Member Story – Breastfeeding With A Bilateral Cleft Lip, Gum and Palate

This is Jacinta, she was born with a bilateral cleft lip, gum and palate.  Jacinta’s mum Sandy was told it would be impossible to breastfeed.  Sandy expected Jacinta to be taken straight to special care after her birth, but instead she was left with her mum.  After hearing her baby cry and cry, Sandy did exactly what she had done with her four previous babies – she put Jacinta to her breast.  And what do you know?  Jacinta breastfed!  Although Sandy needed to express-feed Jacinta, she put her to the breast every time she expressed for the next 13 weeks of her life.  Please see below a video of Jacinta’s very first breastfeed.

Jacinta is now 9 months old, and is due to have lip repair surgery this week.  Although Jacinta is no longer breastfed, every breastfeed that she had matters.  Every breastfeed ANY baby receives is important, but especially for a cleft-affected baby, who may require surgery down the track.  Surgery means exposure to extra nasty nasties, and the immunological boost received from breastfeeds, particularly her first breastfeeds, will help protect Jacinta.  Even if exclusive breastfeeding is not an option, and even if breastfeeding isn’t going to work out longterm, every breastfeed that any baby receives is an investment into their future health.

Jacinta was born with a bilateral cleft lip, gum and palate

If you would like more information about breastfeeding a cleft baby, Sandy recommends Cleft Connect Australia and Cleftpals (there are several state chapters, this link is for the NSW one).  The Australian Breastfeeding Association can also provide information and support.

The team at Breastfeeders in Australia wish Jacinta the very best with her surgery.  Thanks so much to Sandy Scholz for sharing your story with us.

Jacinta is now 9 months old and is about to have her first lip surgery repair

Please leave a positive and encouraging message for Jacinta and Sandy below, as they tackle lip repair surgery.

 

 

 

3 Types Of People Who Talk About Breastfeeding

There are generally three types of people you will come across when talking about breastfeeding.  These people will be most obvious to you when you are pregnant, or when you’re in your early days of parenting.

There will be those who make you feel like breastfeeding is horrible, the absolute worst. They will make you feel it’s painful and incredibly difficult, bordering on impossible. They will make you feel like breastfeeding is only possible for a very small amount of special, lucky people, and this will probably leave you expecting to be one of the unlucky ones. They might tell you about their own breastfeeding horror stories, which will terrify you. They will invoke negative feelings in you, like fear, uncertainty, inadequacy and incompetence. They may leave you feeling unwilling to commit to breastfeeding, or if not, uncomfortable with vocalising your commitment.

Most people fall into the second category.  They are usually pro-breastfeeding, but somehow manage to make breastfeeding look a little unattractive.  Their eagerness to tell you EVERYTHING might make you feel overwhelmed at how complicated breastfeeding sounds.  You might worry about how you’re going to remember everything.  They might tell you about their own breastfeeding journey, and how they overcame their challenges.  You’ll be impressed with their stories, and they will probably terrify or impress you (or even both).  You might regard these people with admiration for their grit and determination, but they might make you question whether you’ve got what it takes to deal with such difficulty.  When you express concerns, these people usually reassure you that they will be there for you, but you don’t know how you feel about having to rely on another person to breastfeed.  You want to be able to do it yourself.

The last group of people are champions of breastfeeding. I call them “champions” not because they are simply really good at breastfeeding, but because they champion the act of breastfeeding.  These people will make breastfeeding sound amazing AND achievable simultaneously. They will make you feel positive, excited and confident.  They won’t overwhelm you with volumes of information, but they’ll tell you just enough to motivate you to learn what you can on your own.  A champion of breastfeeding isn’t focused on telling you about their breastfeeding journey, because when they talk to you, it’s not about them – they want to help you get on the right path for your own.  You know you can rely on a breastfeeding champion if you have problems, but since they’ve made sure you know about the many different places you can seek information and support, you’ll feel good that you haven’t placed all of your eggs into one basket.

The key difference between the three groups is that breastfeeding champions empower you, instead of making you feel inadequate.  They don’t tell you what to do – they give you the tools to work it out on your own.  Even a very successful breastfeeder with the best of intentions can railroad you away from breastfeeding success if the focus of their stories is on them instead of you.

If you’re feeling a bit crappy now, having realised that you aren’t a breastfeeding champion, please don’t.  Most people aren’t!  Your opinions and experiences are valid, and I just hope you have plenty of safe places where you can voice them, and that you get loving and supportive responses.

At the same time, I am mindful of the effect my words can have on an expecting or new parent.  Our words have the power to shape someone else’s experiences, so I save my stories about mastitis, tongue ties and elimination diets for a time when it’s really needed.

If your goal is to become a breastfeeding champion, to support and empower other women so they can experience a successful breastfeeding journey, hopefully I’ve given you just enough information to get where you want to be.

Do you agree that there are 3 main types of people who talk about breastfeeding?

 

When The Village Pulls Together – ABA Training

Last Sunday I attended my very first training weekend with the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

I didn’t want to go. Sundays are important to my family and I don’t give them up easily. I went along to the training day begrudgingly and was prepared for a complete drag of a day.

Here are some of the special things that I was a part of last Sunday:
– rearranging a table of a dozen or so women so the ladies with babies in prams could sit with their prams next to them, instead of on the other side of the room
– swapping chairs with a lady who had hearing trouble so she was able to sit closest to the trainers
– seeing everyone rally around a mum who spoke English as a second language after she confessed that she felt inadequate during a brainstorm session
– everyone taking it in turns to hold babies so everyone had a turn to eat, drink, write and pee
– watching a trainer settle an unsettled baby to sleep, and then hold him for his entire nap because his mum said he usually woke when he was put into the pram
– mums working while wearing babies in slings and carriers
– a dad or two looking after their kids at the venue, striking a balance between letting mum work, but also being near enough in case her kids needed to breastfeed
– cups of tea and coffee being brought over to anyone who looked too busy to get their own
– a few sneaky boxes of chocolates doing the rounds while everyone was working

The Girl Guides attended. The young ladies stayed outside minding kids with some toys and equipment. But there was also a small pop-up tent with toys set up inside in case any kids needed a quiet space.  The senior Girl Guides catered our event, and put out a feast fit for royalty. They even included ingredient lists for some of the dishes, for those who had specific dietary requirements.

Lots of organisations SAY they are inclusive and family-friendly, but this was the first time I had experienced it myself.  It was beautiful.

If you’ve ever avoided going to an ABA training day, don’t. My day was productive (assessments for 2 units have now been sent to head office, and I have the RPL paperwork ready to submit so I can transition from the old course to the new one) but the highlight was seeing an actual village pulling together. Study with small kids can feel utterly impossible, but with this kind of support, anything can happen!

If you are interested in training with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, you can find more information on their website at https://breastfeeding.asn.au

Why I Love Breastfeeding Covers + Where To Get One

I love breastfeeding covers!

Some people will be surprised to hear this, because I am a vocal supporter of breastfeeding uncovered.  But first and foremost, I am a supporter of breastfeeding.  Full stop.  End of story.  If you want to breastfeed with a cover, I support you.  If you want to breastfeed without a cover, I support you.  Championing the right to breastfeed without a cover doesn’t mean I can’t also support the right to breastfeed under a cover at the same time.

I support your right to breastfeed in whichever way works for you and your child.  I would not appreciate feeling forced to breastfeed with a cover when I don’t want to, and it’s a two-way street.  If breastfeeding uncovered makes you feel too uncomfortable then don’t do it.  You don’t have to.  Breastfeeding looks different for everyone, and for some, it involves a cover.

Let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees – what matters is that we can breastfeed comfortably and happily.  If a breastfeeding cover makes breastfeeding more achievable for you, then that rocks.

I know it can be hard to find recommendations of where to buy breastfeeding covers, so I have compiled a list of five business-mums selling them.  If you’re going to use a breastfeeding cover, you may as well use one that you love!

**This is a sponsored post**

Mama Clothing

If you worry about owning an item that will barely be used, consider buying one that’s multi-purpose!  Mama Clothing sell a breastfeeding cover that’s designed to also be used as a trolley cover and capsule cover – that’s three items in one!  While you’re on their website, you should check out their range of clothing too – I adore my Mama Clothing dresses!  Shop with Mama Clothing here.

Owner Laura told me “Mama Clothing is a brand born from necessity and the collective mindset of the inspiring women that make our village. Founded in February 2016, each Mama Clothing garment is designed with the modern mum and her needs at heart. Based in Melbourne, Mama Clothing has become a household name for breastfeeding mothers all around the country. Since its commencement in 2016, Mama Clothing has branched out into becoming so much more then a fashion brand with the creation of its iconic support forum the “Mama Collective” and strong ties to support groups such as Breastfeeders in Australia. With its constantly evolving support network Mama Clothing is not just a breastfeeding label, Mama Clothing is a lifestyle.”

Foxy Mummy

Foxy Mummy sell a versatile cardigan that’s doesn’t even look like a breastfeeding cover!  It could easily make it’s way into your everyday wardrobe!  Shop with Foxy Mummy here.  Business owner Tegan tells us about her product:

“Chic yet discrete breast-feeding cardigan. An innovative design that allows for a versatile, ready to wear fashionable breast-feeding cover. Our ‘Foxy Mummy’ Cardigan is made with 95% soft and comfortable Viscose for a luxurious finish, plus a touch of spandex for durability and easy wash care. Foxy Mummy cardigans are designed to be worn through pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond. Available in both a sleeved and sleeveless design, in fashionable Black and Nude sized Small to Extra Large”

Mini LUX

Mini LUX offer a handmade multi-purpose item that could quickly become something that simply goes everywhere with you, to be used every day.  Shop with Mini LUX here.  Robyn tells us about her product told me about her product.

“A Mini LUX baby cover is a 4 in 1 product that can be used as a breastfeeding cover, an infinity scarf, a capsule cover and a trolley cover. All covers are handmade by me on the Gold Coast, using soft breathable fabric.

After struggling to breastfeed comfortably in public with my first baby, I went searching for a breastfeeding cover and I couldn’t find one that suited my needs. I decided to make one myself and after getting asked to make some for my mummy friends, I decided to make it into a business. I love hearing stories from mums saying they are so much more comfortable breastfeeding in public using a Mini LUX baby cover! It is also great to know my product is a nappy bag essential for so many mums and a unique baby shower gift!”

Karra’s Kreations for Kidz

I loved hearing Karra’s story about how she came to be making her breastfeeding covers.  Her covers are a more classic design, made in beautiful prints.  Shop with Karra’s Kreations for Kidz here.

“I started sewing about two years ago. I taught myself by watching Youtube videos. My passion started when I needed soft minky blankets for my daughter – small enough for her to carry around, plus several spares.  I couldn’t find any so I made some myself. I posted some pictures of my creations on Facebook.  Word quickly spread through friends and Facebook. I am a single mum of two wonderful children running a little business to help with bills. I sew because I love to do it. Two years on I’m making all sorts of wonderful things – weighted blankets, pram liners, quilts, and I’ve now started making dresses. I hope to grow my business further so I can be working full time sewing when both my children are at school.”

Bubz Bundles

Samantha also makes a classic design of breastfeeding covers, together with variety of other items which she makes to sell at markets and online.  Shop with Bubz Bundles here.

“I always had a passion for sewing when I was in school. I asked for my first sewing machine when I was 16. I wasn’t great at first but I practiced a lot and I became good. My business came to me when I was on maternity leave with my son 4 years ago. As the years went on I started make new and different baby items. I made a nursing cover for a friend and she got asked by a few people where she got it and I then started adding it to my business. I’m now a single mum to two beautiful children, I also have a full time job working 38 hours a week and have my sewing business.  I sell at markets, or one-off pieces.  I can make things like nursing covers, burp cloths, bibs, nappy wallets and especially love making matching sets!”

Would you like to win a breastfeeding cover from Mama Clothing?  Please comment below with a “Yes please!” – a winner will be selected randomly on Friday 2 June at 8pm EST.

Breast Cancer – Pink Ribbons And Red Flags

You’ve probably heard of the Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day. They coordinate fundraising to provide research, prevention programs and support  regarding breast and gynaecological cancer

On the Pink Ribbon website, there’s a tab dedicated to Women and Cancer, and it talks about different kinds of cancer risk factors.

I was really surprised and disappointed to note that breastfeeding doesn’t appear to be mentioned anywhere on the Pink Ribbon Day website, as a protective factor against breast cancer. Increasing age, family history, genetic mutations, exposure to female hormones, obesity and excess alcohol consumption all make the list, but not breastfeeding.

There’s a ton of evidence to demonstrate relationship between breastfeeding and breast cancer, specifically the fact that the longer you breastfeed, the lower your risk of breast cancer is.

I checked the Cancer Council’s website to see if they talk about the relationship. They have a position statement titled “Overweight, Obesity and Cancer Prevention that mentions “breastfeeding convincingly decreases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer”. This one obscurely-titled position statement is the only spot I can find this limited amount of information, and it’s dated June 2008. I KNOW more information has become available since then.

The Breast Cancer Network Australia are a separate organisation in Australia, and I can’t see any mention of breastfeeding on their website either.  Cancer Australia offer a measly “Breastfeeding for a total of 12 months or longer can slightly reduce your breast cancer risk.”  However they have a calculator where you enter information about yourself and are given a calculated risk of breast cancer, which takes into consideration how many months you have breastfed.  So while Cancer Australia claim that breastfeeding may slightly reduce your breast cancer risk, it appears that they still feel the reduction is significant.

If I was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness about preventing breast cancer, and there was something that “convincingly decreases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer”, it would form a key part of my campaign.  But it’s barely mentioned.  I can think of a few reasons why, but no good ones come to mind.

Obesity is listed as a risk factor, and there are people who can’t, won’t or don’t want to lose weight.  Excess alcohol is mentioned, and there are people who can’t, won’t or don’t want to drink less.

My husband is one of four kids.  His 3 siblings and both of his parents struggle with obesity (although miraculously, my husband doesn’t).  This increases the risk of obesity in my children.  I won’t deny this risk, and although it sucks, accepting it means I can try to do something about it.  As a family, we focus on healthy eating habits and regular exercise because I believe it’s especially important in our situation.  Our circumstances don’t mean our kids are doomed to be overweight, and my steps towards good health don’t mean they are guaranteed to stay in a healthy weight range, but we will still do what we can.

Feelings are important, and I know there are people who feel triggered, upset and confronted when they learn about the relationship between breastfeeding and breast cancer.  But are feelings more important than facts?  If I was at a greater risk of sustaining breast cancer than the average woman, I’d want to know about it.  Would you?

For information about breastfeeding and breast cancer, please see this link, which contains a comprehensive list of studies that demonstrate the relationship.

Inclusive Language and Men Who Make Milk

Yesterday morning I scrolled down my newsfeed in Facebook and got caught up in a discussion about the importance for inclusive language when discussing lactation. The discussion was taking place in a group for lactation professionals (note: I am not a lactation professional, I’m probably not supposed to be in that group, oops!).

I often feel a little gagged when it comes to these types of discussions. I feel like I’m not knowledgeable enough of gender issues to talk about it without saying the wrong thing or offending someone, but I want to make a commitment to do better. I trust that anyone reading this who is more knowledgeable than me on such issues, understands that my learning process may include some mistakes. I am always happy to receive constructive criticism.

Two main messages were reinforced in this discussion:

  • A person that calls himself a man may not have the chromosomes that would slot him neatly into our society’s conventional image of a man. Vice versa for a woman.
  • I do myself no justice when I make assumptions about whether someone is a man or woman (or otherwise), what organs they may have beneath their skin and clothes, what roles they may play in their family and anything else they do in their life and who they do it with.

I know that LGBTQ people exist, and now that I’ve had the benefit of being involved in a discussion with a very broad group of people about the issue of inclusive language in lactation, I feel humbled and spurred to make some changes.

I know men breastfeed.  I know some Pygmy men allow their babies to comfort suckle, but I have also followed Trevor MacDonald’s story with interest. Have you heard of him before? He identifies as a man, but gave birth to a son and chestfed. But more than that, the more he learned about breastfeeding, the more passionate he became. He went on to become the first male to be accredited as a La Leche Leader and is now a health researcher and author in the field of LGBTQ lactation. You can read his story and follow his blog here.

The thing about Trevor is that I see more similarities between he and I, than I do differences.  He learned about the amazing qualities of human milk and what it could do for his baby, and became a passionate advocate.  He’s a lactivist!  Basically if Trevor and I met, I’d hope we could become best friends.  That alone is a damn fine reason to change my vocabulary when I’m talking about lactation, infant feeding, human milk and parenting.

While I had read stories about a few men who breastfed, it was only upon being involved in this particular thread about inclusive language that I realised what I say can actually have the potential to include or exclude people, especially those who don’t fall in the societal womanly norm.  That bothers me.  People who overcome huge hurdles to give their children human milk blow me away, whether they are breastfeeding, chest feeding or supplementing with human milk.  I’m disappointed to think that there may be something about the words I choose to use that has not made this clear to everyone, especially those in the LGBTQI community.

I never really thought about how using words like breasts, breastfeeding, motherhood, mama and breastmilk might be potentially excluding people who wanted to lactate.  Men make milk too, and I feel like I’ve been experiencing female privilege!

If it was hard for me, a cisgender woman, to find the information and support I needed in order to reach my breastfeeding goals, I can’t even imagine what it would have been for someone who is not a cisgender woman.  The idea that I’ve been accidentally excluding people who are already short on support doesn’t sit well with me, and I’m committed to changing this however I can.

How I will change is an idea that’s still evolving in my mind.  I will still talk about breasts and breastfeeding, because most of my posts are about my journey and I am a woman.  But I will be more mindful of my words going forward, and will probably start talking about human milk more than breastmilk going forward (which is logical – we talk about cows milk, not udder milk).  I will think more carefully when addressing posts to my followers, because even LGBTQ people aside, the parents following me to support their lactating partners deserve to be acknowledged too.  But I would like to make it known that I support and welcome men who want to feed their babies their own milk.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association are committed to providing non-judgemental breastfeeding support.  If you identify as LGBTQI and require breastfeeding support, please speak to a trained breastfeeding counsellor on 1800 MUM 2 MUM

Who Can We Donate Breast Pumps To?

Back on 26 August last year, the Pumping It Forward Project gave away it’s very first pump, and we’ve continued giving them out ever since. It felt so good to give, that we’ve continued giving them away. Our tally has now reached 20 breast pumps, with no end in sight.  For a full list of recipients, go here.

To support our project and help us keep donating pumps, all you need to is shop through our affiliate links. When you shop through our links, the Pumping It Forward Project receives a 10% commission to fund more pumps. for us to donate.

If you would like to shop with Spectra, please use this link – https://spectra-baby.com.au/ref/Breastfeedersinaustralia (or here).

The Spectra S2 is by far the most popular breast pump among the mums I interact with, however Pumpables released the Milk Genie earlier this year, and I predict it’s going to grow in popularity and will be a worthy adversary to rival the S2.  For under $170, it’s a steal!  To buy the Milk Genie or pump parts from Pumpables, use this link – https://pumpables.co/ref/breastfeedersinaustralia/ (or here).

As long as people keep buying pumps through our affiliate link, we will continue donating pumps to professionals and organisations who support breastfeeders and their families. The Pumping It Forward Project team don’t profit personally from the project – every cent that we receive goes towards donations.

The only downside to giving away so many pumps is that it starts to get hard to pick who to give one to next!

Do you know a professional or organisation who are instrumental in the support of breastfeeders and their families?  Could they put a brand new Spectra S2 to good use?  Please comment below!

5 Points About Breastfeeding With A Hypothyroid

Do you have a hypothyroid and worry that you won’t be able to breastfeed?

I am a mum with a hypothyroid and have been breastfeeding with no supply issues for over 5 years now, and have tandem fed, and donated many many litres of breastmilk to other families since beginning my breastfeeding journey. I am not a medical professional with specialist training in the endocrine system, thyroids or lactation. This post is about myself and my own experiences and is not meant to replace qualified advice.

But I have had a very successful breastfeeding journey, despite living with a hypothyroid. I am feel good and have plenty of energy in my day to day life which is more than what many hypothyroid sufferers can say, let alone hypothyroid breastfeeders.  I’m not not drastically overweigh either (I have a BMI of 26, which is just outside of the upper end of a normal, healthy weight, and considering I am a breastfeeding mum, I think I can be afforded a little leeway here).  I want to share what I have learned and what I believe in the hopes that it will help other mums breastfeed confidently with a hypothyroid.

When I first started having thyroid issues, my GP explained, in the most basic of terms, that my thyroid is a gland that controls my metabolism – my body’s ability to produce energy. If your thyroid is underactive, then then you will suffer symptoms associated with a slow metabolism, like:
– weight gain, and difficulty losing weight
– fatigue and weakness
– muscle pain and cramps (I get these in my thighs and calves a lot)
– hair loss
– depression, irritability, anxiety and decreased libido
– inability to tolerate cold

Although it’s known that a hypothyroid can hamper successful milk production, there’s little information about how or why this is. In my own mind though, it feels quite logical. If my body is working overtime to produce enough energy to keep me alive, it stands to reason that there’s probably not going to be enough energy left to wholly sustain another life through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding your baby on demand, avoiding any tactics or techniques to reduce or delay breastfeeds, and avoiding supplementation where possible should go without saying for any breastfeeding mum, so they don’t make my list.  My points below don’t include basic breastfeeding information – they are more about how to best look after your thyroid to give yourself the best chance at a successful breastfeeding journey.

1 – See the right doctor

I believe a big factor for my success is the way my hypothyroid is managed.  I have an excellent GP, and I trust his judgement completely.  However he acknowledges that thyroid issues are a specialist area, so he referred me to a brilliant endocrinologist too.  Whenever I think something is up, I see my GP as my first port of call, however he consults with my endocrinologist and keeps him up to date.  There have been times when my GP told me my blood levels were good, only to call me back in a few days later because my endocrinologist checked my notes and wants me to increase my medication.  As much as I value and respect my GP, if I didn’t also see an endocrinologist, I think my situation would be very different.

2 – Don’t ignore symptoms

It’s not normal to be drained and exhausted.  Yes, becoming a mum is tiring, and it’s inevitable that you won’t always get enough sleep.  But if you are so tired that you always wake up feeling worse than you did when you went to sleep, or that you struggle to get out of bed even to meet your baby’s needs, that’s a good reason to check in with your doctor.  Same goes with your mental health.  Becoming a mum is a big deal, and it’s normal to experience some unexpected feelings.  It’s even normal to feel overwhelmed and out of your depth.  But it’s important to be able to recognise when you have passed a normal emotional rollercoaster and are dealing with something more.  There are some really good online checklists (like this one) that can help you ascertain whether it might be time to seek extra help.

3 – Review your blood levels and medication regularly

After the birth of my son, I had a follow-up appointment with my endocrinologist.  My GP had said that my thyroid hormone levels were in the normal range, but I was still feeling quite fatigued.  My endocrinologist agreed that the hypothyroid symptoms warranted a medication increase.  He said the “normal” range is right for most people, but there will always be exceptions.  Every person in this whole world is unique and sometimes, for whatever reason, we don’t fall into the “normal” range.  I am very grateful that I have a specialist that looks at my situation as a whole, and not just the numbers on my blood test result.

4 – Take your medication properly

Did you know that, besides taking the right amount of medication each day, you should also:

  • Take tablets at least 4 hours after eating last
  • Take tablets at least half an hour before eating again
  • Not take tablets with other medication

Failing to take any medication correctly can cause you trouble, but failing to take your thyroid medication properly can make you feel seriously crappy, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to parent as well.  I am not a routine person at all, but getting serious with my medication is easy – I have a pillbox so I can swallow my tablets without thinking about it as soon as I wake up.  I go to the bathroom, change my daughter’s nappy and whatever else before I eat my breakfast.  When I’ve had to take antibiotics or other medication, I took them at other times.  When I was on the contraceptive pill, I took it at night.

5 – If you need to supplement

I have never had to supplement, but I have seen many mums fall down the slippery slope that one or two bottles a day can lead to.  If breastfeeding is important to you, but your baby isn’t having appropriate nappy output, if there are weight issues or any other indicators that they are not getting enough breastmilk, please see an IBCLC.  If your hypothyroid stops you from producing all of the breastmilk your baby needs, there’s still every chance you can keep breastfeeding with some supplementation.  Seeing an IBCLC can help you find the right balance between offering supplementation (including how much, when and how) while working towards preserving your breastfeeding relationship.

This information is my opinion, and should not replace the qualified support of a medical professional, like your GP, endocrinologist and/or IBCLC.  You can also get some support from the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 MUM 2 MUM

Criticism From People Who Are Hurting

Today I had someone react badly to a post that was shared from our website (a Member Post about being Unsure About Breastfeeding).  I don’t get a lot of negative feedback about the posts I write, but that’s probably because I’m relatively small-time, and my posts are generally shared with people who have opted, in some way or another, to read posts about breastfeeding.

The post was shared on the Parent Talk Australia page on Facebook – a Facebook dedicated to sharing content from Australian writers aimed at parents) and it attracted a really negative comment.  “Please stop making out that breastfeeding is amazing because not everyone feels that way… I breastfed because I thought it was the best thing for my son but the feeling is yuk and I felt so wrong doing it“.  She said if she ever had another child she wouldn’t breastfeed, and then criticised Parent Talk Australia for regularly sharing positive stories, when there are many women like herself who don’t have positive experiences.

When I first read the comment, I felt really hurt because while it may not always come across that way, I try extremely hard to keep my posts positive and aimed towards celebrating breastfeeding without putting non-breastfeeders down.  To feel accused of something I strive not to do felt really insulting and hurtful.  Besides that, what the heck did she want us to do?  Never ever talk about breastfeeding positively because she had a crappy experience with it?

But as quickly as I felt upset and defensive, after rereading her comments a few more times, I softened.  It sounds like she had an extremely difficult time trying to breastfeed.  It sounds like she had dealt with some seriously negative feelings about breastfeeding, and despite no longer breastfeeding, was still greatly affected by them.  It sounds like whatever she went through was bad enough to make her act irrationally in response to gentle, happy stories about mums feeling good about themselves.

And then I felt bad that I couldn’t even really offer her support.  I don’t know what it’s like to try really hard to breastfeed and not succeed.  I can’t tell that mama she was wrong for feeling the way she did – I don’t know exactly what she went through, but it must have been pretty bad to invoke such an angry reaction.  When someone’s in the moment of being angry and hurt, there’s often nothing you can say to bring them out of it.  In deed, anything I said from that point on, no matter what my intention or how nicely I worded it, would likely be seen as something with an agenda beyond offering support.  There was nothing I could do except let her feel what she felt and hope she had people around to help her through it.

I hope she’s OK.

If you are having a hard time with your emotions after your breastfeeding journey, the National Breastfeeding Helpline’s breastfeeding counsellors are trained in offering a debrief.  You can contact them on 1800 MUM 2 MUM,

 

Member Story – Unsure About Breastfeeding

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea of breastfeeding.  Pressure from friends and family can make the thought of breastfeeding quite daunting.  But once their baby is born and breastfeeding begins, many mums find that breastfeeding is not at all what they expected.  This is Courtney Pollock’s story and a photo of her baby, originally shared in Breastfeeders in Australia and shared with her permission.

“No one is more surprised than me at our journey.

Falling pregnant was a surprise, but hey, I’m 27 and was more than ready to be a mum even if that meant going solo. The most common question I was asked whilst pregnant shocked me, “do you plan to breastfeed?” I was asked on a daily basis multiple times (I’m a hairdresser and my clients would ask constantly). I thought many things, like why do they want to know? How is it any of their business? So what if I don’t? Why are we discussing this? It’s not a particularly offensive question but as a first time mum I was slightly taken back by the fact people wanted to discuss my boobs and what I was planning to do with them.

My answer to this repeatedly asked question was always the same “I plan to give it a go, but I won’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t work out that way”. Before my son was born I didn’t know my feelings on breastfeeding and whether or not I would feel comfortable doing it myself.  I watched my sisters breastfeed all eight of their children and it was never not completely natural – always welcomed and accepted but all of a sudden I was in the spotlight. I’d have to have my boobs out in front of my dad! My brothers! My friends’ husbands who didn’t have kids yet….could I really sit there comfortably and do that? Before he was born the answer was hell no!

My mother is an avid supporter of breastfeeding and breastfed me until I was just over a year old but still I felt something was off about it.  Just within myself I didn’t think I could ever fully be comfortable doing that. I kept telling myself ‘Mum’s never going to let you formula feed in peace, your going to HAVE to do this, even if you are uncomfortable, for at least six months to keep her happy and off your back.” When my mum has an opinion….she makes sure you know it! I look back on this time now and the thoughts that used to whiz around my head and think Jesus Courtney, how selfish were you! But that’s the way it was when it was just me!

When my little munchkin was born I pretty much demanded I feed completely alone for about the first week. There was an incident with a midwife at the hospital on our second day that left me inconsolable, in tears, feeling vulnerable and emotional. After that I demanded no one watch me feed. But with my mum’s encouragement (we lived with her for our first 12 weeks) and the exposure to groups like Breastfeeders in Australia on Facebook, I’m happy and extremely proud to say that breastfeeding has created my healthy, strong and thriving little boy. I’m still not completely comfortable feeding in public but my first thought these days isn’t how do I feel, it’s that my bubba needs to be fed and I’m the only one that can do that!”