A wife of noble character who can find?...She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue...Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Proverbs 31:10, 26 & 28

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't Give Up On Breastfeeding

It's less than two weeks now until bub is due and I've been doing a little extra reading just to get my head in the right place. A great blog I've found is The Mule. She has some great informative and inspirational blogs about birth and breastfeeding which has inspired me to blog about my breastfeeding experiences. I say experiences because every child is different and your body is also different after every baby so just because you think you failed the first time doesn't mean it'll happen again, but also just because you've succeeded before doesn't mean that for a subsequent child you won't be incredibly challenged and feel like giving up.

When I was younger I worked in Child Care. I had an Associate Diploma in Child Services and thought I knew everything. I'd also grown up with two younger sisters, I was 13 and 15 when they were born and loved looking after them. Then I go and have my own baby and everything that I knew went out the window. My little sisters were bottle-fed so breastfeeding was new ground for me, I was also the first of my friends to have a baby so I didn't have their experiences to go on. I started off feeding well. Josiah latched on well, the nurses in the hospital were very helpful so I didn't end up with mastitis or cracked nipples, it was a great start to breastfeeding. But around the 6 week mark Josiah started crying all the time and wanting to suck. He had a dummy but as an inexperienced parent I thought he was hungry so I kept feeding him and he kept throwing it up. I didn't understand what was going on. How could we have it all sorted out so easily and then this? It wasn't until it was too late that I realised that he had severe reflux and that was his problem, I thought it was me and my milk. I was feeding him every hour and he was throwing most of the feed up and still crying and still wanting to nurse. I don't remember anyone encouraging me to continue breastfeeding but that doesn't mean it never happened, I never have a good memory after a baby is born (or before). I went to a Maternal Health Drop In Centre but still felt discouraged and incompetent and decided that the best thing for both of us was to put him on the bottle. Because I had grown up with bottle-fed babies it was very easy for me to listen to my inner doubts and wean him onto the bottle, I thought that at least that way I knew how much he was getting and in that respect I was right. He still threw up a lot, though. We nick-named him Cyclone Chuck because he'd get into a room and destroy it whilst throwing up everywhere.

After realising that it was reflux and not me that was the problem I regretted putting him on the bottle so hastily and was determined with child number 2 that I would breastfeed as long as possible. So Elijah came along and while I was in hospital I would call the nurse in every time I needed to feed him so that he latched on properly. I think they got sick of me needing so much attention but I figured that's what they were there for. Once more at around the 6-7 week mark I had a crying baby who couldn't seem to get enough from me. Only this one didn't throw up as much. Just in case I decided to space his feeds a little further apart than I thought he wanted. He was a big boy, 9lb7oz when born, so wasn't about to waste away. This worked for me and within a week or two we were back to a normal routine. I put his fussiness down to a growth spurt and all my children have gone through this period of fussiness between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Kahlia was very different. We didn't have any latching problems but she cried and cried and wouldn't be put down. She needed more feeding than the boys, it could be because I had 3 little ones so was a lot busier and not resting enough or drinking enough water for good healthy milk production, but making her wait for too long between feeds was not the way to go with her. I fed her more often and when this was still going on at 3 months started feeding her solids early. This helped settle her greatly and didn't interfere with my breastfeeding her. I managed to feed her until she was 13 months old.

I fed Daniel until he was 7 months old and regretted putting him on the bottle, even though I was classed as successfully breastfeeding him we had so many problems once he started being bottle-fed. Once he was on the bottle we noticed he had an allergy to lactose and to gluten, we hadn't noticed it before then. So we had to find formula's without either, which in 2000 and 2001 was very hard, they'd just started bringing in food that was without one or the other but not both. Thankfully he grew out of it between 2 and 3 years of age and he probably would've had these problems eventually if I had fed him for longer but I think that breastfeeding negated the effects of his allergies and we wouldn't have had to face them so early. If you're wondering why I stopped breastfeeding him so early it was because I had 4 little ones with only 18 mths between Elijah and Kahlia and 22 mths between Kahlia and Daniel. I was overwhelmed with life and didn't think I could cope with anymore children and was so stressed with the thought of getting pregnant again I just wanted to go on the pill. Look at me now, having baby no. 8.

So far I'd been very blessed and hadn't had to experienced cracked nipples or mastitis, but with Christian I made the mistake of buying cheap nursing pads with plastic on them and accidentally put one in my bra with the plastic side on my skin. This kept my nipple from drying out between feeds and sure enough next feed cracked nipple. It was extremely painful and after a couple of days I noticed puss coming out, ewwww! I hadn't experienced that before and wasn't sure if I should still be feeding on that side so I rang the Australian Breastfeeding Association for some information and was told that it was still fine to feed him on that side especially as I didn't want my milk supply to slow down. I decided though that that side needed a bit of a rest so I'd feed twice on the good side and once on the sore side and then when it was healed went back to feeding normally. I fed Christian until he was 14 months old.

With Rose I had a completely different experience. I didn't feel my milk come in like usual and I rarely felt the 'let down' that I usually felt when I fed my babies, yet we had no feeding issues with her and I fed her until she was 18 months old. I loved the experience of feeding her at that age but once again I was pregnant and she weaned herself off me.

And Emily, child no.7, she was even worse than Kahlia. Because I had issues with her quick birth and it took the nurses so long to figure out that I was in a lot of pain and I had a separation of the stomach muscles I was put on strong painkillers. That was okay while I was on them, Emily slept a lot and seemed like the perfect baby. But once I came off them, which I did as soon as possible, she was another child altogether. It seemed like she was always attached to me, and when she wasn't she was crying and crying. She wasn't too chucky so I think it was coming off the painkillers that affected her so badly and thankfully I had a sling and a wrap so I could carry her with me and also older children who could hold my fussy little girl.

So seven children and 7 completely different experiences. I've been so blessed to not have had any attachment issues, or mastitis. My advice is to read as much possible on the positive experiences of breastfeeding and get good counselling from people who are going to encourage you. It is easy, when you're new at this, to just go and get some formula but I know that if you get the right advice and persevere you can get past that stage.

I guess people might be wondering why I stopped feeding my children when I did and the most common reason was that I was pregnant again. I know about tandem feeding but I get so sick and tired and my body doesn't do well being pregnant and breastfeeding at the same time so for the sake of the new little one I normally stop when I'm a couple of months pregnant.


Renata said...

Hi Becca
Love this breastfeeding advice ~ shall have to pass on the link to a friend of mine who just had a bub!
I hope all goes well for you in the next couple of weeks & you have a wonderful birth & breastfeeding experience with this next precious blessing!
Have a lovely day

The Mule said...

thanks so much for the mention!
i'm completely in awe of your wealth of experience!