My breastfeeding journey started 7 and a half years ago. It’s been challenging and wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing because it’s shown me strength, perseverance and resilience I didn’t think I had. I wasn’t able to bring my babies naturally into the world but I was sure as hell gonna feed them naturally!
My first son was my most challenging. He was born with a very high palate and tongue tie that was picked up on day 4 by a lactation consultant at the drop-in, and snipped on day 5. During that time his shallow latch shredded my nipples and it was excruciating to feed. I would cry when he started waking for a feed, and sob as he sucked and opened up the cracks and blisters again. Even pumping was sore. I refused to give him a drop formula despite my husband, mum and mother in law all telling me to stop and formula feed. I wanted to breastfeed and I was GOING to breastfeed, but I honestly couldn’t see a way through at that point. I felt frustrated and so sad. I sought ongoing help from an LC who also diagnosed me with nipple thrush at that point, and who continued to assist with attachment and gave me wonderful support. I remember on the evening of day 7 crying out in pain as he attached, pulling him off roughly and practically throwing him at my husband. I called my mum to bring some formula over but when she arrived I refused to give it to him. It wasn’t what I wanted! I would not be defeated! From then I decided to pump and bottle feed for some time to heal and gather myself. That was a challenge in itself. I missed the next 2 weeks of my sons’ little life hunched over a breast pump in a haze of heat packs, breast massage, nipple dressings and mastitis. We couldn’t get more than a bottle ahead and there were nights when he would have 50ml to drink while I was desperately pumping for the next 50ml to finish his feed. It was exhausting hard work and while it was great for my husband who did all other baby-related activities while I pumped and slept, I really struggled.
Then my husband returned to work. I remember sitting on the sofa with a screaming starving 3 week old trying to express a bottle. At that point it was ‘now or never’ and so I attached him. While it wasn’t pain-free it was better than it had been and I began to see an improvement. It took 8 weeks to have pain free attachment and another bout of mastitis. As time passed my nipple was healthy again, I wasn’t needing to pump and breastfeeding became easier. We both began to enjoy breastfeeding and this grew into an incredible breastfeeding relationship. we went on to feed for 20 months when I fell pregnant with my second son.
The second time round was not without challenge – another tongue tie that was snipped, blistered nipples, oversupply and two bouts of mastitis requiring antibiotics. But this time around I chose to co-sleep and I think that made a huge difference to how I felt. And an LC friend pointed out that I was attaching like a first time mum with perky boobs – my boobs were pointing down now, not forwards anymore! A slight reposition of baby and we were suddenly feeding well. We were attaching pain-free at the 4-week mark and went on to breastfeed until he was 3 years 2 months old. At that point I was so over it I wanted to scream, I wanted my body back! He fed to sleep for every single sleep and then one night I couldn’t do it anymore. So we lay together instead and he was ok with it! It was another 2 years after that before he left our bed at age 5 and went into his own when baby number 3 came along.
I’m now 3 months in with my third son, who has been easiest all around so far! And no tongue tie this time! Again 2 initial weeks of sore attachment and a bout of mastitis (that I cleared without the need for antis thankfully) but nothing that was unbearable. This time around I used a nipple shield for a couple of weeks to allow them to heal while still feeding. I noticed a significant drop in my milk supply though so we got rid of the shields after a week and fed normally. Our biggest challenge this time round has been a painless marble-like lump I noticed at the 2-week mark, that persisted despite the usual efforts to get rid of it for another 4 weeks. Multiple boob gropes by doctors, two ultrasounds, a biopsy, fears of dying and $800 later it’s been diagnosed as a harmless galactocele. I’m aiming for another 2+ years of breastfeeding my boy and plan to enjoy every minute as it will be the last time I nourish a baby with my body. I’m enjoying so much his little face looking up at me as he feeds, and his sweet swallowing noises as he tries to keep up with the letdown. It fades away to a distant memory so quickly and I’m so conscious of this third time around.
I’m amazed every day at how my body can not just sustain a human but allow him to thrive. And not just once but three times! My boobs will never be the same but I’m so very proud of myself