Essential Baby chats to two EB members Michelle and Manda about their breastfeeding experiences. Read their stories here.

EB member Michelle explains how she manages full-time work and providing breastmilk for her baby son. Manda tells how her plan to breastfeed her daughter for six months became a beautiful 28-month journey.

My partner on the other hand is a Pacific Islander and in their culture it's very common to breastfeed past 12 months. I was lucky to have supportive people around me but I also had a lot of negative comments. 

Michelle

I was so lucky, when my son Jack was born in October 2007 he was an absolute natural at the whole breastfeeding thing. I can't take any credit for it - he just seemed to know instinctively what to do. They handed him to me; he latched straight on and has fed beautifully ever since.

As much as I would have liked to have stayed home for at least the first year of Jack's life, I always knew that I would have to go back to work when he was six months old. I knew that he would need to have a bottle but I wanted him to continue to have breastmilk.


I enrolled him to start daycare a month before I was to go back to work so that we could learn to separate. (Okay, so I could learn to separate!) A few weeks before that I started to express at least once a day to build up a stock pile and so we could introduce Jack to a bottle - until then he had been exclusively breastfed. To say he rejected the bottle would be an understatement. Every time we tried to give it to him he screamed...not just a little bit... he screamed as if we were trying to poison him.

We tried everything we could think of. I left the house and let my husband give it to him, we walked around to distract him, we tried about 13 million different varieties of bottle and teats. I tried expressing and giving the milk to him so it was still warm, wearing the teats in my bra so they were warm and smelled like me...nothing worked.

The first weeks at daycare were hard. He was fine; I cried a lot.  It was mostly the thought that my baby was going for hours without anything to drink. The staff were great and assured me that he would eventually get used to the bottle and would drink when he was ready. So I continued to express religiously and sent hundreds of mls of expressed breastmilk (EBM) with him each day. Each day almost the same amount would come home again.

Although ideally I express twice daily, some days I struggle to find the time to do it once.  I have to fit it around meetings and appointments. I'm lucky enough to be in a small office with women who are fine with me expressing right at my desk but if this wasn't the case it would be much harder - there isn't anywhere private that I would be able to go. I have a portable electric pump and I'm getting really good - I can now email, be on the phone and express all at the same time. They call me the multi-tasking queen!

I did have one instance where an older woman complained that I expressed in public when I was out on site. Now know that I just have to be more discreet when not in my office but my feeling is that it's completely natural, it's what's best for my son and if it upsets others well that their problem!

The practicalities of expressing at work can also be challenging - making sure my equipment is clean, my cold storage bag stays cold enough, my ice bags don't melt too much, oh and it helps if I remember to bring the power cord!  I must say though it's quite satisfying to look at the bottles of milk after a session and to think "Wow, my body was able to produce all of that?"

I learnt the hard way. I've now been back at work full time for a little less than four months. Jack will now take the bottle, but only at daycare.  Most days the milk I send all gets finished which is a major improvement. I've learned the hard way that I have to leave the office on time, no more late meetings for me. If I don't get home on time Jack (and my darling husband!) have had a meltdown waiting for his breastfeed!

I am still breastfeeding Jack at least 4-5 times a day; first thing in the morning, when I get home from work, before bed and then usually at least once overnight. I know we should probably be thinking about cutting down now that he is on solids but he loves it so much and to be honest, so do I.

I love the way when I get home from work he flies into my arms and almost latches on through my clothes. I love the little sighing noises he makes when I eventually get my top up and breast out enough for him to settle for a feed and I love the way his little eyes roll back in his head as if to say "Mummy this is just what I've been waiting for all day!"

Sure it's exhausting working fulltime, expressing twice a day, breastfeeding and still being up a few times a night but I keep thinking its what's best for him and me right now and as long as we are both enjoying it I'm going to continue with it.

My aim has always been to breastfeed Jack until he is 12 months old. Will we make it that far? I'm not sure but we are sure going to try.

Manda
When I was pregnant I hoped to breastfeed for at least six months. Our beautiful daughter was born and I was shocked to find that something so natural could be so difficult. She didn't attach properly, my breasts were huge and painful, lanisoh became my best friend! In those first few days, I considered giving her a bottle of formula as my nipples bled and my baby cried. The nurses were encouraging and tried to help but it wasn't for a few days that things started going smoothly.

Our breastfeeding journey was a hard one. Thrush, mastitis (on a plane back from New Zealand - torturous!!), reflux, feeding hourly, it was tiring but I was fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive partner and as I watched our baby grow to a healthy infant I knew it was all worth it.

I had never heard of extended breastfeeding. Most people I know stop breastfeeding between six and 12 months. My partner on the other hand is a Pacific Islander and in their culture it's very common to breastfeed past 12 months. I was lucky to have supportive people around me but I also had a lot of negative comments. Jokes about me feeding her at school, how she'll never stop breastfeeding and how I'll be dropping into her sleep-over to feed her!

It did used to annoy me because I never felt the need to comment on how others chose to feed their child but people think that it's okay to comment on breastfeeding past a certain age.

I found that once our daughter was walking and talking people did seem uncomfortable around me breastfeeding her. At first, I felt shy and worried but I had to remain confident in our choice that we were doing the right thing. My partner would thank me for continuing to breastfeed her; I'm not sure I could have continued for so long without his support.

Before I knew it our little baby was a happy, healthy and energetic two-year-old. I found out I was pregnant again but hoped to continue breastfeeding until she self-weaned. She stopped at two years and four months.

Our daughter is now a beautiful, bubbly, energetic three-year-old. I'm planning on breastfeeding our new daughter until she is at least two years old as well.

I never thought of it as breastfeeding a child though; I was just breastfeeding my baby and really, what is two years in a lifetime?

It's International Breastfeeding Week during 1-7 August.  If you would you like support from other breastfeeding mums, join the discussion in the EB breastfeeding forum.

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