I signed up to participate in this project, and while writing our story, our breastfeeding journey came to an end. I have continued to write this piece as it could be of value to anyone who is finding themselves in similar situations – The biggest thing I have learnt in this mum-game so far, is that positive stories of resonance, hope and experience are so vital in navigating motherhood! Especially big things in particular, like breastfeeding ❤️ I genuinely don’t know how I could’ve done it without the mums in my life sharing their stories of struggle and success, and I believe transparency, trust and good support alongside projects like this can help our mama prepare and adjust to breastfeeding and motherhood unlike any book or antenatal class ever could ❤️
I entered motherhood quietly confident that we would be able to breastfeed without any qualms, but unfortunately it wasn’t that simple for us, and honestly, nothing could have ever prepared me for breastfeeding, other than experiencing it first-hand. What I had assumed would be the easiest and most natural part of the maternal experience, became the most challenging and painful, leading to some pretty heavy feelings of fear, failure and postpartum anxiety. (Never fear! Keep reading! It got better!)
We had a bit of difficulty establishing a good latch in the early days. I remember the way my toes would curl as I unclipped my bra and placed a shield over the deep, red raw, cracks in my nipples.
I pushed through the feeds, becoming increasingly anxious as the days went on, but making a painful sacrifice for every feed and every toe-curling latch because I thought it was what was right and what was best, and I thought it was normal.
Our day 5 weigh in came about, and I swear I felt my heart shatter as I saw the look on our midwife’s face as she read the scales holding our skinny, jaundiced little boy on the coffee table. Our boy was failing to thrive, having lost 13% of his birth weight. While I had been trying so so hard, my baby boy just wasn’t getting enough nutrients, and it left me with a feeling like nothing else I had ever experienced; my first encounter with “Mum Guilt”.
With a good dose of reassurance and support from our incredible midwife, we were on our way to pick up bottles and defrosting donor milk for top ups. Within the day, our baby’s weight gain was on the up, and once the feelings of failure buggered off, I soon realised that this was truly the best move for our family. Mixed feeding meant our boy and his dad could bond on another level. Mixed feeding meant I could rest for longer while someone else tended to the baby. Mixed feeding meant we knew our boy was well fed, and he began to thrive. Mixed feeding reduced my feelings of fear and anxiety, and it helped me become a more relaxed and more present mother.
Time was so important for us – time to adjust, time to learn, time to practice, time to connect and time to find flow – the toes began to relax, along with my shoulders and jaw, and steroid cream and nipple shields became a very big part of our feeding journey. While breastfeeding didn’t come naturally or quickly for us, we did get there, and it became more natural and beautiful as the days passed by.
I tried everything to increase my supply; strict regular feeding, power pumping, supplements and diet, without a lot of, if any, increase. It was relentless and it was really bloody hard. I struggled to find time to eat or shower – let alone pump – only to be left more defeated and deflated, with no milk to show for it. I had to come to terms with being one of those women who was just unable to pump, and once I did, I was able to let go of the strict schedules and find peace in “it is what it is”. I had to really learn to let go and just be, to let go of all and any expectation and let my body do its thing without my mind intervening.
We soon realised top-ups would be a long-term plan for us, so we made the call to switch from donor milk to formula. Bottles became our babe’s main source of nutrition, and breastfeeding became a source of top-up and comfort. My supply soon began to slow down, so around 3 months postpartum we were prescribed domperidone to boost my supply as I just wasn’t ready to finish feeding yet. I took this for around 3 months and decided to stop, I was proud to have breastfed this far, and I was ready to allow my body to do whatever it was going to do.
We made it 9 months into breastfeeding and little teeth and an active little personality have adorned our wee guy, which has seen our breastfeeding journey come to an end.
While I had a hard time coming to terms with top-ups and mixed feeding in those early days, I have long let that go, and am so proud to say we were able to breastfeed for as long as we did, even if it was just once a day. I am here to celebrate mixed feeding and the beautiful and best things it bought to our home and our journey as a family. Here’s to feeding our beautiful babies in whatever way is best for US, whether boobie, bottle or both! ❤️