'All the tears': Charli Robinson shares emotional truth about breastfeeding

Image/Supplied
Image/Supplied 

Former High Hi-5 star and Getaway presenter Charli Robinson has just welcomed her second baby girl Theodora and currently, she's in the "love bubble".

"You know when you're so in love but you're not sleeping and you live in a parallel world," she tells Essential Baby with a laugh.

As well as becoming reacquainted with the joys of sleep-deprivation after the birth of her new baby, Charli, who is also mum to two-year-old Kensington with her partner Liam Talbot, is re-discovering those newborn days of breastfeeding "24/7".

Image/Supplied
Image/Supplied 

The 40-year-old is passionate about ensuring women are supported through their breastfeeding journeys and is sharing her own experience - the highs, the lows and everything in between - as an Ambassador for Philips Avent during World Breastfeeding Week.

It comes as new research from the company revealed that three in five mothers experience difficulties breastfeeding, while 40 per cent say there is still a cultural taboo surrounding breastfeeding. As a result, many feel uncomfortable breastfeeding or pumping in public.

"The research also found that thirty per cent of Aussie women are embarrassed to talk about breastfeeding," Charli says. "I can't believe women aren't talking about it more. Because you already do feel isolated in a bubble with a newborn. Sometimes [breastfeeding] naturally happens. But for a new mum there's always that panic - am I producing enough? Is the baby latching properly? Are they getting enough milk?"

As a first-time mum, Charli recalls breastfeeding 24/7 and wondering "is this normal?"  

"And it is," she says with a laugh. "It's like 'this is your new life Charli'". The mum says Kensington self-weaned, which she found difficult. "I wouldn't let her! I was lying down in plank position while trying to get her to latch while singing the Sound Of Music soundtrack. Anything to distract her to feed! And my sister walked in and said - 'You look ridiculous, this has to end.'"

And the grief of weaning hit hard.

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"All the tears you shed ... I love talking to women about this ... You also shed tears when you stop. It's a bond you share with your baby and when that ends you shed a tear. And you want to give women that hindsight - keep at it as long as you can."

Charli says these conversations are so important so women know they have supporters and cheerleaders. "Even if it's just by reading something online. You're never alone. It's normal if you're crying your eyes out!"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Charli (@charli_robinson) on

The emotional rollercoaster is something Charli is riding once again with her second breastfeeding journey.

"Right now, my milk has just come in," she says. "Women may not realise that's an emotional time. I dropped a pen and started crying when I was at the hospital. Luckily, a midwife came in and said, 'that's just your milk coming in.' You feel these heightened emotions over things. This is the wisdom of all of us who've had babies. We've all been through it and we could share so much knowledge. Why on earth are we not talking about it to help young mums who are going through it?"

Charli believes social media has a lot to answer for. "I think a lot of pictures do make it look so simple and easy. But because the conversation isn't there so simply and easily between women and men, women I guess don't feel like they should reach out and say, 'I'm struggling or this isn't working.'" 

Charli also notes that she's observed a trend of women not even attempting to breastfeed after hearing so many negative stories. "They're actually choosing not to breastfeed because all they've heard is the hard parts," she says. "No one is really celebrating the positive side. So we've got to find that balance between not scaring people away from it but also talking about the challenging times."

For many women, not feeling supported or wanting to get back to work quickly are significant challenges to overcome. "That's where being able to pump at work without being embarrassed matters."

It's something she knows all-too-well.

"I went back to work filming Getaway at eight weeks," Chari recalls. "I got mastitis because I forgot my pump when I was on location. I remember the crew being like 'oh we've gone lopsided!' Thankfully, I had a team that was really open about it and we all knew mastitis was coming. I expressed in the most random places!"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Charli (@charli_robinson) on

As well as support in the workplace, Charli says societal pressure needs to change too.

"Some people still think of it as though they're exposing their breast when they go out," Charli says. "There's nothing wrong with breastfeeding in a shopping centre or by the side of the road. To support a woman, it would be so nice to just give a mum a smile when they're sitting breastfeeding. That encouraging smile, that's all you need."

Charli still recalls a negative incident she had when travelling with Kensington on a plane. "All she wanted was to breastfeed. I couldn't get to my breast fast enough. I said to this woman 'everything is going to be fine once I've given her the boob,' because she was giving me this filthy look. And it was! But that one incident on the plane ... it stays with you. And it can make you embarrassed."

The mum is also passionate about ensuring women involve their partners too. "Even getting you water or a cup of tea helps," she says. "I always say, 'if Liam could lactate he would.' He's so on the breastfeeding train with me."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Charli (@charli_robinson) on

She notes, however that it's important women don't push themselves too hard. "Having a new baby and not sleeping is enough to really find out about yourself. And we never want to push women so they feel like a failure. When you become a mum you're so much more than you ever thought you were. You become a superwoman. Even if you can breastfeed for a couple of days, a month. If you last a year or two years. Whatever your limit is. If you have to use formula or express. Whatever it takes, your baby is so lucky to have you as a mum."

Charli's advice to new mums is simply to "give it a go".

"It's a process of you and your baby getting to know each other. Learn some little tips and tricks because every baby is different. Learn different positions, even if you google them. Don't be afraid to cry if that's what you need to do. Or laugh. 

"Every tear you shed when the journey starts, you will shed again when the journey ends. Because it's one of the most miraculous bonds. Hang in there. Thousands and thousands of women before you have done this. And they'll all be very proud of you."

1 -7 August is World Breastfeeding Week.