When You’re Expecting, one of the many baby books I read was Save Our Sleep. It was recommended to me by a friend and so I tried to follow along with some of the routines in there including pumping my breast milk for Daniel to take through a bottle. It worked up until Daniel was three months old but after that I just couldn’t get him sleeping on his own so we ended up co-sleeping, which now I look back on and treasure. He’s grown up so fast I can’t believe how quickly time passes and I’m so glad we shared a million cuddles together. Everyone is different though and that’s why I’ve found the reading to be helpful to try different things to see what works for you and for baby. Everyone is different. With Daniel the hubby bought me a manual pump which was ok. The second time around, the hubby bought me the Medela Swing breast pump which another friend highly recommended and I wish we had bought it earlier. It is so quiet, convenient and gets the job done fast.
With both Daniel and Hannah, I ate a serve (or two) of ice cream every single day. When I’d go out for dinner I could eat the whole menu and know that Daniel would just suck it straight out haha! This time round with Hannah, the hubby and I have been trying to eat a lot more nutritious food and loads of vitamins and minerals.
Nearing the end: Daniel took breast milk from the bottle once a day until he was three months old. After that he refused the bottle and didn’t want a bar of formula so when I was coming up due to go back to work I started stressing out a little. I didn’t know how to wean him off the boob so I extended my maternity leave an extra four weeks. I breastfed Daniel until he was thirteen months old, until one day he suddenly bit me while he was latched on and I almost slapped him it hurt so much and caught me off guard! That was it. After that, I stopped feeding him and he went on to get his nutrients from food and cows milk. We now drink more almond milk which he seems to like with his Weet Bix 🙂
Hannah is like Daniel in the way that she is not interested in the bottle. Lately though she has started to drink from it… only a few mls but it’s still something! I am loving the below meme because it totally describes how breastfeeding is nowadays with Hannah. She pulls on me so much and twists and turns around it’s ridiculous! So funny! And little painful. And right now she has this thing where she likes pinching and holding one of my boobs while she feeds on the other. Even though her pinching hurts a little, I’m enjoying these little cheeky moments with her because it won’t be long now until my whole breastfeeding journey comes to an end.
When will my milk come?
My baby won’t stop crying? – Do I have enough milk? Is the milk too much for her?
How often should I feed?
When should I pump?
Is it supposed to hurt this much?
I’m due back at work – how long will it take to ween him off?
Almost four years since I first started breastfeeding after fluffing my way through so many questions and uncertainties, I now have so many memories to treasure and current moments with Hannah that I am desparately holding on to before it all ends. Some of my friends had an end-of-breastfeeding party when their little ones weaned off. Other friends hated the whole breastfeeding stage and couldn’t wait to stop. And some didn’t breastfeed at all. And you know what, that’s ok. Every mama out there is doing the best she can and trying the best way she knows how to raise a tiny little baby.
We’re so lucky that these days there are so many resources available to us and with this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Week having just passed, I’m feeling a little nostalgic knowing that this may be my last year of breastfeeding my baby. It has been a wonderful journey in which all the tiny joys of life together with the tough times, have enriched my life knowing that I have helped both my children grow and, strengthened the bonds I have with family and friends.
Just in case you missed it, I’d like to share a little video Medela put together featuring fellow bloggers and how breastfeeding was different for them.
Hopefully this helps you or your friend know that you are not alone when it comes to this journey. If you have any questions please comment below, tweet me, or send me a message via Instagram of Facebook. I love hearing your stories and knowing what you’d like me to post about next.
Good night -xx-
Flashback to when Daniel was only five months old…seems like just yesterday.