We spoke to real Mama Katie Banks from @katiebanks92 about her experience being a breastfeeding mum, her top tips to overcome loneliness when breastfeeding and how Mama products have helped on her journey.
Introduce yourself and your baba to the Mamahood!
Hey, I’m Katie and this is my 7 month old daughter Matilda June! We call her Tilly for short. I have my own business investing in property in the North West (@tkbanks_), but I am also on maternity leave from my part time marketing job. I have a busy life, even with a few lockdowns thrown in!
How did you find your pregnancy and the birth of your little one?
Honestly, I found pregnancy okay! I had a pretty straight forward pregnancy with no complications so I felt extremely lucky. A tiny part of me was grateful for the lockdowns as I got to spend loads of time with my husband before we became a 3 and I didn’t get any FOMO from missing out on events like weddings or big birthdays haha!
I was 9 days over due which was tough but I ended up going into labour naturally and having a really positive experience (overall).
I practised hypnobirthing (don’t be put off by the name) which helped me feel in control of my body. I wanted to understand what was actually happening during my labour so that I could take the right steps to keep my mind in control at the right times, and to help with any decisions I might have had to make.
My contractions began around 7pm the day before she was born, my husband had read a book (it shocked me too) about fatherhood and found that oxytocin, the labour hormone, could be produced by making me happy – I got my first contraction whilst watching the sunset eating a pork pie, if that’s not happiness then I don’t know what is.
I did all the tricks I had read about, candles, dark room and relaxing music and spent the night rolling around on my living room floor and breathing – she was born quite quickly in the end at 12.55pm the next day. The birth felt super empowering and positive but Tilly ended up swallowing a lot of meconium during labour and so was whisked off to the Neonatal unit for her first few days so I didn’t get that first skin on skin experience which was harder on me that I realised at the time.
Has life in lockdown impacted your Mama experience?
Yes – firstly, the fact that, because of the lockdowns, some of my family didn’t even see my baby bump – I just suddenly had a baby. Secondly, because my husband couldn’t come to our 20 week scan. We were so lucky to be able to have him in the delivery suite and on the ward during visiting hours afterwards – I gave birth literally days after the rules changed at our local hospital.
The other things we have missed out on is baby classes and groups before and after pregnancy – we are trying desperately to make up for it now before I go back to work.
Why did you decide to become a breastfeeding Mum?
I always wanted to, all the women in my life have breastfed so it felt like the logical first choice for me. I love the bond it has given us, but if I am really honest I like the convenience as I have a busy lifestyle. I have my own business that I have still had to run part time.
How have you found life as a breastfeeding Mum?
In short, it’s a rollercoaster- some days I love it and some days I am ready to throw in the towel.
Here’s the long answer:
We didn’t have the start I expected due to Tilly swallowing a lot of meconium during labour. I imagined this incredible ‘Golden Hour’ that everyone talks about post birth where she would just naturally suckle and start to feed but she didn’t spend any time on my chest and went straight off to the neonatal unit. So for the first few days she was given a taste of my milk on her lips whilst she was on fluids and I pumped every 3 hours to get my milk supply going- which was a total drag but also gave me some focus whilst she was getting better.
We only started to breastfeed properly on day 3 (I think, its all a haze) and she had a very lazy latch and wouldn’t open her mouth wide enough. We ended up using a nipple shield for her first two weeks so that she had something for her little mouth to grab onto – eventually she got it and we went without.
After those first few weeks I began enjoying being a breastfeeding mum more and loving the time we got together just me and her. I loved that we could go out and I didn’t have to think about taking anything to feed her – although we have had some very cold park bench feeds during the winter.
Now we are 7 months in and she refuses to take a bottle it feels A LOT to be so in demand, especially since the world started to open back up, I have still felt a little trapped – whilst there is another part of me that feels sad that it might come to an end soon – like I said, rollercoaster!!
Do you experience loneliness during breastfeeding? If so, when do you experience this most?
Yes 100%. In the middle of the night mostly, when you are the only one they want and can depend on to get back to sleep. As much as it’s a wonderful feeling, it can also be really hard as well- I remember one night when she was four months old saying to myself…tomorrow I am going to go and buy formula, but that just shows how senseless I was feeling as she wouldn’t even take a bottle of breastmilk never mind formula – she would fuse her lips shut.
There is no one to talk to during the night when you are feeding, nothing really helps to pass the time, and there is only so much fake online shopping you can do. Online shopping became my best friend and random parcels would arrive that I couldn’t remember ordering.
It doesn’t just feel lonely in the physical sense, it’s mental too, as in my case, I have been the only one she will take milk from for a long time now, I can’t switch off or spend more than a few hours away from her – that’s an isolating feeling sometimes.
I would never want for someone to read this and be put off feeding, because I think it’s the most incredible thing but it’s also important that we talk about how hard it is. Now I know why other women give breastfeeding mamas that knowing look when they are in a restaurant or on a park bench – it’s a like a secret message to say, “I see how hard you are working at this, it’s not easy, keep going”.
If I am lucky enough to have a second baby, I would without a doubt do it all over again.
Do you have any top tips or advice for Mamas who might be experiencing loneliness when breastfeeding?
- Talk about it! If you have close friends or family that have been or are a breastfeeding mum, or if not one of your local breastfeeding Facebook groups. It’s hard for your partner to relate and understand so you need someone that does.
- Don’t listen to unwelcome advice like ‘why don’t you just try a bottle’ or ‘a bottle at night might fill them up’ – follow your instinct and what you think is the right thing to do for you and your baby.
- Know that it gets easier and that some days are better than others- and that’s okay! Don’t ignore the feeling if it’s getting too much. Remember that feeding your baby in any way is the most important thing and your baby needs the best version of you too!
How do Mama products help you when breastfeeding?
People warned me about the cracked nipples but it’s not until you experience it that you realise what it’s like, I was lulled into a false sense of security with the nipple shields too – so the soreness was delayed for me! As a breastfeeding mum, the Keep Calm Nipple Balm was a dream and became part of my routine after a feed to help soothe them – I had a tube in my changing bag and one in a little basket that I carried around the house with stuff for feeding like a muslin cloth, colic drops and breast pads!