Morgan's Breastfeeding Journey
“The thing that scares me the most about having the baby is breastfeeding”. I can still picture sitting in the passenger seat driving home from antenatal class in early 2014 and confessing this to my husband.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my breasts (emphasis on the hate). Too big, too small, too saggy, too ugly. The thought of getting them out in front of people filled me with terror and dread. Years of battling with my body - disordered body image and control via eating - had meant I had absolutely loathed pregnancy body changes. However, the scientist, the nurturer, the overachieving perfectionist inside that very loathed body so desperately wanted to give my baby “the best” and so I had decided to try.
Pregnancy in general wasn’t my friend. Severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum led to malnutrition and fatigue. Eventually after weeks of trying everything from drugs to feeding tubes to PICC lines the decision was made for my baby to be born early.
He was 5 weeks early.
He was healthy.
He was thriving.
His mother: not so much. To be honest I didn’t expect milk to come in very well: I was losing weight rapidly and could barely stand - so how did I expect to make milk? Surprisingly, small golden drops were milked out minutes after his birth. Unsurprisingly, formula top ups were rapidly suggested by well-intended midwives.
And so, our mix fed journey began. I made peace with it quickly. After our pregnancy journey it made sense that I would be too defective to make enough milk to adequately nourish him. I was young and naïve and knew nothing about how to increase supply, or to seek lactation consultant support. I took the first advice at face value, and we followed a cycle of feeding, pumping and topping up with formula. At times mix feeding was an absolute saviour – first of all there was the pain (oh the pain). The toe curling, bum clenching, tear inducing pain of latching a voracious baby onto cracked nipples. Having him on a bottle made life much easier. Pumping and feeding pink tinged milk. The vvv-vvv-vvv-vvv-vvv of my newly opened dairy farm in our inner city unit. Then there was the trusted late night formula bottle with Daddy whilst I slept. That solid 3-4 hours every evening stitched my sanity together. I grew to love our mix feeding solution..
Later, as we emerged from the messy exhaustion, I realised it was the breastfeeding that I loved the most. The soft little head nestling into the crook of my elbow, instantly satisfied. Instantly relaxed. Instantly asleep. Tummy pain? Breastfeeding fixes it. Ears sore in flight? Fixes that too. Fright from the cat? Breastfeeding again. Can’t sleep? You guessed it… breastfeeding. My superhuman superpower.
And then, after 4 months at home I returned to work full time as a registrar (specialist-in-training) at a very busy tertiary hospital. I was also studying intensely for my specialist exams. And suddenly, breastfeeding was my sanity. After a day of rushing, of body fluids, of charting drugs, of soothing other people’s family members… I was Mummy again. Sometimes I would leave in the dark and get home in the dark. I missed him and ached for him and worried about being away from him. That little warm mouth and those pudgy soft hands reaching for me connected me to him. It was our thing. It was my reminder that I am his Mummy. Breastfeeding was everything.
Without planning to, the weeks turned into months turned into years. 3 and a half to be exact. That woman who’d been so afraid to give breastfeeding a try was suddenly breastfeeding a toddler who spoke in full sentences. And one day, as I sat heavily pregnant with his sister, he unlatched and said to me “Mummy, can you check if there’s any milk left? I don’t think there is”. And he was right. And it was over. It unfolded organically and we were both at peace with it.
And that is how breastfeeding became my very favourite part of motherhood.
Written by Dr Morgan Edwards