Welcome back to our 'Milkbar Mamas' series where we speak to women all over Australia about how breastfeeding unfolded for them because nothing #normalisesbreastfeeding more than writing, speaking and sharing all things boobin' related.
From first time mamas to exclusive pumpers, those battling over and under supply, tongue ties, mastitis and everything in between, we are SO excited to share their words and experiences with you. We hope these stories will inspire, give you some tips for your own breastfeeding experience and help those walking a similar path to feel less alone.
When it comes to challenges, there isn't one that Melbourne mama-of-two Kristen HASN'T faced. From cracked nipples to severe engorgement, mastitis, a bottle preference and even the premature arrival of her second child, Kristen, a Paediatric Registered Nurse & International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) has survived it all (and lived to tell the tale!)
Now, 7 months on from the early arrival of her second baby, Kristen is sharing her story to help inspire other mothers who are struggling and help them see that with some help, they can reach their breastfeeding goals.
Despite our best laid plans, breastfeeding sometimes just doesn't unfold quite how we hoped it would. This was Kristen's experience with her first baby, Mason, now four. "I had taken a breastfeeding course and read all the books so I thought I was ready to go," remembers Kristen, "however, boy was I wrong!" Mason's arrival brought with it intense nipple pain, cracked nipples and severe engorgement. Kristen also struggled with getting her breast pump to work and then once she figured it out, began the juggle of boobs and bottles followed by a bout of mastitis at 6 weeks. "By then, I had a love hate relationship with my breast pump and developed D-MER (Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex)."
D-MER is a relatively rare condition which can affect some breastfeeding mums. It is characterised by negative emotions, that occur seconds before a mother’s milk ejection reflex when breastfeeding or expressing. Mums who experience D-MER will often experience an intense rush of uncomfortable emotions just prior to their letdown. These feelings will then disappear once the milk flow is established. "D-MER mixed in with the anxieties of becoming a new mum left me feeling like a failure," remembers Kristen. "I ended up exclusively pumping for 4 months (my supply was drastically decreasing by then too) and mix feeding up until 6 months but I still had a pain in my heart that we did not go longer."
Despite still feeling raw from her first experience of breastfeeding, Kristen was still inspired to learn everything she could about breastfeeding and lactation so that the next time around, she'd be more educated and prepared. Through her job as a Registered Nurse she was able to become a Lactation Counsellor and then an IBCLC.
When Kristen found out she was pregnant again, she began prepping. "The moment I fell pregnant with my second child I stocked up on a Haakaa Breast Pump, nipple shields, a supplemental nursing system (SNS), breastmilk collectors/shells, lactation cookies, you name it I probably got it," Kristen says. "I was determined and failure was not an option." After the slightly premature arrival of her daughter at 37.5 weeks, Kristen was able to put her preparations into action. "My daughter was sleepy at first and not as chunky as a full term baby," she says. "She also needed top ups for two months with expressed milk in a bottle." It was a tough road but one that Kristen was determined to conquer. "There were many times I thought exclusive breastfeeding with not going to work," she says. "Some days she wanted the bottle more than me, or she wouldn’t latch on, or the challenges we were facing just seemed too much." Kristen was also dealing with her old foes mastitis, engorgement and nipple pain as well as using nipple shields to help her daughter latch.
Product Feature: Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump
It was the way Kristen approached breastfeeding and the work she had done prior to birth that she thinks ended up making the biggest difference. "I was mentally prepared this time," says Kristen. "And with my IBCLC education and knowledge (as well as a lot of patience on my end) my daughter and I powered through all the struggles in those early months and I can proudly say we are exclusively breastfeeding at 7 months!" Kristen also credits the tools at her disposal as having a huge impact on her success. "I loved using my breastmilk collectors and my nipple shields saved the day when my daughter was refusing to latch." Kristen was also able to build a huge freezer stash using her Haakaa Breast Pump, some of which she now donates to other mamas in need.
Kristen hopes that her story helps other mums who may be experiencing breastfeeding issues. "I hope my story may inspire other mothers who are struggling and perhaps see that with some help (i.e. advice from an IBCLC) or lactation device (i.e. a Haakaa pump and/or nipple shield) they can reach their breastfeeding goals."
To find an IBCLC in your area, click here
For more info on Haakaa products and how they can help, click here
For the majority of us, consciously moving away from single use, non recyclable/biodegradable products is something we are actively committed to, but it can become overwhelming at times, especially working out where to start. While these easy eco-friendly product swaps aren't going to change the world overnight, they help us to play a small role in the greater good.
There is no doubt about it; breastfeeding is tough. It can take a huge toll on all aspects of your life, from your physical health right through to your mental and emotional wellbeing and even your relationship. Breastfeeding has the power to drain not only your boobs, but a big chunk of your life force. We get it. As breastfeeding mamas ourselves, we've been there. And we're here to tell you that there are ways to take care of your babies mama (AKA you) even when you're boobin' round the clock.