Our breastfeeding journey hasn’t been an easy one. I’m jealous of women who do it so easily. But that’s not us. My only positive role model for breastfeeding was my sister in law, Fleur. She fed her two beautiful children until they naturally weaned themselves. She showed me what breastfeeding could be, and helped me to normalise it. This world can be cruel to breastfeeding mothers at times, but if Fleur had negative comments thrown her way I wouldn’t have known. She always looked brave and confident and like she couldn’t care less what people thought, and that’s what I wanted to be.
When I did become pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed but everyone was telling me I probably wouldn’t be able to for long, because they couldn’t. They told me that i’d face some kind of hurdle and give up, but that it was okay because formula was more convenient. So before my journey even begun people were doubting me. But that just made me determined. I thought it would be easy!!
Once I gave birth I realised that our journey might not be so easy.. When we were still in the delivery room, the midwife grabbed my daughters head and my breast simultaneously and latched her for me – without me knowing she was going to do it and without showing me how. Over the next few days in hospital I struggled to get Isla to latch properly. I was “milked” by midwives, trying to squeeze colostrum out to syringe feed her. I broke down in tears on my last night because Isla had been crying for over an hour and I couldn’t latch her on my own and had to get a midwife to help me. That same midwife came in the next morning to offer me formula, and told me that it was okay to supplement and that most women experience trouble breastfeeding. It was almost as if she was saying it because she was sure i’d fail..
The real struggles began once we were back home. Isla didn’t seem to be able to latch properly at all. I was exploding with milk. Isla screamed almost constantly and would crunch over in pain. She’d vomit multiple times a day an through the night. We couldn’t put her down awake or asleep because she’d start screaming and vomit within seconds. My nipples were so sore and cracked and would sometimes bleed. I experienced painful blockages in my ducts every couple of weeks. Id hate when the moment came to feed her because it was agony. Id anticipate every latch. I cried more times than I can count. This went on for months. I was constantly being told that she needed formula and solids because I wasn’t enough. I wanted to give up so many times but I also didn’t want to take that away from her. I was determined to continue and give her the best start and I had my partners support 100%.
We had her checked for ties by our health nurse, lactation consultant and doctor. All agreed she was fine so they started to look at other things. She was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance so I cut dairy from my diet. We noticed small changes but nothing huge. She was then assessed for silent reflux and put on losec. A week later she was almost a different baby except the pain when feeding her was still there. Another LC couldn’t identify anything wrong and suggested expressing and bottle feeding her. I was up for that! I realised soon that I was unable to express more than 20ml at any one time! And we just couldn’t get her to take a bottle, no matter how many we tried. I continued to exclusively feed her and after a while I just began to accept that this is what it would be like for us. To my surprise though, when she was around 6 months it suddenly didn’t hurt as much. I think my body got used to it somehow. Then at 1 year my cheeky monkey got teeth and I realised what was wrong! She was latching on with her teeth/gums. We took her to another doctor in Melbourne who was a dental surgeon and specialised in ties. He discovered that she had a grade 4 upper lip tie and a grade 2 tongue tie. We were told that that was the reason she was using her gums to assist her latch. She developed her own way of doing it so that she could get milk. The ties explained all the problems we were having and we finally started seeing a positive. She was definitely going to need the ties revised, it was just a matter of when. We decided to get her lip tie lasered and left the tongue tie as it wasn’t effecting her speech. She was 19 months when it was done. After she had healed, I noticed a change in the way she latched. It felt like how it was meant to be. No teeth. No biting. No pain.
I continue to feed her on demand, day an night. I am stronger because I overcame such a tough start to my journey, when it would’ve been so easy for me to just give up. I wish I had the knowledge and information in the beginning, but we’ve got it now and next time I’ll be a little more prepared.
I understand every mother does what they feel is best for their baby, some breastfeed, and some formula feed. For us, formula was never going to be an option. I was determined to succeed at this. I’m so glad I stuck with it through everything. I just kept telling myself that it was for my daughter. She needed me. I’m proud to say that I have been breastfeeding my chubba bubba for 27months so far – exclusively for the first 6 and a half months of life – and I will continue to breastfeed until she is ready to stop. Whenever that may be. The bond that we share because of this is amazing and I love holding her close. This is our journey and I am proud of it!!