Hello person reading this!
I’m checking in to tell you that I submitted a piece of writing to the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) about my breastfeeding journey and they will be publishing it in their monthly magazine in the new year! So I thought what the hey, I’ll publish it here too.
Breastfeeding was not an easy thing for Percy and I at the beginning of our time together, in fact it was really really hard. Probably the hardest thing i’ve ever done. But I stuck with it and we are now in a really good place. Anyway, you can read my story below. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my journey or if you have your own story you want to share.
Breastfeeding is just one of the things about being a mum that is so challenging but rewarding at the same time. And if it’s not right for you and your baby, or it doesnt work out the way you planned, hey that’s okay too. Whats important is a healthy bub and a healthy Mum.
P.S – To anyone who knows me that doesnt want to hear about my nipples – look away now!
I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy Percy on the 24th of July this year. He was a big bubba weighing in at 3.95 kilos, and he was perfect. The first thing I remember thinking was he had so much hair! When he was placed on my chest after the birth Percy instinctively started searching for my nipple and I was overjoyed, but when he got there he had trouble latching on. No one thought anything of it as he was brand new and still waking up from his journey into the world. But what followed was 8 weeks of the toughest road I have ever been down.
Due to the flatness of my nipples and Percy’s tiny little mouth, Percy was just not able to get a good enough latch to start sucking. He would try and attach and get frustrated and come away crying which was so heartbreaking. I hand expressed my colostrum into syringes to give him, and kept trying to get him to latch with the help of midwifes and the hospital lactation consultant, but it just wasn’t happening. This was the first time I thought I would give up on breastfeeding and move to formula. But deep down I knew that this wasn’t the right thing just yet and we had to keep trying. I came home from the hospital with a plan. I would start expressing using a hospital grade pump to bring my milk through so we could try using a nipple shield to get him to latch correctly.
I am so extremely lucky that my sister in law is a lactation consultant. She came over our first night at home and showed me how to use the pump and how to apply the nipple shields. Percy would latch for a few minutes but then fall off, this would go on for over an hour as I tried to give him what he needed. My husband and I bunkered down together for hours on end, overnight and all through the day just concentrating on trying to get Percy to feed.
Percy started to lose weight, and we were told that that’s normal in the first few days, but then when he was weighed again by the maternal child health nurse a week later he had not gained back very much at all, he just wasn’t getting enough milk, so we then started supplementing feeds with bottles of expressed milk so that we at least knew that he was getting enough nutrition. We would be up together in the middle of the night, I would express and my husband would feed Percy with the bottle. At that stage we were waking Percy every 3 hours to feed him to ensure he would gain the weight he needed to gain strength and energy, as he was so lethargic from the early days of not getting enough. There were many trips to the hospital to visit the in house lactation consultant, to keep working on the latch and weighing Percy to make sure he was gaining weight, which he now was.
My husband went back to work after four weeks and so it was now up to me to continue the routine of trying to feed, expressing and topping up. Percy was getting better and better at using the shield but he was also experiencing belly pain from all the air ingested through the shield. I would have to give him breaks, use running man legs to help him get the wind out and lots of burping. It was such a long process for not much reward, he was still not able to latch for any longer than a few seconds without the shield.
Then, finally at 8 weeks I was at a point where I knew we couldn’t continue like this. I just didn’t want to continue using the shield anymore, but I didn’t want to give up on breastfeeding either. I really wanted Percy to have my milk and I just couldn’t imagine not breastfeeding. I had wanted a child and to breastfeed as long as i can remember, I just did not want to give up without one last attempt to get Percy to latch long enough to feed well. So I went to visit the council’s Lactation Consultant at the drop in breastfeeding clinic. She showed me a different way to hold him and we also stripped him down to his singlet and me to mine so we could use the skin to skin bonding to calm him down long enough to try latching. This time he latched to my nipple and fed for ten minutes! I can’t describe what a wonderful feeling that was. It was definitely a feeling of absolute relief and happiness.
I went home and kept practicing, stripping us down and being as patient as I could through the crying, hoping that we would get through it and he would latch. By the same time the next week, Percy was taking full feeds from me without the shield and without needing a top up of expressed milk from a bottle. I was so happy to have finally made it to the point where Percy and I could feed peacefully and happily together.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that, and in my case it took a village to help us establish successful breastfeeding. Thank you to my sister in law Clare, the lactation consultants at the Royal Women’s hospital and at the Wyndham City Council Clinic for all of their kindness and support, and to my amazing husband- thank you for helping me through the tears and anxiety, thank you for the middle of the night feeding and your constant support and encouragement to keep going, I would have given up at so many times if it wasn’t for you.
To any women out there thinking of giving up, I understand where you are at. Please access all the amazing services we have including through the Australian Breastfeeding Association to assist you. You are not alone and we are all behind you on your journey!
Percy and I learning to feed at the breastfeeding drop in centre at 8 weeks