my breastfeeding journey continued


I would say that breastfeeding has been one of my biggest surprises
in parenting as a whole.
I didn't have mixed feelings about it before I had the beautiful boy,
it was more that I had no feelings about it.
I wanted to give it a go,
but I wasn't at all worried about whether I would keep it up or not.
I had no expectations,
and my breastfeeding journey with my son,
just amazed me in the best way possible.
Second time around was different
because prior experience meant I had a ton of expectations.

I still stood by every word I had thought or felt the first time around;
that a happy mummy and a happy baby were the most important bit.
I was determined, yet again, that I would not allow myself to be a martyr to it.
I had two babies to be thinking about this time around after all,
and I had no doubt that a toddler running around
was going to present a new set of challenges for breastfeeding my new baby.

But like most things about parenting
when you are doing it for the second time,
I had baggage.
And a lot of mine was tied up in breastfeeding.
My breastfeeding experience with my first born had been amazing,
and more than anything I wanted to have that again.
Late on in my second pregnancy I found myself really looking forward 
to the opportunity to breastfeed again.
I was actually really worried that I wouldn't be able to for some reason,
I had horrible dreams about it and woke up in a cold sweat;
a baby that wouldn't latch,
milk that didn't come in,
a jealous toddler who screamed whenever I fed;
these things all featured in my hormonally charged dreams.
I was also so worried that I would manage to feed,
but that for some reason I wouldn't make it as long as I did with my son,
and I foolishly though that I would be a bad mummy if I didn't make it to a year with my second baby too.

That was kind of where I left it
And that was a while ago now...

When my little lady was born
similarly to her brother before her,
I didn't have a kangaroo delivery (where they place the baby straight onto your tummy)
I didn't do skin to skin contact
or feed immediately.
She was probably about an hour old when I fed her the first time.
She started snuffling around rooting for food,
I offered, and just like that she had it.
No teaching needed.
No lazy latch or sleepy feeding.
She fed hungrily and enthusiastically for 10 minutes
and that was that.

The quick version of the story would be
that twelve months down the line
things haven't changed very much.
But the truth is, there have been high points and low points in this breastfeeding journey.

For the most part my little lady has been a complete pro at feeding.
Where her brother would feed for forty minutes 
and anything beyond an hour on a growth spurt,
she has always been a quick feeder;
normally around eight to ten minutes,
fifteen to twenty as a maximum
and even then it was only because she was sleepy.
Her quick feeds certainly made my worries vanish
about feeding a baby
while also caring for a todder.

But a quick feeder is not without it's unique set of worries.
There were plenty of times when I was utterly convinced that my milk supply must be low
and that my darling girl must be hungry.
Those old concerns about never being sure how much milk a breastfeed baby gets
didn't seem to have gone away in the early days.
But confidence and prior knowledge did help a bit.

During my breast feeding journey with my beautiful girl
I also started another breastfeeding journey
as I began training to become a peer supporter.
Peer support was at the foundation of the confidence I had felt
to keep on feeding beyond the newborn days with my son.
Those lovely, friendly, experienced mothers empowered me.
They normalised any concerns I had,
they answered my questions on latch, routine and weaning
and most of all, they gave me knowledge and understanding 
about the positive thing I was doing.
Cheesy as it sounds
these women who gave their time and their expertise for free
inspired me to give back.
My own experience with breastfeeding has value to other mums,
and the training to become a peer supporter gave me more information 
to offer support and help when it is needed most.

By the time I finished my training
I had a year of feeding my son under my belt
and ten months of feeding my daughter.
I felt like I truly had this breastfeeding thing down.
And then I got thrown a curve ball.
A curveball which, thankfully, I had the knowledge to identify quickly.

I began to experience pain
not during but after feeding.
Only on one side
but it was crippling.
No exaggeration it left me curled over in agony
for anything from an hour to three hours after any feed I did on my right side.
The stabbing, deep tissue pain I was experiencing,
combined with my daughter pulling back during a feed,
indicated thrush.
And knowing how tricky it can be to treat
I went straight to the doctor for treatment.
Fortunately I was listened to
and I have no doubt my new peer supporter qualification
meant that the doctor took me far more seriously
and she gave me te exact aggressive treatment I needed.

Unfortunately while the thrush was treated
the damage it had done resulted in my suffering from vasospasm.
The deep stabbing pains continued
and increase in frequency and length.
Vasospasm is a pretty rare thing to suffer with
and from what I understand of it
during feeds the blood supply to parts of breast and nipple were being reduced.
As my little lady unlatched
my skin would appear pale blue or white,
before blushing to a purple
and then back to a normal pink
as the bloody supply returned to normal.
However this sudden flow of blood would cause spasms in the blood vessels
and it was almost like the breast tissue kept cramping,
which could only be soothed by staying really still and apply heat.
Vasospasm is something which, for most mums, simply has to run its course
and fortunately we were at a point where we were only feeding morning and bedtime
so I was able to take time to be comfortable and apply heat while waiting for the spasms to subside.

In all, this low point lasted about a month.
A month which, while I was in it, seemed forever.
I have no doubt that had it not been for my recent peer support training
and the support I received from other peer supporters at that time,
that it would have been the end of our feeding journey. 
Only the knowledge, or should that be hope, that it would pass
and my own stubborn streak and determination 
to give my daughter the good start my son had,
kept me going.
At the time I was so worried it would cast an ugly shadow
over my otherwise wonderful experiences,
or that, even worse, our breastfeeding would end on a low point.
But I persevered, we got through it
and we got back to normal, pain-free feeding.
And that time feels like a small blip in the scheme of it all. 
And silver lining of that particular cloud
is that I think I'll be a better peer supporter as a result.

And now...?
Now we have passed the point that my little boy stopped at,
and are breastfeeding into the second year.
The two feeds each day seem more than manageable
and my little lady's love of cows milk
means I can pop out for the odd night out
without needing to worry about her.
She was so needy and such a milk monster in her first six months
that I never thought we'd get to this point so soon.
I genuinely thought dropping every single feed would be a fight
but actually following her lead and going with the flow has been perfect.
She dropped the mid-afternoon, then mid-morning, then lunch time feeds with ease,
later than her brother did, but happily.

As to where our journey goes from here,
I couldn't really tell you.
Part of me wonders if now would be a good time to stop;
she is at a point where she likes to feed but can take it or leave it.
And I feel that maybe although stopping would be initiated by me
now could be a seamless and potentially easier time to stop.
But the other part of me thinks maybe continuing to follow her will work better
and waiting for her to self-wean like her brother did
might be the best decision all round.
I guess time will tell.

Breastfeeding and my experiences of motherhood are pretty tightly intertwined
and I wouldn't have it any differently.
It is one of the best things that I've done as a mother
and it is something which makes me ridiculously proud. 
It was, and is, absolutely the right thing for me, my babies and my family.
It makes us happy and that's what matters.

I have been lucky.
Many mummies are not.
I know that only too well.
Breastfeeding is not a given.
It is not easy.
And it is not the best thing for every family.
But it was the best thing for mine,
and I couldn't be more grateful. 

13 comments

  1. How lovely that it's worked so week for you and that you managed to work through and overcome the vapospasm. I'd not heard of it until now, sounds rotten x

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    1. Thanks hun, I've mostly been very lucky but I think most people who breastfeeding have their highs and lows, and it helps other mums to hear that other people have overcome issues. Vasospasm was horrendous, so glad it passed relatively quickly. x

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  2. Yikes vapospasm sounds painful. I'm so glad you made it through so that as and when you finish it will be on happy terms. I'm another lucky one and breast feeding has worked both times. With Kitty she self weaned just shy of two and the plan is to let Elma take the lead too. I'm pumping for Elma now that I'm back at work and however inconvenient it is to carry the pump kit around with me I love that I'm still feeding her even when I'm not there in person - it makes us a little less far apart.

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    1. That's such a commitment to carry on pumping now you're back at work. High five lady!!!
      I'm still undecided as to whether I'll leave the little lady to self wean or not, I guess I'll know when it's the right thing and the right time. x

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  3. I had never heard of vapospasm and you sort of think that once you have gotten through the first few weeks you have it sorted! I can already foresee me feeding Archie for longer than I fed Dylan but I don't know how or when our journey will end. You really should be so proud of what you have achieved and that you are passing on the support. x

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    1. Well exactly, you kind of think you're home and dry after 6 months really. A friend of mine who has fed two previous children and is currently feeding twins, had a bad bout of mastitis when they were about 13 months old. She'd never had any issues before.
      I really thought I'd be feeding constantly forever with the little miss, but it's funny how she's just naturally dropped feeds as she's grown up and grown more independent. x

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  4. I'd never heard of vapospasm either, it sounds so painful and you did really well to carry on through it. I think Cherry was over six months when I got my first bout of mastitis, I had no idea what it even was. It happened quite a lot this time too but luckily I knew and could use techniques to help it before it fully developed. There are parts to breastfeeding that are so hard but I have honestly loved it both times. There are days when I struggle and feel so touched out but then there are other times when it is one of the most amazing experiences in the world. I was prepared to keep on feeding Cherry but it came to a natural end when she was 18 months, I can only hope it has such a nice ending this time. It will be sad though as if J is out last I will never get to experience those sweaty, sleepy, milk cuddles again. SOB. I love that you are a breastfeeding peer supporter, it's def something I want to do in future xx

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    1. I totally get what you mean about feeling "touched out" sometimes. Some evenings I don't even want to hold hands with Rich because I just want my own space. And I agree that it's one of the most amazing experiences. I'm so thrilled to be passing on some of my experience to other mums. x

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  5. Ouch ouch ouch, I did not realise something like that could happen, bless your heart, you are an incredible mum. I obviously have never breast fed, but when I see a woman BF I think it is incredibly beautiful, I wish my head would let me, I did try once with Addy and Deacon and I couldn't get past some awful thoughts in my head, tbh I am not sure it would have ever been an option with any of my kids, Grayson couldn't feed at all, Addison had CMPA and severe reflux and Deacon is lactose intolerant and severe reflux, I always wonder if we have a 4th would I be able to get past my head to my heart and try it. Stories like this make me want to xxx

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    1. Thanks lovely, bu I think everyone has to make their own decision about what they are comfortable with Kara. I still stand by happy mum and happy baby mattering the most, and an uncomfortable mum isn't going to be happy. x

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  6. I never expected breastfeeding to become such an amazing part of my motherhood journey, but I am so glad that I did it both times through the struggles. I will be very sad to see it end. x

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    1. Me too, its been a surprise, but an amazing one. x

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  7. Thankyou for sharing your breastfeeding story, so many ups and downs and you've DONE so well.. go you.. I've added your post to my shout out post this week :)
    http://babytiley.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/shout-out.html

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