I didn’t choose to become an exclusively expressing mother, it chose me.
Before my beautiful daughter was born I always had wanted to breast feed my baby. This was a personal choice I had made for all the reasons that we always hear about breast feeding- anti-bodies for immunity, right level of fats, protein and minerals, good for health, less chance of obesity, better for the bowels, cost- effective, bonding, etc. I felt secretly excited and nervous about it. I knew it could be a challenge as many of my friends who had already had babies had faced initial challenges such as difficulties latching, sore nipples, mastitis and being unsure if their baby had had enough milk, and so on. But I was looking forward to the fact that this tiny little human that had grown inside of me for the last 9 months would be able to get this special milk. I was excited that they would be relying on me and that we would share that special mother- baby bond. I hadn’t even considered a back-up plan if breast feeding didn’t work. I mean why would I need to? Every mum can breast feed if they want to, right???
The big day arrived and my labour went mostly according to plan (not that I think you can have a labour that goes to an exact plan??… but that is a story is for another day).
It was then following the delivery when they were conducting the new born check that the nurse/obstetrician casually noted that my daughter has a tiny hole in her soft palette. At the time I did not think much of it and they still put her on the breast, which she wanted and she tried to suck. I still remember that special moment when they brought her up to me and placed her on my chest. She had beautiful big eyes, they were so alert like she was taking in the new world around her, her face was grinning at me, she was a bit blue and purple and covered in white vernix, she was even a little puffy, but she was mine and she was absolute perfection. It still melts by heart when I think back to that most special day. It almost feels surreal, you try to take everything in, but the moment just feels too good to be true.
My baby girl was then able to stay with my husband and I in the delivery suit until the paediatrician arrived and could examine her further. It was almost four hours later when he arrived checked her and confirmed that she had an unformed soft cleft palate. By this stage she was letting everyone know she was hungry so they took her to the nursery and put a tube down her to feed. At this stage I don’t think the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to feed her from the breast or that she had a cleft palate had sunk in. I didn’t rest that night from the excitement of bringing a gorgeous little life into the world. However, I was desperate for my girl to have my breast milk so a kind midwife milked me to get a few mls of colostrum to take to the nursery to give to my girl. Over the coming days, I focused on the situation and was determined to give my baby breast milk. With the support of the midwives, I was able to get my milk supply started and feed it to her with a special bottle sourced through CLEFTPALS Victoria.
In our journey we were fortunate to be surrounded by exceptional midwives, one who will always be a stand out to my husband and I as a crucial player in my daughter’s start to life. This one midwife had had previous experience in nursery care of cleft babies and put in so much of extra time on top of her already busy schedule to invest into my baby’s life and really help us with feeding. It was so exhausting and I don’t think I slept at all for the first week between, expressing milk, then taking it to the nursery to feed her with a special bottle and then I had to do it all over again. It was hard and it felt like there was no end and I remember thinking how am I going to maintain this.
During this first week it was at around the 3rd or 4th day when the baby blues usually set in and you are emotional for no real reason at all that it all hit me. I wasn’t ‘breast feeding’. I felt robbed and upset and that even though my daughter was technically getting breastmilk, I wasn’t breast feeding and it was hard to get my head around.
As I write this, it is four months post-delivery and I am still exclusively pumping breast milk. It has been a massive journey with many ups and downs. But what I can tell you is, if you are like me and you want your child to have the goodness of breast milk but there is something stopping them from feeding directly from the breast, there is an option you can give a go before you have to turn to formula. I won’t lie to you and say that it’s easy. There will be hard days, but the days do get better and easier as you learn your own tips and tricks along the way.
This now brings me to the reason why I have created Expressing Mumma. At the start I felt very lonely on my expressing journey and I hadn’t met another expressing mum. I also found that I had to do a lot of research to find information and support for mums who can’t breast fed but want their children to have breastmilk. I also had a lot of my friends whose children are now on formula due to breast feeding difficulties express to me that they wished that this option was more openly offered and encouraged to them to try before feeling like their only option was formula. I am passionate that there needs to be more education about expressing. I believe people in positions of support such as midwives, maternal health nurses and lactation consultants need to be more encouraging of this method.
I hope this Blog, related website, Facebook group and Instagram page can be of support to you. I hope to use these platforms to be of encouragement to women who might, like me, may one day find themselves in a situation that they hadn’t planned for but now know there is a way around it. I can also honestly tell you, that I love that I can provide milk for my baby. I feel proud of my accomplishments and I feel closer than ever to my baby daughter. No matter how they receive their food, breast, expressing or formula nothing can change the feeling of being a mum. xx