I’ve had two children and my breastfeeding experience varied for both. The first rule of breastfeeding is do not compare yourself to anyone. It’s a very personal journey. Breastfeeding can be straightforward, but for most people, it’s unpredictable and rarely goes to plan. It seldom is an easy start. I’ll be honest straight up and say I did not enjoy breastfeeding the way many Mum’s do, but I will explain the condition I had which influenced this further down (I will say, it’s OK to not enjoy breastfeeding, whether you have a condition or not). I really could talk and talk for hours about advice I would offer for new Mum’s about to embark on their own breastfeeding journey, but I won’t. I’ll stick to what Jessie Juggles Two is all about which is teaching through my own experiences. Read how it went for me, and hopefully you can see where you would like to do it differently or find things that appeal to you. And just while we’re here, if you didn’t breastfeed through choice or because you couldn’t, that’s ok. You’re still amazing and never let those judgy mummy’s tell you otherwise.
If you aren’t interested in doing any birthing or parenting classes, that’s up to you. Personally, I only did classes before my first child and I really enjoyed them and learnt alot. But, the one I found the most valuable was the breastfeeding class. Many people took their partners but I chose to go alone because it was going to be me doing the feeding. I could pick out the important things to share with my partner later. Before the class, I had the same misconception as many, that breastfeeding was a natural thing, therefore it would be an easy thing. Wrong. I was illuminated to the many possible problems faced during breastfeeding and learnt about some key things I could do at the time of birth to make things easier for my baby and encourage a better experience. The main take away was the breastfeeding is a team effort between Mum & Baby…and the midwife for the first few days! I had the food, and I could lead the baby to the food, but it was the baby who had to drink. Quite often, the connection of those steps was the cause for trouble. It most certainly was not as easy as flopping a titty out and the baby latching on to suck down the goodness of mothers milk.
When my first child, Jaxxi, was born, I had my skin to skin time with her but she wasn’t ready to feed right away. You are encouraged to get your newborn to latch on and feed as soon as you can, to get the nourishment of your collustrum into them. Being naive, we thought since Jaxxi wasn’t ready to feed, and since my Mum and Steve’s parents were in the waiting room, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first grandchild, we would let them in to meet her. My husband was so excited to share Jaxxi with our family, but in hindsight, I think this is what hindered the breastfeeding. After Steve had his time with Jaxxi, everyone else had a snuggle. Eventually she came to me because we really needed to try get this first feed happening. But by now, she had been exposed to so many different scents, it had confused her. Still no feed. For the first two days I had to MILK MYSELF (they never gave me a pump, I had to glamorously squeeze my own boob and catch the colostrum in a medicine cup) so we could syringe feed Jaxxi. I was in a public hospital and I wanted to go home but they wouldn’t let me until her feeding was established. At one stage I had a midwife helping me hold Jaxxi and my boob and whenever Jaxxi opened her mouth, this lady would (gently) smoosh my baby’s head against my boob in the attempt to get her to latch! I didn’t care by that point. My dignity was well and truly left at the door. Eventually the only way we could get her to feed was if I started off without a top on, let her lay on my chest and then wait for her to wiggle down to a breast, anticipate her mouth opening and then shove my boob into her mouth. The operative word being SHOVE. It was a process! And one that continued for the first few weeks. Which meant I had to find somewhere extremely private to feed her because I would be naked from the waist up. It was also extremely painful. My toes would curl for the first few seconds. Everything was so raw and never given the chance to heal. Finally a consultation with the midwife helped me make some vital adjustments, allowing for a more comfortable latch.
My second child’s first feed was a cinch! I held him, no one came to the hospital, and he was off and feeding well. The toe curling pain was back, but at least his latch was established.
First 6 Weeks
The experience with my both my kids was quite similar once the feeding was established. However, I suffered terribly from something called Dysphoric Milk Ejaculation Reflex or DMER. This was self diagnosed. The midwives and doctors seemed to have never heard of it when I brought it up, however it is a real thing. I know many Mum’s personally who experienced it and also self diagnosed their condition.
Basically, when you breastfeed, it is meant to release a bunch of beautiful, happy chemicals in the brain which is why many women boast about how much they love breastfeeding and the strong bond it creates. I never had this. Breastfeeding was a chore for me. I was scared of it. Because when I fed, I would not get happy feelings, but instead waves of panic and sadness. They were gone within 30 seconds. But every feed started this way. It never fully went away, but the intensity lowered the older my kids got. Even when I wasn’t feeding but I would get random let downs (a natural reflex to hearing or even thinking about your baby, as the milk is released into your breast, ready for feeding) and the negative feelings soon followed.
Unfortunately there is a real lack of support for Mum’s who go through this. I barely mentioned it to anyone with Jaxxi, but I got it again with Jagger, I talked about it a lot more. I did feel silly because even professionals didn’t realize it was a thing and they just encouraged me to keep going. There was nothing else they could do. So if you’re reading this and feel like you went through this, or are going through this – reach out! I will understand and having someone who understands is a great help.
I also suffered bouts of mastitis. I had it twice with Jaxxi, and once every month for 5 months with Jagger! I would see a doctor the moment I felt it coming on and began my antibiotics, but it got to the point where it would be 2-3 hours between getting a slightly aching, red boob to full on flu-like symptoms that knocked me for six. My whole body would ache and my breast would be so swollen and sore, I was sobbing trying to feed Jagger. I HAD to feed him, because getting the milk out of the breast provides some relief, but the slightest touch was agony.
I decided with both my kids, I would wean them at 10 months. It was about all I could manage with the DMER, but I also wanted to choose a time they would be ok with. If it got to that age and I sensed it would be too soon, I would’ve kept going for them, however, they were both ready. In Jaxxi’s case, we began swapping feeds for bottles. This was no trouble and I successfully weaned her in a few weeks. There was a lot of research done by me to ensure I gently got her off the boob and I was happy with the process. She was happy too which was the most important thing.
Jagger was slighty different. He was eating solids extremely well and it was evident he no longer needed the nutrients of breastmilk, but that it was more of a comfort for him. At 10 months old, he was waking 5-9 times a night and a feed was the only thing to calm him back to sleep. It was too much and I was exhausted. I called Ngala and they suggested it was time to cut the night feeds. I followed their instructions and within three days, he was off the boob completely. He still woke but only 2-3 times and I was able to settle him without a feed. By 11 months, he was finally sleeping straight through. I felt terrible I took the comfort away from him and in a much more abrupt way than I did it with his older sister. But, I tried to remind myself it was for his own good. It meant he would settle. It meant he would sleep. It meant I would sleep, which allowed me to be a better Mum with more energy and patience.
Breastfeeding was definitely a roller coaster for me. There are certainly a multitude of quiet, peaceful moments I will forever treasure and miss now that the breastfeeding is over. But it was not something I could maintain because of the DMER and constant Mastitis. I am sad I wasn’t able to enjoy it the way others can but I’m thankful I was able to feed them that way. Sometimes Mums are judged for not enjoying the experience of breastfeeding – it’s ok to not find as much joy as others. The important thing is you fed your baby, through everything. My boobs have been through a lot. They’ve grown and shrunk multiple sizes, multiple times and had the life literally sucked from them. So, when I’m done having children, I’m going to get some new twins of my own!
For those ladies who can’t breastfeed, I just want to say you are still an inspiration. Bottle feeding is no easy task. All that matters is that a child is fed. Breast or bottle, just make sure they’re fed.