Breastfeeding isn’t always easy

While I was pregnant people would ask if I planned to breastfeed and I responded with a confident yes. Of course I would breastfeed, it’s the natural method of feeding and nurturing my baby. I decided to inform myself on the subject, and became aware of the amount of women that struggled to breastfeed and understandably resorted to formula feeding.

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At the hospital we had lots of assistance from the nurses, including assistance expressing colostrum. Having nothing to compare the experience to, I thought that his latch seemed fine and professionals gave minor tips to improve it but also stated that he was latching well. He initially lost weight after birth, however I was told that this was perfectly normal.

After we left the hospital and settled into home life, Quinn only had minimal weight gain so we had frequent appointments with the maternal health care nurse. I started expressing breast milk to increase my supply and Quinn was often cluster feeding. He would fuss at the breast, particularly the right side and sometimes I wondered what I had done wrong. It is difficult not to take it personally when your baby does not seem satisfied during or after feeding. Still I persevered thinking that this was still quite possibly normal.

I had guidance from the maternal health care nurse. They helped create a better latch although still seemed happy with his latching overall. They suggested expressing breast milk after every feed and suggested feeding him a top up of formula. Formula was a last resort for me and I was adamant that I would do anything to make breastfeeding work. Eventually I tried formula feeding because I was willing to do anything for my baby. I felt so defeated on the few occasions where he was topped up by formula. I was saddened that I could not provide milk for him like I was supposed to, designed to.

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When Quinn was two months old I saw a thorough and helpful maternal health care nurse. She referred me to a private lactaction consultant and advised me to go to my GP to get medication to increase my supply. After leaving the appointment I was hopeful, however was quite disheartened at hearing that Quinn was again falling in a very low weight gain range.

The lactaction consultant was exceptional. She diagnosed Quinn with a tongue and lip tie and recommended having them lasered. She also discussed other mouth issues that prevented him from having a good latch such as having a narrow pallet, something it seems that he inherited from me. She adjusted my dosage of Motilium, and advised me to buy fenugreek and other foods and drinks to help with my supply. The lactation cookies have certainly been a treat.  The consultant also recommended the Spectra, a more effective pump, which has been my savior since I bought it. Within one week my supply had doubled. I was beyond grateful for her assistance. She reassured me that the issue was not because of my low supply but because of Quinn’s inability to latch and suck properly my supply had dwindled.

The next week we had Quinn’s lip and tongue tie lasered. It was quite a difficult experience, after the lasering we were required to complete mouth exercises on his wound at every feed. He would scream and fuss and it would break my heart. It was worth it in the end though because his sucking was slowly getting better. We also saw a Chiropractor to assist with his neck problems. The health professionals had picked up on him pulling his neck backwards and planking which we had been concerned about. I had also been recommended to see a Chiropractor as a complimentary therapy to having his lip and tongue ties released.

Although it has been quite overwhelming attending so many appointments, I have been so grateful for the assistance and support.

Because of working with the lactation consultant and a supportive team of professionals Quinn is now thriving and putting on more than the recommended weight each weigh in.

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Throughout the nights of Quinn crying because he was hungry and cluster feeding, to the emotional devastation that he was not putting on enough weight, I could easily have resorted to formula feeding if it was not for the support I eventually received.
Mothers deserve societal support whether that be guidance or the general public not shying away from the subject. Feeding our babies is a beautiful and nurturing act that needs to be embraced.
To all women that feed their babies, whether that be by breast or formula, you are doing an amazing job!

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Exploring your inner self as a mumma

After having a baby I felt a creativity surge. As a new mother, your life is transformed in so many ways, everything is new and it is a time of self discovery as you journey through motherhood. I think it is important to model authenticity and self expression to your children. Although I was slightly afraid that I would lose my sense of self after having a child, I have found myself reflecting on my own life experiences, values and identity while navigating parenthood.

I don’t subscribe to mainstream styles or trends, therefore I fall into the alternative lifestyle grouping. Alternative lifestyles are made up of sub groups, free loving hippies, hipsters, gothic (or the many subcultures of gothic), are some examples.

Like many people I don’t fall neatly into one category. Whether that be internal or external, I have varied tastes. I have often felt conflicted because of this, however I have learned to love being unique and staying true to my individual likes and dislikes.

Externally I don’t always portray the inner me. Unfortunately due to limited finances and practicality I end up purchasing relatively plain clothing from cheaper outlets to wear on a daily basis. Instead I am clad in mostly all black and basic maternity clothing allowing for easy nursing. Maybe this is something I need to rectify.

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I have a passion for dark beauty, horror, Victorian Gothic, witches, and paganism. Since I first went to a Gothic nightclub at age 19 I discovered a love of everything dark, including music, film, clothing and lifestyle tidbits. I interlace my love of darkness with my love of nature, a connection with the inner self with nature is a pagan belief system in which I somewhat subscribe to.

Mist filled forest landscapes and twilight cemetery photography are examples of art that inspires me. As a child I had a fascination with ghosts and the paranormal. I would set up film devices in an attempt to capture ghosts on film and leave recording devices playing when I left the room to capture a sound. I still have an avid interest in the paranormal despite realistically not being a believer. I guess it’s the aesthetic.

My love of nature also spirals into my hippy side. Natural therapies including crystals, aromatherapy, herbalism, and tarot would fall into my nature loving, tree hugging interests. Buddhism is also a belief system that I highly value and draw upon elements to utilise every day, particularly that of mindfulness and meditation. Plants inspire me and it’s all that I eat. Veganism is predominately an ethical standpoint for me, however it has provided me with an appreciation for plants and wellness. Their healing properties still astounds me.

I have always had a love of learning and find that reading and informative podcast listening has been manageable with a baby. While he sleeps or while I feed I listen to podcasts that inspire, entertain and educate. I recommend this to other mums who miss learning. There are also some great podcasts on parenting and baby related topics that I have found incredibly helpful. Research and learning about parenting has been fundamental to my life as a mother because I like to be informed and make decisions based on a wealth of knowledge.

My favourite podcasts:

The Psychology Podcast – http://scottbarrykaufman.com/podcast/

The Rich Roll Podcast – http://www.richroll.com/category/podcast/

S-Town – https://stownpodcast.org/

Philosophize this! – http://philosophizethis.org/

While I was pregnant I remember being scared that I would lose this part of myself, that I would feel obliged to conform to stereotypical mum attire and interests. This comes from seeing some women lose their identity through motherhood, however recently I have seen many inspiring mothers staying true to their inner self and guiding their children in a cultured and creative manner. I think it is so important to continue to be true to yourself while parenting. I believe that this models many great qualities such as self compassion, creativity, strength and critical thinking.

I have been told that it is selfish to take care of yourself or care about your own interests while being a Mum but I think it is selfish not to. Through self care and taking time for your own needs and interests, the baby is happier because you are a happier mum and have more to give.

To all the other new and even experienced mummas out there, stay true to yourself and do not be afraid of self expression. Your bubbas will only benefit from this. Do something today to nurture yourself. For me that is dabbling with herbalism, creative writing and learning yoga. I am currently listening to podcasts on philosophy, crime and psychology. What interests you?

 

Supporting parents with newborns

The African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ highlights the biggest lesson I have learnt during the early days of parenting.

In today’s western society we are often isolated with a newborn and without the child rearing experience that other cultures possess. I knew basic information about having a baby from general knowledge and I sought out books to learn as much as I could during my pregnancy. I attended the birth and parenting class run by the hospital which was certainly beneficial, however I learnt the most by actually birthing and parenting a newborn. As with most things, practical learning teaches us so much more.

I am yet to join the local parenting group and so far have relied on the Maternal Health Care Nurse, parenting groups on facebook, books and other new Mum’s that I have communicated with on messenger, for advice and support. As much as I feel lucky to have the support that I have had, I think that many women are incredibly unprepared for the reality of having a baby. Some like me, may have little to no experience in the smallest tasks such as holding a baby and changing a nappy. Only one of my close friends had a child so I was not surrounded by babies. In fact babies kind of scared me because they are so frail and the unknown is sometimes scary. Women are lucky for maternal instincts which kick in after birth.

Knowledge is not the only thing that is required when you first become a parent. Coming home is overwhelming emotionally, and physically. A new mother is healing, learning to feed their baby and adapt to their new life with a child in toe. Sleep deprivation sets in and the housework still needs to be done, food needs to be prepared and cooked and suddenly there is a much bigger pile of washing to be done. I prepared a few slow cooker meals while I was pregnant and froze them, but that was not nearly enough food to last those first weeks. Breastfeeding is hard work and requires additional calories, I am constantly snacking and eating meals and this proves difficult when you are stuck on the couch with a baby attached to your breast.

I have been tremendously lucky to have my partner at home for the first two months after my baby was born, however most are not so lucky. I had a cesarean and needed additional assistance getting tasks done while healing from major surgery. He has been a great support by changing nappies, getting chores done, cooking and settling the baby when I could not. I often think of single Mums who do this all on their own. It is far from easy and is one of the most challenging things I have ever done, yet I have had support. The bliss of holding your newborn, staring at their face for hours on end, feeling the oxytocin as you breastfeed and falling in the deepest love with your child is something to be cherished. Support aids this developing bond and relieves the mother of additional stress which in turn helps the baby to develop in a happier and relaxed environment.

My advice to people close to those having newborns is to ask if the new Mum needs assistance. My sister had time off work during the early days so she would come over and sit with my son while I slept after a sleepless night because babies would rather sleep in the comfort of a person’s arms. She would bring over snacks and provide a friendly face to break up the monotony of tasks. Other family members have also brought over food and held the baby while we enjoyed having our arms free for an hour or so.

It is important for Mums to reach out for support and for others to offer and provide it. A sense of contentedness is vital to new parents who can often feel alone, especially during those late night feeds.

 

Fur babies and newborns

Many people find themselves in a predicament when they have a baby: integrating their pets and their newborn. Some go as far as to surrender their pets to shelters because they are unable to cope with competing demands or are fearful of their pets behaviour towards their baby. The circumstances are rare when this would be necessary. New mothers are instinctively protective.

Pets are beneficial to childhood development in areas such as empathy, responsibility and nurture, and they provide a source of comfort and confidence for the child. They are great for reducing stress in pet owners which in turn also benefits the child. Growing up with animals can also teach a child to respect animals and understand that they are also, thinking and feeling beings.

When I found out that I was pregnant I became quite upset at the prospect of denying my pets the entirety of my attention and love. I have two cats and two dogs who I love as if they were my children. My dog Abbath is five years old and is a border collie crossed with a cocker spaniel. He and I have a particularly close relationship full of physical closeness, cuddles and constant attention. He is a very sensitive dog and incredibly loving. In preparation for the baby my partner and I worked on improving his training, which included establishing boundaries. For example he is not allowed near me when I am eating. We also began implementing different sleeping arrangements for the cats, no longer could they sleep in our room. This has been quite difficult but was easier than it would have been because we made it a gradual process.

After I had the baby my partner brought baby clothes home and let the animals sniff them. They were curious about the new smell and we feel that this was a good introduction.

I walked through the front door alone to tend to the animals. Abbath began whining, cowering and reached his paws around my neck. It was obvious that he knew something had changed and possibly knew that I had given birth. He was incredibly emotional as was I. He met my new baby, Quinn, and was curious yet submissive. As the night progressed and Quinn began crying, Abbath began shaking his head, his body was floppy and he looked sad. We were unsure why his head was shaking and it looked like it could have been neurological so we took him to the vet in the early hours of the morning. After over night observation it was determined that he had an anxiety attack. Three days passed with Abbath in a submissive and depressed state before he gradually bounced back to his happy and energetic self. Throughout this time we ensured that he was receiving abundant attention and affection. I was overwhelmed with happiness when he started playing with his toys again and wagged his tail.

Abbath then became more attentive to Quinn and watched over him at all times. We allowed him to sniff Quinn and give a kiss on the back of the head and closely monitored all interactions. He reached a point of being quite protective over him but eventually this behaviour tapered off. He is now completely relaxed and sporadically says hello to Quinn with a sniff. I make sure that I have regular cuddles with him and let him know that my love for him has not changed.

Integrating our animals with our newborn has certainly been a journey with challenges along the way. We now have a happy, functioning family unit with fur babies and a newborn. I envisage Quinn to be interacting with the animals and enjoying his formative years in the company of furry friends.

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