The hotMaMa Diaries

The hotMaMa Diaries

Everyone has a different experience of parenting and motherhood and there is no right or wrong path along this crazy journey. The hotMaMa diaries is a place to read stories from other mothers and even share your own!

To be featured on the hotMaMa Diaries contact us an email to [email protected]

lactation award

 RSS Feed

  1. boys-kiss

    Dear New Mum

    My story is probably very different from yours and you’re probably feeling things right now that I never had to face. You see, River wasn’t diagnosed with Down syndrome until he was 6 months old, it was missed by medical professionals and strangely I often feel very grateful for that. I feel that way because throughout my pregnancy and for the newborn baby period I was just incredibly happy. I wasn’t overloaded with scary medical advice, or told that my baby would have a terrible life, or that it was unfair on the siblings, or that I should have a termination. Nobody told me they were sorry. I suspected River had Down syndrome when he was born, but I was assured by doctors and midwives that he was fine. Even after that I think I still knew deep down, but I clung to the fact that everyone told me otherwise and put it to the back of my mind. Or at least I tried to. Either way, for the first 6 months of River’s life he was just my beautiful newborn baby, without a diagnosis and I fell head over heels in love with him.

    I always wonder whether I’m the right person to be dishing out advice to new parents, whether they learn during pregnancy or at birth. It may sound a bit strange but I often feel a bit left out, a bit on the sidelines because I missed out on such a huge part of having a child with Down syndrome. I never had that life shattering moment of sadness, that moment where you feel like your life will never be happy again. I just didn’t feel it, and the only thing I can put it down to is the fact that I had already gotten to know my son and just knew it was all going to turn out ok. And I guess that because I had suspected and known deep down that River had Down syndrome, that I’d already in some way processed those feelings without them really bubbling to the surface.

    image-47

     

    But I do understand. I do understand the sadness you feel and the fear that you have, because I know I would have felt exactly the same way. I know I would have felt devastation, I know I would have felt angry and I know I would have felt unable to cope or see a happy ending. I know I would have felt lost, not knowing which way to turn and how to make things ok again. I know that I would have felt like a failure, that I’d failed my family and that I had failed my new baby. I even know that I would have felt guilty for feeling everything that I was feeling.

    What I thought I knew couldn’t have been more wrong

    I would have pictured Down syndrome and imagined the outdated and false stereotypical vision that so many of us within society believe. In my mind I would have seen a lonely adult, with no friends, old fashioned clothing, with no understanding and always with their elderly mother. It would have been so wrong and now I can see how views of Down syndrome within society couldn’t be further from the truth, but I’m being honest and that’s how I would have felt. I would have pictured my son as a man without any type of ‘normal’ existence, a man who could never feel true feelings, and a man who would never have anything to offer society or who society would never accept. I would have seen a bleak and grey existence for the life I had wanted to create so much, and I would have wondered if it would be kinder for him to never have existed at all.

    It breaks my heart that I know I would have felt this way, and I know for sure that I never would have pictured River as a man who could lead a fulfilling life. I can now tell you though, that everything I never would have been able to picture for my son, I hand on heart picture it all for him now. With honesty I can tell you that when I think of River’s future I see him with some form of independence, with a circle of friends, with a job, with hobbies, with passions, with ambitions and with love. I envision a school life full of childhood friendships and an ability to learn along with a love of it. I can see a life filled with travel, a life filled with adventure and a life full of substance.

    dsc02959

    I’m ashamed to say it now, but before I knew what I know now, I never would have thought my son’s life could be meaningful, or anything other than just sad and disappointing. I can tell you without any uncertainty that I never would have been able to imagine the feisty, determined, funny, cheeky, sweet, loving, adventurous, fearless, smart, mischievous, social, amazing and totally gorgeous little boy we have been blessed with. I never would have imagined our River.

    I know you’re feeling a huge sense of loss – I get it

    I may not have the initial diagnosis in common with you, but something I’m sure you are feeling is a sense of loss. I know as I felt this loss myself, and I can only compare it as a sense of mourning for the life that you had pictured in your mind for your child. A sense of mourning the life you thought they were going to have. That life that you had let yourself imagine doesn’t exist anymore and it’s a deep feeling of sadness, it can even be compared to a death. We’ve lost the life that we thought our child would live, it’s just not going to happen and that is hard to bare. We all do it as parents, picture a life of milestones, education, careers, marriage, children, etc. We picture our future grandchildren and the life that society has decided we should all lead. We all have our children’s lives practically mapped out before they are even born and when we feel like it’s been ripped away from us it hurts. It hurts and it takes time for those feelings of loss to heal, it takes time for us to move on from those emotions.

    What I can tell you though is this. You will move on and it is all going to be ok, in fact, it is going to be incredible. The loss you are feeling right now will pass. The sadness, the hurt, the fear and the pain will all pass and you will see a light. You will get to know your baby and you will soon come to realize what a blessing you have been given. You will soon learn that you are one of the lucky few, and that your child is exactly what you never even knew you wanted or needed. You will get to a point where you won’t want to change it even if you could.

    dsc00203

    It won’t be easy, but the best things never are

    I’m not for one minute saying it’s going to be easy, it won’t be. You will face hurdles and barriers, and you will have days where it all feels too much. You will worry about your child’s future and you will worry about their acceptance within society. You will worry about their health and you may face dark periods where your child faces illness. You may feel frustrations regarding development and you will without a doubt feel a frustration about the struggles of receiving services they are entitled to. But I promise you this, those worries and fears are nothing compared to the sheer joy your child will bring to your life. You will feel an overwhelming sense of pride and admiration, and you will become their biggest supporter. Your child will show you the world through new eyes and you will become a better person, becoming more accepting of others and really seeing a person for who they really are. You will embrace differences and you will want to teach others to do the same, you will want to make a better society for your family. You will become stronger than you ever thought you could be, you will find a voice that you never knew you had and you will fight with every last breath you have to create a better world for your child.  You will not be able to imagine your life any other way, or yourself on any other journey in life. Most of all you will feel lucky, and you will wonder why the hell you ever felt so lost or so sad.

    dsc02856

    So New Mum, my advice to you is this

    Feel exactly what you need to feel and feel it without guilt. This is a journey for you, and it’s not an easy one. You need to feel these things in order to process them, deal with them and come out the other side. But you will come out the other side, you will get stronger and your life will be beautiful. Your child will shock you, teach you and you will burst with pride every single day. Your life will be filled with love, laughter and adventure and you will adore your child. You will love your child, you will love your life and you will love Down syndrome. You may not believe me right now, but one day you will love Down syndrome. It is part of your child, and it is the part that will show you what life is really about and what is really important. Believe me when I tell you this, one day it will be a part that you wouldn’t want to change in a million years.

    Good luck and Love Always

    From a Mum who is a little further into this wonderful journey.

     

  2.  

     

    1506455289343Donating milk had been something I heard about while on a car journey with another Mum. We were discussing how we were both really fortunate by pure luck to have really healthy and what appeared to be, above average supplies. Through surrounding myself with the world that is breastfeeding through books, Facebook groups, discussing with other Mums and most importantly experiencing it myself, I have come to realise that a lot of women struggle to use breast pumps well enough to make a full feed in one session. Some mums can spend hours hooked up to a breastpump and only achieve a few drops/ few ounces and others can make ounces in minutes.

     

    When I was in NICU I went straight to the pump, which may be why I'm able to create such a high supply but may just be luck. I truly believe, through speaking to a number of women and seeing multiple Facebook posts, that it really is just luck. You can either do it or you can't, sadly. Some women believe eating oats and taking supplements are a few of the ways you can increase your supply and others say purely by having your baby feed more will increase your supply- no supplement or type of food will help. I have never needed to and therefore never tried these supplements, but if my supply was dipping or I believed I needed to make more milk for my baby I would try everything under the sun- so no judgement here. I'm simply repeating what I've read!

     

    A lot of times during the early days, Oscar went through phases of cluster feeding and had I not been properly informed through reading up about the subject or being told by my experienced breastfeeding mama friends, that although it seemed like both my boobs were flat, deflated, empty and I simply couldn't produce any more milk- this was impossible. Breastmilk is a river not a reservoir, as they say. You will always make more milk. Cluster feeding is combined with all sorts of leaps and growth spurs that your baby is going through so it's a tricky time to have faith in yourself and your milk. A lot of women see cluster feeding as that their baby isn't satisfied with their milk and that they're crying because they're starving or that they're sucking and nothing's coming out. Believe me I thought this too when it first started happening. This can then lead to a lot of Mums falling into 'the top up trap'. When you're well informed about cluster feeding it allows you to understand what's happening in your babies life. When a baby cluster feeds it's known as 'putting their order in for the next day'. So if your baby is likely going through a growth spurt, their bodies are smart enough to know that, right, Mum, tomorrow I'm gonna need to feed double what I had today. And how do they do that? By cluster feeding. By feeding over and over and over they're sending all sorts of signals to your body to pick up the pace and that they're hungry. Come tomorrow, your body will start producing more milk to support this growth spurt. Cluster feeding happens every 6 weeks or so in a newborns life. If you've read my previous posts it's all about getting prepared. Having great films to watch, plenty of snacks and water around you and getting comfy in bed. Oscar once cluster fed for three hours. The first time I didn't know what the hell was going on and thought I can't possibly be making any more milk. I was also desperate to go to sleep so I was willing for him to go to sleep even more so.

     

    The 'top up trap' is an unfortunate cycle where by a mother thinks she isn't providing enough milk for her baby due to cluster feeding and wonders why they're feeding so much and not falling asleep as they used to after a big feed. Then they go and buy a bottle of formula to a) fill their babies tummies because they feel like their milk isn't enough b) make the baby sleep.

     

    By skipping cluster feeding and going through the long and tedious process of feeding, baby falling asleep, waking up as soon as they're put down, feeding, falling asleep, waking up, feeding AGAIN, falling asleep, waking up, feeding AGAIN... you get the picture. Instead of going through this process and carrying out the signals needed to be sent from their baby to their boobs, effectively, their body WONT make more milk. The baby will be full of formula, sleep and the Mums supply will remain the same. They make wake up the next day and want to continue their breastfeeding journey exclusively and come night time the baby will do the exact same thing, why? Because their body didn't get the signals needed from their baby to produce more milk for the next day. Their baby went to sleep, skipping all that vital cluster feeding and having a belly full of formula that takes a lot longer to digest than breastmilk, thus letting the baby sleep for longer. Sleeping baby = happy Mum. Skipping cluster feeding for sleep = Mums supply won't increase.

     

    If the Mums supply then doesn't increase and the baby tries to cluster feed again. If the Mum is ill informed about cluster feeding and thinks its 'Night 2 of me not making enough milk for my baby', the Mum will most likely make another bottle of formula. And come night 3, 4 or 5 will go for formula straight away. By missing those lucrative night feeds the Mums supply WILL drop. She then WILL not be making enough baby for her milk and WILL choose formula full time for their baby. (Everything they dreaded in the first place and could have avoided) It's a sad, vicious cycle and sadly does cut a lot of Mums breastfeeding journeys short. There's nothing worse than feeling like you're not enough for your baby and having to swap to formula despite it being the last thing you intended. By being well advised, well prepared and having faith in yourself and SCIENCE - it should all work out.

     

    Formula fed babies also cluster feeding and this can lead to a lot of Mums putting their baby on 'hungry baby milk' as they mistake a baby trying to cluster feed for a baby that's 'extra hungry'. This is simply a marketing ploy by formula companies that take advantage of Mums that will buy a thicker, higher calorie formula to fill their babies tummies to stop them crying for more food (the way nature intended). It is the only thing that truly upsets me when I read other Mums putting their baby on hungry milk, 'bed time milk' or rusks in their bottles just to get them to stop crying/sleep more. Breastmilk digests in 2 hours roughly in a newborn and formula takes a lot longer and therefore baby is more 'content' supposedly. However I would much rather my baby fuss a little to increase my supply, and be breastfed, than fill their little tummy with a powder based milk just to get them to be quiet. (If a Mum tried everything they could to breastfeed and simply couldn't, I don't judge this, but formula just to get some sleep, makes me sad!)

     

    Anyway, enough about cluster feeding and rocking the boat with my formula opinions. Back to pumping. I have never had any trouble with pumping and have always had a great supply. A lot of women who struggle ought to check the 'flange size' this is the size of the hideous bit that goes over your nipple. The pump needs to mimic your baby suckling, a flange too small and it will only stimulate the end of a nipple. And breastfeeding works by the baby suckling way further back and getting a flow from the back of the breast. A baby doesn't suck on the end of a nipple so a flange needs to not just 'tickle the end'!! Too big a flange and the machine won't be able to produce a big enough force when mimicking sucking as there will be too much air/space around the breast for the machine to really latch on. So finding the right flange size is crucial.

     

    Having the right settings is also important. Most machines (I've used two- one from the hospital and my own Medela double swing) and both have settings available where you can start the pump on short, quick bursts of pressure to stimulate the breast and encourage flow. It's also a nice gentle way to ease you into a pumping session instead of going HAM straight away. Once you've done a few short, high pressured pumps (not a lot will come out during these pumps but it's important to stimulate flow) you can swap to long, medium pressure, exaggerated pumps. This is when the pump reeeeeally starts to sound like a cow in a field mooing to the lasted Electro House track. This is when you should start to see the milk coming out. It should feel tingling but by no means painful.

     

    When I decided to donate, Oscar was 8 months old, so instead of trying to increase my supply drastically, I simply let him feed on one side during the night so that I woke up with a FULL side and pumped that, then when I put him to sleep and he began his stretch of around 5 hours sleep, after 2/3 hours I would pump half one side and half the other. These sessions I was able to pump for 7-10 minutes and get 5oz each time. This is something I almost feel embarrassed to share as so many women struggle to get that amount. But I'm sorry, can't be helped! I think by donating it made me feel like I was putting my super strength pumping abilities to better use and really making the most of them.

     

    I wrote on the Facebook page Human Milk 4 Human Babies UK and stated my age, smoker status (non-smoker), good diet, no health conditions and where I was located. I had two women contact me, one was a woman who struggled to breastfeed and baby had really bad reflux so was vomiting a lot of her feeds back up and also didn't take very well to formula so the woman was searching for a donor, the second woman who contacted me lived a little further away than the first, but her baby was born 6 weeks premature, was now 4 months old and was fighting some health conditions. This 'case' was a lot closer to my heart as I know exactly what the Mum went through and couldn't imagine her pain not being able to feed her baby. But thought it was amazing that she went the extra mile to find donated milk for her baby as breastmilk has so many more beneficial factors over formula and will improve the likely hood of her daughter getting better due to the properties of breastmilk.

     

    I ended up pumping for two and a half weeks and donated 150oz of milk. She drove an hour to me and I met her 20 minutes from my house in a pub carpark.

     

    Using the Facebook group to donate milk meant there was no guarantee of the health of the person donating. I felt a lot of pressure to make sure I cleaned my breaspump thoroughly inbetween every use and made sure every 5oz bag I pumped went straight in the freezer so there was no chance of any of it being left out too long.

     

    One day I came downstairs in the morning and found the freezer settings had been tampered with and the box had started to melt so I went down to Currys and bought a chest freezer thinking mine was broken (OH came home and fixed it at the end of the day in seconds after all that) I lost 10oz but just fed Oscar them in a cup and pumped the feeds he would have had.

     

    I'm so glad I was able to give back and do something for the 'premature community'. I stopped after two and a half weeks and donated 150oz and then went on holiday two days later so I'm glad I didn't set myself a goal too high, pump loads and make my supply double only to be left uncomfortable or have to pump on holiday!

     

    Pumping that much brought back all the memories of pumping in NICU and I am so glad we were able to ditch the pumping and just breastfeed because I forgot how tedious it all is! But so worth it.

    IMG_3653