Category Archives: family

Breastfeeding for the Chronically Ill-What you need to know

Breastfeeding has become such a touchy subject for the last few years and when ever it is discussed it inevitably becomes the breast vs bottle debate. Isn’t anybody else tired of this?! I blame the media (yes, I’m a journalist) because they have instigated ‘mommy wars’ in an attempt to generate more likes and followers on social media. I’m not here to debate ‘whether public breastfeeding is acceptable’ or ‘how long is too long?’ If you must know, I believe in breastfeeding to natural term which by the way, is anything up to 7 years of age. Will I feed a 7 year old myself? Probably not. Will I judge a mother who does? No. Her child, her business.

Anyway, this week I am offering some words of advice to chronically ill moms who wish to breastfeed or are thinking about breastfeeding. This is just touching on some points, if you want me to go into detail about anything, feel free to email me hello@thezebramom.com

1. Health benefits for mom

You’re chronically ill. God forbid you end up with any other ailments other than the crappy lifelong illness you are living with. Breastfeeding reduces a mother’s risk of developing certain cancers, diabetes as well bone conditions such as osteoporosis.

2. Health benefits for baby

“Exclusive breastfeeding for six months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is protection against gastrointestinal infections which is observed not only in developing but also industrialized countries. Early initiation of breastfeeding, within one hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. The risk of mortality due to diarrhoea and other infections can increase in infants who are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all” (WHO)

If your condition is genetic, like mine, you may wonder whether it is worth breastfeeding at all. Absolutely, it is. Again, breastfeeding reduces your child’s chances of developing a massive range of illness and chronic conditions such as diabetes. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. Anything else compromises their gut flora and may lead to problems such as coeliac disease and other food allergies.

3. Breastfeeding is the easier, less exhausting option

The first six weeks are tough and you feel like you are just feeding all day long. This is totally normal and necessary. For the first six weeks your baby is trying to establish your milk supply. Best thing to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy the time with baby. Think about how exhausting it would be if you had to prepare formula, sterilise, wash bottles etc. And the night feeds, Jeez! Having to get up in the middle of the night to make a bottle and wait for it to cool down, that is exhausting. I formula fed Bendy Boy and honestly, I was like a zombie.

After the six week mark your supply will settle and you will have a couple of hours between feeds to go about your day. Cosleeping is also really great for sick breastfeeding moms who need the extra sleep (if you are on medications that make you sleepy you will not be able to cosleep) Baby is close by that you can just pop boob in his/her mouth and you can drift back to sleep. Studies show breastfeeding and cosleeping moms get more sleep.

 

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4. It’s free and always ready to go.

If your condition has caused you to give up work, you might not have the funds to buy formula every week. You’re talking on average a tub of formula is €12. That’s €624 a year! Never mind the cost of bottles, sterilisers and electricity costs.

5. You can breastfeed on medications

I am a massive fan or Dr Jack Newman. He has been a Godsend for me when it comes to getting information on medications. Many misinformed health care professionals will tell you that you can’t breastfeed while on medications. This is not true at all. I am taking Tramadol and and Midodrene for pain and low BP. If you’re not sure about your own medications, check out the Lactmed app for android and iPhone, contact the Breastfeeding and Medications Facebook page or check out Wendy Jones’ factsheets on her website.

Paediatrician Dr Jack Newman, IBLC says:

“There is almost no drug that requires a mother to interrupt breastfeeding. The real question is which is safer for the baby: Breastfeeding with tiny amounts of drug in the milk (and it is almost always tiny) or formula? Clearly, in the majority of cases it is safer for the baby to breastfeed.”

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Every drop counts. If you can’t breastfeed yourself, the World Health Organisation recommends:

Milk from a wet-nurse, or
Milk from a milk bank, or
Breastmilk substitute (formula) fed by cup.

I expressed for my daughter for the first six weeks as she was severely tongue tied. I also used donor milk on a couple of occasions.

6. If you’re having trouble, go to a lactation expert

You go to see a cardiology consultant for your heart, a rheumatology consultant for your bones and joints so why would you not see a lactation consultant for breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is a learned skill and all mothers need help in the early days. Sadly, there is a huge lack of knowledge amongst health professionals when it comes to breastfeeding. Most health care professionals have little to no formal training in lactation (even a lot of midwives provide inaccurate information) so you will need to get in touch with an IBCLC or Le Leche League. Breastfeeding should not hurt and despite what some doctors (and the Fed is Best Foundation) might say just 1-2% of women will not produce enough milk. There are even some who say that some babies “just don’t the like milk” or that their baby is allergic to breastmilk (this is extremely rare and it’s far more likely your baby has a cow protein intolerance). Even if your supply is low, there are many things an IBCLC will help you to do to get your supply up such as a supplementary feeding system. If you are find breastfeeding difficult, do contact an expert as soon as possible to avoid further problems. There are so many myths out there so it’s important to talk to someone with extensive training.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. I will do my best to help.

Until the next time,

Z.M

Tongue tie DOES affect breastfeeding

 

I never thought I’d be brave enough to share this photo but after much encouragement from friends to share my story, I apprehensively upload it. If it helps one woman get through a rough patch, then it is worth any possible embarrassment. This was me when my little girl, Ollie was three weeks old. I was exhausted, actually I was beyond exhausted. I was a zombie trying to disguise myself as a functioning member of society. I was pumping every two hours to get what little breast milk I had to feed my precious little girl. She had an anterior tongue tie that meant she could not physically latch.

After she was born, I knew something wasn’t right. Her latch felt shallow. “I’m pretty sure she has a tongue tie,” I said to the midwife. The midwife glanced inside my baby’s mouth. “No, no, she doesn’t.” As if I was some silly little girl that didn’t know what she was talking about. This isn’t my first experience of tongue tie, lady.

The next three days in hospital were the worst of my life. I began expressing colostrum. One of the younger midwives was very kind and helped me. While I hand expressed milk, she knelt beside me with a syringe and sucked it all up. My baby was having on average 1ml an hour. That didn’t worry me though as I knew baby’s tummy could only hold only a few millilitres at a time anyway. There was a suggestion of giving her formula. At that time I said “If her blood sugars are low, we will talk about it.” Her blood sugars were fine so I continued pumping every hour on the hour. I was exhausted but I was determined to get through this.

 

Formula was mentioned another couple of times so I was eager to get the f**k out of that hospital. If I wanted to breastfeed no way was I going to be successful stuck in there, with half arsed support. I knew my daughter had a tongue tie and the midwives were clueless, shoving my daughter’s face into my breast in frustration.

I rang a private lactation consultant who I had a good relationship with through my work as a health reporter. She confirmed that baby had a significant tongue tie and that it would need to be clipped.

We travelled an hour away and paid €200 to have my daughter’s tongue tie clipped. It was the most expensive two seconds of my life. The GP who performed the procedure said that it was one of the worst anterior tongue ties she had ever seen and that my daughter’s tongue was pretty much non functioning.

 

 

Those words..non functioning. Meaning my daughter would have had a plethora of problems later on, including her speech. Now, imagine if I wasn’t as well informed and educated and I had been and I had taken the midwife’s word that my daughter’s latch was fine. Imagine I wasn’t determined to breastfeed. I would have given up within the first 2 days. The only reason I was so well informed this time is because I found out my son had a posterior tongue tie when he was 3. I only managed to breastfeed him for 2 weeks. Feeding with his tongue tie caused my nipples to blister, bleed and crack. I cried at the very thought of feeding him.

 

After the tongue tie was clipped, my baby’s latch was getting better and better. As Dr Jack Newman says “babies learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding.” It was just a matter of time and practice for the two of us. I was continuing to pump still as it takes up to 2 weeks for baby to learn how to latch again.

By 6 weeks she was exclusively on the boob and we were both so happy. I was so happy to sleep again! Instead of waking up every two hours to pump a couple of ounces, I kept baby close in bed with me. When she woke, it was just a case of popping boob out, latching her on and drifting back to sleep.

 

There is no doubt that tongue tie affects infant feeding. It can affect bottle fed babies too! There is a question over whether lip tie affects feeding but anecdotal and some scientific evidence suggests it might. It needs to be explored further.

Both my children have lip tie. Ollie’s lip tie is pretty significant but it doesn’t affect our feeding, thankfully. You’ll notice the people with significant lip tie immediately, they have a gap between their two front teeth.

The thing is, I’m not angry at the staff in the maternity hospital for letting me down. I’m angry at the whole system. Our health care professionals including midwives, public health nurses, dentists, consultants and GPs all need training on this subject. Too many women are being fobbed off and it is affecting the health of our children. It’s also costing the government €12 million a year! That’s how much we would save if all Irish women breastfed. But, at present we are doomed to fail. Things won’t change until support is increased and training is up to date amongst health care workers.

If my story rings any bells please do not beat yourself up for not being able to breastfeed. Don’t feel guilty, feel angry! You were let down! Once you come to this realisation you can use your own experiences to help other mothers. Breastfeeding is a learned and skill and yes its bloody hard in those first few weeks but it isn’t meant to hurt! No matter what your aunt, grandmother or friend says. If breastfeeding hurt, we would have never survived as a species. Think about it for a second.

If you are having trouble breastfeeding please contact Le Leche League or a lactation consultant.

Without my lactation consultant, I would have never made it to this milestone of six months. The help is out there, go seek it.

X

You know you’re breastfeeding when..Part 2

1) The sound of any crying child makes you a) unclasp your bra and b) start leaking uncontrollably.

Yep, you’re in the changing room getting dried after a dip in the pool. As you hurriedly rub yourself dry with the towel, a nearby child begins to cry. There it is, let down..sh*t! Grab the towel and press your boobs in to stop the spray of milk!

2) You find yourself smiling at other people breastfeeding younger babies in public even though you don’t know them.

You walk by a seating area in the food court and see a mum and her bub having a mid shop feed. You smile and nod your head. A silent “kudos” to your peer. You appreciate a mother feeding in public. Later you’ll be gushing to your hubby or other BF friends about what you saw, you might even go searching for the mum on an online support group..stalker..

3) You go to sleep with a bra and pjs but wake up topless from half asleep feeding/co sleeping

Winter is coming…you know what that means! No, not white walkers..ya big nerd..

It means new jammies! Fluffy jammies! Flannel jammies! Basically, women LOVE new pjs but, unless it buttons down, you might as well go to bed topless. Cosleeping while breastfeeding is the best damn thing ever. Baby stirs for a feed, you pop her on the boob and you drift back to sleep. It’s freaking awesome. Cause I’m all about them zzzzzzzzzzzs

4) Eating twice the weight of your baby in one sitting because you ‘need’ the extra calories

I think this meme says it all:

 

DON’T JUDGE ME, K!?

5) You’re child tries to latch on to inanimate boobs

 

So, you are in a Debenhams dressing room and your toddler goes up to a poster of a beautiful model wearing only underwear and tries to nurse from the woman in the poster. BOOOOOBBBBBSSSS…all loyalty out the window..

6) Your milk drunk baby has an awful lot in common with your drunk drunk husband. Falling asleep at the boob then waking up with an incoherent babble and trying to motorboat you.

There is nothing funnier than daddy holding baby, you then walk in topless and both of them grin like cheshire cats. It’s cute when baby gets excited at the mere sight of boob. Not so much when Daddy does it..

7) You can say “nipple twiddling” without a flinch of embarrassment or innuendo.

Before you started breastfeeding breasts and nipples were something to be hidden away. Like two great big vaginas just sitting on your chest and their only function was to please the opposite sex…or so society told you. Now? Talking about your breasts and *whispers* nipples is like talking about your left hand. As for the nipple twidling..may I suggest a breastfeeding necklace? It’ll save you a lot of pain and unsightly scratches from those blasted razor sharp baby nails.

8) You have developed the skill of pumping and typing.

Working mums are entitled to pumping breaks up until their baby is six months old and after that, you could get that booby juice out in your own time. This is something we really to change here in Ireland. The WHO and the HSE (Health Service Executive) recommends that children be breast fed until at least age two. How are working mothers supposed to achieve this? Huh, huh, huh? Tell me, Mr Vadakar, how are we to adhere to the recommendations if there are no proper policies in the workplace to facilitate pumping breaks after six months?

9) Baby wakes up with the sound of your bra clicking back on

FML.

10) Your nipples are more stretchy than you ever imagined.

 

Am I right?

You know you’re breastfeeding when..

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You leave the house with only a spare nappy in the car and know you’re OK for a few hours!

When you breastfeed, baby’s food is ready to go. No need to faff about with bottles, powder or water. Many breastfeeding mothers tap  themselves on the chest subconsciously as if to check whether they have their boobs with them as they go out the door. Because sometimes they detach. Didn’t you know?

When you don’t care that the whole world has seen your boobs, but you’re a bit uncomfortable with anyone seeing your tummy.

So true. You see my boobs? Cool. You see my stretch mark riddled, squishy tummy? Not cool. But c’mon girls, we need to embrace our tummies and our post birth bodies. They are amazing, just look at what it made, your perfect little bundle.

When you just give yourself a little squeeze in public to check if baby must be due a feed.

Did that woman just grope her own boobs? Yes, yes she did.

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You choose clothing based on access to boobs.

Shopping will never be the same again. There are three very important questions you need to ask yourself while you’re looking for your Autumn/Winter wardrobe: Can I get my boobs out in this easily? No? Ok. Can I put a string top underneath it? No? Ok. Realistically will I actually bother having it altered to make it boob accessible? No? Put it down, and move on. Sorry.

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You can get out of cleaning up after dinner by announcing the baby needs a feed, he is only too happy to go along with the lie.

Dishes? Oh, what’s that, baby? You need a feed? Sorry hon, baby’s gotta eat! Cue the resigned eye roll from himself.

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When you are bursting for the loo but baby is falling asleep while latched on!

You sit there wondering how you are going to explain to your significant other that you have soiled yourself. He doesn’t get that one simply doesn’t unlatch baby for a lavatory visit. Are you mad?! But over time you develop great skill at holding it in. Nobody can hold it longer than a breastfeeding mum. Boo ya.

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You regularly weigh your boobs in your hands to see which one is more engorged.

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Did she just grope her own boobs, again?! Yes, yes she did and she will do it several more times throughout the day.

Your first aid space is gathering dust ‘cause breast milk fixes everything.

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Stuffy nose? Breast milk! Gunky eye? Breast milk! Nappy rash? Breast milk! They don’t call it liquid gold for nothin’!

You start quoting WHO (World Health Organisation) when you previously had no idea who the WHO was.

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Whoooo are you? Who, who, who, who? Yes, that is the CSI theme song but it works here too. A lot of breastfeeding mothers are often asked are they “STILL” feeding their children. A mother’s first response will usually be:
“WHO recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and then continue to breastfeed, with solids for at least two years.” Science, b**ch!

When you’ve accidentally flashed the postman /delivery driver on more than one occasion and he starts leaving packages outside the door instead.

You have now become known as “the woman with the boobs.” We suffer from baby brain, ok?! Even spending many years breastfeeding won’t make you immune to the inevitability that one day the postman will run scared from the ‘puppies.’ Most of the time, we remember to give ourselves an ole feel to make sure the girls are back in.
Yes, she did just grope herself…again..

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