My Diabetes Inklings

Busting Breastfeeding Myths

I never gave much thought to breastfeeding when I first fell pregnant. My worries and focus were all around the birth. I didn’t realise how difficult and painful breastfeeding would be, the stigma and judgement that exists around bottle feeding or even what a breast pump was. Looking back, I felt like such a naive fool that was in for massive reality check. Here are the biggest breastfeeding myths that I busted:

Breastfeeding is easy

Pretty much almost every friend I’ve spoken to echoed my experiences around how difficult and sometimes traumatic initiating breastfeeding can be. With my first child it was potentially further complicated by her tongue tie. Even after we got that fixed, breastfeeding was toe curling painful and I dreaded each time it was time to feed. It took us about 6-8 weeks and a bout of mastitis before breastfeeding clicked for both of us. Thankfully things clicked a bit quicker the second time round. Especially since I knew what to expect and had more confidence to advocate for myself.

Breastfeeding is free

Lies! Sleep deprived, desperate mums are every business’ dream target market. The amount of money I’ve spent on gadgets from breast feeding pumps, products to collect letdowns, nursing pads, lactation cookies and not forgetting nursing friendly clothes has been ridiculous. Thankfully some of these you can get second hand and I’ve become skilful at navigating marketplace to get a few bargains.

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby

Honestly, as long as your baby is fed one way or another and thriving, that’s the best you can do for them. There is so much pressure for us to breastfeed to the point of sacrificing our mental health and well-being over it, which helps no one.

Breastfeeding can be isolating and exhausting, even more so with diabetes thrown in the mix. If you’re not constantly chasing lows, you’re fixing highs. Once you sort out your insulin rates, it all changes again. It’s relentless.

Educate and support

The theme for World Breastfeeding Week this year is to educate and support. Knowledge is power and knowing what I know now about breastfeeding has helped in my confidence and ability to self-advocate to ensure I get the support I need. It’s something I wished I had with my first child but was so overwhelmed with everything else that it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

Reading the stories over the week about people’s experience with breastfeeding has been comforting and eye opening. If there’s one thing transferable from the diabetes world to mum-life is the power of peer support. Knowing that you’re not the only person going through what you’re dealing with is a huge relief and validates all the emotions that you’ve been feeling. Thank you to everyone who has shared their wisdom and experiences on breastfeeding. Without your story I’d still be feeling very lost and isolated.

Fed babe is a happy babe
My Diabetes Inklings

Surviving the Fourth Trimester

I’m about halfway through the “fourth trimester” now where things are literally a hazy fog of newborn bubble, sleep deprivation, and adjusting to our new family addition. The biggest challenge during this time is coping with the physical and mental recovery on top of all the other change that is happening. Throw diabetes into the mix and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and consumed by everything that is happening.

Physically, everything just hurts these first few weeks; a great reward for bringing new life into the world. /sarcasm. But really: you’ve got an internal wound the size of a dinner plate, external wounds from baby’s exit strategy, painful, lumpy, giant boobs from your milk coming in. Then you’ve got the postpartum belly jiggle and the weakened pelvic floor muscles leaving you hoping you don’t pee yourself each time you cough or sneeze. This just the best case scenario if you don’t consider other potential complications that could accompany childbirth.

My body looks and feels utterly different. All the mum-blogs and memes are quick to remind me about all amazing things its done and how I should feel proud and amazing. Instead, I feel gross, unfit and broken, which in turn leaves me feeling extra exhausted and defeated. Then you’ve got the betes side of things to add to that burden.

Post birth, your sugar levels tend to go a little haywire thanks to the hormones and breastfeeding. It’s another thing I feel like I’ve lost control over. Especially after being obsessive in keeping my sugars within target range for the past year. Now, I would constantly be needing to tweak things every few days and if I wasn’t having constant lows, I’d be riding high. Either way – feeling horrible, sick of overeating and dealing with hypo/high hangovers. Especially the overnight hypos as I’m trying to savour every minute of sleep that I can. Instead here I am stuffing my face with lollies and food and changing out of my sweat soaked clothes so I don’t freeze to death. At least most of my worst overnight hypos have happened while both kids were asleep. Imagine trying to deal with that while a toddler clings on to you and a newborn is crying to be fed. That alone is bad enough without the diabetes complicating things.

All of this has had a compounding effect on my mental health. Together with the lack of sleep, it’s been so hard to remain composed, patient and tolerant of my own family, let alone other people. I have been immensely grateful for the additional support our local council provides with their enhanced maternal child health service, who regularly checks in on me at home, listen to me vent/whinge/cry/ponder and connects me with other services that may be helpful.

I know that the fourth trimester is only temporary and I will look back on this time fondly in the future. This is something I’m desperately clinging onto and reminding myself: I will get my fitness back in time. For now, I need to keep telling myself it’s okay if I can’t work out like I used to or if my sugars aren’t in range 90% of the time. I will learn to love my body again and my diabetes will settle back down. If there’s ever a time to be kind to myself and cut myself some slack, the time is definitely now.

My Diabetes Inklings

Living in the Moment

The past couple of weeks have really tested the extent of how far my patience and resilience can be stretched as we all transitioned into our roles and routines with a toddler and a newborn. It’s certainly been challenging and I know everyone means well when they say “things will get better soon” but that is probably the last thing I need to hear right now.

At one of the maternal child health (MCH) nurse visits, the nurse was especially perceptive and noticed my frustration at this expression. Although perhaps it was my audible sigh after she said it. To her credit, she quickly turned around and said that she understood that living in these moments isn’t easy, especially when you’re sleep deprived. Then she said “you don’t have to do this alone, we are here to support you” before rattling off various support referrals she will make for us in case we felt we needed it.

I had never been so appreciative for a MCH nurse as I was in that moment. It made me reflect on the advice we give others and how statements like “it’ll get better” isn’t really helpful when you’re in the middle of a tornado. Yes, we put hope into the idea that things will get better, but they might not if we don’t get the support and help we need as we are fighting our battles.

I am so grateful for friends and family who have offered to drop a meal off, send us a little care package or just listen to me vent and ramble. Thank you for letting me live in my fourth trimester bubble haze without the pressure to emerge on the other side to when “things get better”. There will always be new challenges that lie in the pursuit of greener pastures. This has been a good reminder that living in the moment isn’t just for all the good times, but for riding out the tough times too and to let yourself feel all the feels.

One day we will look back to this moment and think “wow that was such a crazy time. But also remember we had that movie night in bed eating crackers, watching Man Vs Bee until midnight cos the toddler wouldn’t sleep. That was nice”.