Nyssa Jewell’s story had a difficult start but almost two years in and it hasn’t ended yet!
I remember sitting on the couch with my baby in my arms, staring down at my Australian Breastfeeding Association book ‘Breastfeeding…Naturally’ and thinking “Yeah right. Give me some F!@#ing answers!” and wishing that book had a different title because it was all a lie.
My son was born via Caesarean section at 38+5 weeks due to breech presentation. He was born on a very busy day at the hospital and so he could not stay with me in recovery due to a lack of staff, instead he had skin-to-skin time with my husband in my room upstairs.
Our first successful feeding photo!
Even though he was put to the breast as soon as possible and as often as possible, my milk took about 6 days to come in. The first 5 of those days was spent in hospital. I was encouraged to pump and syringe the colostrum to my son. One day I got 1 or 2 ml and took a photo – it was the most I’d ever had! And what a fab time that was, having strangers come to the bedside and squeeze my boobs like some sort of faulty dairy cow.
Aside from offering him the breast and then giving him whatever tiny amounts of colostrum I had, the midwives gave me formula, either in a little medicine cup or in a bottle (depending on who was working and whether they believed in bottles or not). He had lost more than the 10% that is expected and the pressure was on to get his birth weight back. As a first time mum I knew no better and went along with this plan.
Prior to being discharged, I refused to leave the hospital until the lactation consultant who had been promised to me finally came to visit. Surely something was wrong if I had no milk AND a baby who couldn’t latch at all???? Nope. The verdict was in. Nipples, fine. Baby’s mouth, fine. Bye bye!
Upon being discharged from the hospital on day 6, my husband took me to the pharmacy and we hired a Medela Symphony pump to use at home and bought a tin of formula just in case.
I opened that tin but never had to use it…
All I can say is thank goodness for my husband and my family who were there to support me through the tears, and a baby that just wouldn’t latch. We were sent home on a Saturday and on the Monday I rang the lactation clinic at the hospital out of sheer desperation. My sister had taken me for a walk to get some fresh air and I rang but they had no appointments available. I pleaded for some help over the phone and was finally given a cancellation appointment for the following day.
My mum, husband, baby and I arrived at that appointment to find a lovely lactation consultant who was so very gentle. She saw the gushes of milk I finally had, gave me a nipple shield (and some tissues!) and watched as my son finally latched on and started drinking. Relief!!!!
From that day on, our breastfeeding journey was so easy. We used the nipple shield for a few months I suppose and then one day I tried him without it and he was fine!
At that lactation clinic visit, the consultant pointed out the posters they had about the milk bank, though she wasn’t supposed to directly advertise it for me, and asked me to think about it. A few weeks later I was back, meeting with the milk bank and signing up to be a donor. I think I donated about 2 litres of milk until my son was 7 months old (they don’t accept milk from mothers with babies any old than this). And that was in addition to feeding him exclusively AND having a stash for him for those brief moments where he had to take a bottle.
I was also the grateful recipient of donor milk when my husband and I went away for a few nights after our wedding when my son was 11 months old. How I wish I had known about donor milk when he was a newborn so I wouldn’t have had to give him formula.
I do believe that when you know better, you can do better.
My son is almost 2 now (21 months old in the above picture) and he is still breastfeeding – every morning and sometimes more often if he is sad or unwell. I have unfortunately experienced some breastfeeding aversion but I realised it was worse in the evenings when I was tired so we managed to wean off of those feeds and we are both happy.
I don’t particularly like the phrase ‘breast is best’ but I genuinely believe that ‘breastMILK is the best milk’ and if that comes from mum, great! If it comes from another mum, that’s great too!