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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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Why I Don’t Support Importing Or Selling Human Milk For Profits

This week a story has hit media outlets about an Indian company looking to sell breastmilk in Australia.  Every now and then the topic of commercialising the sale of human milk comes up, and it makes me shudder.  I am a big fan of milk sharing, but I feel commercialising it is wrong.

The main thing that makes a commercialised milk bank sound attractive is the idea that we could earn money from our milk.  Instead of families donating their excess milk for goodwill, there would be remuneration involved.  As a breastfeeding mum who has the ability to express far in excess of what we need, this is appealing to me.  If you have not returned to work due to family commitments, the idea that you could earn some money from doing something that you already do for free is obviously tempting – plenty would agree.

As it currently stands in Australia, if you donate breastmilk, you do it for nothing.  Well, not really nothing, I mean you get to know you did something really really good for someone else, and you might get some good karma in return.  But no one donates their milk for a profit, and that fact has always made me feel comfortable about the type of people who are doing it, and therefore the level of risk involved with the whether the donor uses illegal drugs or has any diseases that can be transferred through their milk.  But if people stand to profit from the sale of breastmilk, the risks become unacceptably high.

Imagine families that are so desperate for money, that they deprive their own children of the milk that was intended for them, opting to give them a less valuable (and less healthy) option.  What if people began selling their milk to fund their drug habits?  If money is involved, where’s our guarantee of clean, safe milk?  Will people lie about their health or disease status because they need the money?  Will people in key positions within businesses become open to bribery? Or what happens if the milk bank can’t source enough milk?  Will they dilute the product they have with water or other substances to stretch it out, so they can make more money from less milk?

And then if we are paying people for their milk, that means the cost of the pasteurised product increases.  Do we want to get into a situation where only the very wealthy can afford to pay for human milk?  Will the milk go to whoever needs it the most, or will it go to the person who can pay the most for it?  I donate my milk to to families – I wouldn’t donate it to body builders.  If I sell my milk to a business, they will sell it to whoever has the most money, not to whoever I want it to go to.

The situation in the news this week was about a company selling milk from India.  India has previously been in the news for their “baby farms”, where women are paid for their unwanted babies.  Some baby farms hold women against their will, forcing them to carry babies and then taking them away to be sold to wealthy foreigners.  Will someone start running illegal “milking farms”, where women are held against their will and forced to lactate, so that criminals can sell the product for a profit?

Abbie (also pictured above) with human milk ready for donation. Her mum Sarah Hopps expects nothing in return for her milk.

In Australia, we have a few not-for-profit milk banks.  “Not-for-profit” doesn’t mean that everyone works for free, and it definitely doesn’t mean they operate at a loss, or are “pro-defecit”.  It doesn’t mean that one person has to fund the project from their own pocket.  Generally they focus their resources on finding donated milk from families with a child up to 6 months old, and most of the milk is sold to hospitals for premature or sick babies.  The milk is sold at a rate that is designed to cover the milk bank’s operating costs (eg pasteurisation, storage, staff wages and then all the usual overheads, like rent, utilities, etc).  It means that the income generated by the milk bank is invested back into the business to maintain and possibly improve their services.

I wish that our current milk banks could take donated breastmilk from families with kids older than 6 months of age.  I wish that they could provide milk to the wider community, and not just babies who are premature or sick.  I wish that those who choose to give away their milk could be rewarded in a meaningful way (although the love and goodwill IS valuable).

And I hope that one day our governments will realise the value of breastmilk, and see that investing in milk sharing is an investment into the health of our nation and will therefore decrease health costs in the future.

But I will never support commercialised milk banking.

Did you know you can also donate your milk informally?  Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats On Feets are two organisations that facilitate peer-to-peer milk sharing

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5 Years – The Milestone I Don’t Talk About

My son turned 5 this week.  His fifth birthday also marks the day that I have been breastfeeding for five years straight.  Followers may recall I recently wrote about my daughter’s second birthday.  I see them doing the math – I breastfed him for 3 years or so, and have been breastfeeding her for the past 2, right?  Actually no.  My five year old son still breastfeeds.

I don’t talk about it as often as I’d like to.  It’s not for shame – I am very proud of my breastfeeding journey.  I love to call myself a lactivist and take any opportunity to discuss breastfeeding with anyone who wants to talk about it.  I WANT to talk about it. I feel like a total fraud for NOT talking about it more.  Normalising breastfeeding is hugely important to me and part of me feels like a gutless wonder for not being more open about my own circumstances.

But despite the best efforts of lactivists everywhere, “term” breastfeeding still a very negative stigma.  And while I don’t mind copping flack from the keyboard warriors about my choices, I don’t want to offer my son up to be slaughtered by people who, at best, simply don’t know any better.

More so, I don’t want him to be judged by people who actually know us.  It makes me really sad to feel like I can’t tell the people closest to us that he still breastfeeds twice a day (once at bedtime and again when he wakes).  I wish I could talk about it with pride.  They might look at me differently, and I could live with that.

But they might look at my son differently, and I can’t live with that.

It’s not fair.  My son is perfect (well, as perfect as any five year old boy can be).  My husband and I are often praised for raising such a great kid, but I know that if the people around us knew he still breastfed, things would change.  I have felt part of my job as a parent is to protect him until he is ready to step out, take risks and move towards greater independence.  What could be described as loving and attentive parenting would be twisted into a mother who is selfishly preventing her son from growing up.  What they currently know as his and my close bond would suddenly become creepy, perverted and unnatural in their eyes.

My son has already felt the sting of this judgement, after a family member (who assumed weaning had already taken place) joked about mummy’s milk being for the baby.  He has asked that we hide his breastfeeds and don’t talk about them with people outside of our immediate family.  My beautiful, innocent five year old wants me to hide information from adults because he is afraid they will make fun of him.

Even in online spaces dedicated to supporting breastfeeding, I have occasionally been met with shock and disgust.  Five years is too much even for some vocal breastfeeding advocates. I also feel safe enough talking about this on my blog, because even though it’s now out there for all to see, I’m small-time, and basically my blog is generally only read by people who are on the same page as me (although if this post is picked up and made viral, I’ll consider that divine intervention and a sign that I should be more open from now on).

Part of the reason why my son is amazing is because of the way he has been raised, and breastfeeding has been a big factor in it.  I wish I could point that out to everyone, but it’s never going to be received the way I’d hope.  So I’ll just have to be content with telling you.

Happy boobaversary to me.

 

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Breastfeeding After An Early Return to Work

BF at work

I had always planned to return to work fairly soon after my first child. I earned more than my husband, and his industry (home building) was in a huge slump. I held an administration management position with a local company that only had a small administration team. The owners of the business wanted me back and were prepared to do anything and everything necessary to get me back at work. As I was working in a male-dominated company, there were no protocols for what to do when an employee had a baby, and how to support their return to work. So while my employer wanted to support me, they actually had no idea how to.

After my son was born but before I returned to work, I sent my employer an email outlining the following:
– My commitment to breastfeed to at least 12 months. I said I was very grateful that they were willing to work with me to make my transition back to work as smooth as possible, and their support meant that I would be less distracted and more able to work productively in the office
– I would need to express or breastfeed several times each day while I was at work, in my office with the door closed. I would essentially be unavailable during these times
– As my son would only be 6 weeks old when I returned to work, I planned to pump each day at 10am and 3pm, and my husband would also bring my son in on my lunchbreak (around 12pm)
 – I would need to store my breastpump and milk in the fridge and freezer in the office kitchen. Everything would be appropriately labelled and stored (bagged)
– I would inform my coworkers so that they would not be surprised to see breastmilk or my pump in the fridge or freezer, and that they would expect me to be unavailable during pump/feeds
– As I was returning to work 4 days per week instead of 5, I would use my day off to catch up on emails and phone calls as required. I would also read and respond to emails from home in the evenings while my son was asleep (a huge part of my job involved communication through emails). I was available to be called on the phone when I was not at work (this was important, as our site operated 24/7)
I used some of my management experience in the email I drafted. I took the lead and planned what I wanted to do, instead of asking what they wanted me to do. This is because a manager does not want his worker to bring him problems – he wants solutions. I planned everything without speaking to my employer so that all they had to do was say yes. Or no, if they didn’t approve. But since they didn’t have experience with breastfeeding mums at work, and it was in their best interests to have me back at work, I knew that they had to rely on me to set the benchmark. And that was that.
They agreed to my plan and I went back to work.
Initially it was very important that I stuck closely to my pumping schedule, because I got engorged if I was late at all. I had a medela freestyle pump, which is a double electric. I bought it because of the hands-free attachment, but unfortunately I found it too finicky, and by the time I had it on and correctly fitted, it didn’t feel very stable. So I pumped using my forearm and hand of one arm to hold the flanges and bottles in place, and used my other hand to use the phone. In the early days I used my phone to look at photos of my son to help my letdown, then gradually I was able to use it to facebook and “zone out”. As I got more confident and my employer was more comfortable with the situation, my morning pumping session actually turned into my daily brief with the Managing Director – I would talk to him about what was happening at our site and how our production figures were while I was pumping.
As time went by, occasionally my husband and son came for the lunch visit while I was in a meeting with other workers. I only breastfed in these meetings a handful of times. It generally wasn’t necessary as my husband came at lunchtime anyway, and the meetings were usually wrapping up when he arrived. Some coworkers openly expressed their comfort if I wanted to breastfeed, which felt very supportive, even if I didn’t take them up on the offer. I knew from some practice sessions at home that I needed to pump for 12 minutes before the flow slowed to a stop from my breasts. However after being at work for only a few weeks, my breasts got better at letting down quickly and my pumping sessions decreased to 10 minutes, and over time I was expressing around 150-200ml in only 7 minutes.
I expressed far more milk than my son would drink at home. He loved to breastfeed and was not a fan of the bottle. Although he did reluctantly drink from the bottle when I was at work, he only ever drank enough to keep his hunger at bay. Even when he was 6 months or so, he still never drank more than 70ml. So I donated the excess to another mum who was unable to produce enough breastmilk for her son due to a lack of breast tissue after reduction surgery. It was an absolute privilege to be able to give my breastmilk to another child, and I have always loved seeing photos of him from his mum on Facebook – it’s really lovely to know that I have contributed in a small way to his chubby little body and cheeky smile.
Before returning to work we had two practice runs with a bottle. The Closer to Nature bottle was the one that was recommended most highly at the time, so that’s what we bought. I gave my husband the bottle and left the house each time, and each time was an absolute disaster. The first time I came back inside after hearing my sons distressed cries. The second time after waiting about 20 minutes I came back thinking we had success only to find my husband had given up and was making our son giggle instead. I was worried that my son was too much of a boob lover and would never take a bottle, and it was very nerve racking the first day I went back to work. But I trusted my husband to handle the situation, and our son was too distressed and still wouldn’t take the bottle, well my husband would be able to bring our son to work for a breastfeed in the morning instead of waiting til lunch. Luckily that was not necessary. He found that when I was well and truly out of the house, my son would take the bottle when he was tired and hungry.
If I could give one piece of advice to any mum going back to work, it’s to trust your child’s carer.
I know lots of women who really worry that their child’s care provider (especially if it’s their husband, like mine) won’t be able to cope with a baby who’s been exclusively breastfed and is only used to settling for mum. You need someone you can trust to handle the situation, and to only contact you if it’s really urgent. I’m very lucky that (although he was often nervous and a bit insecure about his parenting skills), my husband kept a cool head and kept the situation in perspective at all times. Yes, it was a worry when our son didn’t have milk for many hours. Yes, it was distressing to hear him cry. But we just as we wouldn’t panic if our son went many hours without a breastfeed through the night because he was sleeping, we didn’t need to panic if he didn’t take a bottle and didn’t have any milk until he saw me at work. Our son did cry, which we hated. But he always cried in the arms of someone who loved him and tried their best to calm him down.  Over time our son got very used to his time at home with his dad. I could only ever breastfeed my son to sleep, but my husband found his own way using some jigging around (that some men may refer to as dancing haha) with our son on his shoulder to an old Sepultura album (heavy metal).
The hardest thing about returning to work was that our son did something called reverse cycling. This is where a baby wakes frequently to feed during the night because he is missing quality time with mum during the day. It’s common with babies where the mother returns to work, but can also happen where mum is distracted by other kids during the day, and other scenarios. It was incredibly hard going to work when I’d been woken every 40 min-2 hours throughout the night.
At one point I sought help from a social worker. Although she made me feel very validated in my concerns and stress, I opted not to go ahead with the sleep solution she offered me (which was very gentle but not gentle enough for me). I had a lightbulb moment when I read Pinky McKay’s Sleeping Like A Baby book. This book helped me so much. It made me feel so much more confident in what I was doing, and reaffirmed to me that this would pass. So I continued bedsharing and breastfeeding whenever my son would take it. And do you know what? When I stopped stressing about the lack of sleep, I wasn’t as tired! I firmly believe now that stress is WAY more exhausting than a lack of sleep! So anyway, back to my work situation.
I continued working, breastfeeding and pumping until I decided I was no longer enjoying work and decided to quit to be a stay at home mum instead. I did this when my son was 18 months and my employer continued to be fairly supportive the whole time, although towards the end of my employment I felt they were wondering why on earth I was still breastfeeding my toddler who was walking and talking. But that’s a whole other story 😉
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Milk Sharing Networks – When things just work!

BreastmilkI want to share a story about milk sharing that happened recently.  I apologise if it seems a bit disjointed – I didn’t learn about the whole story chronologically.  I have also made some creative changes to names.

Emma from far North Queensland recently gave birth to her third child, a boy named James.  She was staying with family in the Hunter Valley, NSW, while recovering from the C-Section birth of her son.

James wasn’t gaining weight.  Emma sought help from doctors, but she was left with a routine of feeding and expressing that was unachievable, given she had two young daughters to also care for.  She wasn’t getting a break between feeds/pumps and nor was she expressing enough for the top ups.  So she ended up supplementing with 20ml top ups of formula, given by a syringe.  She understood the risks of nipple confusion and did not want to jeopardise her future breastfeeding relationship.  Emma didn’t expect to experience this problem after successfully breastfeeding her two older children.  She expressed this frustration to an aunt and cousin.  Her cousin suggested Emma try to see Amanda Pauley, a local IBCLC.  Amanda had a very good reputation for helping breastfeeding women, and had saved many breastfeeding relationships with her ability to identify tongue ties.  Emma’s aunt piped up that she was a patient of Amanda’s husband Jon, who was a GP.  Emma’s aunt agreed that Amanda had a very good reputation.  While Emma continued trying to juggle everything, a few days later her aunt called. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve booked an appointment for you to see Amanda”.

Emma went along to the appointment.  Amanda found a tongue tie and had it corrected at the appointment.  She then addressed the top ups.  Baby James was 6 weeks old and still had not reached his birthweight, so top ups would continue to be necessary for the time being, however Emma would be switching from syringe to an SNS. SNS Emma expressed an interest in donated breastmilk, and had a cousin named Lauren who had posted on Facebook about it before.  Amanda knew a Lauren too – Amanda had attended to Lauren’s second daughter when she was a newborn, and Lauren also ran a large breastfeeding support group on Facebook and had previously worked with Amanda through an organisation called BANC (Breastmilk Advocacy for Newborns Collective).  In a town with a population of around 70,000 residents, Amanda knew Emma’s cousin Lauren (that’s me!).

Long story short, Emma was able to swing past my house on the way home from her appointment to collect 400ml of breastmilk that was stashed in my freezer.   In a society where many women are happy to supplement with formula, this feels like a miracle, but it was not complete chance that facilitated this breastmilk transaction.

  • Some professionals are informed enough to educate parents on the subject of comparative risks between formula and unpasteurised breastmilk. In this case, Amanda helped reduce the level of risk by offering to refer the donor for a variety of blood tests
  • People are sharing information about milk sharing on social media, and other people are taking notice
  • Milk sharing happens frequently around in Australia, and I am blessed to be a part of a very active milk sharing network in the Hunter/Newcastle area. If I did not have 400ml of breastmilk available to share with Emma in my freezer, it would not have been a huge feat for me to source it for her from another donor.

While I am chuffed to be involved in this particular incident of milk sharing, I can’t take credit for the ease in which it happened.  Higher powers were at work!  Sharing information about milk sharing, being vocal about participating in it and demanding our professionals are up to date with their information are making massive inroads into normalising breastfeeding, and with it, milk sharing.  Emma may not have been as open to the concept of donor milk if the term and concept were completely foreign to her.  She may not even have considered seeing an IBCLC so far away from home had it not been facilitated by two other relatives.  Thanks to this chain of events, I get to look forward to seeing James thrive, now that his medical issues have been addressed, and I feel some personal satisfaction that I have, in a very small way, helped contribute to his growth.

The current generation of mums are starting to appreciate the importance of breastmilk and want better solutions to their breastfeeding problems then to simply offer a bottle of formula instead.  Reading an article here and sharing something there may not feel like it’s going to make a big difference, but all of these small things are contributing to a big mind-shift in the way we feed our babies.  Thank you for being a part of this change!

 

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