Avril Flynn, Motherboard podcast presenter, mum-of-one and midwife, shares her personal breastfeeding journey with her son, Felix.
It was never a case for me to ‘decide’ to breastfeed. I always just assumed I would. As a midwife, I’m a huge breastfeeding advocate. However, I’m a card-carrying feminist, so a huge believer in choice. I trust women to make their own decisions; how anyone else feeds their baby is frankly none of my business.
While I was pregnant my boobs, never on the small side, ballooned and I remember thinking they could probably feed an army! When my son was born, we were very lucky and had hours of skin-to-skin and he latched on like a wee dream.
I was a bridesmaid for my sister when Felix was 3 days old, my milk was starting to come in and I’m not going to lie …..I felt like a queen. I thought with all my experience and knowledge, breastfeeding was going to be a breeze!
Unfortunately, I came crashing down about 2 weeks later. Sometimes mums have the problem of undersupply, which means their boobs aren’t producing an optimum amount of milk. This can usually be sorted out by lots and lots of feeding, which brings your supply up. However, I had the opposite problem, my boobs really could feed an army and I had too much milk.
Despite all my knowledge and years of helping mums, it really was a totally different ball game looking after myself. I tried everything I could but ended up with repeated bouts of mastitis (which is an infection in your boobs, and really very unpleasant). I continued to feed through this as I was absolutely determined and weirdly, one of the best things you can do to help your mastitis is to continue to feed.
However, it kept returning. I was exhausted and getting really sick. A locum GP wanted me to go straight back into hospital, but I refused - in hindsight, this would probably have been a good idea! I was put on a particular dose of antibiotics and for whatever reason it made my milk taste funny because Felix refused to feed. I was lucky in that I had already a very healthy collection of pumped milk, so was able to give him that.
By the time my antibiotics finished, Felix point blank refused to go back on the boob. I was absolutely heartbroken. I felt totally terrible and actually embarrassed, as surely as a midwife I should be able to this? I tried for ages and ages and then I had to make a decision: which was more important, for him to have my milk or for me to get so down about my “failure” and keep getting mastitis?
So, I made a call, hired a hospital grade pump and exclusively pumped until Felix was eight months old. Pumping is no joke, I did it every 3 hours around the clock, seven days a week. The sound of that pump will haunt me for the rest of my days!
Now with hindsight and some sleep, I feel really proud of myself. My breastfeeding journey couldn’t have been more different from what I thought it would be and I laugh at my naivety.
I wish I had contacted a lactation consultant sooner and I wish I had gotten more support for myself. But every mum does their best, and hindsight is just that and pretty useless after the fact!
For any mum out there ... I really, really would encourage you to give breastfeeding a proper go. There are some brilliant supports available, and even with all of my challenges, I’m so glad I did it.