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From rock bottom to bliss: a breastfeeding journey

By Sally Wood IN Connect Discover Repair

Breastfeeding. It’s a personal topic for many reasons and just like motherhood, no single experience is exactly the same.

For me, breastfeeding has been, without a doubt, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Four years on from the first latch, I can now say, it’s also been one of the most rewarding. It’s taught me so much about myself and even led me to discover my soul’s calling in life.

When it came to breastfeeding my firstborn, I figured I would simply follow in the footsteps of my mum who was lucky to have pain-free and pleasant experiences with all three of her children. (This was the first lesson in letting go of expectations)! With the very best of intentions, my lovely mother would proclaim how breastfeeding was effortless, and ‘like meditating’ because it ‘forced her to slow down’ and find moments of calm in the middle of the chaos. As a new mum, this was hard to relate to when I was struggling to master the complex art of breastfeeding and at the depths of despair dealing with a severely cracked nipple, ongoing bouts of mastitis and what would later be diagnosed as a breast abscess. Right at a time when I felt like I should be devoting my ALL to my newborn child, I was the sickest I’d ever been and dealing with a wave of emotions that I could never have anticipated.

I remember feeling trapped by the feeding cycle and overcome by sheer dread anticipating the pain of the latch each time my daughter would wake from a nap. The middle of the night feeds were the worst. I had never felt so alone, lost and utterly miserable, not to mention confused and overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice I was getting at the time.

A month after my daughter was born, my husband and I had a few close friends over to our house for my 30th birthday in a quest to cheer ourselves up and reconnect with who we were before becoming parents. I recall putting on a brave face, playing host in my sleep-deprived state and feeding my daughter somewhat self-consciously through the pain of my cracked nipple. Late that night as we were going to bed, the most intense pain started to develop in my breast. I ended up curled in the foetal position on the floor in excruciating agony as my whole entire breast felt like it was on fire.

We ended up in the emergency room at the hospital and I was treated with intravenous antibiotics over a number of days. The next month continued to be a challenge as it took a few more weeks and another stint in hospital for us to realise I had, in fact, developed an abscess. To say my husband and I felt cheated of the newborn love bubble we had imagined, was an understatement. Some people were suggesting it might be time to give up breastfeeding altogether, but I was determined to push on. Looking back on it now, I realise what a huge amount of pressure I was putting on myself.

After getting the right medical and emotional support, my breast eventually healed and I started to come out of the horrible haze we were in. I gradually learned to tune out a lot of the well-meaning advice and tune into the motherly instincts that were emerging. I realised my daughter was learning to get into her groove with breastfeeding as much as I was and that we were in it together. I started to forgive myself for feeling like I’d failed and let go of some of the guilt that had accumulated throughout the process.

For the first time in my life, I discovered the importance of looking after myself, in order to be able to show up for my little one. Instead of feeling like I always had to clean the house from head to toe during naptimes, I started to make the most of those precious spare moments and just BREATHE. I cultivated a daily practice of self-care, meditation and mindfulness. I started to explore my new identity as a mother. I stopped trying to control everything and I began to go with the flow.

Four years later, I am now struggling to get my second child off the boob! He is almost two and can’t get enough. I now get what my mum was talking about when she said breastfeeding can be like meditating. It really is an opportunity to surrender to the chaos and simply be in the moment. Who would have thought one could go from feeling such dread and desperation at the thought of feeding times, to cherishing every chance they now get to feed their little one. It just goes to show what an emotional rollercoaster motherhood can be, from days when you feel at rock bottom to those precious moments of pure bliss. Our journeys and struggles may all be different, but it’s the raw and all-consuming nature of motherhood that unites us.

I can now say, yes mum, you were right, breastfeeding truly is beautiful. The early days were harder than I could have ever imagined, but they taught me the importance of taking care of myself and I’m now committed to making it as easy as possible for other mums to do the same.

For any new mums going through a tough time with breastfeeding right now, please take heart in knowing you’re not alone. It might feel that way, when you’re up at 3am dragging yourself out of bed for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time, but there are plenty of other mums who have been there before and others who are there with you right now.

Try to take care of yourself during this transformative phase of your life, trust in your strength and ability to know what’s best for you and your little one.

Sally Wood

Through the ups and downs of early motherhood, Sally realised just how essential it was to keep a healthy mind and prioritise self-care in order to show up as the mum and woman she always wanted to be.

She found it really difficult to find the space and support to look after her mental and physical health while being a busy mum and kept thinking ‘if only there was an easier way for all mums to take better care of themselves – a place they could go to for support whenever and wherever they could find a precious spare moment’.

She set to work on creating a self-care solution and brought to life her dream of an online sanctuary where mothers feel safe, supported and empowered.

 

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