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I never thought this would be my feeding journey.

By Jennalea McInnes

It’s not just in pregnancy we start to envision our “ideal” way of doing things – it’s all the time. It’s almost how we are programmed as humans.

The ideal job, hours, transport, relationship, body, baby – the list goes on.

But life is not about what is ideal. There is no perfect, but there is beauty in the imperfect.

My journey started off rough. At 4w pregnant, I got unbelievably sick and was diagnosed with Hyperemesis gravidarum (hg) – which is basically really hardcore morning sickness, but it’s not just morning – it’s constant, and it’s debilitating. Continuous vomiting and nausea lead to dehydration, for some women, hospitalisation. My first lesson in this new journey was that things won’t always go as we had “planned”.

When I studied Nutritional Medicine at Uni, we learnt what we all know to be accurate: “breast is best”. This was the key message to take away from learning infant nutrition and anything else posed too much of a health risk for the baby. Diabetes, obesity, digestive issues. Yet there was no information or education around what 39% of women today will experience, and that is – what IF breastfeeding does not work? What if plan A isn’t successful? Is there a plan B? C?

As a Nutritionist who thrives on empowering women to live their healthiest lives, how can I educate my clients on the next best thing if it was not even advised within a nutritional medicine degree?

After my studies, the message of breast is best stayed with me. My “ideal feeding journey” looked like this –

Have a baby (naturally, of course, in water, hold the drugs), allow baby to breast crawl, oh wow, a perfect latch and all the way to 18 months on my breasts is where you shall feed.

The end!

Alas, my journey was not this fairy tale or that simple.

What I should have realised at 34-36w gestation when Oliver was breeched is it’s his rules now. Not mine.

There was no water birth, there were all the drugs, and there was no breast crawl per se.

But was it the best day of my life? Yes. And the moment Oliver was finally in my arms, he was opening his mouth like a baby bird, searching for my breast.

We had a hard time latching from that very moment. Told by the midwives I had flat nipples, his mouth too small, did he have ties? Midwives coming in every 20 minutes trying to change our position, manoeuvring his head around my engorged breasts, said engorged breasts swallowing his tiny head whole – ugh, it was a nightmare.

Here I thought he would latch because it is natural. On the second day, a Lactation Consultant from the hospital met with us and recommended we try nipple shields. I was a little reluctant but wanted to give everything and anything a go!

When we got home from the hospital, I continued to use the shields and initially was pleased I had them – they allowed an easier latch, and I had my dream come true – my son was being breastfed.

Except for the following few consults with Lactation Consultants, they had told me my latch was fine, to keep using the shields and use them for as long as I needed. I felt comfortable with this for the time being and kept saying to myself, I will get to a place of not needing the shields.

At 6 weeks postpartum, I had an appointment with my GP to check my wound, breasts and baby out. I look back at this day and wonder – was my head in the clouds? Did I have mum goggles on? I just cannot believe I couldn’t see that my baby hadn’t put on weight since his 3-week check-up.

When my GP told me this and expressed his concern, I couldn’t grasp what he said. I was feeding on demand. I was constantly feeding, leaking, looking down at a milk-drunk baby, filling up a Haakaa from my right boob in a feed on the left! What did he mean Oliver wasn’t gaining weight!?

So, of course, I did what all new mums do when they feel guilty – I cried my eyes out. A lot. The narrative in my head became, “your son is hungry, and it’s all your fault. You suck at breastfeeding”. This put me into a spin of guilt frustration and lit a fire under my butt to get off the shields. I began to think the shields were at fault here. The flow may be slower because Ollie is working harder for less.

I was adamant I did not want to formula feed our boy, “breast is best” was what I knew, and I had to see this through. I expressed that we could give him bottle top-ups and, as per GP advice, to see the amount given. I tried to feed him with no shields, and he would keep coming off. Then, from all my trying (and very poor latch), my right nipple got damaged and covered in mini blisters called blebs. I got nipple thrush in this breast and was in agonising pain. The pain that takes your breath away, and you cry ugly tears of pain into your pillow. It sucked!

When I went back to see the Lactation Consultant, in tears from the pain and the inability to feed him on my right breast, she calmed me down and got me to feed him on the left. She squeezed the breast and said my supply had dropped significantly from the stress and physical pain I was in. Then she weighed him. He put on 100g in 2 weeks. I was hysterical. I couldn’t even dress him; she had to while I tried to pull myself together.

She said he was hungry. Go home, feed him formula. Express what you can but allow your breasts to heal. We will be in touch.

She never did get in touch.

I rushed home in tears, Ollies face red from screaming. I had never made formula before – I quickly read the tin as my hands shook. Made the bottle and had to cool it down – all the while, my screaming baby was on the floor. I could feel the guilt rushing through my veins. I didn’t want to feed him formula. I tried to push through the pain of the thrush and blebs to feed him, even with a shield- heck, why did I think I was ready to try without shields?

Then I gave him the bottle, he drank it all and passed out. Whoa. This boy was hungry. We began mixed feeding him from that day (breast and formula).

Within 6 days, he put on 500g.

When my breast had healed, I tried to get him to latch, but he wouldn’t. He screamed and arched his back. I tried countless times, and my heart broke a little more each time. He was not willing to, and he wanted the bottle. I pumped for a while but ended up with mastitis and a day in the hospital to be treated, and my breasts scanned.

That was the last straw for me; at 4 months, I was lying in that hospital bed in pain and incredibly tired from getting up every night to pump. I called it. I hated making the call and feeling like I was “throwing in the towel”, but I knew I had to make it for my mental health.

I had little knowledge on goats milk before having Ollie, but with my journey going the way it did, I dug into the why goats over cows. For someone passionate about breast milk, knowing Ollie was getting second best gave me comfort. I was able to drop feelings of shame, guilt and resentment I had accumulated in those 4 months.

What I am grateful for is being able to help other mums from having such a hard time firsthand with feeding. To educate and empower parents on their options. While breast is best, you should not feel shame if you cannot breastfeed or choose not to. You should feel informed and comfortable with your plans B, C or even D.

 

 

 

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Privacy Policy   |   Terms & Conditions

The LittleOak Company aims to give accurate, useful, reliable and up-to-date information on baby nutrition of the general nature and may amend the content on this site as required. To the extent permitted by law, The LittleOak Company does not accept any liability or responsibility for claims, resulting from the misinterpretation of the content of this website, which is never intended to disregard, alter or discontinue professional medical advice and/or treatment. If you are ever unsure about your baby's development, concerned about the well-being of your bub or your own health, seek medical advice immediately without delay.

 

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Shop online
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All rights reserved © 2019 The LittleOak Company. Design & Creative Direction by Lafin Design

 

Privacy Policy   |   Terms & Conditions

The LittleOak Company aims to give accurate, useful, reliable and up-to-date information on baby nutrition of the general nature and may amend the content on this site as required. To the extent permitted by law, The LittleOak Company does not accept any liability or responsibility for claims, resulting from the misinterpretation of the content of this website, which is never intended to disregard, alter or discontinue professional medical advice and/or treatment. If you are ever unsure about your baby's development, concerned about the well-being of your bub or your own health, seek medical advice immediately without delay.