Breastfeeding.. love in every drop – Guest Writer Siobhan Barwick

All I ever wanted to be was a mother. Ever since I was a young girl, I had a way with babies, and dreamed of the day I’d be blessed with my own.

That day came before I knew it, and my life felt complete, as I held the most perfect little boy in my arms.

When I fell pregnant, my husband and I had decided to do what we thought was best, and that was for me to breastfeed. I never thought about it, as for me, it was the norm. My mother was a CHN, LC and midwife for many years, who breastfed my siblings and I long in to toddlerhood. Because of her experience and knowledge, I knew I could turn to her in times of need.

After a traumatic, long and exhausting birth, I cradled my son close to my body and was waiting for him to do the ‘breast crawl’ and latch on to my nipple. He opened his mouth and I put my nipple it. He began to cry. I tried again. He screamed louder.

What was I doing wrong? I had laboured for over 2 days, was rushed to theatre, was numb from the waist down, and all I wanted was to nurse my newborn! I thought it was as easy as putting your nipple into their mouth….how wrong I was! Luckily mum and my husband Chris were by my side to help relax me and assist with our son’s latch.

Still, I felt it to be unsuccessful. It was midnight by this stage and I had to go to the ward. The whole breastfeeding experience got worse. Due to the anaesthetic, I was unable to move my lower body, meaning I had to call a nurse every time Isaac stirred. Each one that came in had a different approach in assisting a latch; one nurse would grab my nipple and shove it in Isaac’s mouth, another would try and stimulate Isaac’s reflex by moving my nipple up and down on his top lip. He was jaundiced, so I had to feed every 3 hours. My nipples were blistered and bleeding. I wasn’t able to sleep because of the fucking bell going off 24/7, I was sweating heavily and felt extremely irritable. I needed to get home!

I was ready to give up, but my dedicated and some-what stubborn nature prevailed. We got home and that night my milk came in. Finally! I began feeding him standing up, as he was latching properly, but knew it wasn’t a long-term thing. At last! We discovered the perfect positions, and after a few days, my confidence started to show.

The hard part was over! Right? Once again, wrong. I had an oversupply of milk, a fast letdown, vasospasm, Isaac had a CMPI (Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance) and throw PNA in the mix! He was constantly windy. I’m talking, leg curling, fist clenching, lung screaming pain. My poor baby. I felt I had failed. My nipples were raw from him sucking all the time and no matter what I did, he just couldn’t get comfortable. Sleep was an issue because of the other things, and I began to feel like I was drowning. In the midst of this emotional roller coaster was also the whole journey of becoming a ‘first time mum’. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

There’s social media, Google, parenting blogs, parenting websites, breastfeeding websites, family, friends and insignificant others all bombarding you with conflicting information and opinions. The hardest part was yet to come. I thought that when you have a child, you want to breastfeed it. I thought that most women breastfed, that it was the normal thing to do. Apparently not. I felt quite isolated in a way. I was one of the only mothers I knew who was breastfeeding, and more importantly, because I wanted to, and not because I felt I had to. I felt sad for the babies that had mothers who didn’t want to breastfeed. I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to, especially to begin with. How do you make a decision like that, even with scientific research and studies to show the benefits? I do realise that some mothers literally can’t exclusively breastfeed, but also know that when there’s a will, there’s a way! (I do respect other mother’s decisions)

I had no idea that breastfeeding was such a HUGE deal in society, and that women were trying to #normalise breastfeeding through the use of social media. Wow! What a lot of shit to digest. So much judgement from random people about a baby being breastfed in public! What an upside-down world we live in…

“While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby.”

-Amy Spangler

When Isaac was about 6 months old, not sleeping, wanting to breastfeed 24/7 with an emotional wreck of a mother, I decided to use the power of social media to find me some other like-minded friends. I found lots of different Facebook groups, one in particular that struck a nerve was the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Facebook page. It was a Facebook page used for breastmilk donations for women with low supply, prem babies or mothers who just didn’t want to give their child formula or cows milk. My heart swelled as I began to scroll-faith had been restored. So many women were offering their liquid gold to others in need. I HAD to be apart of this beautiful act of kindness. Isaac never took a bottle/dummy. Just needed a nipple (haha). I had so much EBM in the freezer that I was thinking about chucking out. Sooo glad I didn’t!

Over the next 6 months, I was able to donate to an amazing mother who fed (still feeding @ 23 mo) through a SNS due to lack of milk glands. Every time she would come to collect milk, I’d look at her beautiful son, and feel so proud that I was able to help him thrive, not to mention forming a friendship with the mother.

Fast forward to now and Isaac is 21 months old. Our breastfeeding journey is still very much alive, but as your child gets older, a whole other can of worms is opened.

“When are you going to wean him?”

“He doesn’t NEED breastmilk anymore, he’s over one!”

“You’ve made a rod for your own back. He will only sleep if you feed him and depends on you.”

“Wean him when he’s finished teething.”

“When’s he going on a bottle?”

“You’re STILL breastfeeding!?”

Unwanted opinions from family, friends and others. You just can’t win. You don’t breastfeed and you’re a ‘bad mother’. You do breastfeed past 1 and you NEED to stop and get your pre-baby independence back. I will breastfeed OUR child until WE are ready to finish our journey, and that is entirely up to Isaac and myself. No matter how much you try and educate people with studies from the WHO etc, views cannot be changed. Breast is best.

The past 21 months have been nothing short of amazing, exhausting, testing and most of all rewarding. I have grown as a person, a mother and partner. My view of the world has changed, and my resentment towards my mother’s decisions all those years ago have finally made sense. I appreciate everything. Every sunrise and every sunset. Since giving birth, the saying ‘life flashes before your eyes’ has finally hit home. Each day rolls in to the next, and each waking moment, I’m able to see our perfect son learn and develop. As a mother, you’re never going to please everyone. Motherhood is about you and your child. What works for you, may not work for another, and vice versa. What every mother needs to remember is; you’re doing a fantastic job! You are enough. You are loved. You are more than just a mother, you are YOU and most of all, YOU know what’s best for you and your child. No amount of information, social media or opinions are going to change the maternal bond you have with your child. I’m so blessed that Isaac chose me to be his mother.

” The life of a mother is the life of a child: You are two blossoms on a single branch.”

-Karen Mazezen Miller

The UGLY side of Postpartum

One thing that has come to my attention since giving birth to Flynn is the real ugly side of postpartum. Of course there is a lot of focus on your pregnancy progression and what to expect with your newborn, but why is it so hard to find information on what to watch out for when you have given birth. I am Googling (I know, terrible idea) these different symptoms and can only find information relating to threads created nearly 10 years ago, and it really doesn’t help. So lets talk about it!!

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Here are some of the postpartum symptoms I am referring too…

Excessive hair loss…

With my first born I did lose a bit of hair, particularly near my temple. It had receded pretty badly, so I ended up taking a fair amount of supplements to assist better growth and strength for my hair. Once I was pregnant with Flynn it grew beautifully and thick, and it didn’t need daily washing caused by excessive oils like it does today. Now I am pulling out clumps of hair each time it is washed. My hair is just past my shoulders and so far I am able to roll the fallen hair into a golf ball sized clump. I can feel it shedding in strips and it wouldn’t surprise me if I have bald spots on my head. I live with a mum bun everyday and I also put off straightening my hair with a flat iron otherwise I will lose more hair.

So why does our hair fall out after birth? During our pregnancy we produce larger amounts of the hormone estrogen and progesterone. Both play a large part with the development of the baby, making milk and to assist the transformation of our uterus to sustain a growing baby. Whilst we are pregnant fewer hair follicles goes through a resting stage, meaning that the growing stage is prolonged and why our hair looks so voluminous. So when we give birth, our hormone levels drop significantly resulting with a lot more hair entering the resting stage. Hence the shedding, and why my drain gets clogged each time I wash my hair. Apparently it can 6-12 months for your hair to return to its original glory. Insert sad face.

Aching joints…

There are days where I struggle to walk from A to B. I honestly hate to think how people with chronic pain live with the daily struggle of getting up in the morning. I don’t have a choice to sleep in or stay in bed, and to wait for the pain to settle after taking pain relief. I have two children that constantly need my attention. So after a bit of reading I found that it is common complaint after birth, and it has a name. Arthralgia. This condition can be caused by hormonal changes to help prepare your body for birth, and unfortunately for some it can continue once the baby is born. For me, I have developed joint pain in my feet and ankles and it can cause me to hobble particularly first thing in the morning and when I go to bed at night. However as each week goes by it is slowly improving.

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Leaky boobs…

All breastfeeding mums understand the importance of a good breast pad. And I don’t mean the disposable one, because lets face it they are rank! Thankfully I discovered a brand called Bamboobies. On their website they advise that are made from materials including bamboo, organic cotton and hemp, which makes them the most absorbent and soft nursing pads around on the market. I agree wholeheartedly. Before I discovered these gems I was using an inferior brands which has caused permanent stains on my clothes. I would have a let down during a feeding session and my shirt would be drenched in breast milk. It would be so embarrassing walking around like I was just involved in a wet t shirt competition. People do not want to see that! You need to commit that to spending that little bit extra on quality.

Teeth grinding/clenching…

So I am into my second week of wearing my mouth guard since being diagnosed with Bruxism. What is that? Well essentially it is a condition which causes you to grind or clench your teeth. Mine was not too bad, however it has caused a slight crack in one of my canines. My dentist informed me that it is a very common condition for new mothers because of the stress caused by lack of sleep. He advised that usually the symptoms tend to soften when you reach the age of 40. I’m 32…

Prolapses…

Yep! I have a prolapse… It was discovered when I was having my very over due pap smear. The doctor was having some difficulty putting in the speculum, and randomly asked if I suffer from leakage. I awkwardly said yes. She divulged that I have a prolapse, meaning that apart of my vjayjay has weakened to the point that my rectum wants to join the party in there. It’s still a shock to admit because I ‘used’ to have a nice tight little package, but since the birth of Flynn I feel so different. There are three possible prolapses that women can develop, and I thankfully got the better one of the three. The other two are bladder and uterus prolapses, and they generally require surgery. All need to do is do plenty of pelvic floor exercises, and my lucky husband can get more sex. That’s still something that I am working on. Insert laughing.

So ladies, I guess that’s it for now. Sorry if it TMI, but it’s the reality of having a baby.

Much love

Melanie xx

Sleep! What’s that.. ?

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So I don’t do sleep deprivation well, I really can’t. Even the younger version of myself struggled to make it through the night when I first entered the party scene. I would get to midnight, and would be looking for the exit sign to go home so I could go to bed. I have always been an early riser as well, so I need at least 8 hours of solid sleep.  Fast forward to today, I have been waking up two to three times a night since I was 32 weeks pregnant. It’s seriously taking it’s toll on me. I can’t even pin point why Flynn is waking up so much. I’m like oh he’s teething, or is it a growth spurt, maybe a wonder week, oh wait it’s his four month developmental milestones. Knowing our luck it’s probably all of the above.

I have read that parents of newborns can lose at least 44 days of sleep during the first year of a child’s life, and will average about 5 hours a night. So as a result of this, my grumpy scale is set at an all time high. I’m indulging on coffee and I’m developing a sweet tooth so that means chocolate bars and muffins, and lets face it…that’s not going help lose any of the baby weight I’ve gained. I’m probably going to turn into a muffin the way I’m fitting into my jeans lately. Cue sad face.

Lucas was and still is a brilliant sleeper, and I’m pretty certain he started to sleep through the night when he was around 8 weeks old. We did start to be bottle feed him on formula so that could be the reason why. Flynn on the other hand will be breast fed before I go to bed, which is anywhere between 8:30pm and 9:00pm, and then again anywhere between midnight and 3:00am. Then one more feed when it is time for Chris to get up and get ready for work. Yeah it probably doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s been 6 months of interrupted sleep and I am exhausted. I’d do anything for 8 hours of solid rest!

I have also discovered that I have developed a condition called Bruxism, which essentially means that I am a jaw clencher. There are some mornings where I have woken up with pain in the joint of my jaw, and I have a terrible ache in my teeth. Thankfully though, I have not ground my teeth too badly, but I have developed a slight hairline crack in one of my canines. My dentist was informing me that it is a common condition of mothers with newborns. So to prevent my teeth actually cracking, they took a mold of my mouth and created a clear mouth guard. I will need to wear it when I go to bed at night, when I am stressed or when I read/type as when I concentrate I clench. So I guess that will be most of the time haha!

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I have also been told to try and have a sleep during the day when it is nap time, but the logistics are impossible. I need to prepare a four year old for school/play dates/day care, and let me tell you that he is a demanding little bugger. Anywhere from breakfast time which will consist of at least 4 different food groups to wiping his butt after taking a dump in the toilet. Trying to do that one handed because you have a clingy baby who needs to be held is challenging. And when I finally have time to myself, it is impossible to try and get him to sleep. Apparently anytime after 1pm is wakey wakey time, so by the time Chris comes home from work I am handing him the baby.

Lucas was also sleep trained, which back then was incredibly difficult for me as a first time mum. Realistically looking back I just didn’t cope being a mum at all, I was always second guessing my mothering skills and developed an anxiety disorder. I would cry when I would hear him cry, and it didn’t help that he was not much of a self soother. Chris was adamant that it was in his best interests, and at the time I agreed. But it’s strange how the second time we have become much more relaxed with our parenting style. Maybe it’s because they are such a baby for a short period of time, plus caring for a baby is much easier than a child with an attitude of pubescent teenager.

So keep your fingers crossed for me that it won’t be long until he sleeps through. When he does I will be clicking my heels together in a happy dance.

Anyway that’s it, my mouth is starting to hurt with my new mouth guard.

Much love

Melanie xx

 

 

 

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