When I was pregnant with my first child in 2007, the only thought I gave to breastfeeding was “I’d like to breastfeed if I can”. After doing some reading, I came to realise that I was determined to breastfeed, no matter what.
Thinking that I would breastfeed “only if I could” told me that I didn’t really trust my body to feed and nurture my baby. After learning about the basics of breastfeeding and how milk production works, I developed a stubborn determination to make a success of breastfeeding. My initial goal was to breastfeed for 12 months.
When my son was born in early 2008, he took to the breast quite well and I made sure that I had enough instruction from the hospital midwives to get positioning and attachment right before we went home. When my milk came in, I suffered from engorgement which led to difficulties attaching and a lot of pain and discomfort. Once the engorgement subsided, I was left with an oversupply and forceful let-down. I rang the Australian Breastfeeding Association for advice and also attended some group meetings. Other breastfeeding websites also helped with tips to deal with a forceful let-down. I was determined to keep breastfeeding even when it got hard. I knew I could breastfeed with the right support and advice. Everything I’d read stated that things got easier as baby got older, so I clung to this in the early days.
I expressed milk numerous times during my son’s first couple of months so I could leave him in the care of my mum when necessary. Unfortunately he was reluctant to accept an artificial nipple even after trying different brands so I gave up using the breast pump except for the times I had a blocked milk duct. Even though I was breastfeeding my son on demand, I got a bit anxious if he didn’t feed for as long as I’d expected. I had read that babies get more efficient at removing the milk as they get older, but I was worried that he wasn’t getting enough milk. He was also slow to gain weight after about 4 months of age, although I now know that this is normal for exclusively breastfed babies.
Despite my initial concerns about his milk intake, my son and I established a good breastfeeding relationship, which happily wasn’t affected when he started solids at 6 months. He stopped night feeds at about 9 months but continued breastfeeding during the day. As he approached 12 months of age (my initial goal for breastfeeding him) I couldn’t imagine stopping for any reason. I could now see myself feeding him for 2 or more years if he wanted. Breastfeeding had become a normal part of our family life.
When my son was approximately 17 months, I fell pregnant with my daughter.
My son continued to breastfeed during the pregnancy, which presented some difficulties. I had bad morning sickness from 6 weeks until 17 weeks. The logistics of positioning my son also became difficult as my belly grew. I’m not sure how much milk he was getting, or whether breastfeeding was mostly just for comfort, but in any event, we were both happy to continue through the pregnancy.
My daughter was born in April 2010 at which time my son was still breastfeeding daily. My milk came in quite soon after my daughter’s birth. I had never imagined myself tandem feeding, but here I was feeding a 2 year old and a newborn! I became engorged again but this time it was not as bad because my son helped with removing milk. He was only having 2 feeds a day but in addition to my newborn daughter feeding numerous times a day, I felt like a ‘milk machine’! Given the trouble I had trying to feed my son expressed breastmilk, I never bothered to express milk for my daughter.
Time passed quickly (as it does when you have kids) and I gave little thought to the fact that I was now breastfeeding a 1-year-old plus a tall 3-year-old. It worked well for all of us, however when my son was nearly 4 years old I felt that the time was right to wean him from breastfeeding. He weaned fairly easily he was only having a quick bedtime feed by then, and wasn’t bothered that his 2-year-old sister was still happily feeding. She had dropped night feeds at about 16 months but was still having 3-4 feeds a day. I suffered from thrush in my left nipple a few times but caught it early and started treatment before it got too bad. I suffered from blocked ducts a couple of times but was able to deal with them by feeding, expressing and massaging the lump.
After my daughter turned 3 years old she started cutting down on breastfeeding. She had been having 2 feeds a day but gradually dropped feeds until she stopped completely at 3 years 3 months. I was a bit surprised at this because my son had still been feeding past this age. But I was happy that my daughter was stopping by her own choice. At this point I was in the early stages of my pregnancy with baby number 3 but I’m not sure whether this had any bearing on her choosing to wean.
After breastfeeding for 5 years and 5 months straight (including tandem for 1 year and 9 months), I finally had a break. It’s not like I had my body to myself again (I was pregnant after all!) but it felt nice to have a break from feeding.
My third child was born earlier this year and is now 3 months (pictured above thanks to Megan Eileen-Birth Photographer). Getting back into breastfeeding has been a bit strange because I had an 8 month break, but for the most part it’s very familiar and everything has come back to me. This time around I suffered the worst engorgement (5 days straight) so having a Medela pump has been very handy in relieving the discomfort. Over the last couple of months I’ve expressed whenever I’ve felt it necessary to relieve my oversupply, and have been lucky enough to store and then donate some of my expressed breast milk.
Favourite piece of breastfeeding advice:
My tip is simply to STICK WITH IT. No matter how difficult it can be in the beginning, with engorged breasts, sore cracked nipples, a screaming baby, sleep deprivation, and numerous other obstacles, it does get easier. It really does. Mum and baby are both learning a new skill so it takes time and effort to get it working properly. If you’re having a bad day, remember that tomorrow is a new day and you’re both one step closer to working together harmoniously. It’s important to know where you can go for help and seek it out when you need it. Remember that anything worth doing is not easy. It takes time and hard work but breastfeeding will be worth it in the end.
Medela provides real solutions for breastfeeding mothers to get over any hurdles in the early days and to support their long term breastfeeding goals. Through its extensive range of breast pump products and other breastfeeding products, Medela is committed to promoting the benefits of breast milk and encouraging long term breastfeeding. For more information visit: www.medela.com.au and on Facebook