We sit down with Bridget, founder of the online support group for women, Midnight Mums, as she shares the most important advice she has received about breastfeeding and motherhood.
Medela: Tell us about your breastfeeding experience? How long did you breastfeed for, have you used a breast pump before?
Bridget: I successfully breastfed my first son Harrison for seven months, my second son Mitchell for nine months and currently six weeks into feeding my third baby, daughter Bonnie. With both boys, I only ever used a manual pump. It served its purpose to produce enough milk for the occasional night out.
Medela: How was your breastfeeding experience different for all 3 of your babies?
Bridget: I’ve never put myself under any pressure to breastfeed for a certain time, and I enjoy feeding on demand. So far, all three babies have taken to my breast with no worries, and I’m a strong believer in being relaxed. If mum feels relaxed, the baby will relax. Breastfeeding isn’t meant to be hard. Tiring at times, but not hard.
Breastfeeding came very naturally to me; I’ve always found it to be a wonderful bonding time and overall an easy process, as it’s on tap 24/7.
Medela: How has the bustier helped you to manage the busy-ness of motherhood?
Bridget: Wow! It’s amazing! The bustier is a game changer! I thought I’d still have to support the bottles, but I can literally pump and be hands-free. I simply tuck the pump into my dressing gown pocket and away I go; I can change Bonnie’s nappy, help the boys with their homework, respond to emails, and cook dinner. The best thing is that if I’m relaxed on the couch and pumping – I can still play on my phone lol.
Medela: You’re open about having blood clots on your lungs and taking blood-thinning medication, how did you manage this throughout your pregnancy and delivery?
Bridget: I was diagnosed with PE (pulmonary embolism) at 28 weeks, after complaining to my doctor that I was finding it difficult to breathe. Day to day simple tasks were becoming nearly impossible; school drop off/pick up, grocery shopping, blow drying my hair and even walking up the stairs. I was constantly breathless – huffing and puffing! My patience with my boys was wearing thin, and I felt exhausted and cranky. Being that this was my third pregnancy, I knew something was wrong. I loved being pregnant with the boys, but this third pregnancy was mentally and physically draining.
Melbourne was experiencing a very hot and dry summer back in February 2019, and I put half of my exhaustion down to the heat, but my doctor could tell I wasn’t quite right. Thankfully he sent me off to see a heart and lung specialist who acted quickly. Within a week I had undergone several tests and scans, and by Friday afternoon, I was in the hospital learning how to self-inject with Clexane (blood-thinning medication) twice daily, for the three small blood clots that were found on my lungs.
I was in disbelief at first. I didn’t feel I needed to be in a hospital. As a busy mum, it was hard to ‘switch off’ and accept the help that I needed. I was put on ‘couch rest’ for the remainder of my pregnancy.
My husband was and is absolutely wonderful, he took on the role as #mumdad, and by the end of my pregnancy, he was doing everything for our family; school runs, lunches, grocery shopping, homework, cleaning, bedtime routines, after school activities, and my injections! It is a mental challenge having to stick a needle into yourself; you know that it doesn’t really hurt, but the anxiety of it is tough to overcome. Thankfully, Luke could do most of my injections, but when he was on night shift our boys, now aged 5 & 6 years old, were able to administer the injections for me… closely supervised of course, but they were and still are, very good at just getting it done! The funny thing is, I have had many adults in my life refuse to give me my injection because of their own fears of needles.
I am currently in my last week of injections (fingers crossed) after having to continue the Clexane medication for six weeks postpartum. I only went off the blood thinners for 24 hours to be induced, and I was back on them 6 hours postpartum.
I’m looking forward to having my follow up scan this week to hopefully find out that the clots have all dissolved.
Medela: You’re also open about being diagnosed with Nipple Vasospasm– Not all of our readers may know what this is, could you please tell us what it is and how it affected your breastfeeding experience?
Bridget: I first developed Nipple Vasospasm while breastfeeding my first baby when he was eight weeks old.
Like many new mums, I had never heard of Nipple Vasospasm, so I had no idea of the signs and symptoms to be aware of.
Vasospasm occurs when blood vessels tighten and cause pain because normal blood flow has been restricted, generally to the fingers and toes and sometimes the nipples, which can make breastfeeding very traumatic and painful. The first and most common sign of nipple vasospasm is a burning, stinging sensation to your nipples when they are cold. I first discovered this while in the frozen section at the supermarket. Unashamedly, I would be vigorously AND publicly rubbing my nipples to keep them warm and take away the pain. It was the middle of winter, and I forever had to rub my nipples, I just thought it was all part of breastfeeding. My nipples turned white, they cracked, turned purple and they bled… breastfeeding through this pain is almost the most painful thing I have ever experienced (besides childbirth and after birth pains)!
I used nipple shields, plenty of heat packs, stuffed my bra with woolen booties, wore extra layers of clothes, expressed my milk to give my nipples a little break and when I did feed, I would be very quick to switch my baby onto a dummy as soon as he began to comfort suck. Through all this treatment and with the wonderful help and support of my MCHN, somehow, I managed to get through and continue my breastfeeding journey!
Medela: What advice would you give to new mum’s wanting to breastfeed?
Bridget: It actually does hurt a little in the beginning, and that’s completely normal. Be positive and be patient; you and your baby will work out what works best for you both in your own time.
Medela: What is the best breastfeeding advice you’ve been given, and what is the worst?
Bridget: It’s FREE, it’s easy, and it’s on tap 24/7! This was the best advice I received. I know some women struggle, but for me, being told the simplicity of it by another mother who I looked up to, gave me the encouragement and confidence to just go for it! I was also told “Yes, you CAN breastfeed anywhere, anytime”, and that’s exactly what I have always done and continue to do.
The worst advice would have to be being told when you MUST breastfeed.
Importantly, in the early days, it is necessary to follow a rough timeline to ensure baby is gaining weight, but I’m a strong believer of feeding on demand. I find that following this method is very relaxing for both baby and mum.
Medela: How has the freestyle pump fitted in with your lifestyle?
Bridget: I love the Freestyle pump. You can charge it up and pump on the go, heck; you could even safely drive and pump if you needed to, that’s how easy it is (although I’m pretty happy pumping in front of the TV, lol). It’s simple to operate, clean, and easy to transport. I also love that the bustier doubles as a modesty bra, allowing you to feel somewhat covered up and handsfree while pumping.