Some mama’s breastfeed, some formula feed, some do a mixture of both. There are also a group of mama’s who have an abundance of breastmilk and for whatever reason exclusively express pump and bottle feed their breastmilk to their babes – I like to call them “EBM mama’s” (EBM stands for expressed breast milk for those who may not know). No matter which category you or someone you know falls into, you best believe that they work hard to keep their babies fed, happy and healthy. Each of these mama’s should be celebrated equally.
Although I started Ezra off on the breast, I am and remain a proud and strong EBM mama. My journey started with low milk supply so naturally, I tried the whole works – tea, vitamins, cookies and then, I had too much milk. I found myself needing to express every 2-3 hours and wow, that was exhausting because by the time I finished I had to start again soon after. I then developed clogged ducts and milk lumps which then lead to mastitis. I felt sore all over, fluey, had chills and fevers at 39 degrees. Just when I thought I had recovered from mastitis I noticed a hard mass in my right breast which my GP described as feeling “hard like wood”. Initially I didn’t think much of it because I felt fine but the antibiotics I was prescribed didn’t reduce the hardness and my skin had turned red. A conversation with my chiro about my general wellbeing lead me to see a physio for mastitis ultrasound therapy however, she wasn’t convinced I had mastitis and encouraged me to have an ultrasound done as soon as possible. Once I had the ultrasound done my physio was on the phone to my GP and in a matter of hours I had packed my bag and was sitting in the emergency waiting room of the Royal Melbourne Hospital. At the time, I (perhaps naively) thought I would be in and out within a few hours. Boy was I wrong. The hard mass in my right breast was a 7 x 3 cm abscess which required ultrasound guided aspiration. This essentially meant a needle was inserted into my breast to drain the pockets of pus in the abscess. I was also required to be hooked up to a drip every six hours for a course of antibiotics. By the fifth day (yes fifth!), I was pacing the corridors, packing my things, getting antsy waiting for the doctor to come and tell me that I could finally go home and thankfully, he did.
I’m usually quite private when it comes to personal and medical matters but I promised myself that once I felt as though I had won this battle that I would share my story and the lessons I learned to help other mama’s out there. Each of these lessons at their core are about making time, making time to:
- Get well acquainted with your breasts. Massage them well and drain them as best you can. I started off double pumping (to save time) but learned quickly that single pumping so I that I have one hand free to massage and drain my breasts, was the more time consuming but effective way of emptying my breasts.
- Take care of yourself. We have a tendency to push through pain and discomfort because motherhood not only means that we are busy but we are all of a sudden wired to put our babies first. Make that doctors appointment, invest in those vitamins, that heat pack, that nipple cream and say yes to that amazing trusted human that offers to watch your baby so you can get an extra couple of hours sleep.
- Do your research. Find yourself the right network of professionals to connect with and a pump that suits your needs because you need to be well supported and equipped! I was fortunate to have found professionals that go above and beyond to take care of you and was recommended a pump that is now one of my most prized possessions.
- Celebrate you. My bestie who is an amazing mama told me to not be so hard on myself and to set a goal to make it to each month and she is so right. Be kind to yourself and celebrate you. Each time Ezra turns another month, I celebrate not only his life but parenthood with my husband and another month as an EBM mama.
When you fall pregnant, most of the focus is on labour but let me tell you, labour pain as much as it is out of this world, indescribable pain – it is a fleeting moment. Lactation life on the other hand is a daily grind of damn hard work (even though I now only have to express every 6 hours). Just yesterday I experienced a wave of panic because hard lumps had formed in my right breast and I did not want to go through the same experience of blood, sweat and tears – literally and in abundance. You know what though? I got through it, I massaged and heat packed the crap out of those lumps until my hands hurt and my eyes could no longer stay open. It can be gruelling and utterly relentless but life on the “express train” is a life choice I have made for my body and my baby. When I look down at my happy, healthy Ezra in all his chubby glory, I know I’ve made the right decision for me.
To every mama out there feeding their babes, whether it be by BM, by formula or by EBM – I tip my hat to you and I celebrate you. You are super.
If you have any questions, need recommendations on anything mentioned above or would like to share your own experience, please feel free to DM or comment on Instragram at ezra.reign.