As I sit here with my 10 month old, breastfed baby who has 2 razor sharp teeth and a fiery disposition I’m quietly proud. There were more than a few obstacles on the road here, some physiological, some psychological, some circumstantial, some societal but we’ve gotten to a place were this story seemed irrelevant, where breastfeeding seems like the most natural and uninteresting thing I’ve ever done.
And perhaps today it is uninteresting, especially to my family and friends who have watched me feed a thousand times, but in the beginning there were times when it seemed Brigid and I were the most interesting people in the room and it felt anything but natural.
My breastfeeding story starts three and a half years ago with my son William. Bill was 2 weeks overdue when a failed induction led to an emergency cesarean and the beginnings of a tough breastfeeding relationship. Bill lost weight, the term failure to thrive was bandied about and I was encouraged by many health professionals, and friends and family, to switch to formula feeding. It felt like everyone I talked to wanted me to give up on breastfeeding, my husband and family were concerned for both mine and the baby’s well being and as such tried to reassure me that formula might be the best thing for everyone. However lots of the advice and encouragement to bottle feed that I received from others was based purely on that old adage ‘it didn’t do us any harm’. And the thing is, no matter the truths or otherwise about formula feeding, the idea of not breastfeeding was devastating to me, I didn’t care how good or safe or anything else formula was I wanted to breastfeed and I wanted people to understand and support me in doing so. Instead I was being told that breastfeeding alone wasn’t enough and that I could actually be doing my baby harm by continuing as I was. I couldn’t forgive myself for failing him so I started topping up with formula. I knew it was a slippery slope so I decided to join the ABA in hopes of prolonging breastfeeding. I saw a lactation consultant who was pragmatic and supportive and made prolonged mix feeding easier. Eventually, however, the bottles far outnumbered the breastfeeds and we were finished with our breastfeeding relationship by the time he was 8 months old. I know we did awesome in getting that far along and there is definitely no shame in formula feeding (how lucky we are to live in a time when it is an option that often saves lives), but I also now know that there are much better, little discussed alternatives to formula like ‘human milk for human babies’, things I never even knew were an option when I first became a mum.
Options that I was actually still unaware of when my second bub, Brigid Erzsebet, was born. Brigid was born via emergency C-section after a 44hour VBAC attempt. I was surrounded by super supportive and nurturing midwives, one in particular who bent the rules and dragged her feet after surgery so I could breastfeed in recovery. Also when we realised that this labour was going to end in another caesar I was encouraged (and helped!) to express as much colostrum as I could so my hubby could feed bubs while I was in recovery. My concerns about breastfeeding and my birth plan were kept with my medical notes and by the time I was out of recovery and back on the ward the midwives had organised a lactation consultant to come by. When I was discharged everything seemed to be heading in the right direction. Brigid hadn’t lost much weight at all and we both seemed healthy and on top of the whole feeding thing. Fast forward to our first MCHN visit and Brigid had started to lose weight despite feeding every 1 to 2 hours for 40minutes or more. At first I was sad and deflated that this natural thing wasn’t working for me again… Then I was mad, I was cross and annoyed and pissed that the 2 things in life that I thought would come most naturally seemed to be being so cruelly denied me. First I couldn’t birth, and now I couldn’t feed, EITHER of my babies… It was a very sad time and my confidence in my ability to parent my children took a severe knock. Lots of stressful tracking of feeds, nappies and sleep and only a minuscule weight gain had us back at the lactation consultant who suggested we supplement with formula via a supply line while we wait for an appointment with a GP who specialised in lactation. Somewhere in amongst the stress and those feeds and nappies and inconsiderate comments about Brigid looking like Keith Richards she gained a little weight and a huge personality. She was fist pumping and smiling and seemed to already be as in love with our little family as we were with her. Feeding woes aside she was strong and fun and so obviously a Wood. At the specialists she presented with a minor tongue and an upper lip tie but the GP thought that they probably only had a minor impact on our breastfeeding relationship as I showed enough signs of insufficient glandular tissue,particularly in the left breast (which didn’t surprise me 😉), to put our feeding woes primarily down to IGT. The GP was positive that not only could we keep feeding, but that we should and there was still hope that we would exclusively breastfeed at some point in the future. I was prescribed domperidone and ate my body weight in ‘boobie biccies’. I drank 0% beer, pumped 3 times a day, ate porridge every morning and applied fennel oil to my breasts. I was so determined to turn it around and exclusively breastfeed that I think I might have simply willed my breasts into production!! I read stories about other women’s breastfeeding journeys and I found the Australian Breastfeeding Project on Facebook. I even managed to score a spot in Sarah’s photoshoot in Dromona (coincidently the town I was born in).
And you know nobody seemed to encouraged me to stop breastfeeding, or maybe I just didn’t ‘hear’ that kind of advice this time. I knew what was right for us and I did whatever was in my power to feed my baby in the way I knew in my heart was best for her. And so here we are 10 months later, still boobin. Brigie hasn’t had formula in over 4 months though she is a total monster when it comes to solids! We still breastfeed 5 or 6 times a day and she is often in bed with us at night… Snacking!! But I wouldn’t change a thing… Actually maybe I would. If I had my time again the only thing I would do differently is to supplement with donor milk rather than formula.
I am so glad I kept at it, I’m so glad I did everything in my power to keep feeding. I am so proud of myself and I’m so proud that so many women are supporting and nurturing each other and our children in a way that changes the world a little. We are little breastfeeding queens and we are amazing 😘