Mums are always asking me about the best way to express their breastmilk. There is a huge range of reasons why they want to do this. There are prem and sick babies, babies who aren’t attaching, mums going back to work, underweight babies who need top-ups, women wanting to increase their supply, women who'd like to build a stash for times when they're separated from their baby, mums who don’t want to breastfeed in public, engorgement, the list goes on and on.
Nipple skin is super sensitive and any sort of grazes or cracks on it can cause toe-curling pain. When breastfeeding mums discover their nipples are damaged, just thinking about putting them in their baby’s mouth to suck can send them into floods of tears. I’m hoping to water down some of these floods by explaining how cracks actually happen and what you can do next to help them heal.
Sometimes I wonder why I love breastfeeding so much. I’m sure my husband gets a bit sick of hearing about it all the time. My dad texted me the other night ‘Turn the TV on, breastfeeding is on the news!’ My mum gave me an old picture she found of her breastfeeding my brother in the ’70s and the sentiment left me all teary about breastfeeding being passed down from mother to daughter.
Some mums are surprised to find out that breastfeeding can be quite a reliable method of contraception. There are quite a few ‘rules’ to follow, like you need to be exclusively demand feeding your baby throughout the day and night, not using a dummy and your period can’t have returned. It’s almost impossible to fall pregnant in the first 3 months using what’s known as LAM (the lactational amenorrhea method), although your chances increase a little as time goes on, to 2 per cent between 3–6 months and 6 per cent over 6 months if periods are still staying away.
Going back to work after you’ve had a baby can be daunting. I know, I’ve done it three times! In my role as a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, I have spoken to hundreds of anxious mums planning to combine motherhood with study or work. No-one looks after your baby as you do, or knows those intimate details you share — how he likes to hold your hand as he breastfeeds, where his back needs to be rubbed while dozing off to sleep, his little nose wrinkle when it’s time to squeeze out a poo, or how many crackers he MUST hold in each hand at snack-time.
I’ve been watching The Slap reruns on TV and despite a lot of my breastfeeding friends saying it portrays extended breastfeeding negatively, I am kinda fascinated watching Melissa George’s character, mum Rosie (I have a soft spot for her back when she was Angel in Home and Away) and her 4-year-old breastfed son Hugo. I reckon the ABC has done a pretty good job interpreting the intention of the breastfeeding relationship in the book.
I’ve always loved a bit of toilet humour, so talking about my baby’s poo almost gives me a perverse pleasure – suddenly I have permission to discuss stinky excretions in detail – no jokes required. It’s amazing how aware you are of your little one’s nappy contents, the frequency, colour and texture, but of course you are, you’re the one wiping it up! There is such a wildly variable degree of what’s normal in a breastfed baby, and although some mums freak out at poo changes, most of the time, there isn’t anything to worry about.
Yay to an ace mums’ night out at the Melbourne Comedy Festival to see Sparrow Folk! The comedy duo responsible for the YouTube hit Ruin Your Day — a comic tune addressing breastfeeding in public — specially invited the Australian Breastfeeding Association to see their latest show on April 16. ABA volunteers Bel, Murphy, Eleanor and I all had a great giggle watching Juliet Moody and Catherine Crowley charm their audience with a selection of cheeky ukulele-accompanied songs about their neighbourhood dressed in cleavage-revealing satin aprons in front of a Hill’s Hoist.
Once I was counselling a mum, and breastfeeding wasn’t going well. In fact, it was majorly stressing her out, her baby was crying a lot, fighting the breast and after a few weeks, she decided enough was enough and weaned.
Everyone needs time-out from their children. You can be as earth mother as you like, but a couple of hours to have a haircut, go shoe shopping, have a meal with your girlfriend or just lie back and have a bubble bath in peace is essential for emotional health! I get a lot of breastfeeding mums despairing that their baby won’t take a bottle of expressed milk, and this makes them feel tied down and not able to do all the fun things they used to do before bubs was born.