Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ode to Breastfeeding

I was once told, by a man I must point out, that I have boobs that a lesbian would like... hmmm go figure - what type of boobs does a lesbian like? (Probably not gonna live that one down am I?)  Well I would have never, in my wildest dreams, even considered telling the whole world that in my very private pre-breastfeeding days, but after a grand total of 53 months breastfeeding two children I feel a whole lot more comfortable with my boobs and talking about them.  Not that I plan on talking about them now per say, but rather of my experience in using them to breastfeed - in my own ode to breastfeeding if you like!

Looking back I was probably one of the least likely people to breastfeed babies if it went on how comfortable I was with talking about my girlie bits.  Yes those things are attached to my chest but it didn't mean I wanted to talk about them or have a baby latched onto one because that might mean I had to get it out in public.

I'm not sure what swayed me to breastfeed... I guess ultimately it was falling pregnant that changed my mind.  Surely what came out of my body would be better for my future bub than what came out of a tin - no matter how scientifically it was put together.  Not to mention much cheaper and a hell of a lot more convenient - at the very least I wouldn't have to get up in the middle of the night, flail around in the darkness trying to make a bottle of correct temperature formula and then later, much later try and fall back asleep. 

I definitely read something put out by The World Health Organisation, that said, breastfeeding for the first two years of life was the best start for baby.  A random blow-in clinic nurse later pointed out this may have applied more to third world mothers. However, I had already decided that this would be my aim - two years of breastfeeding.  Given what I've already written you would think this was a highly ambitious plan wouldn't you?  A big ask for someone who originally didn't think getting her boobs out in public, even with a real purpose was for her in any shape or form!

So my first teeny weeny baby was extracted from my belly 15 days overdue.  It was kind of weird trying to get her to latch onto my boob - blind leading the blind really.  I was super tired after the C-section and then the nurse put the baby in the bed with me and I didn't get a wink of sleep at all.  Was this what the next 18 years was going to be like? 

I remember while I was in the hospital, I was about to start breastfeeding when my lovely (I mean that sincerely) father-in-law walked in.  He kinda just stood there... maybe he thought I was like every other breastfeeding mum, who was used to getting their boobies out in front of anyone... but so early in the peace, I just couldn't get the girls out in front of my husband's father.  It just wasn't right!!

My little Chynna doll was trouble, trouble, trouble on the breastfeeding front.  You would think that for something that needed breastmilk to survive that she would figure out pretty quickly what she needed to do to get the milk.  But no, not my little Chynna.  She squawked and screamed and moaned and fidgeted and woke up like a thousand times during the night.  Being first time parents, my husband, Ryan and I assumed she wasn't getting enough milk and so the breastfeeding saga commenced.  You might ask if I thought about bottle feeding my little darling and the answer is yes.  We tried so hard, but she simply refused to take the bottle, no matter which teat or bottle shape we used or who fed her.  She was hell bent on breastfeeding while lamenting it at the same time!

I remember going to the Breastfeeding Centre at King Edward Hospital with my sister.  She was my moral support for getting out of the house with a screaming baby in tow.  The appointment was going well and the nice lactation consultant lady was answering all my questions, then she said how about we check your supply.  She hooked me up to a heavy duty electric pump with TWO PUMPS - oh the indignity of it all!  Luckily by this time I had no shame in getting my boobs out, although I am not sure how my dear sister kept a straight face... maybe she knew I would burst into tears if even a smirk threatened to make an appearance on her face.  Milk supply - excellent!

Luckily at the time I also had an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G clinic health nurse (Michelle).  We had a really nice connection and I appreciated what she had to say about babies and life.  She never made me feel like a nitwit, as per many horror stories I have heard from friends about their clinic nurses.  I remember at one appointment asking, what happens when my boobs run out of milk and the baby is still hungry?  She calmly informed me that the humble breast makes milk instantaneously as required, in fact she explained the whole mechanism i.e. a nifty hormone called Prolactin causes your alveoli to take nutrients from your blood supply and turn them into breast milk!  So I never feared that my munchkin wasn't getting enough milk ever again.  She was just a whingey, fussy baby - who loved the sound of her own racket, that and in hindsight, she may have been suffering silent reflux for the first six months of her life.  

My daughter and I finally managed to get it together and work more as a team after an incredibly trying first six months.  I actually started to look forward to night feeds, because it was quiet and I had no pressure to do anything else, like washing anything.  I could just cradle my beautiful baby girl, watch her gorgeous face and enjoy her snuggly warmth (unless it was the middle of summer of course!).

As the two year mark approached, I started to feel quite apprehensive about giving up breastfeeding.  I had worked myself down to one feed during the last year, but I wasn't sure how I was going to go or more importantly, how Chynna was going to go with no boobie to settle her at night.  Of course, she was fine and never looked back.  While I was a little sad, I knew I would breastfeed again.  I was also really glad to get my boobs back to myself and the cessation of a feed before bedtime was a big plus because it certainly made that whole routine shorter.  I could put my feet up sooner.

A few years later my bouncing baby boy was extracted from my belly.  From the get-go he was a joy - placid, relaxed and easy to feed.  For his first feed, I lifted him to my breast and forgot he was a newborn and not a two year old.  The nurse gently reminded me about helping him latch on, but he did a pretty good job by himself.  I got the  hang of it again pretty quickly.  In the hospital all types of different feeding positions were suggested, yet as before none of them felt comfortable to me.  I had a single feeding position in my repertoire and that was the cradle hold.

Big problems began just days after Mr Sabin came home.  He began writhing about in what appeared to be pain, he had an inconsolable cry and worst of all, started vomiting after just about every feed.  Not little spit ups either - the entire contents of his stomach would often make an appearance all over me.  Luckily it was just milk, but it was warm, gooey and sometimes smelly - so it was highly unpleasant and extremely anxiety inducing.  He is the only person who has ever thrown up in my hair - because not even I have done that.

So began the search for what was wrong with my newest edition.  I googled the problem and came up with reflux.  Everyone I suggested this to, had a reason why it was not reflux.  I thought I was going out of my brain - I no longer had my original clinic nurse and my relationship with my current nurse was a work in progress.  She came to my house and watched me feed Sabin, suggesting he was a piggie or that I had too much milk and that I should phone the Breastfeeding Centre at King Edward Hospital.  I did this and they again refuted my claims of reflux and recommended a different feeding position - keeping Sabin more upright and me more reclined to slow the flow of milk.  It was awkward to say the least and did nothing to fix my problem.

I did learn, however that if a lactating mother has a diet too low in fat, her baby will not get enough nutrition from her milk.  This set off alarm bells in my head.  When I was feeding my baby girl, I was on my super low saturated fat MS diet.  Maybe she was just continually hungry (and suffering from silent reflux).  Hindsight is always twenty twenty!  Luckily at this time, that diet was on hold and had been for some time.

Eventually I got an appointment with the paediatrician, who had seen Sabin while we were in hospital.  I made sure I had a list of all reflux symptoms and all of Sabin's symptoms so I could argue my case as I expected to be rebuffed.  He looked at me about to read my list and said I can tell you the symptoms of reflux because I have been treating it for twenty years, does your baby have this and he reeled off a list of symptoms.  I felt so relieved that he had heard me when so many people hadn't because Sabin didn't do something associated with reflux or did something which meant he couldn't possibly have reflux.  Anti-climatically what this all meant was that Sabin started Losec medication and kept breastfeeding.  He continued to chuck his guts up on me for the next six months usually at the most inopportune time - like when I was all made up ready to hit the town, or getting Chynna ready for school in the morning or when a friend was holding him - ugly is all I can say!  But he was no longer in pain.

We continued to feed during the night until about the third or fourth month when Sabin just stopped waking up.  I also learned that he often wriggled in his bassinet from around 4.30am, but this did not mean he was hungry.  Eventually we could no longer deal with all the snuffling and little kitten noises, so we moved him into his own room. 

Before I knew it Sabin and I were down to one feed before bed.  I think if he had of been the one to select which feed he kept between the morning and the night feed, he would have picked the morning.  He just seemed to feed best in the morning, probably due to hunger, but his concentration span was also longer.  I often found at night he would just have one side and then hurry off to see what his sister was doing, leaving me a bit lop-sided.  I could have probably said good bye to feeding at this time... but I wasn't ready.

As it started to approach Sabin's second birthday, I started to think more about “quitting”.  My husband was very keen for me to give it away.  But I wasn't mentally up for the challenge.  Stopping breastfeeding meant that Sabin was no longer my baby, but my growing toddler.  And as Sabin was likely my last baby it also meant arrivederci breastfeeding for good.  A chapter of my reproductive life - one where my body felt like it was doing what it was meant to be doing was coming to an end.

It took a good two and a half months of telling Sabin we were going to stop breastfeeding before it occurred.  I told myself many times, that this is it - this is the last feed, but the following night I did it again.  In the end my husband helped me along by putting Sabin to bed one night before I came home from yoga.  He didn't miss me or my boobie juice and Ryan tells me that he counselled Sabin appropriately.  So the next night he went without and it just went from there.  There were no fireworks on that last night - or anything that made it memorable.  I think in some small way I was looking for a perfect end to my breastfeeding era, but perfect is just that - perfect and unattainable.

So there you go - my ode to breastfeeding.  I am very lucky I had such polite feeders - who didn't bite me - thanks my little darlings.  

Lastly I want to add that I totally respect that many mothers choose formula over breast for lots of reasons.  I could have easily been that mum myself.  I am glad I didn't give up in those first six months - they were daunting and scary times, but the rewards for me in the end were far greater in so many millions of ways than those fleeting emotional states.  If you are starting out on your breastfeeding journey, good luck and enjoy!

PS Sorry regulars (if I have any - how presumptuous of me) I have been writing my research proposal in my spare moments and have not dedicated much time to my blog... apologies I will try harder to do both. 


  1. That was interesting, lee-Anne, thank you. You did exceedingly well with your little ones, and I feel so sorry for babes and mums when people don't listen to mums and both suffer. My pediatrician told me Anthony was throwing up because I was anxious at 7 weeks

  2. Yes sometimes you do just have to persevere to the point of pestering and believe in yourself and that you know your baby best. Sabin's whole demeanour changed and even though he was only a couple of weeks old I knew something was wrong.

  3. Great post Lee-Anne! I was totally happy to get my boobs out when I started breastfeeding my little monkey. One day I was struggling to get him latched on while my father in law and other family were in the room... my father in law was *extremely* uncomfortable, hiding behind the flower arrangement and eventually leaving the room. So I started hiding. A few months on and my little monkey wouldn't feed with any distractions. Now, my monkey is bigger and seems to like to reveal my nipples to anyone in the vicinity, hoping on and off my boobs. Anyway, at least its still going well for us, overall very positive with only a little biting and blocked ducts.

    1. Hey Estelle, thanks for reading. I really miss breastfeeding now... it was just such special quiet time with my bubs without distraction, which is so rare these days.


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