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A Breastfeeding Bride

This is Rebecca and her third son, Chace. I watched this beautiful lady get married on the weekend.

Her husband was friends with my husband since Kindergarten, and friends with me since the first year of high school. We’re nearly as smitten with her as her new husband is. And that’s saying something because he loves her to pieces.

Chace was sick with fevers and sore ears (made worse by the extreme wind that’s lashing the east coast). On a day that’s exciting and overwhelming even for adults, it was a blessing to see a sick and upset little boy find a moment of peace and calm with his mama.

She was unable to breastfeed her first two boys, but had a very successful breastfeeding journey with her third son. She continued breastfeeding him through her fourth pregnancy, tandem fed for a while and is now breastfeeding her third son after her fourth son weaned.

She is a total goddess and I am in awe of her 💜

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Nat’s Lactating Third Nipple

‘Any other ladies have a 3rd nipple and it produces milk or am I the only odd one?’

This was Nat Douglas’s post in our closed breastfeeding support group that attracted hundreds of Iikes and comments.

She’s currently breastfeeding her newboren, who was a week old when this photo was taken. You may notice the yellowish tinge of her transitional milk!

Nat, mum to 4, knew her third nipple (also known as a ‘supernumerary’ or ‘accessory’ nipple) would leak milk, as this happened previously. Nearly 12 years ago, when her first son was born, her extra nipple started leaking as soon as her milk came in. Nat recalls the midwives being fascinated – none of them had ever seen a third nipple leak before.

Not only does it leak, but it seems to get hard and sore if Nat doesn’t drain it every now and then! And the draining has to happen manually, because it’s unfortunately a bit too small and awkwardly placed to latch a baby onto.

IBCLC Bel Moore from Fourth Trimester Parenting knows a thing or two about these extra nipples, and told us that ‘Breast development starts in the embryo at around week 3 to 5 with the beginning of a primitive milk streak running from the armpit to the groin, which then becomes the mammary milk ridge and eventually develops into two breasts while in utero. Accessory or supernumerary (extra) nipples are uncommon but can develop anywhere along this milk line. They are usually more prominent in pregnancy and lactation where they undergo growth and changes( just like normal breasts and nipples) due to hormones. Extra nipples, if accompanied with underlying mammary tissue can lactate, leak, get engorged, develop mastitis and undergo malignant changes. It’s best to speak with an IBCLC if you have any variations of normal to discuss how to avoid or overcome any complications.’

Another fascinating aspect of this learning experience for me has been the fact that Facebook seems perfectly ok with us sharing this photo, despite previously suspending our friend Kerryn’s account after she shared a link containing a photo of a nipple affected by vasospasms. But that’s a rant for a different day.

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7 Responses To Breastfeeding Negativity

7 suggestions for responses that come to mind when someone suggests I’m doing something wrong by breastfeeding my kids:

1. I used to have one of those, but the wheels fell off

2. *point at their face* You have something stuck between your teeth

3. The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain

4. Supercallifragalisticexpiallidocious

5. Omg you’re so funny *laugh hysterically*

6. I did not have sex with a mongoose

7. Sea monkeys stole my money

All of these responses are as valid and relevant as any other person’s negative opinion on my breastfeeding journey.

I don’t usually feel the need to engage in an argument with anyone about the benefits of breastfeeding, because they are well established and if someone wants to live in an ignorant bubble then that’s their problem.

But in all seriousness, I do have some practical suggestions that might be more effective than arguing:

– keep doing what you’re doing, peacefully and proudly

– continue leading by example

– whenever someone shows a positive interest, share your experiences

– wait and let everyone see your children thrive as they grow, because this will be from of the way you raise them – not in spite of it

I have faith that just the act of breastfeeding my own children is a small but significant step towards long term cultural change in attitudes about breastfeeding.

Arguing about it really isn’t worth my time.

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Happy 3rd Birthday Penny

3 years ago I was feeling contractions every few minutes, and was overwhelmed with feelings of excitement and gratitude. Because this time my body was doing what it didn’t do when my first child was born.

That excitement changed to fear, as my contractions continued unbearably and my body began involuntarily pushing and my baby’s heart rate dropped each time, and concerns were raised about her health and my risk of uterine rupture. Terror when a cable was accidentally disconnected and I heard a long beeping alarm, thinking my precious bundle had died.And then panic after it was agreed we needed another emergency csection, and desperation after I was left for nearly 2 hours suffering overwhelming contractions with the knowledge that my cervix was too swollen to dilate and my daughter’s heart rate wasn’t stable.

I remember, at one point, making a conscious dexisopn to scream as much as I could every time a contraction hit me, not only because I need to release the grief and fear I felt but because maybe the hospital staff would hurry up if they realised what a bad way I was in. I still feel awful about how my behaviour might have affected other birthing mums at that time.

After spending a long time in theatre with a lengthy and complex csection, Penny joined the world. Pink, squirmy and loud – the best prize anyone could ever be awarded after such an ordeal.

Maybe breastfeeding has meant so much to me because it’s a consolation that my body CAN do what it is supposed to – I couldn’t birth normally but I can feed normally. Sometimes I get tired and touched out and my neck and back hurt from being stuck in the same positions for so long but every breastfeed is a blessing for which I will always be thankful for.

Every day for the last 3 years Penny has reminded me that my womanly body is capable of amazing things, and one day, if I play my cards right, I’ll watch her make the same discoveries.

Happy birthday my gorgeous girl. Every day you remind me how truly blessed I am to be a mother 💜💜💜

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A Fussy Baby & Supply Worries – Jessica’s Story

Our closed Facebook group Breastfeeders in Australia, is where breastfeeders come together to share their stories and support each other.

After a recent bad day, Jessica Smale shared her words of wisdom with the group. She’s kindly given us permission to share her story and photo here too.

‘So I am doing this post because despite how I felt, I know some of you beautiful mums have been in the same (or similar) boat yourselves and we all have to stick together in this amazing, but challenging journey. Bear with me, it’s long!

My son is 5 weeks old and is breastfed. For the past 6 days or so he has been really fussy when it comes to feeding and I have no idea why. We have gone through his first “leap”, so it shouldn’t be that. He ALWAYS fusses on the right breast, which has always been an issue, as my nipple won’t always stay erect for him. My brother jokingly believes that my right breast must have vanilla milk and my left one chocolate milk, hence the preference!!

Well on Sunday I broke. The first time since having my little man, I felt like a real failure. He wouldn’t feed off my right breast, which was very full and tender by this point. No matter what I tried, he just screamed. To the point he was holding his breath. My god, that is awful!

So I fed from the left and knew that yet again, I would have to express my right side to avoid mastitis and just general discomfort, which I did. That was until I realised the breast pump had stopped working properly. Yeah, that added some fuel to the fire!

My little man was still fussing on the left side, but not as badly, which gave me some comfort.

When it came to nappy change my heart sank – his wee was quite yellow instead of the usual clear and the poo we found wasn’t his usual explosive yellow, but these sticky flakes that were more glue-like than poo-like. So straight away my mind went into that dark little corner where all your doubt lives, to tell me Toby wasn’t getting enough from me because he was dehydrated and not pooing normally. That same doubt told me that if things don’t improve I might have to do formula just so he doesn’t starve. Overall, I felt like a real failure as a mother and a woman.

So I gave myself a moment. Hubby took little man away and let me just cry. He told me I am doing an amazing job, because Toby is looking great. That I am not a failure, I am amazing. That he loves me and will help me get past this. This all came from a man who has never dealth with a breastfeeding partner (he has a child from a previous relationship) and once made a comment about giving up early on when we were very sleep deprived and going through a bad night. Thank god his views have now changed!

Anyway, I didn’t believe him. Not straight away. It wasn’t until later that afternoon – a few hours after my meltdown – that I believed it. The reason why? Because Toby decided it was time for some vanilla milk and had a massive feed. WITHOUT TOO MUCH FUSS! I felt like Christmas had come.

The rest of our night consisted of happier feeds on both sides, more normal nappies and a full baby, who for the first time EVER slept for nealy 6 straight hours overnight and most of yesterday too.

So I have learnt a couple valuable lessons in all of this. 1) my son is clearly going through a growth spurt – hence the fussiness & massive sleeps. None of which are my fault or reflect on me as a mother and 2) there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is impossible to see, like mine was. I just have to do whatever is best for me and bubs. So if that means expressing my right breast milk and chucking it into the freezer, then so be it.

Yesterday Toby spent most of the day sleeping and only fed about 6 times, but I know this is ok for him, otherwise he would have told me.

If any other beautiful mum has a day / week / month like I’ve had, please feel free to reach out, because you are never alone!’

If you have concerns about your milk supply, you should get in touch with your trusted health practitioner, or better still, get in touch with the Australian Breastfeeding Association on 1800 686 268

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How Do You Know When You Should Stop Breastfeeding?

For me, I wanted to finish lots of times, but I felt it was my duty to breastfeed as long as I could. Not everyone feels that way, and that’s ok. This is just my story.

I didn’t feel like I could stop breastfeeding any more than I could suddenly decide to stop changing nappies or giving hugs. These things are all a part of parenting for me.

When I wanted to quit I just accepted I was having a hard day, but kept going and found things changed for me soon enough. I got through my bad days and made it to the good days again.

When my son was about 2.5yrs old, I was pregnant and really hating breastfeeding. I was suffering aversions and nipple pain, and hormonal aversions that we’re making me think bad things, so I night weaned him.

Night weaning gave me enough space (and sleep) to enjoy breastfeeding again. I also felt gratitude to my son for giving me that space and this appreciation made it easier for me to feel positive about what was left of our breastfeeding journey together.

Then when my second daughter was born, I needed to put more boundaries in place for my son. These boundaries were steps towards weaning, but to me, I was preserving the breastfeeds we had left. I wanted to approach them with love, not dread.

At the end of the day, everyone will share their personal stories, but I hold the World Health Organisation’s recommendations to breastfeed til at least 2 in very high regard.

Ultimately my son stopped breastfeeding when he was 5.5 years old, and my daughter (who will be 3 in a month is going strong with no end in sight.

But at the end of the day, you know your own story better than anyone else. It’s not up to anyone to give you permission to stop – to be ok with your decision, you need to give YOURSELF permission to stop. I’ll support you whether you decide today is the day, tomorrow, next week or next year. But you need to be the one who makes the decision.

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Breastmilk Turns Pink After Lots of Beetroot!

Breastmilk turns pink after beetroot!

Did you ever eat a lot of beetroot while breastfeeding?  Did you notice anything unusual about your breastmilk afterwards?

“Sooooo I ate A LOT of beetroot today and this was the end result…

Safe to say I nearly had a heart attack until I realised.”

Eating lots of beetroot can turn your breastmilk pink!

A mama (who has asked to not be named publicly) in Breastfeeders in Australia (our closed breastfeeding support group on Facebook) posted yesterday. During the course of the day, she’d drank a juice containing fresh beetroot, eaten a salad sandwich with beetroot, then continued her beetroot binge by finishing the rest of the tin of beetroot.

Her 16mo started acting unusually, pulling at her mama’s nipple and saying “more, more!”.  The stimulation caused some breastmilk to spray out.  Imagine mama’s shoc k when her milk was such a bright colour!  She began expressing to see if her milk continued flowing pinkand it did!  Then she remembered all the what she’d been eating and drinking!

How did members react?

After some encouragement from members, the mama tasted her breastmilk and said that while she wasn’t really familiar with the normal taste, it did taste very very sweet.

Some members were concerned the milk may have been coloured due to blood – a blockage or other damage to the mama’s breast. Mama was quick to confirm that it was not only her breastmilk that was pink, but also hers and her daughter’s urine!

Is it still safe for the baby to drink?

There was some concern expressed about whether this breastmilk would be safe for mama’s baby to consume.  The Australian Breastfeeding Association have this to say on their website:

“The colour of breastmilk varies. Colostrum is typically yellowish and mature breastmilk is typically bluish-white. However, there is a wide range of normal when it comes to the colour of breastmilk. Most mothers are unaware of the colour of their breastmilk, unless they express.”

They go on to explain that foods like beetroot, carrots, squash, pumpkin, leafy greens and seaweed and other foods with concentrated colour are known to affect the colour of breastmilk.

There are currently several members standing by for a report on the colour of stools.  We aren’t expecting any photos of that though!

Have you ever expressed unusually coloured breastmilk?

 

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Hello New Mum – A Letter From Lyndsey

Lyndsey Wray is a "not so new mum"

Recently in our closed breastfeeding support group on Facebook, mum Lyndsey Wray posted an open called “Hello New Mum”.  Lyndsey’s words generated a lot of interest within the group, where there are many new mums, and she kindly gave us permission to reshare it here on our website.  Lyndsey is a high school teacher, and describes herself as a “Not so new mum”.

Hello new mum

Hello new mum.

I picture you right now with your 1 week old in your arms. You’re exhausted, you’re vulnerable, you’re emotional. You’re trying so hard to breastfeed, but it’s a battle – you read all the books, joined all the groups. You wanted to try and see how long you could feed your baby for. But, it’s 10.30pm, your husband is fast asleep snoring on the couch and your baby is unsettled, squirmy and you see that little head turn toward your swollen, poker hot nipples and your heart drops a little in fear. I hear your thoughts… ‘I just fed you!’, ‘how are you hungry again’, ‘not another night of 40 minute feeds per breast every 2 hours! ‘I want to stab my husband in the larynx for sleeping right now’.

You grit your teeth, and try to remember the positions the nurse showed you in the hospital. You coax baby’s mouth open and quickly help her latch. Too quickly? She’s probably swallowed half a litre of air and you’ll be paying for that during burp time. Is the latch right? The nurse said it shouldn’t hurt but the pain makes your eyes water. You spend the night up and down, feeding, burping changing nappies and onesies till the sun comes up. Your well rested husband, feeling helpless suggests one feed with a bottle of formula, you burst with tears at the thought whilst holding back the urge of scratching his eyes out.

The weeks drift by. Some days are good, some not so much. Your wracked with self doubt – is baby getting enough? My boobs feel soft – I’m drying up! Should I make lactation cookies? WTF is fenugreek? The weekly baby weigh ins at the clinic gives you anxiety as you pray Bub put on enough weight this time. You see other mums feeding their babies so easily with bottles that your so tempted but immediately feel so guilty at the thought of stopping breastfeeding you almost cry.

The months drift by. Your support network isn’t so supportive after all. Mothers, MIL’s, strangers give you their advice. ‘Why isn’t that baby on a bottle, I want to have her overnights soon’, ‘you’re spoiling her for everyone else’, ‘she’s so tiny compared to bottle fed babies’.

Through your many hurdles, you still persist. You persist so well that now when you want a night out with the girls, you can’t leave as baby refuses all 13 types of bottles you have purchased specifically for the lead up to your big night out! Oh the irony.

Sorry this is long winded Mum. I just want you to know you’re not alone. Your questions aren’t silly, you’re doing a fantastic job and one day those long nights and sore nipples will be a distant memory.

I’m a veteran breast feeder now. My 1.5 year old is still what we affectionately call ‘a titty girl’. She makes up her own positions now (mostly vertical ones where my nipple is stretched into a bizarre shape) and the only time I have sore nipples is during a teething frenzy. Some nights she sleeps through, others I feed her 5 times a night. That’s our norm, there is none.

So new Mum, from a not so new mum. Regardless of how long or short your breastfeeding journey is, please remember this overwhelming time in yours and your baby’s lives is just a drop in the ocean of what lies ahead. Do what you need to do to get through the hour/ day/ week and please be kind to yourself. You are doing the most important job in the world – being someone’s mum.”

To see posts and discussions like this one, please join our closed breastfeeding support group on Facebook – Breastfeeders in Australia

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Breastfeeding After Gastroschisis – Member Story

Renée Barendregt and her baby Harry, who was born with gastroschisis

Our closed breastfeeding support group is full of amazing parents who use their own personal experiences to support and inspire others.  Some of these parents are facing challenges that seem impossibly difficult.  Renée Barendregt is one mum with a story to share about breastfeeding her baby Harry, who was born with a birth defect called Gastroschisis.

Renée‘s Story

Harry was diagnosed with Gastroschisis when he was in the womb at only 12 weeks. Gastroschisis is when the bowel is protruding out of a hole on the stomach that is meant to close over around 10 weeks. Depending on the size of the hole, more than just the bowel can be growing on the outside.

As you can imagine this was a huge and heart breaking shock for my partner and I.  We learned that our baby boy would be taken into surgery as soon as he was born.Before I even conceived, breastfeeding was extremely important to me. I believe it is a true blessing to nourish our children in such a natural, beautiful way. But I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to begin with. I knew it would be challenging, especially after learning that he would not feed for possibly the first 2 weeks.

Harry was born by emergency Cesarean at 34 weeks and 5 days weighing 2kgs. Although we were nervous, we had the whole pregnancy to somewhat ‘prepare’ ourselves. Harry was taken from us straight away. All I was able to do before he left was touch him with my finger. There were doctors surrounding him, helping him breathe. At this point I was sad. I didn’t get skin to skin contact and couldn’t breastfeed him straight away.

He Couldn’t Have Any Milk At All

For the first 3 weeks of Harry’s life, he was not able to have any milk. He did not have one single drop of milk for the first few weeks of his life, because his bowel was not working properly yet. Yes, you’re right, he would have been starving. And for me as a mother this was heart breaking. I had my alarm set 24 hours a day and pumped every 3 hours. It was hard and confusing because I couldn’t be with him over night. Every part of me was yearning for him.

I would take my breast milk into hospital each morning and by the time he could actually have any, there was bucket loads.

Feeding Harry

I couldn’t directly breastfeed him straight away, he was fed through a tube in his nose. The doctors had to monitor exactly how much was going in to determine that his bowel was working properly. He started with a tiny 2ml every 3 hours until his bowel “woke up” and was able to tolerate more.

Renée Barendregt and her baby Harry, who was born with gastroschisis
Renée Barendregt and her baby Harry, who was born with gastroschisis

It got to about 3 and a half weeks and they said I could try and breast feed. Although I had to drain my boobs first they explained he still would get a small amount! I was so excited the moment finally came. He fed wonderfully.

As a mother, I cant help but feel guilt over those weeks. I wasn’t able to respond to my baby when he was hungry or scared or be there next to him 24/7. But I gave him as much comfort as I could in the situation that faced us. The nurses fell in love with Harry, they always said he was so good and never complained, even when he was hungry those first few weeks.

Our breastfeeding journey was a little up and down when Harry got home from hospital, but we have stuck at it and are still going. Harry is now nearly 10 months old, and is as healthy as any other ‘normal’ 10 month old. At this stage there will be no further issues with Harry’s tummy.

I would love to meet more mums and hear more stories. Follow our journey on Instagram www.instagram.com/hello.harry_

Renée x”

Thanks so much Renee, for sharing your story with us.  Renee would love to meet more mums and hear more stories.  She would love for you to follow her on Instagram here.

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PNDA Awareness Week – The Lady Across The Street (Poem)

As it’s Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Week, it feels like the right time to share a poem I wrote a while ago, about a lady who lives across the street from me.

She was always fairly reclusive and kept to herself, but when she brought a new baby home, I was really worried that she might be struggling. I’ll admit I was that crazy neighbour staring through my blinds multiple times a day. She didn’t leave the house and didn’t seem to have any visitors. Her baby screamed a lot, at all hours of the day.

Then I noticed she’d start leaving the house while the baby was screaming. Not crying, but really really screaming her head off. She’d stand in her front yard, while I could hear her baby screaming and choking. I wasn’t sure if she was stepping out for a breather when the crying got overwhelming, or if she was trying to implement some sleep training at a very young age. The most worrying thing for me, and now also my husband too, was the disconnected look on her face when she was standing out the front, watering her garden, while her distressed baby screamed and gagged alone inside.

When I posted on Facebook, asking friends what they would do in my situation, the overwhelming majority was to mind my own business and to not judge. I was really disappointed that my friends thought I was judging this lady, because I wasn’t – I was worried about her, and I don’t think that’s the same.

In the end, I actually did go over to her house with a cooked meal for her one afternoon, and I told her that it sounded like she could use a break from cooking that night. She looked embarrassed, and although she accepted my meal, she didn’t talk to me, and she shut the door quickly. A few days later, I came home to the plate on my doorstep with a thank you note, but now whenever I see her, she avoids me. It hurts my heart to know that I might have made her feel ashamed, I just wanted to check in on her.

Anyway, I don’t know what the moral to this story is? It feels wrong to me to ignore what feels like warning signs that someone might be struggling. Even though I’m devastated to feel like I embarrassed this lady, I still maintain that I am glad I let her know I cared enough to try and do something nice for her, and hopefully she felt a little less alone that day.

I guess the happy ending of sorts though, is that about a week after I took that meal over, I noticed she was getting more visits. It looked like perhaps a community nurse started visiting once or twice a week, and an elderly man (perhaps a grandfather) started visiting often, and he’d walk the little girl up and down the street. I remember feeling teary when I noticed the way he always held her in his arms, never put her in a pram, always kissed her and talked to her while he walked with her.

So after often thinking about this lady, her family and whether I was out of line by going over, or whether that might have got the ball rolling on somehow getting this lady some help, eventually I wrote this poem to vent some of my frustration about the whole situation. Most of it is accurate about the situation, but I’m happy that the actual lady across the street appears to have had a happier ending than the one in the poem.

“The Lady Across The street

There’s a lady who lives across the street
She’s lived there quite a while
She doesn’t look like a happy person
I’ve never seen her smile

There’s a lady who lives across the street
I see her puffing at her gate
She struggles to walk up her steep driveway
She’s really quite overweight

There’s a lady who lives across the street
I tried to say hello
Not wanting a friend, she turned away
What could I do but go?

There’s a lady who lives across the street
She leaves her baby screaming
She stands in her front yard watering her plants
Vacantly staring, daydreaming

There’s a lady who lives across the street
Her hair is always messed
She collects her mail just in her robe
Why doesn’t she get dressed?

There’s a lady who lives across the road
Her face is lined with sadness
Her daughter has beautiful, curly blonde hair
Why can’t her mum feel gladness?

There’s a lady who lives across the street
I don’t think it’s a happy home
Sometimes her husband leaves late at night
To sleep in his car, alone

There’s a lady who lives across the street
But they took her body away
“We knew she wasn’t doing well”
Is all the neighbours could say”

The PANDA National Helpline has trained counsellors available on 1300 726 306.  They also have lots of information available on their website here.

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