Jess Rasho: Breastfeeding Goddess
I am so excited and humbled to introduce you all to my beautiful friend, Jess. Jess and I met through the Peanut app when our babies were two months old. If you aren’t familiar with Peanut it is essentially Tinder for new mums. Jess and I both swiped right and since then we have seen each other at least once every week and we talk every day. I cannot express enough gratitude to this incredible woman. Not only does she know exactly what I am going through – as her gorgeous daughter Imani is only a week younger than Hunter – but she has taught me so many things about my own son, about my body and about life. She is a nurse and has plans to move her career in a direction which will see her helping mamas everywhere. For her inaugural post, Jess has penned a piece on breastfeeding which is something she is an absolute boss at. Jess, you are incredible and Hunter and I adore you.
Breastfeeding: beautiful, natural, relaxing, nurturing, beneficial. Also painful, stressful, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and lonely!
Unfortunately, not many people like to mention the latter part. If you’re a new mum, with a tiny baby and swollen boobs, I totally see you! I see you second guessing yourself, feeling as though you’re failing, questioning your instincts and not knowing what the hell you’re doing.
I was that mum only eight months ago. I had my gorgeous girl on the 15th of February 2019, and after a twenty-two hour labour we were both exhausted.
“Okay, time to feed her,” said the midwife. Ok, yes. Breastfeed. Should be easy enough right? I just gave birth so of course this will be easy in comparison! Latch baby on. Ouch. Try again. Nothing. Hand express (get yourself milked by two midwives at 3am). 0.2ml. Feed baby. Ouch. Repeat. One nurse told me I would just end up putting her on formula because my milk output was so low. Knowing what I know now, it actually wasn’t low! It was because we had a traumatic birth, blood loss and a poor latch.
Sadly, there really isn’t a lot of support for new mums. Breastfeeding was the one thing throughout my pregnancy that I was committed to doing. I joined all the breastfeeding Facebook pages, attended all the breastfeeding classes, bought all the nursing pads, haaka, hospital grade pump and bottles shaped like a boob (just in case of course).
So, when I had my baby girl and breastfeeding didn’t come easily I was devastated and broken, but determined. I made a goal to feed her for a week. After losing more than 10% of her body weight in the hospital, we were only allowed to be discharged once we agreed to a strict feeding plan of breastfeed, top up feed, pump and repeat. So I would feed my newborn for 30 minutes, top up approximately 20-30mls of expressed milk or formula, then pump for 30 minutes. If you have ever had a newborn, you can probably appreciate that once that whole exercise was completed we were back to step 1 again. Add all the washing of bottles and pump parts and pumping at midnight/3am/6am, I honeslty felt defeated. I even asked my husband, “Why am I doing all this? I may as well just bottle feed her.” He told me that I had made it this far and just to give it another week – he knew how important breastfeeding was for me.
At two weeks old, I had an appointment at the local breastfeeding clinic to have her weighed. She had finally gained weight. I decided to cut out the top ups (I still pumped up to 3 times a day some days) and trust my body. By the next weigh in at a month old, my girl had put on a whole kilogram! Wow, what a feeling. I was so happy! And proud of my body.
My next goal was to breastfeed for two months, then three months, then six months, with my ultimate goal being a full year of breastfeeding. Now we are eight months on our journey with no end in sight and I am so happy that I pushed through. It is the most amazing feeling to know that my body created and grew her, and has now nourished her and continues to do so.
I feel like finding that nurse who undermined my body’s ability to feed my child and show her my healthy eight month old, as well as my eight litre stash of milk in the freezer. I’d also like to introduce her to the six mums I have donated over sixteen litres of milk to via informal milk donation. That’s right, the young mum with no milk has gone on to donate EXCESS milk! How? Well, through my fear of “losing my milk” I kept up pumping.
Still, to this day, I pump once a day, or every second day, and freeze. Once I reach a surplus of milk, I look for a mum in need. I donate my milk via the human milk 4 human babies – NSW Facebook page. There is one set up for every state in Australia. It is an informal milk donation page whereby mums with excess milk, or mums needing milk can post and help each other. Due to its informal nature, there are no laws surrounding this and thus there is a lot of stigma.
“What if the mum takes drugs/is sick, etc.,” is something I hear a lot. All I can say is that milk donation is a very altruistic act. We take time from our families to pump, bag, freeze and deliver the milk, all for no gain (except that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you help someone). Essentially, what I’m saying is – why would we do all that to intentionally hurt another baby?! On top of that, us mums are also feeding our own thriving babies and that is evidence in itself.
So, new mum. I see you.
I know how hard it is, how the nights feel like they will never end. The sore, cracked nipples. The leaking, engorged boobs. The “do I have enough milk/my boobs feel empty/she’s hungry again?!” thoughts.
My advice to you all is this:
1. Surround yourself with people who support you and your breastfeeding relationship. The last thing you want to hear when you’re already struggling is, “just give her a bottle”. You need that village that will look after everything else so you can skin-to-skin with your baby and feed, feed, feed.
2. When in doubt, whip it out. Crying baby? Boob. And literally everything else. Don’t worry when people say you’re spoiling your baby (um, isn’t that the whole point?!). Especially for the first three months AKA the fourth trimester.
3. Drink plenty of water (3-4 litres a day!) and eat healthy nourishing foods. What you eat definitely has an effect on your milk supply. Galactogogues AKA milk producing foods like brewers yeast, oats, lentils, chickpeas, barley, malt, etc., are great. Milo (for the malt), Powerade (for the electrolytes) and porridge (for the oats) are good to have on hand.
4. Social media and online support. Join the Facebook pages like: The Australian Breastfeeding Project, Breastfeeders in Australia, The Australian breastfeeding association, Pinky McKay and Milky Meg.
5. If you are struggling or need some extra support or guidance, there are drop in clinics that you can be referred to by your hospital. You can also hire a private IBCLC (probably the best option) to come to you or via Skype.