In Public?

It’s always been my goal to breastfeed for 2 years and beyond, just as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends. Nursing 1 has been quite agreeable with this, and, now at a month past 2 years of age is showing no signs of losing interest. In fact, she seems to be showing renewed interest!

Feeding at home, in private, has always been comfortable and easy. But I must admit that the further past 12 months Nursling 1 got the less comfortable I have felt feeding her in public. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with it. There isn’t! Feed your kids for as long as you and they want to! But I have feared other people’s judgement and having to deal with their reactions, especially on days when I’m already struggling with my mental health, or otherwise just having a challenging day parenting 2 insanely gorgeous, but also cheeky and active girls.

One morning a week I rush the girls out the door to attend a free parenting course with a creche (which, just quietly is very nice). Because I struggle to get up any time before 8:30 due to the anti-psychotics, this usually means Nursling 1 misses out on her morning breastfeed because we’re pressed for time. So after a missed morning feed and 2 hours in creche I was hardly surprised when upon picking her up, she wanted a feed even more than Nursling 2 did.

So, a little apprehensively I picked both of them up, sat down on one of the couches they had at the creche and settled in to feed them both together. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t even get one funny look, and the other parents even commented on how cute they were there together and how nice it was.

A shout out to the other parents, thanks for normalising toddler breastfeeding for me, and making me feel comfortable by doing so. You guys rock!

Breastfeeding through PP

Breastfeeding through Puerperal Psychosis was a very different experience to breastfeeding through Postnatal Depression. And to any mums out there who have had PP who are reading this, whatever your experiences and decisions were I respect them. I can only reflect on what mine were.

Unlike Nursling 1, Nursling 2 emerged hungry and fed very soon after birth, and has fed well ever since. For the first 6 weeks breastfeeding both girls was a great way of sharing my attention between the two, and began a bond between my 2 girls as well, as Nursling 1 would often be very affectionate towards Nursling 2 while they were sharing a feed together.

Then when Nursling 2 was about 7 weeks old PP hit. The emotional swings that came with PP very much impacted on my feeding. At times, breastfeeding became a magical experience and I felt like I had an amazing bond with my children, as if we were at one with each other. Then, although breastfeeding my girls had always been very important to me at times I was convinced my milk was harming them, and at other times I became very annoyed at having to feed the girls because I was forced to sit still and it kept me from doing very important other things (like cleaning the house and solving the worlds problems). Still, I had enough insight to remember how important breastfeeding really was to me and persisted.

Things became more complicated when I was admitted to Helen Mayo House. Firstly, because of how important sleep is to recovery from PP, it was decided that the nurses would care for and feed Nursling 2 overnight. I already had a pump and an abundant supply, so I would pump first thing in the morning about double what was actually needed and Nursling 2 had her breastmilk from a bottle overnight.

What really complicated things was medications. Some Psychiatric medicines are among the few things that are truly contraindicated (in lay mans terms a huge no-no) when breastfeeding. There are other psych drugs which are not recommended but breastfeeding can be possible under tightly controlled conditions. But the doctors were perinatal specialists, and kept me on medications that could be breastfed on for as long as possible, and alternatives were discussed, albeit they sounded more scary than stopping feeding, when it began to look like I might need the “not recommended ones”. We had in depth discussions with the doctors and pharmacist about a particular drug, lithium, and whether it would be possible to continue to breastfeed on it, but thankfully were spared having to make that decision when the antipsychotic I was on started doing the job.

Being separated from Nursling 1 was tough as well. Breastfeeding became an important point of connection between us when she visited, and helped in the transition to home as well.

As if psychosis wasn’t enough, PP is often followed by depression, and it can be pretty severe. For me, I experienced is much as a pendulum on an old clock swinging between mostly okay, perhaps even tending towards mania, and really down. Once again, breastfeeding became something I could always rely on to work, something that I was good at, and helped me to have a little self confidence, and importantly stay bonded with my girls during that time.

I’m still recovering, and I am so thankful that despite the challenges that we faced, that we managed to keep breastfeeding all the way through my experiences of mental illnesses.

Breastfeeding through PND

Breastfeeding is always one thing that has worked well for me. I should clarify that “worked” includes cringing through the early days (or with nursling 1 weeks) of totally normal nipple tenderness (tenderness is an understatement), enduring oversupply for weeks with nursling 2 and months with nursling 1 and, working our way through the “biting” phase, and more recently, battling nipple thrush (which is rather painful). Still for the most part, breastfeeding has been comfortable, easy and joyful. But mental illness throws a spanner in the works, and I cannot separate my breastfeeding journey from my mental health journey. I want to share with you breastfeeding through mental illness has been like for me.

I was always adamant that I would breastfeed my babies. The more we learn about human breast milk the more we discover that it is quite literally the perfect food for human babies. The WHO’s recommendation is to breastfeed for 2 years and beyond. I wasn’t sure that I’d quite make it that far, but I was going to try (and we’re almost there).

When nursling 1 was born I fell in love with her straight away. I know this doesn’t happen for everyone, and that is fine, but for us some combination of having a natural labour and birth with all the rushes of oxytocin and other hormones just as nature intended, and God’s blessing it did for us, for which I am very grateful. Breastfeeding didn’t happen for us straight away after birth, but it came together over the first few days and soon we were pros. For me, breastfeeding solidified the bond that had begun in the moments after birth, and it would become an important anchor through my PND journey.

I know that many mums who have mental health struggles also struggle with bonding and attachment. At times, during PND it was very hard to feel anything positive at all, even love for Nursling 1. But somehow, sometimes, breastfeeding seemed to have the power to break through that, particularly when she would then contentedly fall asleep on me, affection for her would rush back. I think it helped her form a secure attachment too.

At times not even breastfeeding could shift the dark cloud, and sometimes at those times I didn’t want to feed her at all. I didn’t want to touch her at all. I found a way to breastfeed her, side-lying so that only her mouth was touching me, nothing else.

Breastfeeding was an anchor to my baby. At times, when all I really wanted to do was run away, I told myself that she needed me to feed her, at least for the first 6 months, and after that point I told myself she wasn’t ready to give it up yet. And just knowing that in at least one way I was most definitely wanted and needed by her helped me to keep pushing on.

As the depression began to lift and I began to enjoy her more and more, breastfeeding still remained a way to keep us close, even when after falling pregnant and my supply dropped, it wasn’t providing much in the way of nutrition.

Then, when the depression came back later in pregnancy, it once again helped me feel affection for her again when I felt the worst. It also helped launch labour, and then softened the blow of having to share me with another little person once Nursling 2 came along.

 

Scritch Scratch

Nursling 2 likes to hold her food now, whether it comes on a spoon, in rusk form, or from the breast. At the same time, her rate of fingernail growth seems to have doubled. No matter how much I cut the things they remain sharp and scratchy!

As she breastfeeds her little fingers grab fistfuls of skin and scratch!

They make nipple shields to protect that part but I need something to protect the rest. I wonder if such a thing exists.

Almost Civilised

We haven’t done a together feed in a while. Nursling 2 is getting bigger and bigger and there is only so much room on my lap, and besides that, the girls have very rarely wanted to milk at the same time. But the other day they did. So we curled up together, the three of us, in the rocking chair for both girls to have milk at the same time, and I was surprised to find that the experience had become civilised. There was no kicking, no squirming, no poking or hair pulling. Nursling 1 looked lovingly at nursling 2, nursling 2 looked back at her and reached out her hand, and they held hands peacefully. Not needing to fend either child of off the other, I relaxed and enjoyed the moment.

Well, that is until nursling 2 finished. At which point, smiling happily she commenced poking, hair-pulling and kicking her sister, who admittedly took this pretty well and continued to feed undeterred.

Sigh.

I will revel in that small moment of peace and perfection.

The Best Thing on Offer

We have officially reached toddler hood with Nursling 1. While this is a wonderful age full of discovery it definitely comes with its own challenges, especially when it comes to food. Foods that were favourites yesterday, and literally disappeared off the plate before you can say ‘Amen’ are left to go cold and eventually end up in the bin the next day. Foods that have been asked for are then rejected when offered, only to be asked for and rejected again. Yoghurt has to be interspersed with precisely the right amount of Weet-Bix. One day the whole bowl full of food is downed and then some, and another day hardly any is eaten at all. Food is also often used as a toy and shoved into the crevices of any actual toys that it will fit in, leaving a trail of crumbs in its wake.

And yet, despite all the fussy, messy changes of mind there is one food that is never rejected.

Yes, you guessed it… breast milk!

Boob Biscuits

I decided to make a batch of lactation cookies, or boob biscuits (because I am Australian, not American).

Reasons normal people make lactation cookies:

  • Their milk supply is low
  • They want to increase their milk supply

Reasons that I made lactation cookies:

  • I felt like making eating biscuits and needed a good excuse to do so
  • Brewer’s yeast and flaxseed meal are expensive so I don’t want to waste them (and since I’m not normally into “health” or “super” foods I don’t use them otherwise)
  • Procrasti-baking and avoiding dishes while making more
  • Nursling 1 is having an extra long sleep so I have time up my sleeve

Any resulting boost in supply will be a welcome surprise for nursling 1, who certainly won’t mind the extra “gok”.

 

Love Bites

One year old girls are very distracting. They’re cute, noisy, sometimes annoying, constantly sucking up new knowledge like the proverbial sponge and ready to engage with pretty much anything around them, especially the things they’re not meant to play with.

I love playing with nursling 1. It’s so much fun teaching her new skills and joyful to watch her proudly use them, awesome to hear the new words that she has picked up (there seems to be more every day) and sometimes pretty amusing hearing her pronounce them with a few wrong letters or use them in not quite the right context but almost.

Isn’t it amazing and fascinating the way God designed little bodies and orchestrates their growth?

The upshot of this is that sometimes I’m quite busy and distracted playing with nursling 1 when it is time for nursling 2 to feed, maybe reading a book or building a tower. So after attaching her I get back to playing with nursling 1 and become distracted again. So distracted that I sometimes don’t notice for quite some time that she’s slipped off and reattached herself. Being only weeks old, she’s not quite as proficient at this as her sister. And when I finally notice I realise that she’s attached herself somewhere other than the nipple…

…and my boobs are slowly getting covered in hickies.

Thanks for that little one!

 

Acrobatics

Nursling 1 and I are no stranger to milk acrobatics. When it came to milk time she would suddenly decide to take up break dancing, become fascinated by something directly opposite us and have to try to look at it, or play a fun game of “how many things can I touch with my foot” (my nose included). As my belly grew with nursling 2 the moves just got more challenging as this now prominent feature became an extra item to touch with said foot, stretch around or use as a drum. We moved on from beginner to intermediate.

Now, having 2 nurslings takes things to a whole new level. We’ve moved up from intermediate to advanced. Picture this: new mum sits in a comfortable chair with a glass of water and snack on a side table beside her, takes her time and positions her newborn well for correct attachment. Mum is relaxed, baby feeds well staring into mum’s eyes and then drops off to sleep after a nice feed with a full tummy. There is probably sickeningly sweet music playing in the background too. Now forget all of that. It never happens for us!

This is how we do it!* “Nursling 2 makes known her needs with a loud “you can’t ignore this” cry, and continues to make needs known while I make sure nursling 1 is in a safe location, and that things are safe from her. Nursling 2 is hastily positioned, comes on and off a few times as the milk lets down and shoots down her throat (then at her face, the opposite wall and anything in between). The milk pressure subsides from fire hose grade to steady garden hose flow grade and gulping ensues. At this point nursling 1 decides she’d like some too. As she is very polite she asks “please”. I wrestle her one-handed onto whatever we happen to be sitting on at the time (normally not the comfy nursing chair that lives in nursling 1’s room). Then one-handed fight multiple layers of clothing away from the unoccupied side so that she can latch herself on while hoping she is too distracted to poke her sister. Once she is attached I take a moment to make sure neither child is squishing the other, then reattach nursing 2, who has been disturbed by this whole process. Then we’re good for a while and I use whatever hand or other body part (knee, foot) that is available to fend nursling 1 off of nursling 2 if needed (ears are particularly interesting, and need to be pulled). At some point nursling 2 finishes. This is never before nursling 1, that would be too easy. So I burp and jiggle nursling 2 one-handed while nursling 1 finishes. Then somehow wrangle one or both of them off of my lap when we are all done.

Why do we do this? Oh what joy to be rewarded with 2 contented girls both enjoying milk together, and the tender moments when nursling 1 will reach over while they feed to gently pat nursling 2 on the head or tummy, or hold her hand.

And so we have introduced nursling 2 to milk acrobatics. While she’s still a novice, I am certain she will catch on fast, I will master the one handed nursing skill set, and intermediate will eat our dust as we power on to expert level!

 

*Disclaimer: it’s not always like this. This is in fact, the exception to the rule. They do feed separately more often than together, and sometimes there is an extra pair of hands around to help (thank you hubby!). The together feeds are the fun ones though!

 

 

 

Milk

Milk.

Who knew that this particular 4 letter word could cause such a fuss? At first mention it sounds perfectly innocent. But let me tell you, milk is a big deal, especially if it comes out of a human boob (although the bovine variety has had its own share of controversy lately here in Aus).

It’s a big deal for a new mum (and probably dad too!) who may wonder “do I have enough?” or “why are these red, rock hard things full enough to feed a small nation when I only have one baby?” It’s definitely a big deal for newborns, who care less about where it came from than whether it will fill their tummy. Curiously, it also seems to be a big deal for quite a lot of the rest of the population, who’s reactions vary from “wow, it really does all that?” (nourish, comfort, fight infection, decrease risk of cancer and disease – yes! They don’t call it liquid gold for nothing!) to “you’re doing what with it now?” (apparently breast milk jewellery is a legitimate thing – who knew?) and everything in between.

Milk is certainly a big deal in my household.

Let me introduce myself. I am a mum of 2 beautiful girls, a 1 year old and her little sister who followed 16 months after. I breastfeed both of my girls, sometimes simultaneously. Milk is demanded often and quite a lot of our day seems to revolve around it. I am wife to a brilliant husband, who also happens to enjoy dairy (bovine variety!). I am a child of God, and an avid admirer of His creation (human milk being pretty high up on the list of pretty amazing things He’s engineered). I also love to read and write.

So here we are at a convergence of these things, a blog about parenting and breastfeeding 2 girls at once. I hope I can entertain you along the way!