Whilst I felt prepared as I could be for birth, I didn’t feel prepared for mamahood. I assumed breastfeeding would come naturally. I didn’t realise it’s a skill and it takes time, practice and perseverance.
As a pregnancy yoga instructor and doula, I read all the books and attended birth education courses but from my experience, the focus was on how to get the baby out with little information on what to do once I brought my baby home.
I laughed at a suggestion to put lemon juice on my nipples and lay in the sun to toughen them up. After all, when would I possibly fit it in? Before or after I massaged my perineum, pressed on my acupressure points, rubbed my belly with clary sage, drank raspberry leaf tea and did my hypnobirthing relaxation?
I figured that stuff could wait until after the birth when I’d have more time on my hands. For now, I just needed to focus on my drug free water birth.
But I soon realised that for me, birth was the easy part. There’s no epidural for breastfeeding.
I WASN’T PREPARED FOR:
How painful breastfeeding can be to begin with. I was baffled as to why women openly shared with me how painful labour and birth can be but failed to mention how sore my nipples would be.
How useful the breastfeeding information session was at the hospital. Pre- baby I thought it was a waste of 1.5 hours of my precious maternity leave. Post- baby I realised that the lactation consultant and her fake boob were a godsend. You can’t learn how to breastfeed from a book.
My small breasts not affecting my ability to breastfeed. Pre- baby I feared that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed because of my A cup breasts but they proved me wrong. The ability to produce milk and how much you produce has nothing to do with size. Phew!
Breastfeeding being a 2 person job in the early days. When Banjo woke for a feed, I’d jump in the shower to massage my engorged breasts and prepare my Feeding Sanctuary while my husband made a warm compress to put on my breasts before Banjo latched on, propped me up with pillows and grabbed refrigerated cabbage leaves to my overheated breasts afterwards.
How lonely I would feel feeding my baby at all hours of the night. My only companion, my phone which connected me to the outside world.
The challenge of breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding covers are clumsy and Banjo hated being covered. So I resorted to throwing him on the boob so as to not reveal my breasts but he didn’t latch properly which resulted in;
Grazed nipples. Despite the pain, I had to grin and bear it and continue feeding to avoid mastitis.
How crucial support is. I was at breaking point and as a last resort, I went to see my Acupuncturist ,who was also a Lactation Consultant, who gave me the confidence to keep going.
Side- lying being a godsend. I called the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) 24 hour hotline in tears because sitting and feeding was exacerbating my after- birth pains. They suggested lying on my side to feed. At first it was awkward because my breasts are so small but we got the hang of it and as a sleep deprived mama, it enabled me to nap while Banjo fed.
Banjo rejecting formula. Around 4 months I was exhausted. I was up feeding every 2 hours and was so tired my bones hurt. My husband tried giving Banjo a bottle of formula before bed so I could sleep for a solid few hours but he spat it out.
Pumping being hard work. I went back to teaching yoga 1 morning a week at 6 weeks postpartum. To get home for his next feed, I’d have to pump in the car as I drove home. Dangerous? Yes! But it was the only way I could get a good 150 mls. Otherwise it was like trying to get blood from a stone. You can imagine how devastated I was when I dropped a full bottle as I got out of the car.
Breastmilk being the cure for everything. A stuffy nose, gunky eye, ear infection, nappy rash, eczema and more. Not to mention reducing the risk for breast and ovarian cancer for mum and creating antibodies to protect your baby from illness.
Feeding only from one side. At 2 years old Banjo started feeding exclusively from my left side which didn’t affect my supply.
How much I’d love breastfeeding. Banjo and I eventually found our rhythm and my nipples toughened up. It’s been incredibly rewarding being Banjo’s source of food and nourishment and I’m honoured to be able to give him the gift of breastmilk. Nothing quite beats this special bonding time.
How long I’d continue to breastfeed. I feed Banjo on demand and I’ve said I’d take his lead on weaning. I assumed he’d stop by 1 but at 3 he’s still going strong. There’s been many times I wished he’d wean himself but there’s also plenty of times I’ve been thankful that he hasn’t. Like when he’s had a fever and won’t eat or drink or his ears have trouble equalising when flying teething or when he’s hurt, over- stimulated or inconsolable.
How controversial breastfeeding is. Just like every birth is different, so is every baby. What’s right for one, isn’t for another. If you choose not to breastfeed for one reason or another, it’s your choice and none of any one else’s business.
I’ve shared my breastfeeding journey not to discourage you but to tell you you’re not alone if you’re struggling. If you need support, reach out to a Lactation Consultant or give the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League a call or go to one of their Support Groups. It takes a village to raise a child.
If you’re pregnant, create a postnatal plan and consider how you’ll approach breastfeeding.
Are you pregnant? Get your free Guided Deep Relaxation (Yoga Nidra). Fill in your details HERE and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.
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