From boob to food

As this week is World Breastfeeding Week I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss my feeding journey with Myla from birth to now. It wasn’t exactly easy, and still has its tough days! I wish I could say we had the fairy-tale version where we breastfed and our connection was amazing and instant; however it wasn’t. When I started Myla on solids I had no idea on portion sizes and at what age I should up the intake/reduce her milk portions. I went to my trusty friend google but I still didn’t find the answer. The only way I learnt how to be a mum was from other mums therefore, I thought it might be helpful to share our feeding journey with you.

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Birth to 6 weeks
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This was probably the hardest period in my life as a mum when it came to feeding my girl. Oh dear lord was it hard. Thinking back to those early days still brings back a mixed bag of emotions from happiness to fear to anxiety to sadness to disappointment to anger. I was happy of course because I had given birth to the sweetest bub known to man, but it was short lived. The first 2 days were fine. I was in hospital recovering from my c section and feeding Myla when she needed it. I had various nurses come in and give me advice about different holds and latching techniques with big breasts (I am a DD). I couldn’t get comfortable, my back was constantly arched and I just wasn’t getting it! The football hold was my go to method but even that was tough.
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The first few days of feeding were ok as her stomach was the size of a marble. It then grew to the size of a ping pong ball on day 3 and that’s when the trouble began. I was in hospital for 4 days and my milk still hadn’t come in. I was concerned as I read that it should’ve come by now. I was 10 days overdue and induced when Myla was born via caesarean therefore all I could think was my body wasn’t ready for birth therefore my milk wasn’t coming. Or maybe it was because she didn’t feed until I was stitched back up? Fuck those days were stressful. I noticed my first cracked nipple on day 4 and decided to express to give them a break. For some reason I assumed expressing would draw out litres of milk, yeah no, it didn’t. When it was time to finally go home I was excited, but secretly shitting myself about feeding her as I knew I was in serious trouble.
When we got home I continued breastfeeding with a mixture of expressing. I was expressing every second feed as my nipples were still cracked. Myla then started vomiting after feeds; great…reflux. This was going to fuck with us even more. My milk still hadn’t ‘come in’ and never did…I never woke up one day and had huge milk filled melons, I had to work at it to get that supply up and even then the supply was abysmal. My hopes of breastfeeding Myla were diminishing by the day.
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I remember DREADING visitors in those first few weeks; I was anxious about having to breastfeed her with people in the house as it was a stressful situation. Every time I would breastfeed Myla she would be screaming. I don’t mean crying…I mean screaming. Let’s set the scenario; a new mum in a room on her own, trying to feed her newborn baby with reflux, baby is hungry and screaming, mum is panicked, emotional and defeated, guests are outside waiting to see said baby and can hear the struggle. It was shit. My husband was saying and doing all the right things but I didn’t listen to anyone. It’s hard to describe my mindset at that time, but that voice in your head is the only one you hear, and she was saying was ‘you’re a shit mum if you don’t breastfeed’.
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We had a home visit from one of the Mater Mothers nurses and I told her what was going on; the look she gave me when I said I was expressing was one I will never forget. She was absolutely disgusted! She then told me to stop expressing and only breastfeed Myla from then on. I felt like absolute shit. I was actually starting accept that fact that it was time to switch to formula in between breastfeeding; until that moment. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about that nurse. If I saw her today I would love to give her a high five to the face, with a chair for making me feel that way. I don’t think I will ever truly get over the disappointment in myself for not being able to breastfeed Myla properly, but the judgement from others makes me so mad. I didn’t particularly enjoy expressing lady! It was twice the work. I was either breastfeeding Myla or bottle feeding her my breastmilk, and then while she slept I was up expressing in preparation for the next feed. I had to set an alarm 4 hourly day and night to express. It was horrible! If I could’ve exclusively breastfed her don’t you think I would’ve done that?!
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It was about week 3 when I decided to stop breastfeeding. I just couldn’t do it anymore and the way it was making me feel wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t looking forward to my own baby waking up from her nap because of my breastfeeding struggles. I didn’t want to feel that way about Myla! I told my husband what I was feeling and that’s when we went to expressed milk during the day and formula at night. A slight weight was lifted off my shoulders, but I was still expressing around the clock…I couldn’t let go.
It wasn’t until week 6 that I stopped expressing and finally made the decision to switch exclusively to formula. Every week I would tell my husband just one more week, but at week 6 I finally had enough. I couldn’t keep doing a double shift of feeding Myla then waking up separately to express. When we would go out I would have to time it with my expressing schedule. It was too hard, and when I was expressing I couldn’t move. Myla would wake up or need a nappy change and I was hostage to the pump. It was time to call it quits and enjoy every minute with my baby. I still feel guilty about it to this day and doubt that guilt will ever truly leave me, but it was the right decision for us.
Note: At Myla’s 1 year needles I asked my doctor about her upper lip as I had noticed strange, and he told me that she had an Upper Lip Tie which would go away with age. He then said that this would’ve affected breastfeeding…I don’t know if this was definitely a contributing factor but it makes me feel a tiny bit better. This might be something to look out for if you are struggling with breastfeeding, as I only knew to look out for tongue ties.
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6 weeks to 4 months
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From 6 weeks to 4 months Myla’s feeding was pretty straight forward. We naturally got into a feeding routine which consisted of 6 bottles a day: four during the day, one before bed and one at midnight. Her bed time was 6pm, she would wake at 12am for a feed then it was straight back to sleep until 6am. She was an awesome sleeper (and still is). After our breastfeeding struggle I think this was god’s way of giving me a break!
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4 months to 6 months
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At 4 months old I introduced solids to Myla. I made this decision after speaking about her reflux issues with our family doctor. I was told that solids can help with reflux as it is harder for babies to bring up food. He said that it was fine to do so as long as I didn’t replace her milk with solids. I would offer her a tablespoon a day maybe, with most of it ending up on her bib rather than in her belly. She just wasn’t interested.
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6 months to 1 year
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At 6 months I attempted to up the ante on the solids but she still wasn’t interested! Banana and avocado was her favourite mix but she eventually grew sick of that. At this age she was still getting 4 bottles a day and 1 at night. I wasn’t overly concerned yet as she was still a baby. I didn’t really know at what age I should be replacing bottles with food and I would ask my friends and the responses would vary. Some of their babies were eating 3 meals a day in addition to milk; some were eating 1 meal a day in place of milk. There was no rules, I just went with the flow and responded to Myla’s demand. Some days she would eat two meals a day and skip a bottle, some days she would eat
nothing.
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1 year to present
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When Myla turned 1 we made the switch from infant formula to toddlers. At this stage Myla was still having 4 bottles a day yet the formula listed the maximum servings per day as 2! From the moment I saw that I stopped giving her milk during the day. It was that easy. Yes, there were some days I’d offer her food and she’d refuse but I‘d persist. I would put it away and try again in an hour. Don’t get me wrong, it was frustrating and still is! If Myla doesn’t want to eat then she will not eat. I have a toddler with attitude. She turns her head away, smacks the spoon or spits it back out at me. She still gets a bottle when she wakes up in the morning and one at night before she goes to bed; but that’s in addition to her 3 meals and 2 snacks a day (if she eats them all). There are some days she ends up having biscuits for dinner as she refuses real food. I used to be adamant that I wouldn’t feed her any junk food; but that changed pretty quickly once fussy Mc Fuss Fuss was here.
It’s really easy to pass judgement on other mums, especially when you aren’t a mother yourself. I have eaten so many of the words that I spoke B.M (before motherhood). All I ask is that you think twice before raising your eyebrow at the mum at the shops browsing the formula isle or handing her child that packet of chips. You don’t know that person and don’t have the right to pass judgement on seeing 5 minutes of their life as a parent. It’s a tough gig, and your dirty look or unsolicited advice might make or break that mum. Remember; fed is best!

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