Have You Started Learning About Breastfeeding?

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My breastfeeding story begins with my independent midwife saying to me ‘have you started learning about breastfeeding’ and with me responding ‘I thought it just happened naturally’. After kindly and gently letting me know that ‘it doesn’t just happen naturally’, my wonderful midwife lent me countless DVDs to learn from. I also joined the ABA and read their book cover-to-cover. We planned a home birth, however, after two weeks of stage one labour at home, I had only dilated 1cm. At 43 weeks gestation, I had a meconium leak, so we needed to transfer to the hospital. I was induced twice (which neither of us coped with after two weeks of labour at home). After two inductions I had only dilated 4 cm. In the end we chose to have a caesarian before the situation became an emergency. I am really grateful to the hospital staff who were very respectful of me and my wishes. They read my birth plan carefully and referred to it each time we needed to make a decision. This made all the difference to how I coped with my experiences.

I did everything in my power to give birth naturally at home. However, I managed to be in the moment and surrender to the process when things did not go as I had planned. I was separated from my baby for 10 hours before our breastfeeding journey began. During this time, I expressed colostrum for her as I recovered from the anaesthetic. I was given too much anaesthetic and this left me temporarily paralysed. I could only see out of one eye when my baby was born and I could not move at all. I fought like crazy to remain conscious for her birth.
I had to beg the hospital staff to wheel me down to NICU in my bed to see my baby. She was in the NICU because she was having trouble stabilising her temperature and the staff there would not allow her to be skin-to-skin with her Daddy. As soon as she was in my arms, I put her on the breast and she drank with gusto. Her temperature stabilised as soon as she was skin-to-skin with me! I didn’t have anyone there to show me how to latch her correctly. I just put her on the breast and hoped for the best.
Thankfully I have large nipples, so she latched on easily. I was concerned that she was not taking in enough of the areola, but after a few days in hospital, the head midwife told me that her latch was fine. She was a tiny 2.872 kg and my breasts were enormous, so she couldn’t physically get much of the areola in her mouth. There were numerous midwives looking after me and they all showed me different ways of latching her to the breast. I found it quite confusing being shown so many different ways to breastfeed. It wasn’t until the senior midwife had looked at my latch that I was able to relax and trust myself and my baby. My right nipple was a little sore in the beginning, however, Hydrogel Breast Discs worked wonders for me. I needed to express extra milk for my baby in the beginning because her stools were the wrong colour and she needed to put on weight a little more rapidly. I remember sitting on my couch hand expressing and breastfeeding all day for a couple of weeks. My midwife was impressed by my dedication!  We chose to give our baby girl the expressed milk from the side of a sterilised bottle (she drank from it like it was a cup), because we did not want to risk her rejecting the breast. My independent midwife taught us this trick.
We love breastfeeding and we are still going strong after 15 months. My daughter is regularly offered nutritious solids (we are doing baby-led weaning), however, most of her calories still come from breast milk. Thanks to forums, such as Pinky’s, I know that this is totally normal and nothing to worry about. We bed share and that has made it really easy to continuing breast feeding overnight. I joke that my daughter ‘just helps herself’.
I am married to a chiropractor, so my daughter has not had any of the challenges that many caesarian babies have (e.g. problems with feeding equally on both sides, reflux and colic). I am a nutritionist and I gave her probiotics to help colonise her gut because she had missed out on the healthy flora she would have received from a vaginal birth. She is healthy, happy, super petite and well ahead of all her milestones. She has been a really easy baby and everyone keeps telling me ‘wait until you have the next one’. Hopefully the next one will be easy too (I’ll keep you posted).
Then only ‘advice’ I feel comfortable giving pregnant women is ‘make sure you learn about breastfeeding before you give birth’. I also recommend your Boobie Bikkes to all my friends and patients who need help with their supply. I really appreciate your Facebook forums and the advice you gave me when I had sore nipples before my period returned.
Helene Drimer  is a Sydney based mum and nutritionist. She and her husband are owners of Light Chiropractic and Wellness a multi-disciplinary clinic located in St Johns Road, Glebe. Our services include chiropractic, nutrition and Reiki. We work as a team to offer our clients a holistic approach to their health and wellbeing. We serve people of all ages (from conception through to centenarians) and we specialise in working with pregnant women, children and babies.

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