In early 2015 I lost my job. My little guy was 7 months old. It sucked, and as Autumn passed and the days grew colder I fell into a deep funk. You see I loved my job, it allowed me to express myself creatively, connect with people and goof around with my co-workers whom I absolutely adored. Finding new part-time employment was incredibly difficult, I wasn’t getting anywhere but I needed to put my mind to work. NOW. I needed to accomplish something. NOW.
While scrolling through FaceBook I came across a call for breastfeeding mentors. Women were needed to participate in a study investigating whether peer to peer mentoring creates positive outcomes for new breastfeeding mothers. I jumped at the chance. It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and further affirmed my belief that Mum’s across Australia needed better support and attention from the retail sector.
And so here it is, in no particular order;
Surrender or: What I Learned as a Breastfeeding Mentor
1. Cluster Feeding - The Struggle is Real
My son was 3 days old when I found myself in a full blown meltdown at 3 am. He had been attached to my breast for what felt like an eternity, I was tired from no sleep and in excruciating pain from sitting hours on end - aren’t perineum stitches fun!
Did I not have enough milk? Why wasn’t he full?
What was I doing wrong?
Nothing. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was cluster-feeding. And as I discovered once I started mentoring - it’s SUPER common. Our little ones have lots of growing to do and for the past 40 weeks had all their needs met via the placenta. Their little world has been turned upside down and they’ve got a HUGE amount of adjusting to do. 8-12 feeds in a 24 hour period is totally normal. Yeah Mama, having a tiny milk demon attached every 2 hours is absolutely normal. (Find out about how to spot feeding cues here
I’d like to share with you the single greatest piece of advice given to me from an ABA Councillor during my 3 am breakdown.
"Just surrender. This is what he needs. Stop fighting it, get comfy on the couch, put your favourite movie on and just go with it."
She was bang on.
I passed this sage wisdom on to each new Mama I mentored. So trust me, so many of us have walked this path. You’re doing all the right things Mama.
2. We all worry about Supply
Before discussing supply I want to acknowledge that low supply is a very real issue for Mama’s out there and that not being able to meet your newborn’s needs is both distressing and frustrating. With that said, for so many of you - low supply can be overcome. To do so you’ll need an exceptional amount of patience and a kick ass support team - see my last blog post about Accountability Buddies.
When cluster feeding knocks you off your axis, it’s understandable that like I did, you can get sucked in to thinking you don’t have enough milk. (And to be honest I fell into the trap of doubting my supply throughout my breastfeeding journey.) As a mentor I spent the majority of my time discussing supply worries in those early days. It’s a totally fair assumption to make especially when you have no way to gauge how much milk your newborn is taking at each feed! There are however some basic signs from the ABA that your booby monster is getting enough.
"At least 6 to 8 very wet cloth nappies or at least 5 very wet disposable nappies in 24 hours. The urine should be odourless and clear/very pale in colour.
A young baby will usually have 3 or more soft or runny bowel movements each day for several weeks. An older baby is likely to have fewer bowel movements than this.
Baby is alert and reasonably contented"
Remember, it takes time to build a healthy supply (up to 3 weeks). Here’s some signs from the ABA that your supply is not meeting your newborn’s current demands.
Fewer than 5-6 very wet cloth nappies or 4-5 disposable nappies in 24hrs. Strong, dark urine suggest that the baby needs more breastmilk and you should seek medical advice.
Formed bowel motions suggest that the baby needs more breastmilk and you should seek medical advice.
If you have concern’s about your supply I urge you to contact the ABA helpline
, councillors are ready to listen and can provide you with a number of ways to boost production.
Remember the golden ruleDemand = Supply. The more milk that is extracted from your breasts the more your body produces.
Any mum’s to be reading PLEASE book in a breastfeeding education class! Or you can purchase a variety of ABA breastfeeding educational booklets in the NMNB Store
3. It’s Not Forever
When I was 6 months pregnant I flew to my home town of Perth for one of my oldest and dearest friends 30th Birthday. It was here among my many childhood friends that I received a glorious unsolicited golden nugget of wisdom from a drunken pal. “It’s not forever, It feels like forever but it won’t be” It wasn’t until my son arrived that I actually understood what she meant.
It felt like he would cluster feed forever. He didn’t.
It felt like I would never sleep again. I did.
It felt like I would never walk comfortably again. I do.
I repeated this mantra almost every day, through my own everyday struggles. I repeated it as a mentor and sure enough every challenge those new Mama’s faced passed.
And yours will too.
Repeat after me.
It’s not forever.
4. Maternal Instincts are Real!
From the first day my son was born I new something wasn’t right. I couldn’t pin point what it was, I was new to all of this and knew nothing about what was normal or not, but I knew something was not right. My instincts were bang on, my son was born with a very mild floppy larynx.
And, in my experience as a mentor Mama’s instincts are spot on. We can’t always articulate the issue, we’re tired and overloaded with new information but that deep weird feeling that you can’t shake is one that you should listen to and investigate with the help of a trusted family GP or Paediatrician. I say this not to undermine the excellent care and guidance we receive from medical professionals but as a simple reminder of your power as a mother: YOU are the expert on YOUR child.
5. Every Mama Does The Best With What She Has.
This one is so important, particularly in an age where everyone seems to have an opinion on everything and if mentoring taught me anything it’s that we don’t all have a personal cheer squad, we don’t all have a job waiting for us once paid parental leave has finished or even a safe home. Every mother does her best with what she has. Every mother wishes to see her child thrive. Period. I'll say it until I'm blue in the face, it takes a village to raise a child and it's up to us as a community to step up and provide unconditional support for Mama's who need it, to affirm just how much of an amazing job they are doing and to enable them to be truly informed by pointing them in the direction of leading maternal and child health providers.