Breastfeeding Journey – Jet + Hux + Me
1st August 2016 was day 1 of a 3 ½ year journey. Like all relationships it had its ups and downs, blissful moments, painful moments. Those moments when your begging for it all to be over, and then the times when you don’t want it to end, for it to last forever as you can’t imagine life without it. At not one moment did I expect for it to deliver the challenges and growth that it did.
Jet was home birthed with speedy entrance into the world, my labour just 1.5 hours total from start to finish, it took him a little longer to be interested in feeding. As much as I yearned for him to do the natural post-birth crawl towards my breast, we ended up placing him on my breast to help my contractions for the placenta to be birthed as my body needed the support, given I was not being administered any injections to aid in this process.
It took a little while getting the right latch, once he did, he soon became a little sucking monster. From that moment it was Jet’s favourite place to be, and with his rapid growth it was evident he was a little boob man. Being a first time mum it still took me quite a while to get the positioning and latch happening and to be honest I did get quite impatient by all of this, like why was something that was so natural so hard to get right, and quickly! In hindsight, I do have an impatient nature and I do feel our personalities majorly affect our mumming experiences – oh the lessons that were before me!
My milk came in on Day 5 and whilst I had the awareness that emotions can drop at this point I felt quite on top of it. However Day 5 also happened to coincide with Jet’s head-wetting, to which my husband and visiting family departed the family home to celebrate, leaving me at home with baby Jet. Typical me trying to do too much thought I’d cook a nice dinner, tidy up the house, and try and feed Jet all within the few hours in which my husband and family were gone. The sheer enormity of everything fell on me, leaving me in pieces; I felt resentment, blame and helplessness. At this time, I made a mental note to self for future me, if I was ever to do this again– DO NOTHING when milk comes in but feed and relax!
So here I was with milk going everywhere, Jet trying to latch and getting flooded with milk, and I an emotional and physical mess, amidst my first mumma meltdown.
My initial struggling with breastfeeding was Jet’s latch and the pain I had from his intense sucking as my nipples adjusted. We tried all different positions and I found having Jet on a pillow under my arm (aka the football position) was the best at this point. However regardless of what I did or the advice my amazing midwife/ lactation consultant gave me, the nipple pain was extreme! My poor nipples took for what felt like ages to settle into it.
I did feed on demand, as determining when and when not my child fed seemed too masculine and unnatural to me. I would be in tears, and even have uncontrollable little screams and groans when he would first latch for the first minute or so. This was so intense and if I wasn’t so pro-breastfeeding for the health benefits, I would have stopped for sure!!! However this is when the mumma mantra of ‘This too shall pass’ came into my mothering journey. I stuck it out and did all I could in between feeds; showers, sunning my boobs, natural ointments, ice pads, heat pads, anything and everything to help my super sensitive nipples. Even wearing a loose single would hurt them.
What I did find that helped was wearing nipple shields for the night feeds when Jet didn’t feed as much; this meant my nipples got a rest from the direct exposure over a 12 hour period, hallelujah! After a long 12 weeks the pain settled as my nipples adjusted and then breastfeeding was just a part of every day life. Jet latched easier and was able to find my nipple himself if I popped him under my shirt, rather than the shuffle of shirt-arm-mouth-boob awkwardness. And so the era of boob friendly clothing began, shirts that were either oversized, had stretchy necks or open fronts were worn from this day out on high rotation.
Milk supply wasn’t an issue for Jet and I, he actually gained weight in the first week and continued soaring from there, Mr chunky was so cuddly and I absolutely loved feeding him.
I returned to work, to which I was so grateful that I could take Jet with me. Luckily I mainly worked from home unless I was attending meetings, I had and still have so much gratitude for a supportive workplace that made this possible. Due to feeding on demand, Jet feed in meetings, while I was working on my computer, even once when we were interviewing someone. I was so proud and grateful to be breastfeeding, plus happy to feed in public and help society become accustomed to the once taboo breastfeeding in the public eye. I am not a fan of a breastfeeding rooms personally, however I totally understand some mums prefer the privacy or if they are in the early days where it can take time to latch bub and get him/her underway with the feed, or need the time out to have a quiet cry to themselves (I have totally been there).
Once when in a Mothers Room in a Shopping Centre whilst feeding Jet, I heard another Mumma let out a huge huff as she said ‘Gosh your baby is a loud feeder, it is distracting my baby from feeding!’, I had to have a little giggle to myself, as Jet did make noises when he was hungry. This experience made me acknowledge that everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different and some babies need it completely quiet with no distractions. I however didn’t experience that with Jet he would happily feed anywhere and everywhere and if he was distracted, he mustn’t have been that hungry.
Perhaps that is the benefit of feeding on demand rather than to a schedule and having the pressure for bubs to feed at the allocated time. This is my opinion of course, based on my experience, I am all for Mums doing whatever works best for them and their bubs, so if a 3 hour feeding routine works for you and your family I too support this, I’m all for doing what feels right for you as an individual.
Jet certainly was a chunky monkey and at one point around 6 weeks (when also the gut microbiome changes) he became quite the cranky baby and it got intense. My milk supply seemed to be too crazy so I dropped my placenta pills, used ice packs on my breasts and also drunk peppermint tea to not only lower my milk supply but also help to calm Jet’s belly. This seemed to work.
At this point in time I also began working on my stress around the situation, doing deep breathing when feeding and heaps of skin on skin time with Jet on his belly on my bare chest. These were moments for the memory book. For Jet being able to sleep on his stomach helped his wind and hear the sound of my heart settled him and I got to lap up the amazingness of my baby that I grew and birthed. I had no choice but to be present the moment. Jet spent most of his sleeps on either me or my husband. It was a bit of their bonding for him to sleep on my husband’s bare chest of a night time, which was so special. Not to mention great for the microbiome interchange and immune boosting properties.
Jet’s breastfeeding came to an end when I became pregnant with Hux. My nipples became super sensitive again and breastfeeding became unpleasant. I was sick with morning sickness and also had a nasty cold that became a sinus infection. My body just didn’t have enough goodness to be growing a bub, fighting a virus and feeding Jet also. I gave Jet his last emotional feed before bed one night and then stopped cold turkey. Jet was 14months and I was 14 weeks pregnant. It was easier than I thought. Jet was already night weaned at 10months by me sleeping in the spare room for 2 weeks. He went for the boob maybe twice and then that was it. Jet was an amazing eater and didn’t make a fuss about it at all. I do feel going cold turkey was the best thing for us, as it wasn’t confusing of when he would get boob and when he wouldn’t it was just done and that was that.
Then along came Huxy Bear…. Hux, like Jet was also born in a speedy fashion with a labour of 3.5 hours from first onset of contractions to “hello world!” as Hux entered earth side into the birthing pool at home.
My gosh was he a screamer! So I quickly tried to initiate breastfeeding to help calm and sooth him. He was a lot easier to latch then Jet, due to my nipples and myself already knowing what to do. He would have a suckle then come off, look around then try again. It was so cute and second time around allowed me to be more mindful and embrace the moment, there was definitely less stress and self-pressure the second time around.
Hux was not as much a boob-monster as Jet, which initially I was a little concerned about however he still put on weight every week, not as much as Jet but soon we got in the groove of what Hux’s normal was.
My milk came in earlier this time, on day 3 and it was interesting to experience my breasts so full of milk again. I do feel I had a lot more milk and leakage. Which is one thing no one really tells you with breastfeeding, is how severe the leakage can be through the night. WOW! We co-slept and through the night when the boys needed a feed I would just pop them on and go back to sleep as I laid on my side. Then the next morning there would be HUGE wet patches, so my little tip is to lay on top of a towel or put a face cloth down under the bub’s head so this can soak up the extra milk. A waterproof mattress liner is also great which will save your mattress from milk leakage stains.
With knowing Hux would be our last bub I was keen to express and get a good stock of milk up in the freezer. I would save little glass jars and store in those with masking tape labelling the date and how many mls. I had up to 2L at one point in little 150-200ml jars. This was great when a friend was in need, I could share my milk. Come to think of it I still have milk in the freezer, which I do need to use. I felt comfort in knowing I had a good stock of milk in the freezer for the reason if anything happened where I couldn’t feed for a few days or if I had an event I wanted to attend, there was always milk there. From 6 weeks with both boys my husband would give them a bottle of my expressed milk 1- 2 times before bed so they were ok to take the bottle and happy for him to put them to bed, just so they are use to it and not solely reliant on me to feed them or settle them. I highly recommend this, even if you are at home as it gives you a moment to just take the backseat and have a moments relaxation, even if it is just a moment it is worth its weight in gold.
Due to not being a big feeder I did need to “make the moment” to feed Hux, unlike Jet that would easily feed on demand. I still did on demand feeds with Hux, however he was just a content baby that he didn’t go for the boob that much. We night weaned Hux at 10 months when I wasn’t coping with the frequent waking due to being so tired doing the two-bub juggle. It wasn’t healthy for either of us with me getting in a highly frustrated stressed state. Having the nights back made a huge difference to my mental state and adrenal health by being able to get a longer nights sleep. However this was short lived. My physical and emotional health continued to struggle.
My Cycle recommencing when Hux was 8 months and it was from here that my emotional wellness wasn’t right. Being a naturopath I worked hard at optimising diet, taking supplements and my regular acupuncture appointments. However each month without fail I would hit rock bottom that 1 – 2 weeks before my cycle was due. I became really angry, upset, uncontrollable emotional and also anxious. I was even having severe panic attacks, which was incredibly scary when I was looking after the boys, as everything would go black.
Thankfully I have the most amazing supportive friends, a local friend, who happens to be a psych, even dropped over frankincense for me within hours after having one of the scary panic attacks (super helpful having psych friends during the mama journey, I owe so much to you P), plus the support of two of my best friends from a-far, my friend in Melbourne and another in Perth who was ‘in-it’ with young bubs too.
These connections made me feel supported and held in a time of vulnerability and need, for this I am eternally grateful.
So many emotions come springing forth as you enter the realm of motherhood, for me I was thrown into the thick of it. I found childhood patterns and wounds resurfacing asking to be addressed, I came to realise my expectations of self as being a mum were set severely high. Not to mention my hormone imbalance was a playing a massive part for my emotional and mental wellbeing. I could honestly write, and write and write, a whole big long blog on this moment in life, which I may do in the near future, for now I’ll keep on topic.
After trying to work on stabilising my emotional and mental wellbeing for over 5 months and not seeing great improvements my acupuncturist gave me a good talking to, we discussed what was happening with my health and again the idea to cease breastfeeding was bought up.
What was happening was I was blood deficient. Now this is my constitution go-to issue but having the boys so close in age and breastfeeding all the way though (except a few months between the boys) depleted me even more. When my cycle came back my body needed to produce even more blood on top of the additional blood required to make breast milk (FYI your milk is made from the blood). Hence when my cycle returned my emotions turned for the worse. After months of trying to build my blood from taking liver capsules, iron, living on green vegetables, bone broth, congee, and anything and everything blood building it came to the point that I needed to make the decision.
Hux was 13.5 months when I made the hugely emotional decision to stop breastfeeding him.
At the end of the day the boys needed a healthy, happy & coping mum, more than they did a depleted, reactive, anxious breastfeeding mum.
I had people comment that Hux was too young and I needed to breastfeed until 2 years (as WHO recommends) however I knew I had made the right decision for the whole family which I feel is most important, rather than letting my ego try and convince myself that I needed to make the 2 years. It is such a personal and family collective decision to stop breastfeeding with so many variables to consider.
I cannot emphasis more, the biggest thing to ignore is the ‘shoulds’ that either you put upon yourself or ones that society floats around you. From my experience I now have a completely different understanding of the breastfeeding journey and how huge of an impact it has on oneself, and just how different it can be from one Mumma to another, there are just so many variables.
Compassion and patience are the biggest words, I feel, that are associated with breastfeeding, not only for myself but to hold for other mamas, it is SUCH A JOURNEY. And we all go through it and come out of it in different ways. It can bring up wounds and challenges we never thought we’d have to face, while at the very same time giving you an amazing flood of those fabulous hormones and complete time-halting moments in life. From the sore nipples to the beautiful little noises a baby makes when breastfeeding, and everything in between.
I was so blessed to have Melissa Jean (@melissajeanbabies) capture Hux’s very last breastfeed, it was beautiful, sad, emotional and a celebration all in one. Forever grateful to Mel who was also so supportive throughout my breastfeeding journey and gave me fabulous reality checks many times. Mel’s beautiful captures below- Thanks Mel xx
I wish all you mamas the most amazing breastfeeding journeys, whichever way it takes you and hope you can acknowledge the beauty in the challenges and lessons that the journey delivers, that I will certainly cherish forever.
Much love & health always, Talita xxx
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This article originally appeared at http://www.ellefitactive.com/blogs/ellesblog/53575109-find-out-why-i-love-naturopaths. After years of trying to figure out how to manage various health issues such as food intolerances, chronic fatigue, scoliosis, anxiety,...
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