When I found out that I was pregnant with my first baby, the only thought I had about breastfeeding was “I’m going to breastfeed” and that was it. Simple. I never gave it another thought throughout the entire pregnancy.
But breastfeeding isn’t so linear. It’s a complex beast that’s full of incredible highs and lows. I remember thinking back to my third week of breastfeeding my now 8-month-old son Hudson that breastfeeding is way harder than childbirth itself – and I went through over 20 hours of labour only to end up having an emergency C-Section, but that’s a story for another time.
Our nursing journey started off beautifully, with my husband being the person to place our son onto my breast for the first time several hours after my C-section surgery. I was elated that Hudson latched well enough to feed happily.
By the third day, my milk had “come in” and it felt like a surreal high to be able to feed my little boy and soothe him while holding his tiny body up so close against mine. It was, as my husband described it, “magic” when it instantly put our 3-day-old baby into a zen state as he dozed off to sleep.
Hudson had a mild tongue tie which was not flagged as an issue while we were in the hospital so we continued feeding at home as normal. My breastfeeding experience couldn’t have gone better at this point.
By week five, I noticed Hudson was becoming upset at every feed and would begin just fine only to burst into tears moments later. He would continue to work himself up and couldn’t calm down again to continue feeding, all the while becoming hungrier. I spoke with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and came to the conclusion that I had a strong letdown. This combined with Hudson’s tongue tie didn’t help our situation.
I was exhausted and was trying every technique suggested to get Hudson to feed without being upset. I’d feel dread and anxiety at every feed which made matters worse because Hudson felt what I was feeling and it threw him off even more. My husband and I wholeheartedly believe that babies have an acute sense when it comes to their surroundings and thus we try our best to be calm whenever we are around him. So for both mine and Hudson’s sake, I knew that I couldn’t continue to feel stress and pass on that stress during feeding time, which was every two hours at that stage.
I decided to make the most of my high supply and pump while continuing to nurse when Hudson was calm. Thankfully Hudson took a bottle really well and was a much happier drinker without feeding off my anxiety. And at around 8 weeks was when I decided to pump exclusively to save us both the stress as Hudson was still distressed on the boob. On one hand, I was saddened by the idea of not nursing my baby, but it was outweighed by the relief and happiness of knowing I could continue to feed him with my breastmilk.
We’ve been exclusively pumping 8 months later.
I’m so grateful to be able to pump for this long and for having had the opportunity to nurse for those first couple of months. Pumping doesn’t come without its challenges. I began with pumping eight times a day, which meant I was in a loop of feeding, pumping, and washing up for the first several months. Luckily my generous supply continued and I was able to gradually drop the amount I was pumping over time. I’m now pumping three times per day and still getting more than enough for Hudson’s feeds.
Would I do anything differently my second time around? I’d certainly seek professional help early from a lactation consultant who could be hands-on and provide one on one customised support to see if I could continue to nurse for a while longer.
I would also make use of those midwife home visits in the days following the birth and ask for hands-on tips when it comes to feeding – ie. breastfeed in front of your midwife so she can suggest any tweaks that may help your journey.
Thank you to Jody Reisz for sharing her story with us as part of World Breastfeeding Week.
How a life-changing diagnosis forced this mum to make some big decisions
Real mums: Mother’s groups and saying goodbye to spontaneity
10 things you need to know about the fourth trimester