This is my journey into the crazy world of breastfeeding.
*Firstly, I would like to start this post off by saying, that what follows, is my experience with breastfeeding and my advice to new Mamas who are starting on this journey with their little treasures. I am by no means an expert in this field, but I learnt many lessons on my journey and I would love to share these. This blog post is aimed to help prep and expose a small piece of this world to new Mamas who have yet to experience the highs and lows of this roller-coaster ride they are about to embark on. I am sure your journey will have its own pits and peaks, but if we all share our stories, we learn and grow together and that is a very special thing*
*Also spoilers, things get detailed, things get graphic and I do talk about the weird things that happen to your boobies, like a lot. Men you have been warned!*
Let's start at the beginning...the birth of my daughter was pretty difficult for me. I struggled with my pain and I struggled to find my calm for the duration of my labor. It was extremely fast (thank goodness!) and complication free, which is all that we can ask for as Mamas, but there were also a few hiccups along the way. The main one being, I had wanted an epidural and the same amount of drugs it would take to tranquilize a baby elephant, for my labor and this unfortunately, did not happen. I had always said I wanted to deliver my daughter vaginally and as natural as possible, but I did want to be medicated. This was never even a question for me. I was very scared of the pain. The issue was that, I arrived at the hospital too late and far too dilated to be allowed this. (Ladies, do not leave it to the last minute! Sometimes things progress really quickly. Trust me on this). This simple fact, the fact that I would not be able to have my epidural, pushed me into a complete panic. I was not prepared for that and when they told me, I burst into tears. I was terrified. So for me, my daughters birth was tough. When they placed her in my arms I was so relieved and so happy it was over and that she was safe and in my arms. But I didn't not have that magical Mama moment a lot of people speak of. The first time I felt connected with her, the first time my world crashed down with the gravity and depth of her beauty and the joy that she was perfect and mine. The moment my whole world changed and the angels sang (you know that moment they tell you about), was not when she was first placed into my arms but it was the first time we were alone, just the two of us and I was breastfeeding her. I remember this moment so vividly. This was the moment I cried the biggest happiest tears. And a connection I cannot even begin to explain formed, an instant, fierce bond, like no other on this earth. And this is where I want to start our story.
I was extremely lucky in that my breastfeeding journey started off as a big fat win, when that tiny, pink, squealing little person was placed on my chest for the first time, we did not struggle with any latching issues. The nurses at my hospital helped me latch her properly, placing my entire nipple in her tiny mouth, till a perfect suction was formed. And that was it, my little superstar started sucking immediately. Whoop whoop! (I did a happy Mommy dance). This was just the beginning, in this post I want to share with you a few of my highs and lows on breastfeeding. Cause Mamas, I want you to be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster like no other. Breastfeeding is tough (even when everything goes right, it is hard work) but it is also one of the most beautiful experiences you can share with your child, if you are able.
Let's start with the my lows (always the bad news before good)...
1. Engorged boobs! Ouch!!! When your milk comes in, in the first few days after birth, your breasts become fuller and firmer. (Oooh la la, you may say) If your baby is feeding well and frequently, this should pass without it becoming too much of an issue. However, in some women, I want to say most, their breasts become rock hard and super painful, hot and even slightly weird and bumpy. (Say what!!?) Your skin becomes stretched and shiny and even just the slightest touch hurts. Welcome to engorgement, ladies. Engorged breast don't usually last too long and you will feel instant relief when you latch your precious babe and they start relieving the pressure. (Even just expressing helps, if your baby is not sucking fast enough) The kicker in this, is that engorged breasts can also make it difficult for your baby to latch, as your nipples may become flattened because your poor boobies are so full and enlarged. So it's kind of like a cruel joke or something. (Thanks universe!) Once your breasts regulate and settle, engorgement shouldn't be too much of an issue, until you baby starts eating more and your production increases. But then it will settle again....till the next growth spurt. So begins the engorgement yo-yo. Yip, it doesn't stop! But the pain does lessen and it really becomes more of an irritation than anything else. On a side note, hot baths and gentle massages (work through the pain, it will be worth it) helped me. The heat of the bath and the pressure of your massage will help release the milk. It's pretty weird and gross to be squirting milk into the bath tub...but hey, lets be honest, what about motherhood isn't wired and gross.
2. Blocked Ducts or Mastitis! Double ouch!! What is the difference? Mastitis is an infection that causes a hard, swollen mass in the breast. It becomes very red and inflamed and can become way worst than a blocked duct, even causing fever and too much pain to even feed baby on the infected breast. Mastitis may heal on its own but an antibiotic is often prescribed if the condition persisted. A blocked duct is not caused by an infection it is, quite simply, a duct that has become blocked by milk. Blocked ducts will almost always resolve without special treatment within 24 to 48 hours after starting. To help the duct become unblocked you should still feed your baby on this breast even if it is sore and even if baby becomes fussy, as she is not getting her milk out fast enough. Rest (like you have time for that) and a warm bath (again with the time thing) also help your body fight the block and infection. I had both of these little treats, more than once. Lucky for me I never had a really bad case of either, but let me tell you it gets sore. Like unbearably so. And the only weird remedy I have here, is cold cabbage leaves in your bra. I know, I laughed out loud too. But trust me, this comedic sorcery, somehow works. Cold cabbage leaves, ladies, write that on your shopping list now!
3. Huge, leaky breasts that no longer feel like your own. Your breasts sole purpose becomes nourishing a tiny human, which is simply beautiful. And also difficult for everyone involved. Hubby stood no chance with these girls anymore, to be honest, I think he looked at them with awe and complete fear. (Fear outweighing the awe) They get huge, vainly, sore and when you hear the baby next door cry, they suddenly start spraying milk out like there is no tomorrow. (Seriously! Like we don't have enough problems to worry about, now we have to throw squirting nipples into the mix) It is like they develop a mind of their own. And it's magical and terrifying. (Did you know that your breast milks nutritional value changes depending on what your child is needing. Like if your baby is lacking in something or sick, your boobies know this and will start pumping more of what baby needs into the milkshake mix. How crazy beautiful is that!) They will also randomly spay in little showers while you are trying to relax in the bath or dribble milk when you lean down to pick something up. So prepare for a lot of wardrobe changes and a lot of nipple pads...yep, pads for your nipples, it's a thing. Sign...it's hella weird guys!
4. Expressing...essentially channeling your inner cow. I really enjoyed breastfeeding. Besides the circus show that I have detailed above, I loved this journey. But expressing, expressing for me was a whole different beast. I had to go back to work when my baba was 6 months old, so from the very beginning I knew I would eventually have to start expressing if I wanted to keep breastfeeding when I went back to work. So I started a few months in, just to start building a stash and practicing my technique. I bought a lovely single, electric breast pump and me and this machine developed an immediate and silent hate for one other. Firstly, it took me forever to get like 100mls!!! Which was so annoying and totally disheartening. Nothing is more effective than a well latched baby's suction. And this machine really needed some lessons! I always left the experience feeling exhausted emotionally and heartbroken that I hadn't been able to get more milk out. Also with an achy uncomfortable boobie. Secondly the machine literally sounded like a cow was mooing throughout the entire experience. So while I sat there with my udders, I mean, breasts out, watching TV in the dark, this machine would taunt me with its moos, making me feel like a really gross swamp monster of some kind. (Also you feel like you are a mass producing machine. It's weird, unnatural and I hated it)
5. Teeth or no teeth, it feels like razor blades! This is pretty self explanatory. Ok a newborn is pretty easy, but as your baby gets bigger and they get older, your boobies not only become a source of nourishment, they also become a fun lil' chew thing. This is not a fun game for Mommy. My little one used to suck hard and then bite down and pull away from my breast, with out releasing my nipple! Oh. My. Word!!! I would literally yelp!!! Or she would hear a noise, full suction and turn to look without releasing. Not fun guys, not fun. My daughter weaned herself at about 6 months and no matter what I did, she just refused my boob and went straight onto formula. I did want to try breastfeed for longer, but this was not on the cards for us. (She was as stubborn then as she still is now) So thank goodness, I never experienced an actual teeth bite, but wowzers, if the gums were anything to go by, I would have prepped my little one with a nice set of pink gum guards... for sure!!
6. Cracked Nipples. You know what the dessert looks like after years of drought? You know how the ground gets cracked and gnarly looking. Yep. Ladies, your poor nipples are completely over worked and under paid at this point. And having a moist little mouth back on them constantly, can cause extremely sore, cracked, dessert ground nipples. Lansinoh - HPA Nipple Cream! If you take nothing else from this post, may it be this...Lansinoh cream! Buy it, apply it after every feed, just do it Mamas, trust me! Your nips will thank you later.
Phew wee...Ok I hope you are still hanging in there ladies, cause things are about to get better. Finally, it's time for my highs...whoop whoop! Can I get a hallelujah! Ok, so even before we fell pregnant, I was really concerned about whether I would be able to breastfeed or not. Like most Mamas, I guess, but even more so for me, as I had, had a breast augmentation a few years before. And even though my Doctor had told me, I would be able to breastfeed my child one day, I was doubtful, almost fearful. I had heard so many stories of women who had breast augmentations and were not able to breastfeed their precious babies. So this was such a huge concern for me. Lucky enough, my boobies were fine and my baby latched like a dream. Like I said, I did my happy dance and I most definitely blubbled big happy, relieved tears. So just the fact that I could breastfeed, was such a big blessing for me.
1. The bond. (I feel like this needs some dramatic music backing when being said...The bond *insert music here, maybe an angels chorus or something like that?*) Guys, there is nothing quiet like it. I do not even know if I can do justice describing it here. But when it happens, you will just understand. This magic bond forms from the first day you give nourishment to your child and grows with each day, no, each second your child spends at your breast. With them latched to you, making little slurping and sucking noises, with their big eyes looking at you and their tiny fingers holding onto you...I challenge you not to melt into a blubbering mess right there. Even during the longest, most exhausting nights, the moments you share breastfeeding your child are some of the most precious moments you will ever have. Treasure them. While you sit alone together in a dark room, while the world sleeps and you feed your child your golden milk, you will feel like you are the only two people in the world. These moments were some of my most precious.
2. Natures Lipo. Can I get a hell yeah, ladies!!!! Finally, mother nature had our backs on something! While pregnant with my little angel I put on 16kgs. It wasn't the biggest amount I had heard a Mama pack on but it felt like I was the size of a whale. I was big. And when you pop out your little one, you are still left with a not so cute, little, pot belly paunch. And of course when you become a Mama, your only thoughts revolve around this perfect little creature you created. Not about how or when to loose the weight. How many flights of stairs will you need to take. And definitely not about cutting out the burrito you were planning on having for breakfast. (Breastfeeding makes you h-angry ya'll!) But thank goodness for breastfeeding, them boobies do all the work for us. It is like running around the block 20 times, while you sit in the comfort of your couch at home. Now we are talking my language!I I was lucky enough that breastfeeding helped me shed every single kg I had gained while pregnant and then some. Yes, you heard me, breastfeeding actually made me skinnier! After a few months of breastfeeding I weighed less than I did before I had fallen pregnant, without even trying! And it was at that point that I swore I would breast feed till my daughter was 40.
3. Melons. The girls got big, guys! Like big, glorious mountains! Ha ha ha, sorry to be so shallow and graphic, but I really did enjoy the fuller Pamela-look, I had when I was breastfeeding. No matter how big or small your boobies were before breastfeeding, during, those babies will perk up like no bodies business! You know how the wolfs eyes pop out during the cartoons...yep, just like that. And that is all I will say about that.
4. It's free and convenient. Does it make me cheap and lazy that this is one of my highs? Well, anyway it is here, it most defiantly made the list. Let's be honest formula is expensive and a baby needs a lot of milk to grow. It can work out to be super expensive, especially if your child is lactose intolerant or has some specific dietary need. And besides the formula, babies are already expensive, nappies, pead visits, creams, lotions and and and...why would you want to add formula to that list if you don't have to?! Save those pennies for cake and some face masks, you deserve the spoiling. Breast is free guys, it's on tap and it is exactly what your child needs, nothing more or less. Whip that sucker out and...Boom! Done, no problemo. Being a new Mom is exhausting enough. The first three months are so difficult and you are getting way less sleep than you want and need, the very last thing you want to worry about is sanitizing and making up bottles. Eew no!!!
5. You become a human pillow. I loved the feeling of my baby sleeping on me after a feed. And let me tell you there is no place more comfy than a Mamas boob. The worlds most perfect pillows. I used to have to have my phone, something to snack, something to drink and the remote, all right next to me when I fed because, once that little person was sleeping, this Mama was not moving. No better feeling than those tiny breaths on your bare chest. This is another bonding moment provided by breastfeeding, skin to skin, heartbeat to heartbeat. Sigh..the best!
6. Knowing you, are giving your baby the best nourishment you can. (I am a firm believer that fed is best, but I also know breast milk is so highly recommend by almost everyone, if it is something you are able to do) As a new Mom I felt so out of my depths in so many things, but this I could do, without even thinking. My body just did it. My body just knew instinctively what was best for my baby. And that felt so good. I mean in all honesty some days I was a hot mess. Maybe I slept two hours, I hadn't showered, I could have poop, pee and vomit on my pjs, all at once, at anytime of the day and I was tethering on the edge of an emotional breakdown. But I could still sit down and do right by my baby, even if I was falling apart in all other aspects. I could still feed and nourish my child, and I just loved that about breastfeeding. No matter how bad it got, I could always feed my child, there is a certain strength and magic to that.
I hope this has helped enlighten some Mama, somewhere, on a few of the twists and turns of breastfeeding. One thing I do want to say is that breastfeeding is magical and for me no matter how many lows I have I will always choose breastfeeding (if I can) as the highs will always outweigh the lows for me. It is a beautiful, magical experience, yes it hurts, yes it's super weird at times but it is always magical, no matter what. I also want to end off saying, to all those Mamas, who cannot breastfeed, please please please do not feel bad that you cannot or could not breastfeed. A fed and loved baby is a happy baby, it shouldn't really matter where the food comes from. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, you created a human and you are growing and nourishing them...you are a dam superhero!!! And you deserve a million dollars, a holiday and a bottle of wine for creating such a perfect little thing! So please don't be too hard on yourself, you are doing an amazing job. And lastly, to all of you about to embark on this journey that is the breast, good luck, keep your sense of humor and hold on tight, it's bound to be one hell-of-a ride...the best one you will ever take.