THIS IS OUR IMPERFECTLY PERFECT BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY
Robyn-Ashley, South Africa
Every Mothers breastfeeding journey is unique, but what makes ours special?
OUR HISTORY OF BREASTFEEDING
We were first exposed to breastfeeding very early on in life, it was a long standing family tale between our Mother and Aunts that they breastfed each other’s kids. While this may seem strange to some, we may be judged by others but this was the norm in our family. At times this even extended to our Mother and her cousins.
We come from a line of 3 generations of woman who shared the breastfeeding roles within the family.
There’s was never a doubt in our minds that we would breastfeed our girls and for the most part it’s been great, but as with any breastfeeding journey it didn’t come without its share of challenges.
THE CALL FOR HELP
The first two weeks of little Nova's life, I had plenty of milk, I was basically a cow; but I was also dealing with some post-birth complications and I did not realize (and nobody told me) how much stress, medication and pure exhaustion could impact your milk production...
Fast forward to week 3, where we found ourselves sitting in a hospital, with a Paediatrician, convinced that something was wrong with our perfect little angel. Week 3 was rough man. Nova cried, no, she wailed, for the entirety of that week. Day and night. 24/7. She didn't sleep and it felt like she was constantly on my boob. CONSTANTLY.
After a night of us sleeping over at my mom (because we NEEDED the help) I had a complete panic attack. I didn't know what I was doing wrong and I didn't know what was up with this little babe... But, I could. not. deal.
While we were in the doctor's office, Nova started screaming and panic immediately overtook my body. When I heard the doctor say, "this child just sounds like she is hungry," my heart dropped. "How could she say it so easy-breezy, was she saying that I don't feed my child?" "How dare she?!" "Does she know that Nova is attached to my breast ALL day, EVERY day?!" "I can't even take my salt baths without having someone feeding on me, does she know that?!"
LOL yup, all of those thoughts went through my head for the remainder of the consultation. When she suggested that we move to formula, oh boy, nothing could've prepared my Mama heart for that. I felt like the most useless being there ever was (honestly, sometimes I still do.)
Now, I have absolutely nothing against people who choose to formula feed their baby, absolutely NOTHING. If your baby needs food, do whatever is best for him/her and do it immediately. But I, me, Robyn-Ashley, I had a desire, a dream and a plan to breastfeed my baby for as long as I possibly could. So when the option of formula came up, I knew I only had one other option...
My older sister, Lindsay, gave birth two weeks before I did, to my precious little niece, Grace (she really is so precious! The happiest little girl you could ever meet.) Immediately I knew that I needed to call her, and ask to borrow her boobs, just until we figure things out.
(Now let me also just put it out there, if I didn't have my sister, I too would've gone straight to the store to buy Formula... Please know that I am by no means disregarding Formula Feeding.)
Part of me thought that was the most strange request in the world, but all of me knew that she would say yes without batting an eyelid. And just like I thought, she didn't even have to think about it. She was at my mom's house within a matter of minutes, and bam, Nova was being fed a full meal for the first time in a week and I got to keep my desire of having my baby breastfed (even if they weren't my breast).
(Also, I must just say, it was the sweetest thing watching Nova before she latched on... Poor darling was so confused and so unsure if she should do it. She kept on looking at me with eyes of "what the hell are you people doing?!" but eventually, she could not resist the smell of that milkies!).
GOING AGAINST THE NORM
Nursing my niece, Nova
I could never be more proud of my sister for giving birth to Nova, it wasn’t the easiest of births but it was beautiful. Moments after her safe delivery into this big wonderful world I called and heard the sweetest cry – she was here, my Aunty heart instantly doubled in size.
All new Moms know that it takes a while to find your feet, heck, even seasoned Moms know this and whilst we want to provide support we also need to know when to take a step back and let them breath.
Robyn did an amazing job and had a great support system waiting on the wings to help when she shouted, and then, she shouted.
Our bodies are weird and wonderful all at the same time, while she was able to feed her baby she also needed to adjust to the lack of sleep and added pressures on her body following birth and was exhausted from Nova cluster feeding. Before Robyn even finished her sentence I was gathering my nappy bag and strapping my baby into her carseat to be at my Sisters side.
I was honoured she had reached out and asked for help and without thought said yes. During this time I even managed to express some milk and share with them just in case of emergencies.
The anxiety which filled my heart with my upcoming return to work was on another level. I assumed having done this before it would be easier, but it was not. What made it extremely hard was that Grace decided she no longer would accept the breastmilk bottle which she’d been taking on and off through my maternity leave.
By now the mom guilt was out of control and I knew that the first week without her would be hard, not only for her but for myself and my Mom who’d be caring for her. I felt like somehow I was failing her, I wasn’t doing what was best and putting her needs first and although I’d love breastfeeding it was going to cause her anxiety when I wasn’t there to feed her.
Sharing my concern with others didn’t help, as much as they tried providing comforting words “She’ll be ok” or the firm approach “She’ll drink if she’s hungry” it didn’t help me feeling unprepared. Not to mention the effect that stressing had on my milk supply.
When then the big day arrived and I returned to work it wasn’t easy. There were many tears, an empty tummy and a baby who was refusing the bottle. Without any hesitation my sister came to the rescue and fed Grace. Instantly my Mommy heart was full and my baby’s heart was content and she fell asleep peacefully. Having my sister co-nurse Grace made the transition of being without her easier in the early days.
CO-NURSING WITH MY SISTER
Co-nursing (also termed cross-nursing / milk sharing) is a shared relationship in which a mother who cannot nurse her baby (for various reasons some of which range from milk supply, illness or circumstantial) utilizes the help of a fellow lactating Mother to meet her own baby's needs.
The practice of milk sharing between Mothers who are co-nursing is deeply personal and there’s a level of trust that is shaped from these relationships. Not everyone is able to co-nurse and all women should make an informed decision regarding this option should they wish to explore it.
There’s an extra special bond which has been formed through this journey, not only for us as sisters but for our little girls.
THIS IS OUR IMPERFECTLY PERFECT BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY.