3 babies, 3 different journeys!

When we, as health professionals, say to you “every pregnancy will be different, every birth will be different, every baby will be different, every breastfeeding experience will be different” it is true.  I never would have believed it, if I didn’t experience this myself.

All 3 journeys, totally different.

When I was having my first baby, I was a young 20-year-old with not a lot of life experience.  I’d only just learnt to look after myself, how was I going to care for, and feed a baby.  I grew up very quickly, learnt to adjust very quickly and learnt to cope with change very quickly.  Whilst I had support around me, they weren’t there with me every minute of every day.

I had grown up knowing breastfeeding was normal and was exposed to breastfeeding from an early age, as my own mum was a very active member of our local Nursing Mother’s Association (now known as Australian Breastfeeding Association).  I didn’t really consider feeding my baby any other way – but it was very challenging.  I was trying to get back into my studies, I wanted to be out and about a lot more, I wanted to be able to leave my baby in the care of other family and friends.  So, I decided to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding – and that worked well until my baby decided she didn’t want to breastfeed any longer at about 6 months of age.

My second baby arrived 8 years later.  I now had a lot more life experience, I had finished my studies, I was now working as a Midwife.  I was more au fait with the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.  I was more determined to succeed at breastfeeding for longer.  This journey presented different challenges and different hurdles to overcome.

After a long and difficult labour led to an emergency caesarean, my recovery took time.  My transition to motherhood, second time around, was not easy and I needed some extra care and support whilst I navigated post-natal depression.  My baby was not a good sleeper; when she was awake, she wasn’t happy and content; and she was “fussy” at the breast – pulling off, squirming, and vomiting.  Trying to understand why she was doing all of these things was frustrating and time-consuming.  At one point, she totally refused the breast!  Not good for my mental health.

As I started to recover both physically and mentally, she started to improve as well. 

I realised the breast refusal was due to the fact I had started using a different perfumed moisturiser which had quite a strong scent – too strong for her sensitive little nose and she kept pushing me away.

Once we worked through things together, I gradually began to feel better and our journey through breastfeeding improved.  She breastfed up until 12 months of age, when I returned to work. 

My third baby arrived through a planned elective caesarean.  I was worried my body would not labour effectively or well due to my past experience.  So, I planned everything!  From organising the house renovation, work, family to who was coming to help care for the children whilst I was in hospital.  I started this journey feeling ambivalent about breastfeeding – I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself or the baby.  After initially deciding to just bottle feed, I changed my mind and decided I would attempt breastfeeding, but if it wasn’t working, I would stop and bottle feed.   Due to the house renovation, the children and I were going to stay with my parents for a few weeks, until the house was a little closer to being ready.  These 5 weeks were crucial for my physical recovery and also enabling my breastfeeding to be established.   After gritting my teeth through the pain of damaged nipples – you would have thought by the third time I knew how to position and attach my baby to the breast – and a bout of “never before experienced” mastitis, our journey was a positive one!  This third baby actually fed the best and slept the best out of all 3!

These 3 very different experiences have taught me many things! 

  • Don’t have any expectations;
  • Things change very quickly – day by day;
  • Babies learn very quickly;
  • Babies grow very quickly;
  • And what you are feeling now, today, will be different in a few days’ time.

Gather your village around you and make sure you have plenty of emotional and physical support. 

Get rest! 

There is no doubt at all, how tired you will feel – but it won’t last forever, so in the early days rest and recover as much as you can.  Learn and educate yourself as much as you can before the baby arrives.  Your main focus will be on how the baby will arrive and when the baby will arrive but try to also do some research and education on how you are going to feed the baby.

How lactation works, how your breasts might feel, positioning and attachment, newborn behaviour, what to expect – all very helpful things to know which will hopefully make your transition to mothering a little easier.

Love your breasts, and love your baby!

Pen x


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