My first controversial topic. Nevertheless, a topic since becoming a Mum that I have become extremely passionate about.
Prior to having Aria, I knew that I wanted to express my breast milk – although, I hadn’t researched the benefits for me or her. So blindly I knew I wanted to use breast milk, but I never wanted to feed her from the breast. To me the idea of her suckling from me just seemed weird and unusual (sadly this is how society has made breastfeeding seem). I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy, I promise I’m not going to groan on and ask for sympathies. But it’s true! If you haven’t read my introductory post ‘The Beginning’ then you won’t know that at 13 weeks pregnant I was told Aria had Gastroschisis. If you haven’t heard of this condition before (which I hadn’t), to explain it simply, when the fetus’s abdominal wall/skin is forming in the early stages of pregnancy, a blood vessel (which will develop into skin) doesn’t form completely leaving a ‘hole’ in the abdominal wall. As a result, the small intestine then slips through and therefore grows externally. As Gastroschisis is related to Aria’s bowel, and breast milk contains immune boosters such as secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) which coats the internal organs and lining of the digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts – preventing any bacteria or pathogens from getting into her body through her gut. Breastfeeding was just a no brainer for me.
Direct from birth, Aria was wheeled off into surgery and for the first four days of her life myself and Michael were only able to see her through the plastic shell of her incubator. Not being able to hold her or smell her genuinely ate me up inside. From the moment I laid eyes on her, not only did I want to use my breast milk – I wanted her to feed from the breast. Seeing her tiny little body so sore and helpless made me want to do anything I possibly could to aid her recovery and provide her the best start in life. As Aria had to be in intensive care until she recovered, I wasn’t able to begin my breastfeeding experience with her. I had extremely helpful midwives who advised me what I needed to do in order to get my milk in. The main thing they advised was, once my milk was through and I was finally able to use the breast pump – was that I must express my milk every three hours. As Aria wasn’t feeding from me, I had to mimic ‘establishing a feeding routine’ by expressing all of the milk from each breast until it had emptied at this three hourly point, this also meant waking through the night as they stressed that the nighttime feeds are crutial as this is when milk production is highest (they weren’t kidding!!).
Babies with Gastroschisis have to be nil by mouth (without food) until they pass ‘meconium’ (poo) as the surgeons need to ensure that the bowel is working correctly. They are provided with artificial nutrition in the mean time to ensure their bodies are getting everything they need, through a ‘long line,’ which runs through the babies heel and up into a large vein in the babies leg (a long line is an advanced type of cannular). The nutrition is tailored to your babies needs by the surgeons instruction (very clever). The baby doctors advised us that this has taken some babies two weeks and beyond! Our little miracle pooed at just five days old. I never imagined I’d be so happy to see poo, haha!
The process of introducing breast milk and decreasing the intake of artificial nutrition can be long and extremely stressful – and we were told to expect to take one step forward and two steps back. But we were extremely lucky and blessed as Aria went from 2ml of my breast milk to 45ml’s in only ten days! As she was able to digest my milk, I was asked to try and feed from the breast…
…I cannot tell you how amazing it was to feel that complete connection with her. She was such a hungry baby that again luckily I didn’t have any issues with her latching. Before we were able to take her home Aria had to be able to be fed 65ml of breast milk via the tube directly into her stomach (the tube which you can see on the photo, going into her nose), which to us seemed as though it was going to be impossible. But to our amazement, like everything else, she did it.
Breastfeeding has been such an amazing experience, the journey getting to this point has not been easy, but Aria has absolutely flourished. She was born at 35 weeks 6 days gestation, at 5lbs 6.5oz and now at 5 months she now weighs 16lbs 13ozs – up to this point she has been exclusively fed with breast milk and until she is six months I will continue solely breastfeeding.
I honestly feel since beginning this journey that so many more Mums would choose this route if only they knew the benefits it had for both Mummy and baby – as well as were provided with more support. Although it seems tying, it is only for such a short period of time and articles which I have read really hit the nail on the head when they said ‘it’s investing in your child’s future.’
Why I feel Mothers that wish to breastfeed aren’t supported enough… is due to hearing stories from friends of mine, which have also just started their own families. I’m certainly not blaiming midwives, as I have the upmost respect for them! However, the period of time in which some women are on the ward (less than 24 hours) is not enough time to have support for breastfeeding. Many women experience severe pain as the latch isn’t right – I experienced this and it was awful (I thought Aria was going to tear my nipple off at one point, sincerely scared for its safety haha)! But because of this, they give up. They think it will always be like that. But ladies let me tell you, IT ISN’T! Once you find that comfortable latch, a comfortable nursing position and you’ve adjusted to being woken through the night (it gets easier, hang in there) – it is the most amazing experience in the world. You’re providing your little angel with milk tailored to her/his needs, that only your body can make. Isn’t that fascinating? Studies have also found that babies saliva passes cues to the mother’s body via the nipple when babies are poorly, which the mothers body then responds by creating antibodies to help the baby fight off infection… absolute magic! Many women also become concerned that they aren’t making enough milk. I was one of these people at first too! However, as you may have already heard/read babies which are breastfed are less likely to be obese later in life. This is due to breastfed babies releasing the nipple when they have finished feeding/are full. Babies which are bottle fed are encouraged by their parents to finish the whole feed prepared, whereas breastfeeding mums go from their babies cues and body language that they are full. Babies are a lot more aware of their bodies than early studies led parents to believe, which is completely amazing. Our little humans are amazing!
Why I feel that breastfeeding is a controversial topic… this is due to bottle feeding being seen as ‘the norm.’ Now, I am not the kind of person/mum to shun another mum for their choices during parenthood. However, some mums who choose not to breastfeed seem to have a perceived conception that all breastfeeding mothers have a chip on their shoulder that we chose better for our babies than them. If we were to look at statistics provided by doctors and lactation consultants, this would tell you that breastmilk of course is best. But mothers like myself are afraid to be proud that we’ve taken this choice for our babies because we’re scared to offend? Yet we don’t judge mothers who choose to bottlefeed (well some do of course, but not all)? It’s just crazy and irritating to me that all mothers don’t support one another. Not one of us is perfect, we are just trying our best to do what is best for us and our babies. I go to a breastfeeding group on Thursdays – it genuinely is just a collection of ladies from all different walks of life, who come together to drink tea and watch their babies play (it’s lovely). So, no it isn’t what you’d imagine! If you do have any concerns or questions related to breastfeeding however, there are health visitors on hand to answer any questions. Anyway… a lady from my group had visited a coffee shop where the owner had noticed her nursing her baby and therefore advised her that when breastfeeding Mums visit her shop they do not have to pay. The lady was so touched that she headed to Facebook to inform others of the shop owners generosity, support and kind heart – to which she was met with a lady who said “I bet she wouldn’t offer that to bottle feeding Mums…”. This frustrated me beyond belief. Can you understand why? I urge people to understand that to breastfeed in public is a significant step you have to overcome – it’s terrifying because you never know whether someone will tell you it’s inappropriate, ask you to leave, frown and shake their head. I am proud of every mum, whether they breastfeed or bottle feed. We’re all on our own journey and should all encourage and support one another!
The reason I’d like breastfeeding to become the ‘norm…’ is because it is sooooo amazing. Not just scientifically, but emotionally and physically. Every parent, of course, will bond with their baby – but having that time to sit and cuddle your angel and feed her with milk tailored to her body, made only by you is just the most fantastic feeling I’ve ever had.
I’ve wanted to do this post, not to educate, not to slam Mums who do not choose to breastfeed but to encourage those Mums which are on the fence – it is worth it! Often when you are a new parent, the concept of no sleep is extremely daunting and trust me whether being fed by a bottle or boob the first few weeks are super hard for the parents as babies don’t yet know the difference between day and night. But once you and baby have mastered feeding, it is honestly the most pure connection I’ve ever felt and I am so proud that I made this choice. The first few weeks of adapting to waking through the night and finding the latch seem never ending, but now that I’m 5 months in with ‘full time feeding’ coming to an end makes me so emotional.
I wanted to take the opportunity to say ‘well done you’ to all of you Mummys and Daddys out there. Parenting is difficult, but the most amazing and rewarding job in the world – you are all doing the most brilliant job and you deserve some serious recognition!
I again apologise for the extreme late post (skipped a week, whoops). Aria has been teething and now has two teeth (woo!) which has meant a sincere lack of sleep for me, therefore leaving my brain with little to no capacity to string much English (if any) together, let alone the ability to blog! Over the past couple of days I’ve also been battling an ear infection – yay winter! So I’ve finally, piece by piece been reaching completion, and now I’m here.
If anyone has any stories of breastfeeding they’d like to share or any questions / opinions please pop me a comment below – I’d love to hear others perspectives! I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and someone (half a person) takes something from this. I truly have such a passion for babies and Mummys – so well done to you all. Lots of love, hope you return – Shaan & Aria xxx