Many Mothers dream of being able to breastfeed their babies, I am one of those Mothers. As a Mum and a Paleo Mum I wanted to feed and nourish my baby the way nature intended. Only thing is, sometimes nature throws you a curve ball!
This is my very candid and personal account of my pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding experience as a Paleo Mum.
In February of 2015 Hubby and I completed a Whole30. One month later we discovered I was 4 weeks pregnant with baby number 4! One of the first things I did, I mean the very next day, was research anything and everything to do with breastfeeding.
As breastfeeding didn’t work out for me with our first 3 babies, which were all conceived in my pre Paleo days, I was determined to succeed this time. Now filled with my Paleo knowledge I knew there was no way I wanted to feed my baby a highly processed cows milk based formula. See this great article on commercial formulas.
During my breastfeeding research I discovered that the highest chance of successful breastfeeding was a natural birth followed by baby being placed straight on your tummy and undertaking the breast crawl to find your boob and self latch. As I have a history of severe tearing and previous bubs was born via csection because of this, I was faced with a dilemma. Risk a tear or risk difficulty breastfeeding again.
I should mention also that I was left slightly traumatized by my previous c-section due to being separated from my new baby for the first hour while I was in recovery, when I finally did get reunited with him both my parents and hubbies had cuddled him before I even had! I put all this down to why I had so much trouble breastfeeding him and ultimately ended up putting him on formula.
So with all this in mind I decided I wanted to risk tearing and the horrible consequences that comes with sever tearing in the hopes of successful breastfeeding and avoiding another traumatizing c-section. I obviously got my OB’s ok and convinced Hubby.
During my pregnancy I did all the research and developed my birth plan which all geared towards optimizing my chances of breastfeeding. I knew I wanted a natural drug free birth (I delivered bub number 2 this way so I had faith that I could do this again) I knew I wanted delayed cord clamping to ensure bubs got all the cord blood, rich in iron, that was rightfully his.
I knew I wanted bubs to come straight out and onto my tummy and left on me with no interference from anyone including doctors or midwives (so long as no complications with bubs) until bubs had “crawled” (more like squirmed) his way to my boob and self latched. (Check out this article on The Breast Crawl)
My Hubby thought this was all a bit of a tall order and didn’t want me to get my hopes up too much. He often reminded me to expect the unexpected and to know that things don’t always go to plan and that’s ok, including breastfeeding. I agreed with him but my mind was set and I was going to do all that was in my power to achieve my birth plan.
I booked in with a lactation consultant to discuss my previous breastfeeding issues and get tips on how to succeed this time around. I wanted a lactation consultant on board right from the beginning so I had a professional support network in place. Bubs had other ideas about me making it to that appointment!
8 days before my due date I woke in the middle of the night for one of my many nightly loo visits, I stood up out of bed and my waters suddenly broke! I felt slight niggling cramping but nothing much, we rang the hospital and they said to make our way in. I was not in any rush as I wasn’t experiencing much pain during contractions, I pottered around for about 30 Min, getting my stuff ready, even doing my hair & makeup haha!
All the while my waters were leaking quite a lot. The pain started getting slightly stronger and more uncomfortable, so I said to Hubby we had better go. The hospital was literally 5min up the road so I wasn’t worried. Hubby got me down to the car and turned to go back in and get my suitcase, just as he did I had a huge painful contraction at which point I made a gut wrenching sound that sent my hubby and 10 year old son sprinting back in the house to grab my bag (that image still makes me laugh to this day!).
We pull up at the hospital, I’m in my nighty and ugboot slippers as there was no reason to get dressed with the way my waters were leaking. I stood up out of the car and my waters gushed strait down into my slippers! Hubby grabbed the towel I was sitting on and shoved it between my legs, I waddled, loudly sloshing in my waters soaked slippers with a pink towel between my legs across the car park into the emergency department, where the triage nurse took one look at me and said “righty-o I will call maternity”!
By the time we get to the maternity ward my contractions were coming thick and fast, I go straight into the delivery room at which point I remember that I had left my very much needed Birth Plan! I couldn’t believe it! So in between contractions I sat on the edge of the bed and told my midwife every aspect of my birth plan. When a contraction came I would stop mid sentence, stand up and lean over a pillow on the bed, moan through a contraction, then when it subsided I would sit back down on the edge of the bed and continue telling the midwife my birth plan in detail.
She listened to every word, asked questions, gave advise and ultimately agreed to my birth plan with the exception of any complications which may alter the plan.
Now that I felt my midwife was on board with my plan I could get on with the job of delivering this bubba! The midwives kindly gave us space, they stayed just outside my room, I could hear them chatting to each other every now and again when I tuned in to my surroundings. I remember at one stage, a midwife came in and offered me pain killers, I quietly responded with “no I’m fine thanks” she then proceeded to ask me if I was scared of pain killers! What?? Even through the pain I thought to myself what an odd question, for some reason that question, to me at the time, sounded ridiculous and annoyed me that I had to answer it ( Thinking back now she was just doing her job) but I snapped at her saying “um no! I have given birth once naturally and I can do it again!” She just said “oh” and walked away.
At one point my Hubby had left the room for some reason and the midwives were chatting outside of the room somewhere, I felt a contraction coming on and stood up and leaned over my pillow, I was by myself, feeling my contraction gaining strength and I just felt myself kind of go inside myself (if that makes sense) I was talking to myself, internally, saying you can do this, your body is designed to do this, you’ve got this!
This contraction was a doozy, it felt like it would subside but then gain strength again, it was like 3 contractions in one, somewhere during this never ending contraction my Hubby had come back in the room and was behind me rubbing my back, Hubby then whispers in my ear, “you’ve still got your nickers on, hadn’t you better take them off?” I didn’t even have the breath to answer him but I remember thinking “why are you talking about my nickers?”. When my never ending contraction finally started to subside I suddenly felt the urge to push, I yelled out “I’ve gotta push!”
I heard the midwives stop chatting and rush in, right at that moment Hubby said, quit loudly “you’ve still got your nickers on”! He swiftly lays me back over the bed lifts my legs in the air and rips my nickers off!! The midwives got a good chuckle out of that! If I wasn’t in so much pain and wanting to push I would have told him off! It’s hilarious now looking back though and I tease him about it often haha!
I listened to my midwifes instructions intently during the pushing stage, I wanted to do everything she asked, push/stop pushing, in order to prevent/minimize any tearing. I remember at one stage saying out laud “please don’t let me tear” I was saying it more to myself but thinking back now I probably added a little pressure to the midwives job in saying that!
Well fast forward through the huffing and puffing and 3hrs after my waters breaking at home I delivered my precious little Nikolas Francesco Berte. 3hrs from start to finish and my beautiful baby boy was placed straight on my tummy for us to gaze wondrously at. My midwife kept her word and delayed cord clamping until it stopped pulsating. No one except myself and husband touched him for the first 2.5hrs while we watched in amazement while he squirmed his way up my tummy and to my boob where he self latched and began his first feed.
I was in amazement! My birth plan went completely to plan and the whole experience was just amazing. I did tear, thanks to little Nikolas making a superman entry into the world by putting one arm out in front of him at the last minute as I was pushing him out, but luckily it was just a second degree tear this time, I can live with that.
Well our first day together as mummy and baby went well, he was feeding great, the midwives all commented on what a great latch we had going and I was feeling quite confident in breastfeeding. The lactation consultant I was meant to see that day, who is based on the hospital grounds, kindly came to my room for my appointment, she said we were doing great and had a great latch going (everywhere I read in my research was all about the latch, so this gave me confidence!)
By the end of the day I was feeling so good I was ready to go home, I wasn’t looking forward to spending even one night in hospital if bubs and I were doing well and there was no need to stay. I wasn’t prepared with Paleo food to bring in either seen as bubs decided to come 8 days early. But the midwives and Hubby talked me into staying one night at least and going home in the morning. So that’s what we did. I breastfeed all through the night, snuggling with my new little man, it was what I had dreamt of my whole pregnancy, the closeness and bonding with my new baby, it was magic.
It didn’t matter that I hadn’t slept since waking and my waters breaking around 24hrs ago, this is what I had waited for and imagined countless times during my pregnancy. The next day we were discharged into the early discharge program (meaning midwifes would make home visits for the next 3 days) and we took our new little man home.
Everything seemed to be going great the first two days, bubs was feeding a lot and the midwifes were all happy with our progress at each visit. Then on day number three the midwife came and weighed bubs. She was concerned about how much weight he had lost. He’d lost more than the allowable 10% of birth weight, he’d lost 12%. She advised to express after every feed and offer my expressed breastmilk, via bottle at the end of the next feed. I was a bit shaken up by all this and very concerned about the dreaded “nipple confusion” I had read about if I had to offer a bottle when trying to breastfeed.
But the midwife stressed this HAD to happen for bubs sake, so that’s what we did. The midwife extended our early discharge program and advised she would be back the next day to weigh him again. I spent the next 24hrs either breastfeeding, pumping or bottle feeding, there wasn’t much time for anything else. Due to some sort of mix up with the hospital a midwife didn’t get back to weigh bubs until day 5.
So we had spent 48hrs following the new routine of feeding and pumping. I thought for sure bubs would have gained weight and everything would be great.
But no, bubs had lost more weight and we were instructed to return to the hospital immediately and bubs would be placed in the Special Care ward. I had a million thoughts running through my head, is there something wrong with my baby, my milk or both? One thing I knew, based on some of the midwifes comments was that they would push the use of formula once we got to the hospital. And boy was I right!
Bubs was assessed by a pediatrician and it was discovered that he had a tongue and upper lip tie. They advised that even though he had a good latch when breastfeeding he didn’t have a good enough tongue thrust to draw the milk out, which meant that not only was he not getting enough of my milk but due to not much milk being drawn out, my milk supply hadn’t come in property leading to a low milk supply. I was heart broken!
We were told that our only option was to supplement with formula. I explained to the paediatrician that formula was not something I wanted to feed my baby. From that moment forward we were looked at and treated like bad parents. It was explained to us that our baby was their patient and that he was their first concern. They made us feel like he wasn’t OUR first concern.
I knew breastfeeding was the best option for my baby and really wanted my lactation consultants advise on the best way forward. My husband ran down to the lactation consultants office, but she wasn’t there. We were only offered one option and that was to supplement his feeds with formula. We were in a small country hospital with the only milk replacement resource being powdered formula. There are options out there such as Human milk for human babies or liver based, home made formulas (see this article on bubba yum yums recipe).
We felt like we were left with no option, my baby was hungry and I couldn’t help. I felt so many emotions and so much heartache. Reluctantly we fed him formula.
We had to stay at the hospital until he was within the 10% leeway of weight loss from birth. His feeding scheduled became everything. I would first offer my boobs then offer my EBM from the previous pumping session via a bottle, then offer the formula, then express my boobs for the next feed. It was a 1.5hr process each feed time, but I didn’t care, I was determined to give home every drop of breastmilk I could.
He started gaining weight right away. I was so relived he was gaining weight but heart broken at the same time that formula was what was helping the weight gain. Before they discharged him they ran some blood tests. One came back showing ecoli in his bladder. I remember thinking “what now!” My poor little guy had been through enough!
The paediatrician couldn’t explain how or why it got there. After a bit of research hubby and I believe he had contracted the ecoli from the hospital somehow, but who’s to know for sure. This now meant my little 8 day old baby had to be put on a dose of antibiotics.
My Paleo brain was screaming at me saying first he has lost the majority of his good bacteria that he should get from my breastmilk and now we are going to kill the rest off with antibiotics! I knew probiotics was going to be added to bubs diet ASAP!
After a week in hospital we were sent home with formula, antibiotics and my broken-heart. We bought dairy free baby probiotics on the way home from hospital. Determined not to give up on breastfeeding I scheduled an appointment with my lactation consultant, she advised I start taking motilium and get the tongue and lip ties snipped as soon as possible. So we did. The experience of getting the ties snipped was horrific for bubs and me and one I will NEVER forget.
Bubs was now 2 weeks old and we are still continuing the feeding schedule of boobs, EBM, formula and pump. However bubs started increasingly fussing and refusing the boob, opting for bottle more and more. Eventually by week 5 he is refusing boob altogether and I am pumping and bottle feeding EBM and formula. The lack of closeness and the feeling my baby didn’t want to feed from me really took its toll on me. I was an emotional reck. I cried every time I tried to talk about breastfeeding with hubby or anyone who asked me about it. Still 10 months on I get emotional, Hubby mentioned something the other day about it and I burst into tears.
I kept up the pumping and supplementing for just over 6 months. Spending around 8hrs in a 24hr period stuck to a pump. I invested in a top of the line portable pump with a hands free bra so I could pump and tend to bubs or pump on the go if needed. I even pumped hands free driving the car down the freeway to my parents in laws house on a few occasions. This is the pump I bought and the hands free bra. I also spent a fortune on natural organic supplements and teas to boost my supply.
The lack of stimulation from baby not breastfeeding though took a tole on my supply. Eventually by 6 months my pumping days came to an end. I was beyond heart broken. I couldn’t bare to see a breastfeeding mum on Tv or in public, I would burst into tears and fill with disappointment and heartache.
My Hubby was lost as to how to help me. During one of our conversations he said to me “put what you can’t control out of your mind and concentrate on what’s in your control”. Something clicked when he said that, it made sense. Bubs was now starting solids and I COULD control what foods I included in his solids. My focus now became ensuring every ounce of food that past my little mans lips was nutrient dense, easily digestible, would support and build a healthy gut microbiome and be full of good fats and cholesterol to help make up for all that he missed out on from my limited breastmilk. My little Paleo baby was going to thrive! See my post HERE on what I include in bubs daily meals.
Here we are now at almost 11 months old. He is self weaning from his formula, he often refuses his bottle opting for yummy food instead and he’s a big bone broth lover, check out THIS post about my little bone broth addict and You can find my bone broth recipe HERE
As I mentioned earlier there are other options to formula when you can’t breastfeed, ultimately we decided to keep supplementing with THIS grass fed formula as bubs was still getting some of my breastmilk and it was what was working for us.
Not being able to breastfeed when you desperately want to can take a huge tole on you emotionally, It did for me. Having someone to talk to and support you is a big help. The Australian Breastfeeding Association also has a help line and is an excellent resource. Their article HERE also offers some support.
Feel free to comment below where your breastfeeding journey took you xx