Prior to becoming pregnant I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I remember being around six months pregnant and my mother in law asking me if I was planning to breastfeed, my response was “well, isn’t that why god gave us breasts?”. Little did I know that my response would resonate with her for years to come, as she later told me that my response was refreshing as she had never heard anyone say that before. See for me it was a completely natural thing, the idea of breastfeeding.
Let me just clarify that I am not a religious person, so when I mentioned this I was merely talking about our biological make up, the fact that our breasts serve a greater purpose. Greater than the way society sexualises its function in the magazines and on Instagram. It had never even crossed my mind to look into formula or bottle feeding my child. I had read the countless research about how beneficial breastfeeding is for a baby’s growth and development that there was no other option for me.
I signed up to a breastfeeding course with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, because I knew nothing about it and I had heard so many different stories and opinions! Like how do you even put the baby on? Is it supposed to hurt? How do I know if the baby is sucking properly? These were all questions that ran through my mind. I was the first in my friendship circle to fall pregnant, and I didn’t even have any close relatives or aunties who had children, so I knew I needed expert advice. This was probably the best decision I made, being educated before birth.
There is so much focus during pregnancy on the birth, but what happens after the birth? This is where things get real, and in my opinion, what you need to be prepared for. The more educated you are with breastfeeding the more successful you will be.
Of course, we can never be completely prepared for what life throws at us, but let me tell you, absorbing all the information BEFORE that baby comes is the best thing you can do to ease your mind. Hell, once that baby comes you won’t have time to even brush your teeth let alone read books about it!
Nevertheless the course was absolutely amazing and I found out about resources I could go to for further advice down the track, one of which was the Breastfeeding Hotline, which I later used on two occasions.
My milk started to come in on my last day in hospital and the midwives were so helpful in answering my questions. They helped me with position my baby and made sure she was latching properly.
Once I got home I continued to breastfeed, and I remember receiving a few calls from my mother and that’s when I started to experience unwanted advice. “You’re not doing it properly”, she said. “I’ve seen the way your baby sucks, and she’s not sucking hard enough!”. Then she proceeded to tell me what I needed to do “Listen to me, what you need to do is express your milk into a cup and throw the first bit away. Because that is just watery milk and it’s just not filling up your baby”. I knew she had no idea what she was talking about so I shrugged her off. I had been to the course and I knew that the colostrum, i.e the first milk that comes through was literally like liquid gold. I also knew that the foremilk was beneficial for the baby so there was no way I was throwing out my milk! I just ignored her and continued to do my thing.
A day or two later my mum called me back and asked whether I was following her advice. I couldn’t resist so I told her no. She declared that she has had kids before and asked why wasn’t I talking her advice then she hung up the phone on me. I had literally just given birth a few days before, and I was doing a great job feeding my baby, so the last thing I needed was the negative energy. Like I mean just because someone has had kids before doesn’t make them a parenting genius and just because someone has breastfed before doesn’t make them a lactation expert.
This is where mental health is very important for new mums. When you are going through so many changes, the most important thing you can do is look after your mental health. I have to say that my husband was the first person to make sure that I was looked after in this department. As soon as he saw the effect other people’s unwanted advice was having on me, he did the right thing that any good man should do, and he intervened to protect me – in the most diplomatic way possible of course. After that my mum kept her distance to allow me to feed my baby the way I saw fit.
My baby was relatively small when she was born, only 2.8kilos. Whilst breastfeeding I witnessed her thrive. She continued to steadily put on weight, and she was no longer the ‘small baby’. This is when I became hooked. Witnessing my baby grow so rapidly just on my milk alone, inspired me to keep going. Also in all honesty, being a relatively lazy person, the thought of the extra cleaning and late night sterilising of bottles didn’t appeal to me.
It was not without its challenges of course, I did suffer from mastitis and blocked ducts on two occasions, but I was able to recover from this and continue. Now one and a half years later I am continuing to breastfeed my toddler. We have both had a great experience, formed a strong bond, and we will continue as long as we both feel comfortable.
So, what about you? Did you receive completely ridiculous unwanted advice?