WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK 2021 | YOUR JOURNEY’S

WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK 2021

World Breastfeeding Week 2021 // something I am so incredibly passionate about. I have been breastfeeding for over 4 years now. My first son I exclusively breastfed him until he was 3 and he self weaned the day his little brother was born who is also still exclusively breastfed at 18 months  – I have such a love/hate with it if I’m honest. It is my FAR the most mentally draining thing I have ever done. A lot of people give this unrealistic idea that breastfeeding is beautiful; full of quiet moments and cuddles.. which sometimes it is…

But it’s also full of pressure, lack of faith in you and your body and it’s also incredibly isolating. My partner could be sat right next to me in bed whilst I fed our babies and I never felt more alone. Breastfeeding a toddler is a whole other ball game – he’s winding his legs round my head and playing stretch Armstrong with my other nipple.

I have received strange looks whilst feeding out in public – or an eye roll, (spoiler – I am not a subtle feeder, the baby wants feeding, I’m not fannying about with a blanket or making sure I’m decent. It’s a tit. People need to calm down and mind their own) but I have also received the most LOVELY comments. However you chose to feed your baby, I don’t care. Honestly. As long as they’re fed, happy and YOU are happy.. go forth and do what you gotta do to survive because lord knows there’s bigger shit to worry about than how OTHER people choose to feed their children. I’m sending you all so much love – those who are breastfeeding, you’re doing amazing! And those who find this week hard for various reasons – you are sensational.

We reached out to various people from our Instagram community and asked them to share their breastfeeding experiences; donating milk, tandem feeding, mastitis and so many more!

WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK 2021

I breastfed from only one boob for mainly my second baby (milo) but half way through my first baby (Rocco) too. This was a challenge in its self. Milo was a very hungry boy so we had some days were he was constantly on the breast. So we give him the bottle just after a week old. As feeding from one boob, the supply just couldn’t cope and he was too hungry. He’s was combie fed from 2 weeks old.

I’ve suffered with an inverted nipple on my left breast ever since Rocco, who I managed to feed for 6 months. I thought it would go back to normal once Milo arrived but it never did and it killed me to try get Milo to feed from it so we stopped straight away on that side. (It’s still inverted.) So I had a breast cancer panic, luckily it’s not, but I’m glad I went and got it checked out! They don’t know the reason why it’s done this, so I’ll be forever wondering why. It’s been a rollercoaster ride but I wouldn’t of had it any other way, I love the bond from it & I’m proud we lasted 13 weeks just on one boob! – ALICE

I was 19 when I had my first daughter, my mum didn’t breastfeed me or my sister and none of my friends had kids. I really wasn’t sure what I was doing! I have a bit of an over supply and I was pumping too much early on. I ended up getting mastitis 3 times, so I stopped after the last time, my daughter was 6 months old. She was such a chill baby, she would take a bottle of expressed milk from the get go, and when I first offered her formula she chugged it! She loved it and didn’t really care. My second daughter is now 9 months and I’m still breastfeeding her, it’s going well. I think I knew what to expect this time, I’m also older and wiser!! I didn’t get an electric pump this time, I opted for a Haakaa pump. I think this helped with my over supply as it takes the edge off without completely emptying my boobs which helped them adjust to what my daughter needs instead of what I’m pumping. She is also a lot more clingy than my first, she loves being breastfed and isn’t too keen on a bottle! Both experiences have been so different. I’m very thankful for being able to breast feed both my daughters. It’s been a wonderful experience and nothing is better than the feeding cuddles. I’m hoping to get to my daughters first birthday.. wish me luck! – ISOBEL

I don’t know why but breastfeeding has always been so important to me. Maybe it’s because none of my close family had ever breastfed and they’ve always sort of frowned upon it, it made me want to prove a point. I certainly struggled at first with my first born. I just couldn’t quite get his latch right on the left side which ended up severely cracked. This meant he favoured the right and it became engorged and led to mastitis!

I was so lucky enough to have some support through this. Also being pro-boob I followed lots of breastfeeding pages that were a massive help, especially @milkmakingmama and @boo.b.ltd. Fast forward three years and I’ve now successfully breastfed one son for two years and my second is still going strong at nine months. So my advice to any new mama’s would be give it a go because the benefits are endless, seek out advice and weather it’s the first feed, expressed, combi, for just a couple of weeks or even a couple of years give yourself a massive pat on the back because making liquid gold isn’t easy. – MADISON

Hi I’m Sydney, a first time mama to two year old Atticus and a post-breastfeeding mum. To mark Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I wanted to share my journey. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I thought it would be natural and easy, but little did I know, I didn’t know much about it at all. I had a very quick labour, and when Atticus was placed on my chest, he naturally started nuzzling but couldn’t latch. Within one or two hours of giving birth I was told Atticus had an upper tongue tie and that breastfeeding would be a struggle. I had never heard of this before; straight away I panicked and sobbed that I just wanted to feed my baby.

I was so lucky to have such an amazing midwife, who came into my room and gave me syringes to collect colostrum. I remember how calm and patient she was as she sat with me on the bed, helping me collect my milk while I struggled to get the hang of it. Yet I was determined to make breastfeeding work; knowing I had the milk meant I wasn’t giving up easily. As the hours flew by I persisted with putting Atticus to my breast and he was trying so hard to latch. Fast forward a day later, I was still using the syringes but I felt defeated as it just wasn’t happening for us. I remember sobbing and hobbling down the hallway to find a midwife, and asking for a bottle because I just couldn’t do it anymore.

But she believed in me even when I didn’t and said, “let’s give it one last go”. To my surprise he latched, perfectly and pain free. I will always remember that moment, it was just magical. I never experienced any pain or discomfort throughout my whole journey, which was a surprise to me. The doctor said he may have a slight tongue tie but if it wasn’t causing any issues he wouldn’t need the procedure. (So Atticus never had it done.) When I bought Atticus home, the midwives didn’t give me much information on breastfeeding. I’d received the usual chart and spoken briefly about the amount of feeds he should have in 24hrs. But as he was feeding a lot more than what they said, I started to panic thinking I wasn’t providing him with enough. He was constantly on the boob, even if he wasn’t feeding he would just like to be very close to the boob (which I now know is completely normal).

I was so lucky to find an amazing support group on Facebook. There were hundreds of women with questions and we supported each other to learn about cluster feeding, leaps and the many other benefits to breastfeeding. I found my journey with breastfeeding empowering. I would always feed in public without covering up. I was very lucky to never experience any negative /  bad comments,  which only contributed to my positive experience. There were, of course, bad days: the constant demand, the feeling of being touched, the claustrophobia. I never spoke openly about how I was feeling because I was scared of judgment. But just because I held it close doesn’t mean you should to.

To any mama reading this, please talk to a friend a family member or whoever you feel comfortable. So many people are there to listen and help you. I always said I wanted to breastfeed for the first year but no longer, yet I ended up breastfeeding for 14 months. I still remember the last feed, knowing it was the last time, I felt sad but proud of how far we come. Atticus self weaned and it was the best time for both of us. I think by then we had both just had enough. I personally found the change huge and it was a real struggle going from a baby to a one year old, not to mention that the nip lash was real! – SYDNEY

After getting pregnant I had always assumed that I would try to breastfeed, and it was always asked at appointments if that was my intention. I remember the first time they put Ivy to my breast it felt so overwhelming, I’d refused whilst they stitched me up as I was bit out of it. Then I was knackered and I had the midwives planting this little gorgeous little bundle on my chest, and she was struggling to latch and they were asking me if she was latching – though how the hell a first time mum is supposed to know I’ve no idea. I opted to stay in to get help with breastfeeding but I didn’t find it amazing, each midwife tried something different, suggested something different and I did not feel encouraged to give formula if needed (though she was likely hungry and it would have calmed her thinking back).
So I left hospital with this little bundle, not latching and feeling clueless on how to get her to do so. I had no milk issues it flowed fine but the next month became a pressure keck of trying to get her to latch, pumping breast milk and topping up with formula to get levels right and trying every trick. My health visitor helpful but after about four weeks the mental toll of feeling like a constant feeding cow and the cleaning took its toll and I opted to go full formula. She took bottles like a champ and I felt better knowing she was getting the food she needed. I still feel sometimes like I’ve failed in some way but I had a very supportive family and had a health visitor who fully supported my decision. If I have a second child I will try to breastfeed again, and hopefully feel more confident about it this time. But if it’s formula then I know I’ve made the best decision as at the end of the day, a fed baby is a happy baby. – LINDSEY

Being brought up in a pretty devout Catholic family, the image of the Madonna, boob out, nursing an angelic baby Jesus is sort of etched onto my brain: and – weirdly – I think it’s this sort of image that created my pre-baby expectation of what breastfeeding would be like: an innately tranquil experience, with a sacred vibe. So, when my daughter arrived in 2017, via emergency C section, wouldn’t latch properly and I had to pump and bottle feed her, I felt as if I was the only mum in the world that was genuinely useless at breastfeeding. Thankfully, rather belatedly, once I’d been home a few weeks, I got help from my Health Visitor (who recommended using nipple shields) and eventually Little Miss learnt to latch and feed. Having been on the receiving end of several nasty remarks, I was very shy about breastfeeding out and about, and I spent a lot of time feeding in public loos; however, despite all this, I breastfed successfully for a year until the process naturally came to an end.

With my son, a 2020 lockdown bubba, also born by EMCS, my journey was higgledy-piggledy for different reasons. He was a NICU baby and so, after our very first feed, he was taken away from me and whisked off; so, for the first few days all I could do was pump and bag up my milk ready for someone else to feed him. He didn’t gain weight properly, was constantly sick and miserable, and 3 weeks later he started haemorrhaging; he was diagnosed with an acute Cows’ Milk Protein Allergy – he was severely allergic to the traces of dairy present in my breastmilk. So, I was told that if I wanted to continue to breastfeed him, I would have to eliminate dairy (and soya) from my diet until he was completely weaned. And I have – and it’s made the world of difference to him; he’s a happy baby now and I’m able to breastfeed him with relative ease (he has just got his first two teeth in though, so I won’t say it’s always a comfortable process!); I’m hoping to be able to continue to breastfeed him at least until his first birthday.

So when I think of my breastfeeding journey, it doesn’t marry with the image of the Nursing Madonna, it’s been a journey of cabbage leaves and lanolin cream; 4 different breast pumps, vegan cheese, washable nursing pads and good old nipple shields: but that’s okay, actually: that’s pretty brilliant; I’ve fed two small people all by myself, and if I can’t give myself a pat on the back for that during #WORLDBREASTFEEDINGWEEK then when can I! – ISSY

A complicated pregnancy and unexpected four weeks in Neonatal ICU, meant I wasn’t surprised to find myself feeling low following the birth of my eldest son and I began to suspect I had post natal depression, or PTSD. However, as the days, weeks and months passed and the periods between feeds increased, it became clear that the overwhelming ‘lows’ only occurred as my let down began. No warm, fuzzy feeling for me and definitely no ‘settling down with a piece of cake’. In short, my ‘let down’ was a total let down.

I described the sensation to a lactation consultant, who told me about D-MER (Dysphoric – Milk Ejection Response/Reflex). She explained how changes in Dopamine levels, which occur as a normal part of breastfeeding, were causing the sudden and intense waves of negative emotion. As D-MER is a spectrum hormonal response, the intensity and duration vary from person to person. I continued to breastfeed my eldest son for 15 months and experienced D-MER during every feed and I continue to do so whilst feeding my, now five month old, second son. There is no treatment for D-MER. However, having a name for it and an understanding of what it is, makes it easier to live with…I simply save the cake until later. For more information about D-MER and the role Dopamine has to play, here https://d-mer.org

CHARLOTTE

My breastfeeding journey started with my first born, Cosmo who was born in May 2019. It was hard at first, he never seemed satisfied and wasn’t putting on weight. We were sent to paediatrician’s and lactation consultants and various midwives and no one seemed to be able to figure out why it wasn’t working. Then we saw Zoe, a lactation consultant who funnily enough was the mother of a girl I’d been teaching for years! Zoe diagnosed Cosmo with a tongue tie. It was slight, but enough to be causing the issues we were having. He was 8 weeks old at this point, so my supply had absolutely plummeted and I was desperate to get it back up to be able to feed Cosmo full time. We were already topping him up with formula and I had started pumping to try to increase my supply and be able to top him up with breast milk. I also started using an sns, which is a bottle with small tubes attached that supplement baby at the breast. This helped to encourage Cosmo to increase his strength and appetite by giving him more food at the breast.
Zoe had also suggested using nipple shields to give Cosmo the ‘trigger’ of the nipple on his soft palette. My nipples were very flat, on large breasts, trying to feed a baby with a small mouth, a tongue tie and a high soft palette-the anatomy of us wasn’t fitting well! As soon as I put the shield on Cosmo latched and started feeding with vigour, I nearly cried. Nipple shields are generally only recommended as a short term fix and therefore there is quite a lot of shame associated with them. Amongst all the paraphernalia that I was using, shields, the sns, pumping and topping up with formula, there were times that I felt real sadness and shame that I wasn’t able to feed my baby just at the breast. But somehow I just kept going, and bit by bit I was able to top him up less and to stop pumping. Cosmo breastfed for nearly 2 years and self weaned when I was about 20 weeks pregnant with his sister. We used shields for all of that time and by the end he only fed from one boob. Looking back I am so grateful to have had all the paraphernalia available to me. It meant I was able to breastfeed my baby for all of that time!
Fast forward and I’m just over two weeks into breastfeeding my daughter Veda. It’s completely different. She was on the boob 5 mins after she was born, before I got out of the birth pool. Her latch is good and she’s satisfied after feeding. She’s putting on weight well. I have absolutely no anxiety or gut feeling that something isn’t right. This time round is what I naively expected my first time round to be, and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way. I didn’t realise how difficult it could be. There’s so much education about pregnancy and birth and so little offered during that journey about breastfeeding! I do feel grateful that I had a difficult experience with Cosmo, even though it was incredibly hard and emotionally draining, it’s made me appreciate how naturally it can happen, if things align! – BELLA
You know those videos they show you at antenatal class of a text book first feed where the baby army crawls up their Mama’s tummy and latches? Well I had that exact first feed. My beautiful baby girl shuffled her way up, lifted her head and attached her wide open mouth to my right breast in a move that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a hungry hippos board game. I think I was still high on a wave of post birth euphoria because I didn’t even have any pain. We stayed in our delivery suite all night, topless (me) and feeding often (both of us!).
I had anticipated that the first feed on my left breast might not be quite as simple as my nipple has always been inverted. I had spoken to a midwife during my pregnancy and they said that as the nipple could come out it should be ok as baby would draw it out. Turns out it wasn’t quite that simple and we couldn’t get a left sided latch without the nipple out.
Left sided latching was quite the feat in those early days. Each time I would have to get Ava-Rae into position, then gently squeeze to push the nipple out and hold to keep the nipple ready while she latched. Every time she came off, my nipple would disappear faster than a toddler left unattended with a crayon and we would have to repeat the process to get her back on. Some feeds were more successful than others. Some just ended up with a very vocal, hungry bubba being switched to the right side because trying to latch a distressed baby onto a tricky nipple just wasn’t worth the tears (both of us again!).
I spoke to the midwife when they called to discharge us at around 4wks old about it. Left sided latching was still a bit of a performance and I was getting quite a lot of pain in that nipple. Beyond the initial toe curling latch pain (if you’re there right now Mama’s, it does pass I promise) I could literally feel my nipple being drawn out of my body with every little suck. It could bring tears to my eyes on a bad day. The midwife suggested that I could try a nipple shield, and in the same breath told me if I started with a nipple shield I was unlikely to ever be able not to use one. She also suggested that if it was “that bad” I could just feed on the right side, and in the same breath told me that my right breast might not be able to supply enough milk. Or if my left breast dried up and I had a problem with the right I may have to stop feeding. And that I would look lopsided. I opted to persevere.
Thankfully there is no horror story that comes as a result of me persevering. We managed it and eventually at around 8 weeks she became able to draw the nipple out herself more so latching became easier. Not perfect, but better. And overtime the pain did subside, although it never really went away. But it horrifies me now looking back to think that was the extent of the support I was offered. That I was made to feel that just persevering was really my only option if I wanted to feed.
Today we are coming up to our 16 month breastfeeding anniversary. And for the last 6 months or so it has been a right sided only feeding journey. There was never a conscious decision to stop feeding from my left breast. And even today I still have a supply – significantly diminished I’m sure – in that breast. It just happened subconsciously. As we were out and about more and she would get distracted feeding and want to look around I would put her to my left breast less and less. Offering her the side with the easier latch meant less time for me sitting in public with my nipple just out for the fun of it. And then gradually at home the left side was offered less and less too.
Mamas if you are struggling with your journey, reach out. Speak to friends, message other Mamas on Insta, push your health visitor to help you. But only push as hard as feels right for you. Don’t quit on a bad day, but don’t make every day a bad day by pushing past something that doesn’t feel right to you. Your breastfeeding journey is incredible no matter how long it lasts because the best feeding journey is the one that is right for you. – GINA
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