Friday, 9 March 2012

52 weeks of grateful :: breastfeeding

It's official. I am no longer a breastfeeding mother. My darling boy and I had our last feed on Monday night {sob}.

I was lucky enough to be able to feed all our babes. Twelve and a half months for each of them. And while they would have been happy to continue past that calendar counter, even if only for another few months, maybe longer, who knows, I felt it was the best time to wind things up. I have gone from feeding to pregnant to feeding to pregnant to feeding. And now I am just me again. No me + one. But there's not much of me. And that is part of the reason I decided to wean Eliot the same time as his brother and sister. Part of me wanted to keep that nightly feed going for a few months, but he was already telling me he didn't really need it.

Around the 9/10 month mark with each of them, I have looked thin. Very thin. I am naturally thin, a fast metabolism I guess. By their birthdays, even before, I am weighing in under 60kg. And I'm 5'9". And I eat. A lot. And I don't mean a lot of bowls of salad. I mean carbs. Substantial fill your belly up kinda stuff. And I have a sweet tooth. Not for lollies, for cake and biscuits. It's a sad day when the biscuit jar is empty. That's why I don't let it happen very often.

Ruby was a champion feeder. Once she arrived, within sixty seconds she was at the breast and camped there for nearly two hours. I never had a problem with any part of feeding with her. When I met my mums group for the first time, I realised how rare this was. Almost all of these women {now very close friends} told their stories of horror beginnings of sore, cracked, bleeding nipples. Tearful two hourly feeds. Babies who wouldn't attach. Expressing all hours of the day and night. To be honest, I couldn't really understand. Why did I have it so easy and they seemed to be going through hell? Then Cole arrived. And I understood.

Cole decided to make his grand entrance two and a half weeks early. I had a tear in my placenta and there was blood in the liquor when my obstetrician had to break my waters, less than ten minutes before he was born, fully dilated. It is quite rare, and my OB believed it had happened within the previous 48 hours which was what forced the early labour. Cole was little. He fed from me for ten days before he wouldn't attach. The morning he wouldn't attach, I had already expressed a bottle, for comfort. It was as if my body knew what was coming before I did.

Looking back, I knew things were different during those first few days. It was hours before he wanted to be at the breast after birth. He was exhausted from his big, speedy debut. He wasn't an eager feeder the way Ruby had been and he couldn't drain me the way she could. Of course I had enough milk for three babies, not just one. I expressed every feed for nearly three weeks, had a couple of visits from a lactation consultant, did a few breastfeeding clinics at my hospital (why? what the hell for? I had done this all before? what was wrong with me?), to try and get him back at the breast. The frustration I felt during this time, I struggle to put into words. And if you've been there, you will know what I mean. I never understood how mothers could try breastfeeding for a week, give up and go to the bottle. But then I had Cole. And I understood. I still remember hubby saying to me after another tearful feeding attempt, it's okay, just bottle feed him. I'm sorry, what? Do you not know me at all? More tears.

My hospital is a pro-breastfeeding hospital. The clinics I did were wonderful. Wonderful. The midwives they have there supporting you must be chosen on the strictest of qualifications and standards. Including their personality. These women were made for the job. And within minutes of being in their care for the first time, they put you at ease. Gentle words and caring gestures. A belief that, yes, your baby will attach again. You will be successfully breastfeeding again. Soon, very soon. Now I don't call three weeks soon. It was the longest fucking three weeks of my life. But they were right. So bloody right. The midwives believed his sucking reflex hadn't developed properly as this is one of the last things to develop before baby arrives, full term. But I definitely give credit where it's due and I absolutely believe that Cole was able to attach again after a {according to the midwives} short time, because of the Medela Special Needs Feeder. They are crazy expensive from a chemist, but cheaper to buy direct from the hospital. We paid $30. Some chemists charge $90! This bottle has an extra long teet and a tricky system where the milk only flows from the bottle when baby sucks for it. Like a breast. Most regular bottles will allow a small amount of milk to flow without baby sucking, therefore they have to do very little work to get the milk. The Special Needs Feeder makes baby work like they are at the breast, and in doing so, encourages them back to the breast, because of the similar mechanism.

It was eight weeks before Cole and I were a team. Before we had tear-free feeds (from me, not him). Feeds that felt the way they should. Like nothing. Because that's what breastfeeding feels like. And I don't mean the feelings on the inside. Your heart is bursting every time you draw that sweet baby delight to your breast, to fill them up and make them all drunk and dreamy. I mean the nothing feeling around your nipples. When attachment is perfect and that gentle gulp and nasal breath is all you can hear. A tiny, gentle hand playing with your necklace or just feeling your skin.

Failure was not an option for me. {And I don't use the word failure to piss off any of you lovely readers and friends who were in a similar situation and unable to get baby to breast, or successfully feeding. This is how I felt. My view about my journey. My struggle. We all do what we have to do.} I had fed Ruby. And I had loved doing it. I knew what it was like to breastfeed my baby. The closeness you feel, to be their lifeline. To have moments in your day, just for you two. If I had struggled feeding Ruby the way I had with Cole, perhaps I would have given up. Perhaps I would have raised the white flag. Or maybe I would have been just as stubborn and carried on. I am grateful that's just a hypothetical. I knew what I would be missing if I raised that white flag with Cole. All those happy memories feeding Ruby, were like a shining beacon right at the end of a long, narrow tunnel. In the beginning it was weak and faint. But each day it grew a little brighter until one day, there was just light. All around. No tunnel. We made it. And he never looked back. And he made up for lost time. He porked up fast.

Eliot looks like Ruby. The baby photos are freaky. He has done a lot of things just like she did as a baby. Including the feeding. This was my greatest relief after he was born. I had prepared myself for a repeat performance on the feeding front, but was ever so grateful that Eliot wanted to show his big brother and sister up, and be the best feeder of all. Which brings me back to the start. I can't be a healthy weight feeding into a second year. It just takes too much out of me. And to be constantly asked are you okay? Are you sick? Is there something wrong? You look so thin! Like I don't own a mirror.  With Ruby and Cole, I had stopped feeding to have my body back to myself for a little while before I would hand it over to the next baby. And, call me a bitch, but I like to cut them off before they can make a real song and dance about it. It's easier for me. It's easier for them. All of them weaned relatively easily and went straight to cow's milk. And they are all still champion milk drinkers.

Breastfeeding is such a personal thing. Some women choose not to feed at all, some desperately want to, but are unable to because of lack of milk, or unsuitable nipple shape, baby is too vigorous a feeder and it's simply too draining. Some women just don't like it. I still remember an old boss' wife announcing during a boob discussion that her breasts were for her husband. Not her children. She was not a cow. Okay then. See ~ each to their own. The Australian Breastfeeding Association recommends breastfeeding for the first two years of life. And if you can do that, I take my hat off to you. That second year just isn't for me.

I have loved breastfeeding. I have not loved what it has done to my breasts. But I have loved it all the same. It's a bittersweet moment. That I am just me again, after four and half years. My little people don't need me in that way anymore. It gives me a little more freedom. And the opportunity to wear normal bras again. Hurrah! But it's the tearful pulls on the heartstrings that remind me how fast they are growing up too. That my baby is no longer a baby. We are moving into that next phase as a family. Today we delivered three applications. Two for school and one for kindy. {Lump in throat}

So it is with a heavy heart that I give my thanks for this week's gratefulness. But I know there will be plenty of light, joyful hearts, taking the time to be grateful, joining the newly free Maxabella for Kidspot. And that should cheer me up.


  1. Oh lovely, weaning is such a bittersweet moment isn't it. I struggled with number one after a difficult birth and post birth separation (he went to SCN) - was 4 months or so before we could feed without shields, the first few weeks were awful with breast refusal but once we got there I loved it.

    I also lost weight bf - got down to 52 kilos (lighter than as a teenager) with both despite eating a lot. Have put it back on now though!

    Treat yourself to some fancy new bras!

  2. So beautiful, I honestly cried.

    Just so beautiful!

    I honestly admire you.

    My breastfeeding experience was ... not like this.

    And in hindsight, I don't think I was supported in my endeavours to feed (mostly by lazy midwives at the hospital who were just so inconsiderate to my first time incompetence).

    I expressed for 12 weeks, each week PRAYING he may be strong enough to attach to the breast.

    It never happened.

    Next time, I pray :)


  3. Don't be sad, Tahnee. You've done an amazing job, your little team' (I just loved how you used this term to describe breast feeding) has done so well and he's ready to fly. x

  4. This is such an important post, Tahnee. I think people forget that *everybody* has a story to tell in this space. You told yours so beautifully while acknowledging that there are other experiences for others.

    My story was very similar to Cherie's, I expressed for 10 weeks until I raised the white flag with the heaviest of hearts. I tried everything and hung on for dear life but it broke me.

    I can laugh about aspects of the struggle now (like the time I thought my express machine was talking to me in the wee hours of the night - extreme sleep deprivation not madness, I hope) but I know I will be treading cautiously if I am lucky enough for next time.


  5. I LOVED this post Tahnee. I've been lucky that both my babies have latched on ok and like you, I love breastfeeding. But I'm not sure how I would have gone if things had been different. Good on you for persevering and getting there in the end with Cole. We're also very similar in that I also get a bit too thin towards the end - not in the areas I'd like! - but my chest and neck starts to look a bit scrawny, so I don't think I would go past one year either. It's such a beautiful thing though.
    Thanks for sharing x

  6. My eyes welled at 'to fill them up and make them all drunk and dreamy'. Kian, my youngest at 14 months, is still having a feed in the night. I want to sleep uninterrupted again and yet I get so sad when I think of that last bf. We're not having anymore, so it's a big chapter to say goodbye to. But bf'ing is something wonderful to be grateful for. I've been grateful for years. I just need to take a deep breath and move one step forward, because it's mostly me keeping up the bf, and like you I don't want to be doing it into the second year. Gorgeous post Tahnee.

  7. Lovely post
    I loved every minute of breast feeding my three...and wept when it was all over

  8. I loved this post Tahnee. You are so lucky that your beautiful bubs had the advantage and experience of you feeding them. I was one of those that was unable to feed my baby due to no milk, and I mean NONE! It was the most stressful few days of my life. I like you, had a wonderful lactation nurse who very gently told me that I needed to give up this dream and take comfort in the fact that I tried everything. You brought tears to my eyes telling your tale. xx

  9. Beautifully honest post Tahnee. You've done so good xo

  10. love this post. being able to breastfeed is something i was lucky with - but worked hard at with ruby. she was never really a good feeder. hated my right side, especially. not sure if it was the way she laid on that side or what. needless to say, at the end, one breast was a whole lot bigger than the other for quite some time! i fed them all for about 15 months, and i think that was definitely enough. you are right about the bittersweet. and i totally dislike what it did to my breasts as well!!
    i had to do a double take with that pic. i wasn't sure if they were your legs or not! get some more cake into you! toot sweet! xxxx

  11. Breastfeeding was (I thought) the only thing I got right with my son! It was the only thing that came easily and the only thing I was ever 'praised' for. Mostly everyone wanted to tell me that he needed more sleep, that I needed to put him down, that we shouldn't co sleep, that we'd never get him out of our room, blah blah blah. Imagine my shock when our Ruby came along and she was a good sleeper and sweet baby, but still to this day at 10.5 months old, is a lousy breastfeeder. Utterly useless at it. In fact I had cracked nipples just last week thanks to her shitful attachment. Still love every second of it though, will be sad when it's over.

  12. this is an AMAZING post. so honest, so heartfelt and beautifully written.

    good on you for making it work.
    My breastfeeding journey was the hardest thing i think i have ever done in my life. ever. xx


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