This year’s theme for world breastfeeding week is ‘Enabling breastfeeding. Making a difference for working parents’. Something I am SO passionate about. Having previously been employed when I was breastfeeding Hugo, I completely understand the pressures of working + trying to navigate breastfeeding. Pumping on breaks, trying to find somewhere comfortable and private to do this, and navigating the additional life stressors and how this can impact on milk supply - it's a lot! I was glad to only be working part time at that time, but can absolutely see how this can impact on a mother’s breastfeeding journey. I hope now that as an employer, I can make a difference to my staff and provide a safe and supportive environment to support + enable breastfeeding and pumping. If this is you + you're navigating returning to paid employment while breastfeeding, I urge you to seek advice, talk to your managers + ensure you feel supported in this journey.
A bit about my feeding journey with Lucia - She is nearly one and I am so proud to still be breastfeeding her nearly 12 months on! Anyone who has read about my breastfeeding journey with Hugo [on the blog from WBFW 2021], will know how much I struggled with his feeding journey. We really did face it all. Second time around I wanted to do things differently, and I guess the biggest thing I did was arm myself with knowledge.
A lot of this came from the learnings of my journey with Hugo, and a lot of it from the incredible lactation consultants and midwives I follow on social media. We are so lucky that there is SO much free education out there around breastfeeding and social media is incredible for this. Some of my favourite people to follow for incredibly informative and easy to digest info around breastfeeding are @cradlednz @littlebirdlactation + @morethanmilknz – these ladies are all registered health professionals and board-certified lactation consultants. I highly recommend you give them a follow if you’re after some breastfeeding info!
Heading into my second pregnancy I was adamant I wanted to breastfeed this baby, and was hopeful that my journey would go differently. But I was also completely aware that it’s not just up to me, this would be a different baby and she might have her own difficulties with feeding. I was preparing myself for the worst & hoping for the best! I was lucky my midwife was aware of my feeding issues with Hugo and supported me a lot during my pregnancy. I started antenatal expressing at 36 weeks, not just to harvest colostrum, but to practice hand expressing and help with getting my breasts ‘active’. My midwife also informed me that with each pregnancy, more mammary tissue is made and I was likely to have more milk this time compared to the first time. I felt confident and ready. I had a plan with birth to get baby on to my chest as soon as practically possible and knew I wanted to try and get her on the breast early. I was so lucky to be able to achieve this.
Heading in to birth I was prepared – I had my Silverette cups packed, alllll the lactation snacks and nipple cream at the ready! I was grateful that I was prepared as I needed all of these on the first day! Lucia arrived 3 weeks early and was a teeny 2.6kg so I needed to ensure she was feeding often + well. I was incredibly sore early on and the Silverettes truly did save me. Although Lucia’s latch seemed great, having had tongue tie issues with Hugo I wanted to get a lactation consultant appointment early on to check that everything was fine & stop any issues from forming.
I booked in for a consult the week we got home from the birthing unit and I’m glad I did. I had a feeling that Lucia may have a tongue tie as I was suffering from a bit of nipple damage and sure enough – she did! We had this water lasered early on + from there we were really lucky to not have any major issues. Our latch was good, she fed often [like really really often!] I did have one bout of mastitis early on, but with a quick dose of antibiotics I managed to kick it before it got bad.
Our journey wasn’t without its challenges in other ways though. Funnily enough, I had the opposite problem with Lucia to Hugo, she wouldn’t take a bottle! The bottle was our lifeline with Hugo, but this stubborn girl would hardly ever take a bottle for us – definitely not from me, and only occasionally for Rich! Knowing I would be working early on in her life, I really wanted to be able to get someone else to feed her, but this never happened. Litres of pumped milk was wasted [tears – IYKYK!], but we had to keep trying. We tried a couple of different bottles and were lucky to have some success eventually with the Pigeon SofTouch bottles. Still, she won’t take a bottle from me, but she has from Rich on occasion – win!
My return to full time work was inevitable being self-employed, but figuring out what this would look like took some time. Although Lucia took the bottle on occasion, it was never consistent enough for me to feel confident to leave her for long. I’m lucky work isn’t far from our daycare, so initially the plan was to pop in and feed her for her two feeds while she was at daycare, as well as start her at daycare part time while we found our feet. We are lucky to have an incredible relationship with our day care and through our transition visits, her teachers managed to get her to take a bottle from them – incredible!
Although my supply was better this time, I have always struggled with pumping. I think it triggers me a little bit from our triple feeding journey with Hugo, so the pump tends to make me tense up + I’m sure this impacts on how much milk I’m able to produce. One thing that has helped this time around, is a wearable portable pump. Being able to pop the pump in my bra and continue on with my day has helped to not think too much about the actual pumping, and get a lot more done, too.
Knowing I’m not a great pumper, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pump enough milk for two full feeds for Lucia while at daycare. With this, we made the decision early on to introduce formula for at least one of Lucia’s feeds at daycare, and if I have enough pumped milk, she will have a bottle of this as well. Again, I wasn’t sure if she’d even take the formula, but once again, her lovely teachers managed to get her to take a full bottle on the first go! A huge weight off for us.
It was crazy the relief that I felt that Lucia happily took formula. Knowing she was happy, full + content was all that mattered [and seriously reduced the stress on me!].
I remember the feeling of giving Hugo his first formula bottle when he was 5 days old and the guilt I felt with this for not being ‘enough’ for him. Second time around, I know that this isn’t true. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first, and our mental health first, and a happy + full baby is all that matters. The pressure to exclusively breastfeed can feel so overwhelming sometimes, especially with social media. It is OK to mix feed your baby, it is OK to exclusively breastfeed and it is OK to exclusively formula feed. All of it isn’t without challenges.
Whatever you choose for you + your family, know you’re doing your best, mama.