Below is the story of the breastfeeding journey of Emily and Mavis, which was written by Emily.
When my gorgeous baby girl Mavis was born, breastfeeding, for me was something I always wanted to do for her. From the very first colostrum feed the midwives told me that she had a great latch and I had plenty there to support her. Over the first two days between the awful paper-cut nipples feeling to my full milk supply coming in (and I was blessed to have a lot of milk) and getting very large and firm breasts I was struggling with finding a comfortable position to hold Mavis in to feed her. I found my breast was smothering her face and she wasn’t tilting her head back enough to get adequate air while drinking. Rene helped me with a few different hold techniques and the one that worked for me was having a v-shaped pillow on my lap with Mavis laying on top and I used my free hand to hold back the breast tissue.
On day 3 of being in the hospital we noticed Mavis had blood in her milk vomits, being a very new first-time mum I immediately panicked but the staff were so wonderful and took great care of her, after a few tests it was determined that the blood was coming from me – through my milk – because my breasts had been damaged internally. I was told to give my breasts a chance to heal and to do this I needed to bottle feed. I was sad that I couldn’t just latch Mavis on and that be it, but I also needed to heal my boobs so that we could continue feeding together again.
The midwives bought in a breast pump to start getting my milk, they hooked me up and oh my gosh did my husband and I laugh at the whole pumping situation, I felt like a cow being milked just watching my nipples go in and out! Haha! The nurses had left to give me some privacy but shortly came back and couldn’t believe how much milk I had. They said I was very lucky and to keep pumping to keep up my supply while my boobs healed.
Once we were at home, as new parents trying to figure all the new hurdles and obstacles out I continued pumping every 2-3 hours day and night and while I pumped my husband bottle-fed our daughter.
After about 2.5 weeks of doing this, I felt like it was time to try her back on the breast, I was more than happy to keep pumping as well because I was getting 150 ml roughly every pump between the two boobs.
I tried to put Mavis directly on the breast and she would try and latch but wouldn’t really take me. I couldn’t understand why, she took me so well in the hospital and she was feeding like a champ off the bottle, so why wouldn’t she want to feed from me? I then tried a nipple shield that they had given me at the hospital and oh my gosh did she take it, she guzzled the milk to the point of making herself sick. I panicked and called the maternal nurses line who said it would probably be a good idea to see the lactation consultant again to get some help.
I visited with a different consultant and my experience was not one that I would wish for anyone, I left with a hungry screaming 3-week-old baby, I was in tears feeling useless and like I had failed her because I couldn’t get her to latch. The consultant I had seen had told me that nipple shields weren’t worth using and that Mavis would just have to learn to take my breast without it.
I felt so small. How could something so beautiful and natural such as breastfeeding make me feel like such a failure?
We went home, I didn’t use the shields, Mavis didn’t want anything to do with the breast so I kept up the pumping and bottle feeding until one day about 2 weeks later my pump went from 150 ml to 10 ml. I instantly panicked, was my milk drying up? Have I done something to affect my supply?
My mum suggested calling the hospital and asking if Rene was available, and I made an appointment to see her.
That appointment changed my entire breastfeeding journey.
Rene was so calm and warm. She had enormous patience with not only me but with my daughter too.
We got Mavis latched to my breast directly after a few tries. From that point, I never looked back. No more pumping, no more nipple shields, and I had so much hope that the journey ahead was going be incredible. And I was right, my little lady fed like a champion from there on out for a good solid 7 months.
In the new year, Mavis became unwell with a nasty chest infection and was becoming fussy at the boob. The doctors said she was having trouble breathing when she was drinking from the boob, so while she was sick, I should express and give her bottles.
I tried pumping and I produced nothing, so we had to put her on formula. I kept trying to do small breastfeeds so she was still getting some breast milk.
Once she was better again I wanted to ditch the bottle and continue with breastfeeding but Mavis was becoming fussier and fussier at the boob and was becoming less and less interested in breastfeeding. She would however happily take a bottle.
I was very upset at this point thinking that my daughter was rejecting me, that I was again doing something wrong, why wouldn’t she want to take the boob again? I fed her with the bottle for a month or so before I’d had enough and wanted to get her some breast milk again, I felt like I still had milk and my boobs had started to become tender (I couldn’t feel any lumps). I tried pumping at home with a hospital-grade pump I’d hired from the chemist but I was lucky if I got 10 ml between both boobs.
I eventually decided to reach out for help again to give it one last go to get Mavis drinking breast milk again.
I emailed Rene and set up a meeting to see what we could do.
My breasts were tender, but no lumps and my milk was still there just a bit sticky. I wasn’t sure if Mavis would take my breast again because she’s super independent, but even if she didn’t, I was hoping I could express enough milk to bottle-feed her my milk.
Rene asked me to get a script from my doctor for Domperidone and to start taking that, gently massage the breasts before pumping and while pumping and I was to pump every 3 hours to try and bring back my milk supply. I hired another hospital-grade pump for a month and begin the journey to bring back my milk.
I kept track by taking photos of my progress. The first few pumps were literally drops, but then I started to get 10 ml a pump, then 20 ml. Along with the medication, I was drinking lots of water and also making lactation cookies which I feel helped a little.
Rene and I kept in contact and I kept her updated on my progress. I was able to pump 120 ml+ in each pump in most cases.
Mavis still refused the boob, but I was eventually able to give her a 200 ml bottle of breast milk each day. I was over the moon. I was so proud of myself. I kept up the pumping and medication for three months, but once Mavis got very mobile with crawling all around the house and climbing on everything it got very very difficult to keep up the pumping. I would become very upset if I didn’t get a chance to pump because again I thought I was failing.
After a few tears, I decided it was best for me and my mental health to stop pumping. I knew in my heart that I had given my all with our breastfeeding journey and I wouldn’t change anything. Mavis was super happy and healthy and thriving with everything she did.
I slowly weaned myself off the medication and gently slowed down the pumping – eventually, just hand expressing a little in the shower morning and night until I felt like my boobs were empty.
My journey had ups and downs, tears of happiness and sadness and frustration but it was my journey and it was beautiful.
I know this journey may not have even happened if I hadn’t been able to see Rene at the very start. She is my lactation angel and I cannot thank her enough for everything she’s done for Mavis and me.
If I could give any advice to new mums, mums wanting to give breastfeeding a go, or just feeling completely alone or like they’re failing. You’re not! You are doing everything you can. Persistence is key and don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re a strong and wonderful mum and No matter what you decide, you will know what’s best for you and your Bub, because fed is best.
For me, it was my will and determination to do it. There were many points that I wanted to give up. But every time I felt like that, I would immediately feel guilty, and I knew I could keep trying. So I did, and it always paid off.