Me and Runa have now come to the end of our breastfeeding journey! Anyone who knows me well knows that breastfeeding is important to me and it has been an experience that I have cherished with both of my children. As much as it is emotional that we’ve now finished, I also feel like celebrating the accomplishment.
I’ve recently been in touch with a researcher from Ulster University who is collecting stories from mums who have experience breastfeeding a child with a complex medical condition and when speaking to her I was able to reflect on all of the challenges that came my way with Ru.
(Now before I harp on, I want to say I support any mother’s choice with how they feed their children. I am passionate about breastfeeding, but that is not to say I judge anyone who has made a different choice. If I come across a bit sanctimonious or pushy with my views it is accidental. This is about my family, no one else’s.)
So, whilst reflecting on mine and Runa’s breastfeeding journey (I recognise that that is a cringe worthy expression, but I’ll keep using it anyway) I realised that I am indeed incredibly proud of myself! There were various obstacles that we had to overcome and by sheer will and determination I pushed past them and I feel fairly smug at this achievement…
Obstacle 1: Undiagnosed Developmental Disability
Aicardi syndrome causes significant developmental delays and is linked to many problems with feeding. When Runa was born we were blissfully unaware of her rare genetic condition. To start with, Runa was very tired and reluctant to latch onto my breast. Runa was given a few mouthfuls of formula by a midwife then quickly slapped onto my breast once she’d started sucking. We’d finally got started, but it was a good couple of months before we were completely set.
Runa also wouldn’t keep her airways clear and I regularly had to push my breast away from her nose so that she could breathe. At the time this did seem weird… And with the benefit of hindsight I now realise this was indeed weird.
Obstacle 2: Mental Health (or lack there of)
When Runa started having seizures and was diagnosed with Aicardi syndrome I was very low. (you can read more about that here if you care to; https://mystrongru.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/five-stages-of-grief/ ). It was recommended that I move Ru onto formula to give myself some respite and take care of my mental health. I was tempted. I was scared, frantic and part of me wanted someone else to take on the responsibility of caring for Runa so that I could get to grips with this overwhelming situation. Luckily there was a rational voice deep inside my mind that knew I’d regret that choice. I knew that if I relinquished that responsibility, no longer feeding my daughter in a way that had always been so important to me, it would have been too easy to push Runa away and build up barriers. I feel breastfeeding contributed greatly towards saving our bond during a traumatic time.
Obstacle 3: ‘Roid rage
When Ru was put on steroids her hunger was insatiable. I was feeding her constantly, at times more than once an hour, and it was both physically and emotionally exhausting. While we were still in hospital the lovely nurses sourced me a breast pump and my very kind sister in law gave me some of her expressed milk, but other than those three or four bottles it was all me. Once we left hospital it was much the same until she started weaning off of the steroids. Though it was challenging, it felt so worthwhile to be able to give her breast milk. My tiny baby was being pumped full of big, scary drugs and through it all I was able to provide her with the best food possible.
Through the various challenges I persevered and, as I say, I am very proud of myself and my girl for making it past the year mark for nursing. Though it has been challenging, the majority of our breastfeeding journey has been truly lovely. It has supported our bond through the tough times and it is certainly a period of our lives I will look back on fondly.
So Yay me! And Yay for breastfeeding!