What breastfeeding taught me about self-care

I count myself incredibly lucky to have been able to breastfeed my children, it was one of those things that I wanted to really focus my energy into and aim to be as successful as possible. I was able to feed my son for 10 months, mix feeding from 5 months, and my daughter is now 13 months and we are still going strong. What I wanted to share is how breastfeeding taught me a lot about self-care.

With my son, I was pretty stressed from day one. If you know my story you will know more waters broke the same day I finished work at 38 weeks, and little Ted arrived the next day. Breastfeeding didn’t come easily to us. He didn’t know how to latch, I had no idea what I was doing, it took 3 days, a lot of practice and nipple shields but we did get there. Things went along OK for the next few weeks. Around 6 weeks everything changed. Ted would scream in pain constantly, 19 out of 24 hours, he would wake from him sleep screaming, I would have to hold him, the only way I could get him to sleep was driving around in the car or walking around in the pram where he was in an upright position. He would scream and want more feeds, it was the only way to settle him, I often got called home from my 1.5 hour break each week at netball training to come home because nothing else would work. Little did we know the feeds were a bit part of the problem.

I started questioning my supply early, particularly because of the nipple shields, we also discovered silent reflux, although it took as a long time to find the causes being cows milk protein intolerance and poor latch. Eventually we had his tongue ties rectified, went from 5th percentile back up yo the 98th and got on top of the diet he could consume. However by this point it had taken its toll on me. I wasn’t drinking much water, I couldn’t find time to eat, so I was eating quite poorly, or I would be too scared to eat something in case it upset him. This led to some really poor health outcomes for me, I was exhausted, I lost 10kg in 6 months and wasn’t looking healthy at all, I was trying to pump while I was at work but a stressful job meant I was skipping meals and pumping sessions. In the end neither Ted or myself were benefiting from breastfeeding.

Fast forward to my second time feeding, it was a completely different story. This time I finbished work earlier, I wanted to have time to rest my body and prepare lots of healthy options that I could pull out of the freezer. Mackenzie came out a little feeding legend, and fed for 1.5 hours in the delivery room! No issues with latch there. I also knew this time would be different. I made sure I was having a healthy breakfast each morning, generally oats with fruit because of their benefits for milk supply, it also set me up for success throughout the day starting with a balanced meal. Lunches were simple, I tried to always have pre-washed spinach, tomato, dairy free cheese and olives ready to make a salad, which I would enjoy with a protein source, sometimes beans, sometimes chicken, I focused on my water and things wer so much different. Mackenzie was gaining weight perfectly. I was also losing the baby weight much more naturally and at a sustainable level, even with not much night sleep, I was able to spend quality time with Ted (most days anyways), I was able to get back to the gym, and when I returned to work, the pumping process was much more successful. With Ted I was lucky to pump 40ml total, this time it was around 200ml! Big difference.

I wanted to write this blog to show my taking care of myself better with diet and water allowed my body to recover from pregnancy and gave me the energy to be present, something I struggled with Ted. Albeit there were a lot of extra factors going on with Ted, I believe I would have handled the stressful first year much better if I had stuck to what I knew best and took care of myself. We often forget in order to be the best mum to our children, we need to be the best version of ourselves first.

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