Today’s chat is with nutritionist Natalie Brady - mum to Tyler, 9 months.
Tell us about your breastfeeding journey.
It’s had its ups and downs, but overall I’ve loved it. To me, being able to breastfeed is a blessing.
When Tyler was born he latched really well, but he favoured my left breast over my right - so early on I had trouble keeping his latch on the right. While I was at birth care, the nurses gave me a nipple shield which I used on and off for a month or two until his latch improved. The shield helped to save my nips and gave them a little break when they got sore. Luckily I never bled, but I do remember counting to 30 when it was painful - I’d tell myself, ‘the pain will pass after 30 seconds’, and it always did.
When Tyler was 2-3 months old he got reflux. This made breastfeeding quite challenging as when I put him near my breast, he’d push away and arch his back. Or, when he finished feeding and I went to burp him, he’d cry. A LOT. My heart goes out to any mum struggling with a reflux baby because it sure isn’t easy!
After every feed (day and night) for about 3 months I’d hold him upright for 20-30 minutes. This was fine during the day, but exhausting at night when all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. I knew it wouldn’t be forever though, and it meant that Tyler wouldn’t be uncomfortable or vomit when I put him down. Around 6 months, when he was able to sit up unassisted, he naturally started to grow out of his reflux.
Feeding in public has always been challenging. When he was around 3 months, Tyler became a super curious little boy. As soon as I put him on the boob he’d pull off and look around. He was so easily distracted. He would sometimes let me feed him in the car, but if I was at a friend’s or family member’s house there was just no chance. This made going out tricky as I’d have to feed him at home and plan everything around his feeding times.
He’s also been on a couple of breastfeeding strikes. When he was 5 months old I went away for a family weekend up north and he wouldn't take to my breast at all. Luckily I brought the pump in case of emergency, and ended up having to pump and bottle feed him the whole weekend. It was so tiring. I always tried to breastfeed him first (because pumping is so much admin), but he would just cry and scream. When I got home we did lots of baths & skin to skin to get him back to the breast. Thankfully it worked.
Tyler is now 9 months old. I still have trouble breastfeeding him in public but he’s a great feeder at home (although if my husband is in the same room he’ll get distracted so I have to go into his room and make it dark so he’ll feed well). I solely breastfeed or sometimes express so my husband can give him a bottle in the evenings.
I’m not ready to give up breastfeeding yet. I’m lucky to have a really good milk supply, so will keep going until the day one of us decides to stop.
Keeping my milk supply up has been important to me and something I prioritise. I love knowing I’m able to nourish him and give him nutrients to support his gut health, immune system, brain health, growth and development. Breastfeeding truly is a privilege and something I feel very grateful for.
Even when we’ve gone through challenging times, when he latches and I hold him in my arms and look at him feeding, I take a deep breath and know this time won’t last forever, so I cherish every moment of it.
What are your thoughts on the support available for breastfeeding mothers?
I think there needs to be more support for new mums. When my son went on a breastfeeding strike and was screaming, crying, and pushing my breast away - it broke me.
I tried to get some free help through Plunket, but they said no one would be able to see me for 3-4 weeks which is far too long to wait when you’re exclusively trying to breastfeed and you’ve got a crying, hungry baby.
Also, after birth, so many women have trouble breastfeeding and give up early because they find it too painful, they’re not aware of all the different feeding positions, or they can’t afford a lactation consult. This is really unfortunate.
The only real support you get is at birth care (this is where, in some regions, you can choose to go after you’ve had your baby for 2-3 nights). The nurses there are amazing and extremely supportive, but once you leave you’re pretty much on your own.
Fav thing about breastfeeding?
It would have to be the connection and bonding, and being able to hold Tyler close to me.
Breastfeeding is a sacred time for us. I put my phone away and I make sure I’m completely present with him. I know this time isn’t going to last forever so I want to cherish every moment while I can. It also amazes me how the female body can provide the perfect nutrient-rich food source for a little human.
Most challenging thing about breastfeeding?
The reflux & breastfeeding strikes!
Anything you found surprising?
How challenging a baby with reflux is. I cut out loads of reflux-triggering foods from my diet, which was okay for me being a nutritionist as I still knew other food options I could have, but there was so much more to reducing his symptoms than just avoiding certain foods.
Any leakage or nip slip moments you’d rather forget?
Thankfully no, I’ve never had a nip slip moment! I’ve also been quite lucky as my breasts don’t leak so I’ve never had to wear breast pads.
Weirdest place you’ve fed your babe?
Nowhere too crazy because of how fussy he is with feeding in public, but when he was a newborn, I’d feed him anywhere - a restaurant in the viaduct, a park down the road, in the car, you name it.
Your top 3 feeding tips for mums-to-be?
1) If your nips are really sore or your bub has a preference for one breast like Tyler did, don’t be afraid to use a nipple shield. It can really help!
2) Don’t give up hope if you really want to breastfeed. Reach out to friends and family who have breastfeed and get all the support you can. If you’re struggling and can afford a lactation consultant, go for it.
3) Be present with your baby - your phone and scrolling can wait. Breastfeeding is about bonding and connection. It’s a special time for you and your baby. And it won’t last forever! Take some deep breaths, look at your baby and just be in the present moment. It’s also a great way to support your milk supply and get those feel-good hormones pumping through your body.