I wish I had an amazing success despite adversity breastfeeding story I could tell, but I’m a huge believer in ‘keeping it real’ and very real my story is, so I think it’s an important one to tell during World Breastfeeding Week.
Firstly I need to say straight up, that I was and still am 200% a supporter and believer in all the researched benefits of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers, which is why it honestly never even crossed my mind that it might not always work for some people. Like not once, ever did I think it wouldn’t just work if you wanted it to enough. So imagine the shock when I merrily left hospital with my 3 day old who midwives said had the perfect latch, but who then proceeded to need to feed day and night NON-STOP, while crying and screaming like he was in pain NON-STOP. No amount of feeding continuously would satisfy him, nor could I manage to express anything for anyone else to be able to try and feed him and this was an exhausting, overwhelming process that dragged on for weeks and weeks before someone suggested that perhaps he just wasn't getting enough milk!
I felt so unprepared for this and wondered why no one in prenatal classes, midwives, friends or relatives had talked about just how hard establishing breastfeeding was! They certainly also failed to mention anything at all about what to do if it just doesn't seem to be working, which it clearly wasn’t for us!
This is not the ideal way to be starting out
on the journey of new motherhood and I remember feeling at a loss for what to
Thankfully after a bout of mastitis (and again, WHY does noone pre warn you about the symptoms of this??!) that two round of antibiotics didn’t seem to touch and a baby failing to gain weight, we were referred by a CAFHS nurse to Torrens House here in SA.
(Similar services do exist in other states too and GPs or Children’s Health Services Nurses should be able to best advise on the services available nearest you.)
Torrens House was a truly AMAZING place - imagine a bit like a breastfeeding bootcamp where you’re given access to midwives and lactation consultants 24x7 around the clock for a 3-4 day stint where ALL you need to do is feed your baby, rest and turn up for three meals a day they also provide! This IS new motherhood heaven….in a way, and the staff in these types of services are incredible. We were given such support, they even kept us there for 2 weeks (!!) and honestly we tried everything from medication, expressing, to supply line feeding because it really was apparent by this point that after each feed and weigh in my baby just wasn’t getting anywhere near what he was needing to thrive. But what I’m also forever grateful to these staff and this service for is the attention to my health that seemed to have been missed up to this point.
It wasn’t until one night after attempting to feed and settle my baby again, I was trying to stand and rock him back to sleep that a midwife told me to try walking around, which made me cry because I couldn’t. Actually walking very far at all since the day before I went into labour had been excruciatingly painful on par with walking on glass or someone sticking sharp needles into my feet. I’d dismissed this pain up until that point because doctors I’d seen had also dismissed it during pregnancy as ‘just sore feet, you get that in pregnancy’ and then afterwards as ‘just a tired new mum’, but the staff in this service didn’t and straight away referred for tests which ultimately several months later resulted in a diagnosis of ‘post natally triggered Rheumatoid Arthritis’, a chronic autoimmune disease that not only causes pain, but also means fighting infections and healing from pretty much anything (especially something like pregnancy and labour) takes so much longer than other people.
It also helped explain why despite trying absolutely EVERYTHING possible to breastfeed - expressing, medication, natural supplements, supply line feeding - my body was too busy fighting against itself to heal after childbirth let alone for it to be working how it needed to be for successful breastfeeding.
I still find it quite painful to talk about this whole experience and while the risk to my own health is too high to ever be in the position to try again and hope that it would be different the second time around, IF I ever were to, I AM 200% sure I would still want to try breastfeeding again, because if it works there’s absolutely no denying the benefits and especially because I now know a whole lot more about the link between nutrition and healthier pregnancy and breastfeeding (hence this Yummy Mummy Food Company business I’ve since created to help others!).
End of the day though, I didn’t know then what
I do now and I’m grateful that we have milk alternatives for situations like
ours when it is needed so my baby could thrive, but that’s another whole story
too, because formula feeding isn’t always the easy option either when your baby
turns out to have allergies or intolerances!
The struggle to find what is ‘best’ for both you and your baby isn’t necessarily an easy or straightforward road however you choose or need to feed them….
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