What’s triumphant about Tuesdays, you may be pondering? Well, Tuesdays are now THE day of the week to celebrate success in infant feeding (Friday’s are SO cliched! Yawn).
It all started with a post I made on Facebook. Turns out, this post had mothers spitting and snarling at each other like a bunch of dogs fighting over a bitch. Here’s my post:
“Calling all breastfeeding moms!! You may be aware of a certain blog where formula feeders drone on about their story of hardship, about the boobie traps which snared them, the breasts which failed them. Every Friday there is a new tale of woe. Welllllll… how about we make our own – but with a positive twist! I’m going to put together a collection of stories from breastfeeding moms who have OVERCAME boobie traps, using their hard work and determination. Whether the hurdle was postnatal depression, mastitis, unsupportive family members, low supply, or anything in between. Did YOU have a challenging breastfeeding experience? Get typing and email me at [email protected] I will showcase your story on the blog!”
…And so we have the first ever Triumphant Tuesday! Every week I will post a story of a truly fearless breastfeeding mom. This week’s story defines fearless!
Two breasts. Three babies. It doesn’t look like Mother Nature did the math on this one. Yet even the seemingly impossible wasn’t enough to deter this mom from giving her babies the natural start they deserved.
Let me introduce Davina. She endured inverted nipples, cracked nipples, and an unsupportive husband. Then… nature dished out its biggest challenge.
This is her story.
“My first child, a baby girl, was born two decades ago. I was 21 and went home with her after a week in hospital with very little ongoing support or advice. My first memory of breastfeeding was a nurse just grabbing my breast (without asking) and shoving it in her mouth. My nipples were completely inverted prior to breastfeeding. No-one ever told me this could be a problem. My mom was open about how she only breastfed me and my sisters for 6 weeks each, and I was the first to produce grandchildren so I had no breastfeeding role models. I just got on with it really.
Nipples Hanging on by a Thread
After a few weeks my nipples were badly cracked. The damage was so severe that one side looked about ready to fall off. At the time, I didn’t know what the pain was and just carried on until the nipple was literally hanging by a thread! I had no knowledge of correct latch. I thought babies just ‘got it right’ through instinct. I tried nipple shields but found them cumbersome and pretty useless.
I never thought of giving up breastfeeding. Instead, I called La Leche League who sent someone out to check what was going wrong. They helped me, and I expressed milk and fed my daughter with a bottle for a couple of weeks until my nipples had healed – then I was right back at it!
I went on to breastfeed my daughter for 13 months when she self-weaned probably due to me getting pregnant with my second daughter. I breastfed her also for 13 months, when she also self-weaned. By this time, my nipples were no longer inverted and have never gone back to that shape … which is a blessing considering what was going to happen!
The Birth of the Triplets
The biggest challenge to my breastfeeding journey came 20 years later when I gave birth at 41, to triplets. They were born early at 34 weeks. Consequently, they had to learn how to feed as the suck/swallow/breathe action required for feeding doesn’t normally kick in until about 35/36 weeks.
Unsupportive Medical Staff
Again, I never thought for a minute that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed my babies. However sadly, no one shared my confidence. Everyone told me it would be impossible…midwives, nurses, specialist doctors… even though the hospital actively encouraged breastfeeding – apparently this didn’t apply to triplets. The medical staff would nod and smile in a patronizing manner when I said I would be breastfeeding the triplets. They even told me I should ‘practice’ with formula before I took the babies home so that I wouldn’t have to learn it when I was completely frazzled by them screaming because they were starving! No one ever made any positive comments about my decision to breastfeed. Not one. Even the Lactation Consultant, who came round the NICU, wasn’t encouraging. She was just ‘good on you for trying’, but not saying ‘you can totally do this, here’s some info on bf triplets and the number for LLL and some other women who have done it’.
My husband, being a first time dad, was very much ‘doctors are God, and if they say we should practice with bottles, then we should’. I often had to say to him, ‘yes I am very tired, but I am not supplementing with formula just to get some sleep, or so your mother can ‘help’. I am breastfeeding and that’s that.’
Growth Spurts and Sleep Deprivation
Of course, I ignored the formula-pushers, and by the end of the third week in NICU my babies were home. I have always been blessed with a great milk supply, or maybe it’s just a normal milk supply and I am blessed with great confidence in my body’s ability. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean it was easy. Growth spurts were hard work when I literally didn’t do anything except feed, feed, feed. Complete sleep deprivation has been a major issue because I am the only food source. My husband and I had to work out a strategy for us to both to get some sleep. After some trial and error we settled on the following routine:
- I breastfeed all babies all day
- I breastfeed our son all night
- I pump about 400ml of breastmilk first thing in the morning
- My husband feeds the girls this EBM during the following night
During the night, co-sleeping was a life-saver! During the day, each baby needed only one side for a full feed, and even if they feed one after the other there is usually enough for everyone and if not, then the one who feeds last might get what’s left in both sides.
The triplets are now nearly 10 months old and all weigh over 8kg, (18lb) so mama’s milk is some gooood stuff!
Women Who Don’t Breastfeed
I am very judgemental about women who don’t even try to breastfeed. I kinda wish I wasn’t, but I can’t help it. Women who try their best and it doesn’t work, ok. However, women who give it a half hearted go and then blame low milk supply or something – I don’t have a lot of time for them. There is soooo much information and support and education and other moms to talk to, I just don’t get how mother nature could’ve gotten it so wrong, that so many mothers ‘can’t’ breastfeed. I don’t believe it.
I think that through inverted nipples, cracked nipples and multiple babies the thing that stands out to me wasn’t luck, or even support and role models, because I never really had those…it was just a confidence in myself, a belief that my body could do it, if I would just trust it. When my babies were feeding constantly my first thought wasn’t ‘I don’t have enough milk’, it was ‘growth spurt’…When they were spilly I didn’t think ‘I must have eaten the wrong thing’, I thought ‘prem babies have immature throat/tummy sphincters’…When they were grizzly my first thought wasn’t ‘what am I doing wrong’, it was ‘teething’…I’ve seen obstacles as external issues that can be controlled or passed through, not as something internal like my body is failing me. I believe this is key…all the support in the world won’t help until women give themselves some confidence, faith, trust, and belief.
The only challenges I have now are sleep deprivation, and people starting to say that because my babies are nearly 1, it’s time to wean. However I see this as my full time job. Sure, breastfeeding takes up a lot of time, but it’s my commitment to my babies.”
Davina’s Bingo Card:
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