Eight hundred and thirteen days and counting

20160519_193544I was on FB, scrolling through, with Food Safari in the background. I can’t really cook, but I watch this show for International vegetarian inspiration, only to serve up salad and rice the following day. Probably need to watch properly instead of FB scrolling. Anyway, I came across a calculator for how many days mums had been breastfeeding with “ post you number if days below”. Always one for a view and compare, I put in M’s birth date  and got 813.

813 days.


That is a lot of days wearing a nursing bra and easy access tops, was my initial thought.

Then, I thought, I think i’m ready to stop, but I’m not so sure Little M is.

This is a post about breastfeeding. I do promote it and encourage it and love it. And hopefully that is enough notice, so that those who do not want to read about it will just scroll on. Like I did through much ‘stuff’ on FB, with one eye on Turkish desserts with chickpeas and barley.

Over the past two years and a bit, I have received countless positive comments about  breastfeeding and some negative ones, so I think that my position on it is probably congruent with the greater percentage of the population. That of being in favour of it. It is something that until I was a mum, I thought nothing about, and since becoming a mum it has consumed me. I cannot still to this day believe that any amount of training, workshops or information videos and booklets can prepare you for. The difficulties, the physical pain, the mental anguish, the joy, the empathy and the love it brings to a mum is as far as I’m concerned not spoken of enough in any circle. You see I mention the hardest elements first, because for me, this start of 813 days was by no means an easy introduction.

After the birth of Little M, I found breastfeeding in hospital incredibly painful and even with the support of the wonderful midwives; I was very blistered on our discharge. I was advised to feed from one side and pump the other, more blistered side, then syringe feed that to baby. Little M lost 9% of her body weight by our discharge date and a little more in the following two days. When the midwife visited me at home, she showed me how to tube feed her as she was still damaging my nipples. I was also referred to the Breastfeeding Clinic attached to the hospital. The Lactation Consultant there was amazing! The encouragement and love I received was unbelievable. Our appointments for the first month of M’s life were at 7.30am and the clinic was a half hour drive from home. Luckily I had help to get there as I was still recovering from surgery. The consultant detected that baby had a posterior tongue tie and a high palate. I also have flat nipples. Anatomically we weren’t very compatible – so we introduced a nipple shield. This helped enormously. We were also given the details of a pediatrician who specialised in tongue ties. She would only perform a release if it would definitely make a difference to the child’s ability to feed. Better still, the appointment and treatment, were all covered by Medicare. We got a referral and the procedure was done by the time M. was 2 weeks old.

Throughout those first few months I believed my supply was low. I never needed breast pads, never ‘leaked’, didn’t ever ‘feel full’ or experience any let down sensations.  We continued to use the nipple shield, feeding as frequently as M. wanted for 6 months. I took prescribed tablets to help with my supply as well as trying other natural boosters – brewers yeast, linseed, fenugreek – and eating healthy, nutritious foods and drinking gallons of water. Then one day, just after she turned 6 months, she decided she couldn’t wait for me to get the shield, and she fed properly for the first time. I cried. I had waited and continued with the struggle and pain for so long, and we had finally got it right.

It was about this time that I also got the opportunity to have a photo shoot with Sarah Murnane from the Australian Breastfeeding Project. If you haven’t heard of this please take time to look at this link. Australian Breastfeeding Project

The project aims to normalise breastfeeding and document many beautiful moments. Not only does the project do this, but also the support that the group gives with over 19,000 members across Australia, is tremendous. No question is too silly, no shared moment of joy is under – celebrated, no call for support is denied. It is a true testament to the need for a village to raise our children. In a world of fragmented, isolated life styles, this project brings us together. I would be very interested to know if there are other groups like this in other countries and if there are, I would ask you to kindly post a link to the group in the comments below so that we can share this knowledge and grow our villages.

But why is there so much negativity towards this natural bonding and nourishing act? Why are so many attacked so vehemently with hostility when they feed or talk about it? Why is it such a trigger to some women? I will be honest and say I believe this is because every mum believes she can or would like to have breastfed her baby, and sometimes she can’t. This can create all manner of emotions for women. I feel so much for these women, who are often the ones that attack other women. I really think that all women should have the incredible amount of support that I had. I had educated, loving, passionate women every step of the way during those difficult first 6 months. If I didn’t, then I would surely have given up. It was painful, Little M. was demanding, we didn’t ‘fit’ for ages, she had a tongue tie, I struggled with supply. All good reasons to stop, but these women from King Edwards Memorial Hospital, The Bump in Cockburn, my GP, the recommended pediatrician, my mother’s group, the Australian Breastfeeding Project admin and members, all helped me through. Every single mother deserves this much support and it angers me that so many don’t get it.

I have looked into training to be a lactation consultant because I really want to help and I can see such a gap in services. However, the cost and time involved is not something that I can squeeze into my life at the moment. But when I reflected on it, I realised that maybe we don’t need more lactation consultants, privately paid or through Medicare. Maybe what we need is a bank of women, mothers, who know what it is like to struggle and yet succeed. These women could volunteer their time to go and sit with new mums, in the hospitals on that ‘milk coming in’ third day and hold the hands of these crying mums and tell them that they can do this. Women who are happy to call around a sit with new mums, in what feels like a life-time on the couch during cluster feeds. Women who will ferry mums to appointments to support them and ask the questions new mums don’t even know about. Women who will make tea and dry eyes and burp babies and say “ you got this mumma”.  Now, if we had this opportunity to share the knowledge and help with true compassion in our hearts, what a society of mums we would be. This is certainly something I would gladly hold my hand up for and volunteer. That is what I would call creating that perfect village for ourselves and our babies, and don’t we all deserve that?

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