Yes, I’m a Young Mum. Yes, I Intend to Breastfeed.

Jo: I met Kirsty at pregnancy yoga and we bonded over chats about breastfeeding and hypnobirthing. Keen to get as much support with breastfeeding as possible – something I wished I’d had the sense to do during my first pregnancy – she attended an LLL meeting with me. Throughout pregnancy and beyond, I was staggered at how differently she was spoken to, seemingly based on her age…
‘At 22 I had no idea about breastfeeding and what it entailed. We never learnt about it at school and all I had been exposed to were advertisements for formula in the media. In the final year of my psychology degree, I had one tutorial that looked at the importance of breastfeeding for attachment – but that was it! So, when confronted with the impending reality of breastfeeding at a relatively young age, where should I begin? I suppose my breastfeeding journey started at 22, well before I had given birth. I remember being on our ‘baby moon’ and noticing that my boobs were leaking. However one day this turned to bleeding! I was terrified! No one had ever mentioned things like this!! In fact, no one really mentioned breastfeeding much at all. After several checks at a breast clinic they diagnosed me with ‘rusty pipe syndrome’, which happens to many women, but this was definitely a scary time where support and reassurance were lacking. I felt my midwife had been lovely about it but the doctors at the clinic were very dismissive. Cue lots of searching online to normalise what I had (probably not the best thing I’ve ever done – we all know how scary Dr Google can be – but it helped me to understand things).
Fast forward a few months and I was suddenly getting some very funny looks when I talked about my birth preferences and the fact I was very keen to breastfeed. Almost everyone I met  seemed to doubt my choices. I was seen as the ‘hippy’ one for wanting a natural birth, hoping to breastfeed and buying cloth nappies – something which I now embrace. I received comments like:
“I don’t know how people can do that in public”
“Don’t be a martyr. You’ll need sleep too”
“You can always use formula”
“How long will you try for?”
“Give formula at night and baby will sleep through”
“Your boobs will go saggy”
… and the list went on. SO much misinformation and I hadn’t even had the baby yet. The most common was, “I tried but soon went to bottles.” It seemed that most of the people I spoke to had resorted to formula feeding from the start and the minority that did tell me they breastfed didn’t go into any details at all. I found that those who were supportive would always have a counter argument to their positive comments and would often say things like, “Don’t let the midwives guilt you into doing it”, almost as if I was being forced to breastfeed! I felt that being young meant that I was almost an easy target for these comments as people knew that I had very few friends with babies, let alone who were breastfeeding, so it was almost like I was the ‘naive’ girl that had no clue about the realities of motherhood (well who does – pretty sure we’re all making it up as we go along and doing our very best for our children). Much like everything else I wanted to research my options. All of my friends and family had bottle fed their babies and I had never really seen people breastfeed (aside from a quick glance when walking past women who were feeding in public). That was until I went to a La Leche League meeting with friends I had met during pregnancy. It was amazing! So many different women of all ages and backgrounds feeding babies from newborn to preschool age. In particular, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I never realised how many positions there were to feed a baby!’ From then on I joined lots of breastfeeding support groups on Facebook and resorted to their knowledge as opposed to Google. In the lead up to giving birth I learnt how to hand express by watching lots of YouTube clips. I feared not being able to feed my baby myself because of being told that I could have a low supply due to PCOS. I froze lots of tiny syringes of colostrum which I later gave to my baby when she was born.

Cue new arrival. My daughter latched perfectly on the day she arrived, or so I thought. Every midwife told me that she had no tongue tie and her latch was ‘beautiful’. By the evening my nipples were raw. I knew that it could be a little bit sore so kept putting lanolin on, but I turned out to be allergic to that (months later I found MAM alternative which I would definitely recommend). A panicked and tearful call to the labour ward meant that I received advice that I didn’t want to hear (“you HAVE to give your baby a bottle. If you cup feed her you’ll cause aspiration”). I instantly felt so guilty and like I had no idea what I was doing. Then, after an awful stay on the ward for neonatal jaundice (think milk leaking everywhere, being alone with curtains pulled around each bay, hormones all over the place and feeling so emotionally vulnerable), I was beside myself. It was agony! I was pumping to try to give my nipples a break. Everyone was telling me there was no problems or reason for it to be hurting. Then, just as we were about to be discharged, I cracked. I couldn’t stop crying as I was desperate to understand why we were having so many problems. Luckily a wonderful HCA breastfeeding supporter imparted some advice and recommended that I tried thrush treatment and come back to the breastfeeding clinic for a posterior tongue tie check. It was confirmed that we had both of these things and I continued to attend the support group at the hospital twice a week for over a month, just so that I could practice getting a good latch. My daughter had her tongue tie cut twice and we had a very long battle with thrush. Our breastfeeding journey was tricky to say the least: recurrent thrush, vasospasms, shallow latch, two tongue tie divisions, cranial osteopathy, went through six breast pumps and battled through breastfeeding aversion. It took about five months for my aversion to breastfeeding to go. Previously, I felt sick every time she latched and sometimes dreaded the feeds because of the pain I had previously endured. If I mentioned this to people they would suddenly let forth their opinions regarding breastfeeding. Most people would say, “Just give her formula” or “I would have stopped now” or “If you’re not happy then it’s not worth it.” However, this made me more determined – I could see from the breastfeeding groups I had joined on Facebook that it’s actually not that simple to ‘just’ give formula once you’re months into feeding. I thought about stopping so many times but wanted to at least get to six months and I hadn’t yet reached this milestone. I wasn’t happy with how our journey was unfolding but, then again, this seemed normal considering the negative experience and pain I was getting from the thrush and tongue tie, plus the massive hormonal changes going on inside my body. I also was generally unwell with kidney stones that had yet to be diagnosed so was miserable in general. But most importantly my daughter WAS happy. She loved boob and it calmed her down instantly. Her weight had also begun to increase once she had the second division…

Then, at six months feeding became easy. We still had our ups and downs with thrush but I began to really enjoy our feeds. My daughter is now fifteen months old and we’re still happily boobing. Occasionally, I get the odd comment from people about my daughter being ‘too old’ to feed, but the days when I felt so vulnerable at the comments of others are long gone. Now I just don’t care, and I can thank our ability to breastfeed for so many things. For example, a ten hour flight to America, jus the two of us, was easy thanks to breastfeeding soothing her on take off, landing and throughout the flight. Being a young breastfeeding mum does surprise people, and it bothers me that this is the case in our society. But, with a bit of growing up I’m now learning to embrace a carefree attitude. If it bothers others that I choose to breastfeed my baby then that’s THEIR problem. 

I plan to happily carry on providing for my daughter until she decides to wean herself off the breast. I hope that one day young breastfeeding mums are seen more in the media and in public as this is something there’s a real lack of. It’s also something that I think we should learn about at school. After all, we learn about other mammals, development and nutrition – why not learn about breastfeeding and normalise this from a young age? Until this day I will proudly stand by the fact that I’m a young breastfeeding mummy and would encourage any other young mums hoping to breastfeed to get all the support and information they can, from pregnancy onwards.’

Kirsty, writing for The Mother Side x

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2 thoughts on “Yes, I’m a Young Mum. Yes, I Intend to Breastfeed.

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